Friday, April 11, 2003

Fred Gray was the guest speaker at a dinner I was at last night. Listening to his passion about his career renewed my conviction that my dream to make a difference in education is not futile. I can single-handedly affect change--we all can. Fred Gray made a difference as one of our country's most influentual civil rights lawyer.

Fred Gray represented Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and the participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He's currently the first African-American head of the Alabama State Bar Association. His argument for Gomillion v. Lightfoot laid the foundation for the Supreme Court's 'One Man, One Vote' decision, and later evolved into the voting rights acts. Fred Gray began his career with the sole intention to destroy every instance of segregation. One man. One dream. He made a difference.

Fred Gray offered his ideas on how we can destroy segregation in our lives.

Recognize that we really are not diverse. Look into our schools, our jobs, our temples and our churches, our grocery stores and our coffeeshops. See how homogenous our lives really are.
Devise a plan for diversification. If our government can devise a successful program for space travel, he said, then it can make one to effectively diversify, too.
Get to know each other. Talk. Smile. Be open to change. Make a pointed effort to be friendly to the people you encounter throughout your day.

It sounds hopelessly optimistic. So why shouldn't it work?

A friend of mine grew up in Arkansas in the 1950s. She once recalled what it was like getting ice cream in the sweltering summertime. There was a colorful awning and an open walk-up restaurant with kids lined up and laughing and exchanging change for their treats. She had to walk behind the building, where a little window had been cut out of the wall. You knocked on the opening, it slid open, you put your change inside and out came an ice cream. The window closed. Above the window was a sign that read, "Colored."

While instances like this aren't as glaring, we still continue to de facto segregate with our schools, our neighborhoods, and our politics. Get involved.

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