Monday, January 19, 2009

I Have a Dream...

From kindergarten until third grade I attended Moore Alternative Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The school was an alternative one in many different ways: the way the classrooms were set up, educational philosophy, the attitude towards students and their abilities, curriculum presentation/structure... I loved this school from the very first day my mom walked me in to Mr. Harper's kindergarten classroom.Actually this room was one of three that were side by side to create a "Suite". This is Suite 9, my educational home for kindergarten and first grade.

Every morning, the three groups of students would gather together in what was called "Big Group". Announcements were made and I'm sure there were other components to that morning meeting. But what I remember most were the songs we learned and sang each morning. Songs like "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and "America the Beautiful" and "This Land is Your Land". But we also learned songs like "We Shall Overcome" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing". These songs, traditional civil rights folk songs and The Negro National Anthem, were an everyday part of my education. So ingrained in my mind and heart, in fact, that I can still sing them word for word today.

You see, at Moore Elementary, Black History was not just relegated to a single month. It was a year round part of our curriculum. Perhaps not every single day, but scattered throughout the months were the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks; the tales of sit-ins and police brutality; the actions of schoolchildren just like us who braved intense hatred to pioneer the idea of integration. In fact, one of my most vivid memories of acting is of a third grade skit in Suite 12. A group of us reenacted that fateful day, December 1, 1955, when a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama took her quiet stand. And I, a nine year old white girl, was picked by my classmates to portray Rosa Parks.

At Moore Elementary, a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream came to pass. We, all of us within those walls, were judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. We were all given equal opportunity and equal discipline. Mrs. Geneva Brown, our principal, made sure of that.

Our teachers, black and white, modeled that dream each day. We, their students, lived it out as we learned together in those classrooms with the twelve foot ceilings and green linoleum floors. And hopefully, we have gone on to live it in the great big world...

{Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Haggins, December 1984}

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!


  1. Great post. You were blessed with such a loving foundation for learning. No wonder you turned out to be a loving caring adult. (I can tell from your blog posts)

    All children should have that sort of learning environment.

  2. Your school reminds me so much of my own school, as well. Thanks for the beautiful post on this MLK Day. We are all children of God. By the way, I live in NC, not far from Winston Salem. Small world, isn't it? Have a great week.
    Love & blessings.

  3. Great post. If only all American children had such memories.

    Helen Losse

    I have a gmail account and come up as as deadmule, because I am the poetry editor for The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature (an online literary magazine) with which my e-mail is associated.

  4. Anonymous12:12 PM

    What a sweet walk down memory lane.. I'm so grateful and proud of Moore Alternative School and the woman you have become.

  5. Very lovely memories. Thanks for sharing them! :-)

  6. Leslie, thanks for commenting over at my blog. Any friend of the Mrs. and Mr. are friends of mine. And-- small world!-- I've got family on Signal Mountain, and more family who are educators in St. Elmo!

  7. Wonderful memories...thanks for sharing.
    I wish children today had similar experiences. Sadly, I think the rich education you enjoyed is few and far between for them.

  8. What a beautiful post! Thanks so much for sharing. This is something I'm so passionate about because I work with kids in the inner-city and know that their lives are often still plagued with inequalities which are perpetuated by people who post comments on facebook etc that are racist and just ignorant. I am so glad you were so blessed by such a great education! :-)

  9. Jenny Hobbs11:59 AM

    I went to Moore for first grade before we moved to Texas!
    I've enjoyed reading your blog. It's great to keep in touch with what's going on with you!

  10. GREAT POST! And you are so right! I was in Suite 9 too... AND had Ms. Sharpe as a teacher! LOVED HER! Ms. Brown has always been one of me heroes! Thanks so much for posting this! I saw it in the Winston-Salem Journal! They somehow picked up your post and printed it.

  11. Anonymous6:30 PM

    You are so cute!


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