As I continue to reflect on your lovely play for your MLK Event, so many thoughts and memories come to mind. My life spans many decades as I near my 77th birthday. I would happily be available to a Zoom experience with this.
My early years were spent in a predominately Republican, homogeneous suburb of Rochester, NY! Most people who lived in my immediate area were white Protestants. There were few Catholics, almost no Jewish people, and there were no African American people.
As a youngster, up until I got in to the seventh grade, I was wasn’t aware of any racial prejudice because established boundaries in our neighborhood were never threatened or breached. It was as if people considered as “others” did not exist in our world.
As I think about it, I really never felt that I fit in.. There were cliques and a definite pecking in this homogeneous environment.. There were established norms of what was in and what was not..
This narrow social awareness came to an end when our seventh grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Golden, as people would say today, woke us up! As we studied American History we learned about slavery, racial prejudice, and segregation. I was horrified! I couldn’t believe that black children by law in the South went to separate schools from white children, and the that by law there were separate facilities, and services for black people.
My next big shift happened was when I started my college career in 1962 at a small music school, The Philadelphia Musical Academy! At that time the Vietnam War was raging and the Civil Rights Movement was well underway. We were a small, yet wonderfully diverse community. I had classmates from all over Philadelphia.
In our school, I had classmates that were South Philly Italian, Jewish kids from Northeast Philadelphia and a fairly large population of Black kids from almost exclusively black neighborhoods. I really loved it. Interestingly enough, this all felt right. For the first time in my life, I felt that I fit in! We all had a common interest and identity as musicians.
From that time forward, I have always chosen to live in a racially, and culturally diverse community and neighborhood. I hope in this life to have more experience with folks from many more heritages.