Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I almost fell apart in history class....again. We covered The Montgomery Bus Boycott and Ruby Bridges today. Ruby is known as the first African-American child to attend an integrated school in the South. That's a little inaccurate, since New Orleans had some integrated schools in the late 1800's, during Reconstruction, and the city later re-segregated. I learned this in a fantastic documentary we watched at our last AmeriCorps meeting called Faubourg Treme. It's all about the unique culture of free persons of color in New Orleans and how the neighborhood of Treme stood alone as an integrated neighborhood. What I didn't realize is that Claiborne Ave, which sits under I-10 all along the Treme, used to be a beautiful street with a wide neutral ground filled with oak trees. Looking at pictures of it from before the 60's and thinking of how blighted that area is now, man. It's awful.

There's a group at University of New Orleans that's released a survey that explores the idea of moving that stretch of I-10. I don't know where they'd move it to, but I hear they have a stellar urban planning department. Here's the survey.

Wow! I'm easily side-tracked.

So we learned about Ruby Bridges, and we had to pull out this interview with adult Ruby Bridges. I played the part of Ruby. Here was the first chunk of the interview:

RUBY BRIDGES HALL: That first morning I remember mom saying as I got dressed in my new outfit, "Now, I want you to behave yourself today, Ruby, and don't be afraid. There might be a lot of people outside this new school, but I'll be with you." That conversation was the full extent of preparing me for what was to come.

I choked on the last sentence. If I were a mother I don't know if I could have held it together for the sake of the bigger picture. How do you do that? How do you prepare a child to face that kind of hatred? She thought the crowd was Mardi Gras. She was too young to understand.

It's just a coincidence that I started my reading classes on childrens' war diaries. They're diving into Persepolis now, learning about Marjane Satrapi's views of the Islamic Revolution as a child. She felt the pain of everyone around her, and she wanted to join the demonstrations. Like when little Labiba of Bil'in heard the tear gas firing and ran to grab her yellow Fatah flag. The mere presence of a blonde woman in her house told her it was time to march, the international protesters were here! She was two.

You better stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin down....