Hillsboro Marching Mothers

About a year ago I stumbled into a story about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers that I struggled to believe happened here in Ohio.

This is what took me to Highland House in Hillsboro on Saturday. They have a nice exhibit about the topic in their Humanities Room. The centerpiece of this room is a short documentary that beautifully shows the human side of the events involving the Marching Mothers.

Here’s what happened.

In the mid-1950s many establishments in Hillsboro were segregated. For example, restaurants only allowed blacks to order takeout rather than sit at the counter or a table inside. While the high school was integrated, the elementary schools were not. In fact, black youngsters were forced to attend the Lincoln School, a building constructed not long after the Civil War.

The Lincoln School was subpar in every sense of the word. While it had been updated over the years to add indoor plumbing and electricity, the building was hazardous. They lacked basic tools like maps, globes and science equipment. The textbooks were outdated and many were missing pages. Multiple classes were taught in a single classroom.

These students didn’t stand a chance of learning as much as their white counterparts in the other two schools in town because they simply lacked the tools and resources to do so.

On May 17, 1954 (67 years ago this week), the US Supreme Court handed down their landmark ruling that established segregation in schools unconstitutional. Most school children learn about the case today and you may remember it as Brown versus the Board of Education.

This decision fell on deaf ears in many segregated school districts including this one. Instead, the school board flat out ignored the ruling.

That summer, Highland County Engineer Phillip Partridge took a remarkable, if not misguided step, to force the school board’s hand and to end segregation.

He set the Lincoln School on fire.

A few things happened as a result. First, Mr Partridge confessed to his crime as he feared the blame would fall on the folks of the black community. Second, he went to prison for his crime.

The school board’s answer was to fix up the building and send the children back to the 85 year old repaired school.

This set into motion a social movement the likes of which most American towns haven’t seen.

A group of mothers, disgusted by what they saw at their childrens’ school, said enough is enough. In 1954, they removed their children from the school and worked with Quaker teachers from nearby Wilmington College to offer their children a better education.

However, before engaging in school work every day, the mothers and about fifty children marched to the elementary school where they were turned away by the principal. Every. Day.

Over time, the NAACP got involved and a lawsuit was filed. The school board tried their hand at gerrymandering, redistricting in the most ludicrous way imaginable. A cross was burned in someone’s front yard. Some mothers had to drop out of the marches because their employers threatened their jobs.

And every day this group of determined mothers and their youngsters marched through the streets of town, likely terrified for their own safety.

The Hillsboro Board of Education finally relented, agreeing to integrate the elementary schools because the State Board of Education threatened to pull all their funding.

It just goes to show that many only do the right thing only when there’s money on the line. The fall of 1957 finally brought integration to these schools.

This sounds like stories I’ve heard out of the deep south. It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that should happen in the north.

Yet, here we are telling this shameful chapter in our history. Honestly, I’m proud of the folks at the Historical Society for owning this story rather than try to sweep it under the rug. They handle it respectfully.

Talking about where we have come from can open a dialogue about where we are today and where we need to be. In these racially charged and tense times, these conversations can help us understand the complex system of racism in our country.

If you go, be sure to watch the film on this topic. It’s less than twenty minutes and it is powerful. The film interviews an elderly woman who was one of the Marching Mothers as well as her grown children who credit their mother’s bravery and persistence for helping them take their rightful place in local schools.

Cant make it to Highland House? They sell the dvd in their gift shop!!

The June List

This month’s reading list had a theme even though I didn’t intend for that to happen. It’s just a natural result of my curiosity about current events.

Almost everything this month was notable save for the Mary Higgins Clark. I solved the mystery when the character was first introduced. Sigh.

The Night The Lights Went Out by Karen White is also a mystery that I figured out kind of quick. I never did decide if that was an intentional decision by the author to influence the reader’s opinion of the main character or if it was just poor planning on her part. It doesn’t matter because I enjoyed the story and many of the characters. It was a good palette cleanser between some other books that were less easy to stomach.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo is a New York Times bestseller that I sincerely believe every American, regardless of race, should read. The title is likely off-putting to some but this is a frank discussion of race that is written by a white woman with years of experience in the field. One thing I really appreciate about this book is how she talks about several ways that white people tend to be racist, even when we think we’re not. More than that, she discusses why it’s important. She doesn’t villainize so much as she challenges the reader to take a hard look at their own beliefs, reactions and interactions with others. If you read nothing else from this list, choose this one.

Tuskegee’s Heroes is a beautiful little volume of art and photos that tells stories of some of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. This history and aviation buff was enthralled by the meaningful impact that this group of men had on the war and in race relations on the homefront.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee sticks with the theme of racism in America. If you haven’t read this classic, put it on your list because every American should read this one too. Much has been written about this book and I can’t do it justice in a paragraph but just know that it tackles issues of prejudice through a child’s eyes. The town of Maycomb where it is set reminds me a lot of my own hometown and the issues tackled here sound awfully familiar sixty years later.

And just so you know, I named my cat after the main character Scout, not after the car as some people have suggested.

Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr. was the basis for the classic television show The Waltons. For a short time, I hoped to visit Earl Hamner Jr’s home place on my July vacation and reread the book to help me prepare. I hate to say it but I like the characters and stories of the tv show better but this book is still a classic good read and a throwback to a simpler time. It was a much needed break from protests, Covid and politics.

The John Muir book at the top of the pile is a selection of writings by Muir. Short, sweet and the type of book you might pick up and read a chapter from whenever you need a little connection to nature.

In all, it was a good reading month that consisted of some things to make me think as well as a few escapism pieces. I will say it once more for everyone in the cheap seats. If you have any interest in what all the protesting is about, pick up White Fragility. Your local library should have it but a paperback copy costs about ten bucks. I’m guessing you will learn something about yourself and your world that you had never even thought about.

What are you reading these days?

Real People, Real Stories

Rosie the Riveter courtesy of theAtlantic.com.

A trip to the doctor for a sinus infection this week left me sitting in a waiting room filled with strangers. Nearly all of them were like me or like people I know – white, middle aged or elderly. The one person in the room who was different was an elderly Amish woman.

If I had been asked to start a conversation with someone in that room, she’s the one I was most curious about. And it occurs to me that I am naturally drawn to people who are different than me.

I’m interested in where they’re from and how our paths crossed. What’s their world view? What do they enjoy? What do they wish people knew about them? I often am surprised at what I learn from talking to those who have a worldview different than my own.

Maybe that’s why it’s such a shock to me when people dismiss those who are different or, worse yet, bully and discriminate against them.

I like human stories and sometimes share them on Facebook – the Louisiana brothers who survived D-Day and who lived to be old men; the elderly woman who smuggled hundreds of Jewish children out of Germany; and the many strong women who we call Rosie the Riveter have all appeared on my Facebook page. I often give attention to those who can no longer speak for themselves or who don’t make it into the history books. Sometimes I share stories of people who do have a voice but who often are ignored.

More recently, I’ve been sharing the stories of people of color. Maybe no one is reading or watching the videos but I like to at least give them a platform. It’s healthy to hear the human side of the story as opposed to the headline version of what’s happening in the world.

I’m convinced of two things:

1. It’s easy to hate people you don’t know.

2. People who think they hate history believe that it’s all about memorizing dates, places and names of people long dead. And that’s not what matters most when studying history.

If you think about it, we are living history right now. That Amish woman has a story to tell that will be a valuable thread in the fabric of our history someday just as the female biracial pilot who told her story on YouTube does. Just as you and I do.

Someday, historians and kids in schools across the nation will study 2020 American history. Wouldn’t you like them to know how you lived and contributed? What you think of our world today?

Go look for the people and the stories that don’t make the history books. You never know what you might find.

Stop Looking The Other Way

The colorful photo is of the road in front of my house and peonies from a start from my grandmother. But I don’t intend to talk about pretty flowers today. The photo is merely here to get your attention.

It’s rare that I have thoughts that I don’t know how to express. This space is nearly always reserved for positive ideas and happy pictures. After all, there are many people in the world spreading negativity without my contributing more.

But something happened this week that I need to talk about and I don’t know how. A man died in the street, begging for air while police officers held him down in the name of law and order.

I didn’t watch the video at first. I knew how it would end and I didn’t want to see it.

Like many, I looked the other way.

But it occurred to me that social injustices are allowed to continue because otherwise good people look the other way.

So I watched the video and it was horrifying. His name was George Floyd and three police officers pinned him to the ground while one of those officers pressed his knee into the man’s neck.

He didn’t appear to be resisting. Instead, he sounded almost polite in the way he said “sir, I can’t breathe.”

He begged for air. He called out for his mother.

He was murdered in the street by the very people we rely on to protect us. Cameras rolled while it happened.

There are good cops in this world just as there are bad ones. I know many good cops who are appalled at what they saw.

Was George Floyd breaking the law? Maybe, but no human being deserves to die in the street, calling for his mother while another person squeezes the last breath out of his body.

This has to end.

I have friends who are black and I worry for them. I worry for their physical well being and for the mental strain of living in a country that turns a blind eye to the systematic racism and brutality directed squarely at them.

One of my friends travels for a living. He has a good job, mentors others, helps anyone that he can and is a good person. He stays in nice hotels when he travels but I worry about what will happen to him out walking the block or two from the Hilton to the good vegan restaurant down the street in a strange city.

I cannot imagine living in a world where jogging in my own neighborhood could get me shot. I cannot imagine being followed through the park by some obnoxious person because they think I don’t belong there. I cannot imagine being afraid of the cops, terrified of getting pulled over for something so simple as speeding because I very well could end up dead.

Sadly, racism probably isn’t any worse today than it was ten years ago. The masses just know more about it. There are more people with more cameras at the ready, more avenues for distributing the horrifying images of ignorance and hate.

Underneath our skin, we are all made of the same organs and bones. Cut us and we bleed. Hurt us and we cry.

Remember that the next time you want to judge someone for their skin color. Remember that the next time you see someone being abused because of their skin color. We are all the same inside. We all deserve better.

And yet, we all have such different experiences in this world. My experience as a white female in Appalachian Ohio is much different than what a black male would have in the same place or in an inner city.

Friends, I’m tired.

I’m tired of hearing people blame victims who inherited decades old systematic problems and circumstances that most white people can’t begin to comprehend. I’m tired of seeing headlines about people committing evil toward each other. I’m tired of protesters not being heard and of all the excuses for cruelty and ignorance.

I’m tired of a discourse that makes it sound as though these crimes of racism in our country are perfectly normal.

There’s nothing normal about this level of hate.

George Floyd was 46 years old. He had moved to Minneapolis in search of a better life. Isn’t that what we all want?

What’s truly frustrating is that I don’t know what to do about it. These wounds and divides will not be easily fixed. I will say though, that it’s easier to hate people you don’t know.

We all would be well served to seek out people who are different than us. Get to know them. Invite them into your world so they can get to know you too. Speak up when you see injustice and if you can’t do something to make someone’s day better, don’t go making it worse.

Stop looking the other way.

Around here

It’s a three day weekend for me so today marks the halfway point rather than the end of the weekend.

I’ve accomplished some things this weekend and failed miserably at others.

Yesterday featured some cleaning projects. This was a requirement because the house was littered with cat toys and things that little Scout had knocked on the floor. Johnny Cash sang about killing a man in Reno just to watch him die. Scout knocks things over just to watch them fall.

But my work ethic didn’t last long. It was raining and cold so I ended up in a comfy chair, determined to finish this book so I could move on to some less traumatic material.

This book is graphic, emotional and compelling. The author expertly weaves the story of Emmett Till into the context of the Jim Crow south to create a narrative that’s impossible to put down and hard to stomach all at the same time.

How anyone could be so hateful, so intolerant or so so certain of their superiority over another group of humans is beyond me. And yet, it relates closely to a lot of the sentiments we hear today in this country about immigrants and still about African Americans.

Around here, I’m also doing some cooking this weekend. Today I’ll make a bean and veggie soup, pancakes for the freezer and some granola for the pantry. Yesterday I adapted an internet veggie burger recipe to meet my needs and to use up some odds and ends of leftovers in the fridge.

It was far better than store bought veggie burgers and I know exactly what went into the mix. Interested? Here’s the recipe:

Brandi’s Quick Break From Reading To Make Dinner Veggie Burger

1 can pinto or black beans (drained and well rinsed)

3 Tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 Tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat but use what you have)

1/2 cup cooked vegetables – I didn’t cook mine but ran them through the food processor so they were finely chopped. Mine were onions, carrots, corn, spinach and mushrooms

Run the beans through the food processor and mix well with the other ingredients. Shape into patties and place on parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for nine minutes on each side or until a bit crisp.

This is an extremely forgiving recipe because it’s designed to use up what you have. Don’t have tomato paste? Use ketchup or maybe some salsa! Whatever veggies you have will do. Want to add a favorite seasoning? Go for it. Can’t eat them all right now? Freeze them.

It really is easy. My apologies for having no photo to share.

Instead, I will leave you with this image. I dared to move Scout’s tent from the kitchen to make mopping the floor a little easier. Here’s the aftermath. It seems there was some kind of riot.

Here’s hoping today is a good day for us all and that I make it back to the list of things I failed miserably at today!

The Lorraine Motel and Dr. King

Several years ago I took a wonderful trip through Tennessee, visiting both Memphis and Nashville. Our time in Nashville was fun but Memphis is one of my favorite places on Earth. There’s amazing music everywhere, not to mention the food, the history and a sense that you’re the first to discover all that’s amazing here.

This trip has been top of mind the last few days with the approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. You see, Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum which is located at the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

Visiting here was moving. It was informative. It was sobering. And it is something I would do all over again if I ever have a chance. Sadly, it did nothing to piece together in my mind how anyone can be so hateful and intolerant to another human or group of humans. That, I will never understand.

You can read about the museum at the link above if you’re interested. Here are a few pictures from my visit.

mlk 1mlk 3mlk 2

In case you would like to know more, the Lorraine Motel had a rich history even before Dr. King stayed here. You can read about it here.

The time is always right to do what is right. 

Martin Luther King Jr.