“Learn About” Questions
- What was Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of nonviolence about and why did it start?
- Why couldn’t African Americans vote in the Primaries at this time? When did that change?
- What role did activists like Ernest’s grandfather play at this time?
“Learn From” Questions
- How do I tend to respond in difficult situations…do I tend to be prone to violence or non-violence?
- What has my experience been in working through a challenging issue to completion? How did it resolve or did it resolve?
- Who is my greatest source of support?
Well, Treopia was in college so communicating with her was kind of spotty but she was always very supportive. My brother Scott was very supportive as well but he also saw himself as a different generation so he thought that Dr. King and nonviolence was not the mode that he particularly wanted to go down. He, in fact, used to tell me that we have to fight back, be willing to, and I said I don’t think so because there’s 2000 students in that school and nine of us, we can’t fight our way through it. Scott was less willing to try to figure out how to be less confrontational than of course I was, and you know, my attitude was, I was in the middle of this storm so I didn’t think that I could fight my way out of it but I had to be willing to stand up and I always wanted to, my brother and I have grown closer over the years but I always wanted to, since he was at home with me, to make sure that I was maintaining his support and that he was willing to be there for me. And he was. He was always very helpful. The quiet person in the family that ended up being the real support person was my grandfather. He was the letter carrier and I think he was the one who constantly was the support person for my mother. As I mentioned, my dad had passed by then so that my grandfather was the more vocal male among my immediate family. He also had, being a letter carrier and a black letter carrier at that time, it was a pretty big deal. And so he had stature. He had status. But he also was the one who I think never had a chance to talk to everybody who thought that we had to challenge all these old ideas. I’ll never forget, I once went to someone’s funeral, I don’t remember who it was, but a guy came up to me and said, your grandfather was a real activist. He didn’t use that, he used a few other words to describe him, and said that he had tried a number of times to vote in the democratic primary, which was given the fact that blacks couldn’t vote in the democratic primary; they were barred from it. The fact that he tried a number of times to do that, that made him a real activist, actually a rebel, and I always thought that the night of graduation, my grandfather was in the audience and Dr. King also was there and they never talked about what it was like to sit in that audience and see me get that diploma with Martin Luther King standing next to him.
Now, partly I guess when you’re making history, it’s like making sausage. You’re not sure how it’s gonna turn out. And you tend not to look at all these nuances going on. It’s only after you get away from it and step back and look at it and see what really came out, but he was the grandfather, my grandfather was a tough cookie and he probably undergirded my mother because at the end of the day, she didn’t lose her job at all but she had to be, at some points, fearful of outcome because here she was, a single mother, a house note and all the expenses that she had to pay for and that she was in the middle of this firestorm challenging the powers that be. So when they said speak truth to power, you know, she really was doing that.