Juanita Brady Hawes was born in Alabama in the late 1940's. She grew upin the midst of the Civil Rights movement. She moved to Philadelphia where shesettled and had four children. Now, she is a widow raising her last twochildren.
Why do you think there was a need for the CivilRights movement?
There was a need because, as a race, we were helddown and wanted equal rights in job opportunities, education, etc. That led us topeacefully demonstrate our needs by protesting, marching, etc. Something had tobe done to improve our way of living.
How old were you at thetime?
I was a 13- or 14-year-old in middleschool.
How did you feel about what was going aroundyou?
I was afraid but I felt the need, nevertheless, to participate. Iwas afraid for people of my race and myself because we could get hurt, eventhough Martin Luther King preached nonviolence. As I watched the media, I sawwhites with hoses and dogs making the demonstrations just theopposite.
How did your family feel and how did it affect yourhome life?
My mother felt that the movement was very much needed, butshe didn't want us to participate. She felt it was very dangerous because she sawwhat I saw in the media.
Were you (or others you knew) involvedin the movement?
I, personally, was not involved in the movement.Friends in my class and school were involved throughchurch.
How did everyday life for black people change as themovement progressed?
When I went to public places, segregation signs(signs that said "colored only" and "white only") were beingremoved. Black people were aware of the importance of voting and gained thatright. Lastly, we were able to ride in the front of the bus after years ofsitting in the back. This was due to a young lady by the name of RosaParks.
Did people change as well?
I always felt that wherethere were segregation signs, we were never really treated differently. I heardstories from my mother about being turned away from places that served whitesonly, but I never experienced this, except once when I was called the"N" word. I will never forget that. I was sheltered as achild.
Did you know anyone who died in themovement?
I knew about the bombing of the church in Birmingham,Alabama which took the lives of three young girls attending Sunday School. Also,two young college men, one black and one white, were sent down south for theFreedom Movement and were violently killed. A young white lady was killed whilecoming to the South for the same reason. Last, but not least, Martin LutherKing.
How were the churches involved?
The churchesheld meetings to keep blacks aware of what was taking place and to assemblegroups for marches in various places.
How did you feel when Martin LutherKing died?
I was young. Nevertheless, I felt a strong sense of lossbecause he did so much to improve our standards of living and did it in spite ofthe danger. Even as a young person, I felt that was a great price to pay. I heardhim speak on the dangers he would face and that he might possibly die. I knewthat, besides being a movement leader, he was a family man and I felt he was apart of my family because of the selfless acts he performed.
Whatdid you learn from this experience and what would you like others toknow?
I learned that you can rise above situations in your life by takingthe initiative to make a stand for what you believe in, no matter what dangerousobstacles lie ahead of you. If you do nothing, you gain nothing. It is better tohave tried and failed than to have never tried at all, because if you do not try,things will remain the same.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.