QUOTE

When Little Girls Do Brave Things {Black History Month}



"Tell your mama who that is," she told Gabriella from across the room.

Gabriella looked down at her coloring sheet. A young girl's face looked back. I could read the factual blurbs surrounding the African American girl's head. Gabriella had colored her face bright orange.

"Umm..." she hesitated while the childcare worker waited.

"Ruby," the worker offered slowly.

"Bridges!" Gabriella exclaimed.

"That's right! Next time you come here, I'm going to ask you her name. So you remember it, okay?"

"Okay! Bye!"

We shuffled out of the gym childcare, wrangling coats and hats and coloring pages. I held Gabriella's rendition of Ruby Bridge's profile.

One benefit of living in a predominately black neighborhood is that black history isn't contained by February. Gabriella has brought home coloring sheets of Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks, and of course, little Ruby Bridges.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that though her name was familiar, I needed to refresh my memory of this 6-year old's role in the Civil Rights movement. A little reading revealed that her act of bravery was to go to school.

She became the first young black child to attend an all-white school in the New Orleans school district. Grown-ups screamed at her and threatened to poison her. One woman protested outside the institution carrying a small coffin with a black baby doll inside.

Ruby's mom taught her to pray on her walks to school.

As the mother of a 5-year old, I think about Ruby's mom. She was the one who spear-headed Ruby's attendance at the school. She felt convicted of its importance for her daughter's education and for the future of all black children. I admire Ruby's mom.

I also think about the other white parents at that school. They pulled their kids out. But on the second day, a 34-year old Methodist pastor walked his 5 year old white daughter into her class.

All the teachers - except for one - refused to teach young Ruby. Barbara Henry taught Ruby alone for over a year, but she taught as if a whole class was present. Can you imagine?

One young African American girl walking into school.

One white minister taking his daughter to class.

One rebellious teacher educating her student.

Being "the one" is lonely. It's scary. It's brave.

My daughter is 5. So close to the age of Ruby Bridges. We've talked about school segregation and Martin Luther King Jr and Ruby Bridges. I'm thankful for this brave little girl who pushed forward school integration in the South. My daughter benefits today.

And I'm reminded that my daughter will likely be in the minority at whichever school the Atlanta lottery lands on for her. As a white child, and certainly as a mixed Guatemala-American girl. I am grateful that she will not be subjected to the vitriol and violence Ruby Bridges faced. And I am encouraged that brave little girls are still participating in the vision of a diverse world.

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