Growing up black and southern I heard a lot of stories of the difficulties many of my ancestors and family members faced 50 or so years ago. Ruby Bridges’ story was one of those stories I always grew up hearing. My family owned the film created in honor of her and I watched it all throughout my childhood. I was not able to understand what she faced and how significant it was until I was much older and now I can fully appreciate everything she experienced.
On Feb. 2, 2017 I was able to see my childhood icon share her story in person in the auditorium of my very own campus at Harding University. It was a historic moment as I, an African American woman at a historically white university, was witnessing a woman who helped break the boundaries to allow that to happen. Needless to say, I was extremely excited.
The event began with a formal introduction of Ruby Bridges along with a video that shared a bit of her story. We were then introduced to her and were able to hear her story in detail. Afterwards, the President of Harding University was able to sit with her and ask her a few questions. This was the only part I didn’t quite enjoy because I was unable to see her from where I was seated. After that she stayed on stage to sign copies of her book, which were available for purchase prior to and after her speech. I unfortunately was not able to get a photo with her but being able to hear her speak was incredibly rewarding. I really loved that even with the amount of people who showed up, everyone was incredibly respectful and courteous. She had several standing ovations and just had a way of speaking about a difficult experience with such grace.
Several of the things she said have been engrained in my mind. One of my favorite quotes from her that night was: “Evil doesn’t care what you look like. If you open yourself up to it, it will use you to do the work that it wants done. And if evil doesn’t care what we look like, why should we if we consider ourselves good?”
I hope these are words we all take to heart. All in all it was an event that I and many others will remember for a lifetime.