KENNY Keeps His “EYES ON THE PRIZE”
In 1987 my husband Dick and I lived in Moore County, N. C., approx. an hour south of Raleigh. He had a one-man remodeling business and had just hired Kenny, a 20 year old black youth to help with the heavy stuff. Kenny had no carpentry skills but Dick told him that he would teach him the business if he were reliable and trustworthy. (Kenny proved to be more than that and, after my husband died in 1990, he went on to form his own company in another County and is quite prosperous today.)
Pretty soon the two men had a set routine and that included coming back to the house at noon for a lunch that I would prepare for them. After every meal Kenny would say, “Mizzrus Richard, that was real good” . He had a sharp mind and was quick to learn but his Southern dialect was strong.
Their lunchtimes happened to coincide with the airing, on our local PBS station, of the award winning show, “Eyes On The Prize, America’s Civil Rights Years…1954-1965“. Kenny became very engrossed with the show and he and I would watch it every day while we ate.
It was very interesting, to me, to realize that Kenny knew very little about his own history. He had been born and schooled in North Carolina but he said that he had never been taught anything about the Civil Rights movement.
Kenny and I watched the series day after day and he became more and more agitated. This was completely new to him and he was amazed at what he was seeing. He even began to take notes and would ask me my opinion on what we had seen. The part that affected him the most was when Gov. George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door in Alabama and blocked the entry of the black students.
I could see the conflict of emotions that were roiling inside of him as he watched and suddenly he turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget. He said: “Mzzrus Richard, do you know what? Someday that Governor is going to get real old and used up and he’s going to end his days in a nursing home. And do you know who’s going to take care of him then? We are!”
It wasn’t meant as a threat…he was simply stating a fact…but it gave me a chill. Yes, I thought, the day of reckoning comes to us all. I was glad that I could tell Kenny that Gov. Wallace had a change of heart since those days and had begged forgiveness of the many people with whom he had clashed.
That was almost 20 years ago but Kenny has never forgotten me. He calls to say “hi” at least two or three times a year and always ends the conversation by giving thanks to my late husband, Dick, for the life that he enjoys today.
If you are interested in this post please take a moment to click on the comments. I think they are especially insightful this time. Ginnie