I guess it’s natural to become a little reflective on a historic week such as this.
Growing up in a small southern Oregon town you don’t really think much about color since there is so little of it and it was during a time you would never had thoughts of a black president.
Other than Bruce, my two best friends were Monty and Clarence.
Monty had brilliant red hair and enough freckles he looked tanned. He was a foster kid whose home life was not much different than if he worked in a dairy. I don’t remember him having more than one red thin sweater and a pair of torn cords. He lived a mile or so down the road near the canal. I remember asking my mom if we could just keep him.
Clarence was blessed with a smile that could melt the frozen Klamath snow. Not a big talker but out going.
He and his family lived in the old military housing near my grandmother. They were two story wood row houses that you would call the projects if still standing today.
Clarence was fearless and along with my Nonie (Italian for grandmother) taught me never to give in to it. “You never start nothing! But you finish it.” she would say. She could also wield a wood spoon like a Ninja.
To get from the school to Clarence’s you had to pass “Dirt-Clod Hill” named for the mountain of earth left from building the school which produced the hardest projectiles in the basin. You could expect daily attacks if walking alone. It’s where I had my first knife pulled on me. Racist names that make me cringe to this day but were used in abundance in the 50’s started the fray.
Calling that tiny piece of metal and plastic a knife might be giving the real thing a bad name. I had no running speed to speak of but played a lot of ball and four square so I pretty much owned you with a clod at thirty feet. My attacker found the same. Monty and Clarence never let me make that walk alone.
Many years later my work put me in the company of the Reverend C.T.Vivian whose words inspired and educated. He taught me that “Until you wake up every morning and look at a black face in the mirror you will truly never understand prejudice.”
The iconic images of Charles Moore, a white man born in the south, who covered the civil rights movement with a passion and a commitment to record history, was gracious to answer my every question.
These two men showed the nation that we don’t walk alone.