Sunday, December 10, 2017

1987 … Kenny keeps his "Eyes On The Prize"

Last night I read an article about the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and it brought back this memory. We had moved to North Carolina in the 70's and my husband had a small remodeling business. In 1987 he 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.

Kenny had a sharp mind, was quick to learn and had a Southern accent that you could cut with a knife. They would often end the day back at the house and we would all share dinner. After each meal Kenny would say, "Mizzrus Richard, that was real good."
This time also coincided with the airing of the award winning documentary “Eyes on The Prize” America's Civil Rights ... 1954-1965". It was unbelievable to me 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. Naturally he was as excited to watch the show as we were.
As we nightly watched the segments Kenny 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 30 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.


Blogger Bonnie Jacobs said...

What a great story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Marie Smith said...

Bravo, Kenny. Such a heart warming story, Ginnie!

4:49 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

What a wonderful story. You have made my day as I am sure you made Kenny's many times over and he yours.

7:40 AM  
Blogger troutbirder said...

What a sweet story.... The times are a changing.... even a little in Alabama..

4:58 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Your anecdotes are always poignant.

3:14 PM  

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