Sunday, November 14, 2010
This is Ruby going to what was an all white segregated school in New Orleans as the first African American child to be integrated there. What you don't see, but what is implied in the painting, are the shouting, screaming, angry crowds just yards away from Ruby. The fruit splattered on the wall and ground and the guards escorting her are a hint at the protection she needed and therefore the dangers around her. Think about that.
How brave so many had to be to get to the point to even plan for Ruby to go to that school, and now think about that day - her parents, the government, the teachers, other students, parents. Imagine the tension, the fear, the anticipation, the chaos, and the bravery. Those publicly involved in making this happen and their families received death threats. She attended school that year... alone. Not one other person was in her class. Many parents pulled their children from that school, and the few white children that remained there that year were taught separately from Ruby.
Imagine how many times people wondered if this were really the right thing to do in the face of crowds saying it was wrong, immoral and many other negative descriptors. Imagine the sadness, anger and frustration from parents the community, and even Ruby's parents. But... consider the years that followed, with a growing tolerance, understanding, and eventually, a new normal where integration was the status quo. My heart is heavy with gratitude for the people who made the difference, who had the internal compass and strength to help Ruby take that walk, and to continue our country's journey to being the most free and equal democracy in the world.
Ruby, this event, and the painting that captures it, are reminders that breaking through the clutter to a better place often takes courage, support and strength to fight the drag and resistance of mobs trying to maintain the status quo. This is because a way of life, doing or being is comfortable for them (the mobs), because it is what they know, because they can't envision how the world will work any other way. The weight of 'this is the way we've always done it' is a heavy one. While our daily battles may not be as momentous in purpose as that of racial integration, remember that if you are on the path to a better place, idea, business model, structure or society, it will likely not be easy. Keep pushing through - there could just be an awesome new tomorrow on the other side.
It's worth noting how important it is to not only make change and create great moments, but also to capture them and tell the story. You never know what or who you may inspire by sharing your stories of tough times, how you have achieved what you have and the lessons learned. ...just as Ruby, her family, this story, and this painting inspire me. Spread the good: do good things, capture the moments, tell the story... repeat. The world around you needs it.