Ruby to Be Featured in Series “March to Justice”

January 10th, 2013

INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY JOINS THE KENNEDY FAMILY AND CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT LEGENDS ON A MARCH TO JUSTICE

– ID FILMS: MARCH TO JUSTICE Premieres on Monday, February 25 at 8PM (E/P) in Commemoration of Black History Month –

(Pasadena, CA) – The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Nearly fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed these words as he called for racial equality after completing the historic voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. But the question still remains today: has the United States of America made true progress in becoming a society in which all people are treated as equals?  Reflecting on our nation’s ongoing pursuit of equal rights, Investigation Discovery presents ID FILMS: MARCH TO JUSTICE produced exclusively for ID by NBC News’ Peacock Productions. With unprecedented access to a civil rights pilgrimage attended by champions of the movement and three generations of the Kennedy family, MARCH TO JUSTICE premieres exclusively on Investigation Discovery on Monday, February 25 at 8 PM (E/P).

ID FILMS: MARCH TO JUSTICE features riveting first person recollections from Civil Rights movement luminaries, including Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who participated in the original Freedom Rides and was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Aboard a bus winding its way through Alabama, Rep. Lewis guides Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, her mother Ethel, and the youngest generations of Kennedy children through a turning point in our nation’s history by providing an intimate account of his experience during the brutal Bloody Sunday attack and the Selma to Montgomery march that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Created by some of the top filmmakers in the country, the documentaries featured in ID FILMS are, by their very nature, intensely personal,” said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager, Investigation Discovery. “We are honored that the Kennedy family invited our film crews to come along the family’s intimate journey to understand the threats and abuse so many suffered, just 50 years ago, so that so many more could live in a more fair and just society.”

MARCH TO JUSTICE also features interviews with intimate revelations by Carolyn McKinstry, a survivor of the 1963 bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, which killed four young girls; former assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and First Amendment crusader, John Seigenthaler; and equal rights advocate Ruby Bridges, who at 6 years old was the first African American child to integrate the all-white William Frantz elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana and was forever immortalized in an iconic Normal Rockwell painting that was recently displayed outside President Obama’s Oval Office.

MARCH TO JUSTICE is part of the ID FILMS strand, the television home for projects that shine a light on important, overlooked aspects of our justice system and showcase compelling stories of mystery, intrigue and determination.

ID FILMS: MARCH TO JUSTICE premieres on Monday, February 25 at 8 PM (E/P). The film is produced for Investigation Discovery by NBC News’ Peacock Productions, with executive producer Elizabeth Fischer and producer Kimberley Ferdinando.  For Investigation Discovery, Diana Sperrazza is executive producer. Sara Kozak is senior vice president of production and Henry Schleiff is president and general manager.

About Investigation Discovery

Investigation Discovery (ID) is America’s leading mystery-and-suspense network. From harrowing crimes and salacious scandals to the in-depth investigations and heart-breaking mysteries that result, ID challenges our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. ID delivers the highest-quality programming to nearly 80 million U.S. households with viewer favorites that include On the Case with Paula Zahn; Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda; Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?; Disappeared; Stalked: Someone’s Watching; and Redrum. For more information, please visit InvestigationDiscovery.com, facebook.com/InvestigationDiscovery, or twitter.com/DiscoveryID. Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the world’s #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.8 billion cumulative subscribers in 209 countries and territories.

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Please visit the Press Website at http://press.discovery.com/us/id/

for additional press materials, screeners, and photography.

Civil rights icon Bridges highlights Martin Luther King Commemoration

January 9th, 2013

By Penn State Live

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Penn State’s University Park campus will celebrate the life of the civil rights leader with the theme of “Let Justice Lead and Freedom Roar!”

Among the events scheduled to commemorate King’s life and work, civil rights icon Ruby Bridges will speak at the Evening Celebration at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 in Schwab Auditorium. Tickets are required but free and can be picked up at Eisenhower Auditorium, Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office, the HUB-Robeson Center or Penn State Downtown Theatre Center.

At age 6 in 1960, Bridges became the first black student to attend William Frantz Public School in New Orleans. Her march into the school came at a cost. She and her family were subjected to intimidation, her father lost his job and angry parents pulled their children from the school. But it became a landmark moment in civil rights history. She has received numerous honors for the history she made as a child and her continued work to promote values of tolerance and respect through the Ruby Bridges Foundation. For more on Bridges: http://mlk.psu.edu/2013-keynote-speakers.

The theme for the 2013 MLK Commemoration is represented by a poster design created by senior graphic design major Arielle Goft of Springfield, Pa. The image depicts a drum major leading a diverse crowd with the words of the theme emerging prominently against a rainbow. The design evokes King’s 1968 sermon in which he said, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

“When I initially heard the theme for this year’s MLK commemoration, I thought it was powerful and inspirational. I also knew that the real challenge would be visualizing the ‘Roar’ through imagery,” said Goft. “Once I found that passage [from King's sermon], I knew the drum major was the perfect representation of this year’s theme. I started drawing the drum major, trying to make him as energetic and dynamic as possible. After many drafts, I incorporated the crowd to show him actually leading a large group of people of all races and genders.”

View a large version of the image here.

Goft’s design was chosen from among 15 created by students in professor Lanny Sommese’s Graphic Design 400 course. All of the student submissions will be on display from Jan. 11-Feb. 28 in the entry lobby of Pattee Library.

“After seeing my poster, I hope that people walk away feeling inspired by the words of Dr. King and moved to lead others on the path of justice and freedom,” Goft said. “I respect all the work that the planning committee does to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. King and I’m honored that they chose my design to represent the 2013 MLK Commemoration.”

A campus and community committee and student commemoration committee jointly selected this year’s theme to echo King’s words and works.

“Justice and freedom were of course hallmark ideas of Dr. King’s messages and works throughout his life,” said Marcus Whitehurst, associate vice provost for Educational Equity and chair of the MLK Commemoration Committee. “It is critical that we all continue to honor and carry forward those messages, to keep striving for those things we believe in and make a difference in the pursuit of justice and freedom in our own ways.”

The 2013 MLK Commemoration will kick off with the sold-out annual Forum on Black Affairs Martin Luther King Memorial Banquet on Jan. 15. The keynote speaker will be Randall Robinson, a renowned social justice advocate and author who is now a professor of law at Penn State. In 2012, South Africa awarded Robinson the country’s highest honor for non-citizens for his work to end apartheid there.

Monday, Jan. 21, is Martin Luther King Day, and though students have a holiday from classes, many will be committing their day to serving the community during the annual Day of Service from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., beginning in Heritage Hall of the HUB-Robeson Center. Community members can sign up to volunteer athttp://www.volunteer.psu.edu/. A DJ will entertain throughout the day in the HUB as part of the event.

Alpha Phi Alpha will host an oratorical competition at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 in 100 Life Sciences Building, in which participants will give speeches reflecting King’s legacy. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha as a graduate student at Boston University in 1952.

Events on Thursday, Jan. 24, include a community showcase at 5:30 p.m. in Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, followed at 6:30 p.m. by a Peace March and concluding with a Social Justice Forum at 7:30 p.m., also at the Pasquerilla Center.

Whitehurst lauded the members of the MLK Commemoration Student Planning Committee, including co-executive directors Andrea Hernandez and Lerell Richards, for their work to bring together an array of events to commemorate King’s life.

“Andrea, Lerell and all the students who have planned and coordinated this year’s events have done an outstanding job in finding ways for us to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Whitehurst said. “It is inspiring to see the commitment, creativity and hard work they put into this commemoration. They show that Dr. King’s life continues to make a profound impact from generation to generation.”

For a full schedule of events and additional information, visit mlk.psu.edu. Follow the commemoration on Twitter attwitter.com/PSU_2013MLK and “Like” the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Commemoration/150284951727908.

1/23/13 – Ruby to Speak at Penn State

January 9th, 2013

The 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Penn State’s University Park campus will celebrate the life of the civil rights leader with the theme of “Let Justice Lead and Freedom Roar!”

Among the events scheduled to commemorate King’s life and work, civil rights icon Ruby Bridges will speak at the Evening Celebration at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 in Schwab Auditorium. Tickets are required but free and can be picked up at Eisenhower Auditorium, Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office, the HUB-Robeson Center or Penn State Downtown Theatre Center.

Ruby Bridges: Civil Rights Pioneer (Radio Interview)

November 26th, 2012
By , WWNO

As most people know, the 1960s were a very tumultuous time in America. Standing in the spotlight of the Civil Rights Movement was a 6-year-old girl who integrated the New Orleans school system and helped dissolve segregation across the South.

Ruby Bridges shares her story with Sharon Litwin on this week’s Notes from New Orleans.

To read a related article written by Litwin, visit Nolavie.com.

For President, a Complex Calculus of Race and Politics

October 20th, 2012

By Jodi Kantor, New York Times

When President Obama greets African-Americans who broke barriers, he almost invariably uses the same line.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you,” he said to Ruby Bridges Hall, who was the first black child to integrate an elementary school in the South. The president repeated the message to a group of Tuskegee airmen, the first black aviators in the United States military; the Memphis sanitation workers the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed in his final speech; and others who came to pay tribute to Mr. Obama and found him saluting them instead.

The line is gracious, but brief and guarded. Mr. Obama rarely dwells on race with his visitors or nearly anyone else. In interviews with dozens of black advisers, friends, donors and allies, few said they had ever heard Mr. Obama muse on the experience of being the first black president of the United States, a role in which every day he renders what was once extraordinary almost ordinary.

But his seeming ease belies the anxiety and emotion that advisers say he brings to his historic position: pride in what he has accomplished, determination to acquit himself well and intense frustration. Mr. Obama is balancing two deeply held impulses: a belief in universal politics not based on race and an embrace of black life and its challenges.

Vigilant about not creating racial flash points, the president is private and wary on the subject, and his aides carefully orchestrate White House appearances by black luminaries and displays of black culture. Those close to Mr. Obama say he grows irritated at being misunderstood — not just by opponents who insinuate that he caters to African-Americans, but also by black lawmakers and intellectuals who fault him for not making his presidency an all-out assault on racial disparity.

“Tragically, it seems the president feels boxed in by his blackness,” the radio and television host Tavis Smiley wrote in an e-mail. “It has, at times, been painful to watch this particular president’s calibrated, cautious and sometimes callous treatment of his most loyal constituency,” he continued, adding that “African-Americans will have lost ground in the Obama era.”

Such criticism leaves the president feeling resentful and betrayed, aides said, by those he believes should be his allies. The accusations are “an assault on his being,” said David Axelrod, his chief strategist — not to mention a discomfiting twist in a re-election fight in which the turnout of black voters, who express overwhelming loyalty to the president but also some disappointment, could sway the result.

But like an actor originating a role on Broadway, Mr. Obama has been performing a part that no one else has ever played, and close observers say they can see him becoming as assured on race in public as he is in private conversation. In 2009, the new president’s statement on the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white police officer set off days of negative headlines; in 2012, he gave a commanding but tender lament over the killing of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a white man.

“As he’s gotten more comfortable being president, he’s gotten more comfortable being him,” said Brian Mathis, an Obama fund-raiser.

Asked when they could sense that shift, several advisers and friends mentioned the waning hours of Mr. Obama’s birthday party in the summer of 2011. As the hour grew late, many of the white guests left, and the music grew “blacker and blacker,” as the comedian Chris Rock later told an audience. Watching African-American entertainers and sports stars do the Dougie to celebrate a black president in a house built by slaves, Mr. Rock said, “I felt like I died and went to black heaven.”

The president, guests recalled, seemed free of calibration or inhibition. He danced with relative abandon, other guests ribbing him about his moves, everyone swaying to Stevie Wonder under a portrait of George Washington.

Trying to Avoid a Wedge

In the White House, Mr. Obama has relied on a long-term strategy on race and politics that he has been refining throughout his career.

As far back as 1995, former colleagues at the University of Chicago remember him talking about moving away from the old politics of grievance and using common economic interests to bind diverse coalitions. “He argued that if political action and political speeches are tailored solely to white audiences, minorities will withdraw, just as whites often recoil when political action and speeches are targeted to racial minority audiences,” recalled William Julius Wilson, now a sociologist at Harvard.

Mr. Wilson had turned the world of social policy on its head by arguing that class was becoming more determinative than race in America and pointing out that race-specific remedies were less politically feasible than economic policies that benefited a broad range of people. The young politician absorbed Mr. Wilson’s ideas, which matched his own experience as a community organizer and a person whose own life did not fit neat racial categories.

Mr. Obama now presides over a White House that constantly projects cross-racial unity. When discussing in interviews what image the Obamas want to project, aides use one word more than any other: “inclusive.” Concerts of Motown and civil-rights-era songs have been stocked with musicians of many races, and in introducing them, the president emphasizes how the melodies brought disparate Americans together. Though the Memphis sanitation workers were involved in a shattering moment of the civil rights struggle — Dr. King was assassinated after going to support their strike — they were invited to the White House for a labor event, not a race-oriented one.

Many of the president’s most critical domestic policy decisions have disproportionately benefited African-Americans: stimulus money that kept public sector workers employed, education grants to help underperforming schools and a health care overhaul that will cover tens of millions of uninsured Americans. But he invariably frames those as policies intended to help Americans of all backgrounds.

“If you really want to get something done, you can’t put it in a way that will kill it before it gets going,” Mr. Obama said in one meeting, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton. “We have to deal with the specific problems of different groups — blacks, women, gays and lesbians, immigrants — in a way that doesn’t allow people to put these wedges in,” Mr. Sharpton recalled the president saying in another.

That approach, along with the memories of the toxic campaign battles over Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., has resulted in a White House that often appears to tiptoe around race.

Debra Lee, the chairman and chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, requested interviews with the Obamas in 2009, but press aides told her that they did not want the first couple on BET in the first six months of the administration, she said in an interview. (They appeared later.)

“There was all this caution and concern because we were in the midst of a great American experiment,” one former aide said. Another aide remembered palpable nervousness about the artwork the Obamas chose for their private quarters in the White House, including some with race-specific messages.

In private, White House aides frequently dissect the racial dynamics of the presidency, asking whether Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, would have yelled “You lie!” at a white president during an address to Congress or what Tea Party posters saying “Take Back Our Country” really mean. Michelle Obama, often called the glue in her husband’s relationship with black voters, sometimes remarks publicly or privately about the pressures of being the first black first lady.

Her husband is more circumspect, particularly on the question of whether some of his opposition is fueled by race. Aides say the president is well aware that some voters say they will never be comfortable with him, as well as the occasional flashes of racism on the campaign trail, such as the “Put the White Back in the White House” T-shirt spotted at a recent Mitt Romney rally. But they also say he is disciplined about not reacting because doing so could easily backfire.

“The president knows that some people may choose to be divided by differences — race, gender, religion — but his focus is on bringing people together,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, wrote in an e-mail.

Even when Newt Gingrich called him a “food stamp president” during the Republican primaries, the most the president did was shoot confidants a meaningful look — “the way he will cock his head, an exaggerated smile, like ‘I’m not saying but I’m saying,’ ” one campaign adviser said.

To blacks who accuse him of not being aggressive on race, Mr. Obama has a reply: “I’m not the president of black America,” he has said. “I’m the president of the United States of America.”

That statement “makes me want to vomit,” Cornel West, an activist and Union Theological Seminary professor, said in an interview. “Did you say that to the business round table?” he asked rhetorically. “Do you say that to Aipac?” he said, referring to a pro-Israel lobbying group.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, with whom the president has a contentious relationship, have echoed the charges that Mr. Obama is insufficiently attentive to African-Americans, even threatening at times to sandbag his agenda.

Even some of Mr. Obama’s black supporters privately express the same anxiety, in more muted form. At the first meeting of his top campaign donors last year, some black donors were dismayed when officials handed out cards with talking points on the administration’s achievements for various groups — women, Jews, gays and lesbians — and there was no card for African-Americans.

The accusation that Mr. Obama does not care about black suffering appears to carry little weight with the African-American public, and yet it tears at the president, say aides, friends and supporters.

After a 2010 speech at the National Urban League, he approached Mr. West. “He just came at me tooth and nail,” Mr. West said. “Are you saying I’m not a progressive?” Mr. West recalled the president asking.

Mellody Hobson, an Obama fund-raiser, explained why the accusation was painful.

“You expect your family to give you the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

Out to Change Stereotypes

Shortly before his 2009 inauguration, Barack Obama took his family to see the Lincoln Memorial. “First African-American president, better be good,” a 10-year-old Malia Obama told her father, who repeated the story later, a rare acknowledgment of the symbolic shadow he casts.

For all of Mr. Obama’s caution, he is on a mission: to change stereotypes of African-Americans, aides and friends say. Six years ago, he told his wife and a roomful of aides that he wanted to run for the White House to change children’s perceptions of what was possible. He had other ambitions for the presidency, of course, but he was also embarking on an experiment in which the Obamas would put themselves and their children on the line to help erase centuries of negative views.

While Mr. Obama resists being the president of black America, he does want to change black America, aides say — to break apart long-held beliefs about what African-Americans can and cannot do. The president, who appointed Lisa P. Jackson and Charles F. Bolden Jr. as the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, wants to encourage black achievement in science and engineering, even urging black ministers to preach about the need to study those subjects.

Mr. Obama knows that the next presidential candidate of color may be judged by his own performance, added Charles J. Ogletree, a Harvard law professor. And Mr. Obama’s desire to win re-election in part because he is the first black president is “so implicit it’s just like breathing,” one White House adviser said.

On rare occasions, Mr. Obama allows others a glimpse of the history, expectations and hope he carries with him. At the funeral of the civil rights leader Dorothy Height in 2010, he wept openly. Again and again, those close to him say, Mr. Obama is moved by the grace with which other blacks who broke the color barrier behaved under pressure.

When Ruby Bridges Hall went to see the famous Norman Rockwell portrait of her marching into school, which Mr. Obama had hung just outside the Oval Office, the president opened up a bit. The painting shows a 6-year-old Ms. Hall in an immaculate white dress walking calmly into school, a hurled tomato and a racial slur on the wall behind her.

The president asked Ms. Hall, now 58, how she summoned up such courage at that age and said he sometimes found his daughters staring at the portrait. “I really think they see themselves in this little girl,” he said, according to an interview with Ms. Hall.

“Doing the work we do, it gets really lonely,” Ms. Hall said. “I felt like we understood each other because we belong to the same club.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 21, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: For President, a Complex Calculus of Race and Politics.

Ruby Bridges Presents the N.O. Children’s Book Festival (Radio Interview)

October 18th, 2012

By Sharon Litwin, WWNO

  • 4:48
  • The New Orleans Children’s Book Festivaldemonstrates how children from different backgrounds can get to know each other through the love of books. The free festival, now in its third year, is put on byRuby Bridges, who joins Sharon Litwin on this week’s Notes from New Orleans.

    To read a related article written by Litwin, visit Nolavie.com.

    Ruby Bridges Reflects on Her Life at Book Festival

    October 18th, 2012

    By Associated Press

    NEW ORLEANS —  Ruby Bridges remembers how excited she was when an anonymous donor sent Dr. Seuss books to her New Orleans home in 1960, the year she ended segregation in local public education by enrolling at a previously all-white elementary school.

    The civil rights icon says the books were a bright spot during the time she entered the William Frantz Elementary School at the age of 6. They were pivotal not only to her passion for reading, but also to her later work to get books to as many schoolchildren as possible.

    Bridges will be furthering that mission this weekend at the New Orleans Children’s Book Festival, an event she launched with Cheryl Landrieu, wife of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in 2010.

    The free festival is on Friday and Saturday. Books will be given to children free and there will be readings by Bridges and other authors.

    It was on Nov. 14, 1960, that court-ordered integration of public schools began in New Orleans. Escorted by U.S. marshals through an angry crowd, Bridges walked up the steps and into the school. The moment was captured in pictures and in a Norman Rockwell painting that last summer hung for a time in the White House.

    Ken Ducote, a teacher and school administrator in New Orleans’ public school system from 1971 to 2003, said Bridges put a name and face on integration.

    “Until that moment, black kids and white kids didn’t have relationships with each other. They didn’t know each other by name. There was a real disconnect,” said Ducote, who now serves on the advisory board for the Ruby Bridges Foundation.

    Bridges, 58, lives in suburban New Orleans and wrote a book geared to older children about her experience at Frantz called “Through My Eyes.” She travels the country speaking at schools and book fairs and says her experience, though lonely at times, wasn’t as scary as one might think.

    “I just thought it was like Mardi Gras,” she said, referring to the policemen and mob outside the school. “I’m sure it was a different story for my parents.”

    Bridges said she remembers feeling safe at school and being greeted each morning with a smile and hug from her teacher, Barbara Henry. School, she says, is a place where every child belongs and where children from all backgrounds can connect through books and education.

    “My message is really that racism has no place in the hearts and minds of our children,” she said.

    Bridges said she empathizes with parents struggling to provide for their children. That’s why some books will be distributed free at the festival. Others will be offered for sale.

    For Bridges, the eldest child in a family that would grow to include eight children, receiving the Dr. Seuss books is a special memory.

    “I so loved getting those books,” she said. “We didn’t have much growing up. My parents were concerned with things like where the next meal was coming from, so books were a luxury.”

    The family lived a few blocks from William Frantz elementary in an upper 9th Ward neighborhood. The area flooded when levees failed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The school is still under repair and is on the National Register of Historical Places.

    Ducote said Bridges’ story is part of an exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis called “The Power of Children,” which also includes the stories of Holocaust survivor Anne Frank and AIDS sufferer Ryan White.

    “They were all children surrounded by something bad who continued to grow and come of age and build themselves up stronger in spite of their circumstances,” Ducote said. “Any child being bullied today, over race or for any other reason, can feel empowered by their stories.”

    The New Orleans book festival was launched to mark the 50th anniversary of Bridges’ historic walk into Frantz Elementary. It begins Friday evening with a reading and musical performance by the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra. Families are invited to bring picnic baskets to enjoy the event on the grounds of the Latter Library, just off the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line.

    Festivities continue Saturday with food, music, readings and activities geared toward children.

    Among the authors scheduled to read are Bridges, “Crawfish Tales” author Dee Scallan, “Goodnight NOLA” author Cornell Landry and Jean Cassels, author of “The Cajun Nutcracker.”

    A Pilgrimage to Remember

    August 14th, 2012

    Published in The Faith and Politics Institute’s Conscience & Courage Volume 6 Summer 2012

    By Ruby Bridges

    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I made the trip from New Orleans to Alabama for the 2012 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. I knew I would be meeting some of our nation’s leaders and others, like me, who had a hand in shaping the Civil Rights movement. I had no idea, though, how powerful the trip would be- it serves as one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.

    The people I met on the pilgrimage, though from diverse backgrounds, are all like-minded in a very special way.

    They are family, and the glue that binds us is the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King. His dream is why we were all there and what we all dedicate our lives to. I was honored to meet the next generation of leaders, who talked about finding their place in history. I saw them embracing their family members’ legacies to keep Dr. King’s dream not only alive, but moving forward.

    Pondering how to do this effectively and visiting the many historic sites in Alabama, I couldn’t help but think back to the neighborhood where I grew up in New Orleans.

    There, William Frantz Elementary, the school I helped desegregate in 1960, remains vacant since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city almost seven years ago. The school is under construction, and it will soon be a state-of-the-art facility. However, a paradigm shift must take place in order for that building, the community, and me to fulfill our destinies.

    The surrounding neighborhood is struggling to survive. Drugs, crime, blight, and an absence of opportunity plague people living there, not unlike many communities across our nation. We need solutions to these seemingly insurmountable problems.

    I’ve been told that my ideas are grandiose. Yes, they are. However, so were the ideas that marched me through screaming crowds and up the stairs of William Frantz Elementary more than 50 years ago. In order to truly make lasting positive change- to keep Dr. King’s dream moving forward—we need to think big and act big. That is what I left the pilgrimage with.

    The trip helped me to re-center, find my focus and become inspired. I remembered how far we have come, but I recognize the great distances that we have yet to march. I’m inspired by the leaders who participated in the journey across Alabama. I am hopeful that they will take the spirit of that experience with them back to the hallowed halls of Congress and evoke it everyday when they conduct their important work to make our great nation greater.

    Ruby featured on Tavis Smiley on PBS

    March 5th, 2012
    SPECIAL FEATURE

    School Integration: Ruby Bridges in Context

    By Tamika Thompson

    During his time in New Orleans, Tavis caught up with New Orleans native Ruby Bridges, who, in 1960, was the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.

    Tavis visits with Ruby Bridges at William Frantz Elementary

    (To see a video of Tavis’ reflections on Bridges, click here.)

    Bridges’ story—captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With“—is bigger than New Orleans and bigger than the South.

    Hers is the story of school integration for Blacks. And, while the landmark case for school desegregation is the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Bridges’ story—and the story of all Black students seeking an education in all-white schools—begins in the 19th century, when Blacks weren’t yet free.

    Ruby Bridges Comes to Old Dominion

    February 15th, 2012

    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.