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YOU Can Be a Black History Hero!

Susan O'Halloran

2 min read

Feb 14

50

1



Black History Month is a great time to consider the many, many people, groups and organizations that worked so hard to make change happen. With all due awe, respect and gratitude to Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and other well-known civil rights leaders, it is easy in our celebrity-driven culture to forget the multitude of “ordinary” citizens who demanded justice and sacrificed their lives so that the U.S. might live up to its ideals.


It doesn’t matter your age or position in life – you can make a difference! When I speak to young people, I tell them about people who refused to sit in the back of the bus before Rosa Parks including a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Covin, one of the first to be arrested for not giving up her seat to a White girl. She also went to school and shopping with her friends. Claudette was exceptional and “ordinary.”


I tell students about a Civil Rights group to which I belonged during high school in the 1960s. We teens organized seminars around the Chicago area to explore issues of racial justice and held press conferences to speak back to our city leaders about their lack of will to end northern segregation. We also went to our Friday night dances, worried about who did and didn’t like us and studied for upcoming exams. We were extraordinary young people and very, very “ordinary.”


My friend and colleague, Bea Young, worked in the southern Freedom Schools over sixty years ago. Yet today, in her 90s, she still works tirelessly for justice. She is a force to be reckoned with. I am proud to have contributed to her book with Dr. Carmen Ayala and Michael Kilgore, Restoring the Soul to Education: Equity Closes the Achievement Gap. (Look for the release of her new book Boots on the Ground next year.) She also loves to go out to dinner with friends, travel abroad, play with her grandchildren and attend the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In other words, she is extraordinary and “ordinary.”


When we think of Civil Rights and other great social movements, it’s important that we emphasize the role of “ordinary” citizens. Otherwise, our heroes can seem too out of reach and we may miss the huge difference each one of us can make.


It’s important to steep ourselves in the stories of ordinary citizens and grass-root movements to help ourselves remember that each of us has a part to play in making the world a better place. Any person who does rise to the status of cultural icon could not have reached that kind of reputation without the support of their community. Being part of a group working for change is as important as being the leader. You can’t have one without the other.


Each of us can search our own hearts for the answer to the question, “What is mine to do?”

You are ordinary and you are extra-ordinary with countless gifts to contribute to a better world.


This article may be reproduced by giving the following credit: by Sue O’Halloran, author, story artist and race equity speaker/consultant. Find Sue and her store at: www.SusanOHalloran.com

Susan O'Halloran

2 min read

Feb 14

50

1

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