Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kenny keeps his "Eyes On The Prize"


In 1987 my husband and I moved to North Carolina. He had a small remodeling business and hired a 20 year old black youth named Kenny 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.

Pretty soon the two of them had a set routine and that included coming back to the house at noon for a lunch that I would prepare for them. After each 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 lunchtime happened to coincide with the airing, on our local PBS Station, of the award winning documentary "Eyes on the Prize, America's Civil Rights ... 1954-1965". Kenny became very engrossed with the show and he and I would watch it every day.

It was interesting to realize that Kenny knew 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 my opinion on what we had seen. The part that affected him the most was when Gov. George Wallace stood on 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, "Mizzrus Richard, do you know what? Someday that Governor is going to get real old and used up and he's going to spend his last days in a nursing home. And do you know who's going to take care of him? 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 may come to us all. I was glad that I could tell Kenny that Gov. Wallace had a change of heart and had begged forgiveness of the many people with whom he had clashed.

That was over 20 years ago. After my husband died Kenny went on to form his own company in another County and has become quite prosperous but he has never forgotten me. He still calls to say "hi" and always ends the conversation by giving thanks to my late husband Dick for the life that he enjoys today.

9 Comments:

Blogger Anvilcloud said...

This is another amazing story form an amazing life.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Yet another wonderful story of occurences in your life journey.. I lvoe coming here to read what you write. It is sobering (no pun intended).. what I mean is, so real, and giving lessons to people about life.
Take care Ginnie. Thank YOU for sharing

4:01 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Wow, what a touching story. Funny how so many of us go thru life not having a clue.......
Thanks, Ginnie

2:59 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

It should make you feel good to know that you contributed to his education. I love what he said about Wallace, who turned my stomach when I was a teen.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks Ginnie for another wonderful,touching, and true story. How wonderful of Kenny to still keep in touch asfter so many years. Shame on George Wallace too.

Welcome back from your travels. Hope you had a wonderful trip.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

This is a touching tale. Sometimes things can be improved by helping one person at a time. For many people, all they need is a chance.

I am not surpised that Kenny did not know much of his (our) history
When I lived in New Haven we lived in the heart of the black community. My son went to the Martin Luther King School.(He was one of four children in a kindergaten class of 65) It shocked me at first when the kids on the street did not know who MLK was, until I realized he had been dead for 9 years and these kids were younger than that. I did a lot of teaching just sitting on my front step and sharing what I knew not only about black history but why my hair was different than theirs and why people had different coloured skin. My fair haired and blue eyed son was popular because he had lots of toys and many of the neighbourhood kids seemed to have few.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks for sharing another wonderful story from your past, Ginnie. We can all learn much from your remembrances. Nice to see you back from your trip :-)

6:12 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

How wonderful that must make you feel Ginnie. What a warm and kind man.
Love Di ♥

5:36 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

That is a wonderful story. Wallace, like so many, was filled with hate. What goes around, comes around. Glad that Kenny came to understand his heritage and that history was being made.

6:37 AM  

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