Ruby Bridges Comes to Old Dominion

By Mace & Crown

In the spirit of Black History Month, the famous Ruby Bridges gave a speech at Old Dominion University on Feb. 6.

Recognized as the first known African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school, Bridges has made it her purpose in life to travel the country, relaying her message of how that experience has shaped her life.

The priceless painting by Norman Rockwell called “The Problems We All Live With” was created to depict Bridges’ trials and tribulations of the first day she attended the all-white school. Rockwell’s painting displays four U.S. Marshals escorting her into the school, protecting her from a mob of angry white parents protesting school integration in the south.

Ruby Bridges began her speech with a passage which explained that the great events of our world are not earthquakes, elections or thunderbolts, but are our babies.

Like the previous speech of Geoffrey Canada’s at ODU, Bridges ideology of the importance of good parenting corresponded with that of Canada’s. ”Each baby is born with a clean slate, and the responsibility to rear this innocent child to a life of positivity and education lies with its parents,” said Bridges.

Bridges’ personal example of the importance of parenting, but also parents overall influence came from a personal experience when she attended elementary school. “So, I went in to sit down to play with them, but that was day that I found out what was really going on, “because this little boy looked at me and said ‘I can’t play with you, my mom said I can’t play with you because you are an ‘N’ word.’”

Bridges said that when she reflects on that statement, it was never the boy she was angry with because he was only obeying his parents, and Bridges admitted she would have done the same. She was angry with the boy’s parents. “It is us,” Bridges explained, “we have kept racism alive.”

Along with parenting, Ruby Bridges’ message also touched on the idea of evil. It is impossible to look at another human being and decipher whether they are good or evil, she said.  “I know that you know we don’t live in a world like that,” Bridges said. “See I know that firsthand, because my oldest son was shot and murdered in 2005 by somebody that looked exactly like him. Evil does not care who it uses.”

Bridges’ program is one of the many Black History Month events that ODU is featuring this month.

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