I refused to call them “niggers” as others did
Those six black girls in sea of 1800 students,
God-fearing community’s school integration,
No brotherly love, just resentment and hatred.
Haunted images from my adolescent pain
Being torn asunder in puzzling confusion,
I was desperately seeking truths important to me
Right and wrong values to discern and to know.
Confused and perplexed, unsure of myself,
Hearing disparate advice from many adults
Usually hearing why whites are superior,
Feeling so different within my own spirit.
Values formed from many books I read
Trying to escape my young world’s strife,
Taking voyages to distant times and places
Discovering old histories, and philosophies too.
Learning human dignity can never come
By labeling people as different from me,
I wondered why others did not understand
All beings the same no matter their looks.
Being ostracized for developing beliefs
Always so threatening to elders and peers,
Still feeling some pain unleashed back then
By their childish taunts and consistent exclusion.
Discoveries made growing from a child to adult
My deep understandings became confident and true,
Parents and others bewildered by my actions,
Actions compelled by values I felt.
My freedom in believing my values are right
Has led me to advocate equal rights for all people,
Marching for civil rights, being beaten and arrested,
Working for African Americans to finally be free.
Progress is made in small incremental steps
I continue advocating for equality and freedom,
Freedom for my spirit can really only come
When helping others to be equal and free.