For Generations Yet Unborn
I grew up in Illinois, west of Chicago. I attended elementary school through high school in my hometown. I cannot help but smile when I think back on my high school experiences. A Power Point slide show presentation runs through my mind with fond memories of football games, homecoming dances, and school plays all set to the tune of my high school’s fight song being played by the marching band. This mental slide show belongs not only to me, but also to many of my friends here at U of I. I know not everyone experienced the same “Miss Suesy High School” experience that I went through, but as a 16 year old I somehow blocked other’s not so grand high school experiences from my mind, and naively continued to go to football games and dances. When I came to the University of Illinois, along with twenty some others from my high school, I pressed saved on my slide show of high school memories and began my college career. It wasn’t until March 1, 2004, that I opened up my Power Point file of high school memories at the request of an amazing woman.
Melba Beals, a congressional Gold Medal honoree for her work as a civil rights activist, spoke at the University of Illinois in March about her experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine and her book Warriors Don’t Cry. In Beals’ book, she recalls unpleasant childhood memories of growing up in Arkansas during segregation of the 1950s. Beals drank out of water fountains marked for blacks only, ate at “colored” restaurants, rode at the back of the bus, and attended a segregated elementary school. Beals and eight other children “helped integrate an all-while Arkansas public high school in 1957.” The majority of Warriors Don’t Cry explores Beals’ experiences during the integration of Central High School in Arkansas.
In the Illini Union Ballroom Beals spoke to approximately one hundred and fifty audience members. The majority of the seats for the talk on Beals’ life experiences and book were filled with white, female, undergrad, “Allen Hall” students. The stereotype of the white “Allen Hall” undergrad on the U of I campus is this: one who is artsy, socially/politically aware, activist type student. Basically the “Six Pack” sorority girls did not attend this lecture. Only two young men sat in my row of twenty seats; the fraternity boys were most definitely not in attendance that night. Only a few people in the room were not of the eighteen to twenty-two year old age range. Scattered throughout the audience was a handful of middle-aged white professors. They were the most noticeable exception to the eighteen to twenty-two year old age range. There was one lone white female senior citizen in the entire audience. Pockets of three to four black undergrad students sat in-between the groups off Allen Hall undergrads. The African-American undergrads stuck together as a minority in the ballroom, which is rather ironic for this was a...