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Meeting the Spark

Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 8 Next »

The Meeting

Being awoken by Mom banging on the door is never a fun way to start off your morning.
“Get up! You can’t be late to school again!” she yells. Reluctantly, I roll out of bed and pull on a simple shirt and skirt from the broken drawer in my tiny closet. The freezing water jolts me awake as I splash my face with water and brush my teeth. My siblings are already eating breakfast at our small cramped table as I walk down the stairs. I pour myself a bowl of cereal and eat it as quickly as I can before Mom ushers us all out the door. She makes us all give her a kiss while we grab our books and walk out the door. While my brother and sister turn left for a shortcut to school, I continue on straight. The books weight my arms down as I walk along the sidewalk. My food catches on some uneven pavement and I tumble down. Standing and picking up my books, I continue my trudge to school. As I turn the corner, I forget about the weight of the books when I see my best friend, Rachel, leaning against a tree.  She is dressed in a plaid dress and long white sleeves. She has to wear a uniform because she goes to a fancy Catholic school, which is on the way to my school. We meet here every day to walk together, and talking with her always makes my day more special.
“Hey, Sheyann!”, she calls out, “What took you so long?”
“I’m not that late!” I laugh, “Anyway, I stayed up until nine o’clock working on my book report.”
“Wow, you were up late” Rachel mused, “Did you finish?”
“Barely, I had trouble with the climax, but I think I did alright.”
“I’m sure you did fine,” she says with a smile. We walk in a happy silence for a few minutes, listening to the birds chirping as they wake up to start their day. The chilly breeze shake the trees and make us wrap our jackets more tightly around ourselves. The sun peeks out behind the  fluffy white clouds, and the bees buzz around the the vibrant wildflowers. Birds scour the grass for the worm that will be their breakfast. Everything here is at peace, but while I am looking around, something seems different.  As we walked down the street, the sounds changed. Instead of birds chirping, we hear loud chatter. Instead of wind through the trees, we hear the shuffled movements of footsteps that belong to a large crowd.
Turning the corner, we stop in our tracks. Before us is a scene so strange to me that I don’t really know what to call it. Right across the street from us, in front of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, a group mingle together. This wouldn’t have been surprising, except this congregation was filled with both black and white people. Not only were they together, but they were being kind and friendly to each other. I try to think back to when I have seen white and black people working together. Since there are not a lot of white people in my neighborhood, I don’t see them very often. I do remember one time, I saw a black woman working for a white woman. That is common, but I have never seen anything like the group in front of me now.  I search my memory for anything I have seen before that looks like the meeting in front of me, but I come up blank. White people stay on their side of town, and we stay on ours. But these people before me are greeting each other as equals. I see a group of white and black women laughing with each other. Over there are two men of different colors shaking hands and smiling. What is going on? I have heard about how white people were bad. I have heard about how they are rude to us, just because we look different. But those people across the street look so kind. The peace between those people over there, it seemed kind of beautiful. I had to find out more!
“Rachel,” I say quickly, “What do you say to going over there and seeing what those people are up to?”
Rachel looks at the group of people, and back at me.
“No, I have to get to school. I suggest you do the same, but if you decide to check them out, will you tell me about it later?”
“Of course,” I say, my eyes still fixed on the group, “I’ll see you this afternoon”
We part ways as I walk to the end of the sidewalk and cross the street. Slowly, I approach the group of people. My stomach tightens with nervousness about what I am walking into, but my curiosity keeps me moving forward. I spot one of my neighbors on the other side of the crowd and decide to go over to him. Maybe he will know what is going on.  I move through the sea of people to get through to the other side. When I am a few feet away, I trip on a rock and bump into a man. He caught my arm before I could fall.
“Well, watch where you are going little lady,” He says with a smile. “Are you alright?”
I look up at him and gasp. This man who just saved me from falling does not have the familiar dark face that I know but has light skin. His brown eyes seemed to sparkle, and his smile stretched from both of his big ears. He looked to be about 25 or 26, judging by the style of his light brown hair.  His pointed chin seemed to make his grin more inviting as he looked down his long nose at me.
“Oh, I’m fine”, I say politely. Why did this man just keep me from tripping? My confusion about these strange people keeps growing. I look forward, trying to find my neighbor in the crowd again, but I have lost him. Now what am I going to do? Who can answer my questions about what is going on? I look at the man who I just bumped into. He smiles at me. “What is a young lady such as yourself doing here?” he asks. This man seems nice enough, so I decide to take this opportunity to get some answers.
“I saw y’all from across the street. I haven't really seen a group like this before, so I wanted to see what all this is about. What is going on?” I ask, and then quickly add, “And who are you?”.
“Well, my name is Jonathan Daniels. I am a minister and a student. As to what is going on here,” he looks at me again with a smile, “This is a civil rights meeting. The way the law is preventing colored people from voting is unjust, and someone needs to step up and do something about it. That is what we are here for. We want to make change happen for the good of the people.”
I had heard about how hard it was for my people to vote. My teacher, Mrs. Moore, would sometimes talk about it in class, but very briefly. I think she said registering to vote was dangerous because if people found out, they could make you lose your job. When I asked my parents about it, they told me not to bring it up again and sent me to my room. I have always liked learning about what was going on in our community in school, but no one really wants to talk about it with me.
“Can you tell me more?” I ask hopefully.
He looks at me again, but instead of a smile, his eyes are knit together as if he is thinking. He looks towards the church for a moment, and then his smile returns as he looks back at us.
“How about this.” He says, “Why don’t you sit in on the meeting? I think that it will teach you more than I can now. It should be starting any minute now anyway. You can sit with me if you like. What is your name?”
“I am Sheyann” I respond back eagerly.
“Alright, well, I will see you inside then,” He says before turning towards the doors of the church and walking inside.
I grin to myself. I was just invited to join these people in their meeting! I feel as though I am beginning to set foot in something big. I walk into the church with everyone else, ready to see what this civil rights thing is all about.
I look around for my new friend Mr. Daniels, but I can’t see him. I decide to take a seat in an empty row towards the back. A few people give me funny looks as they walk by and whisper to each other about how a little girl shouldn’t be here. Even with their stares, they don’t make me uncomfortable. I am too excited to let them bother me, and since I was invited by Mr. Daniels, I feel like I belong. I watch as a man stands at the front of the stage.
“Good Morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming today. I know it must have been difficult for you coming here, but I assure you, with persistence and hard work, we will not be ignored.”
The crowd cheers, and I beam. I feel important, special. He continues to talk about the injustice in our area and the inequality, as well as going over plans for peaceful protest, and calling out other areas of injustice. The people around me cling to his words, letting out whoops and shouts whenever they agreed with him. This man was talking about serious issues that I never hear about in school. This is real, and I love it. An emptiness I never knew was there in my soul, begins to fill. I want to be more. I want to be part of something bigger than I am. The energy in the room is exhilarating. As I look at the people around me, I can see in their faces the same excitement I feel. What they are doing is dangerous. They have all of the odds against them. Or, we had all the odds against us. I don’t understand why people would try to stop us when we have such a true cause.  I know that we may not succeed, but I want to fight for our rights. I need to fight for our rights. I have to be part of this. No matter what it takes, I want to be a freedom fighter.

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