HELLO AMERICA!—Since plans are being developed to create a documentary based on my life, my thoughts are being flooded with people, situations and characters which represents an early America that most people neglect to remember or even discuss. After all, it was a world on fire, newspaper headlines exploded with news of a war that challenged the existence of m causing mankind.
Its rights and freedoms were at stake. It was a time of the Pearl Harbor causing men, women, and fathers who in most cases had never experienced anything outside of their hometown to spend years in a foreign land, it was a time when the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who reminded the nation that “the only thing to fear was fear itself” The scene never change, you could always count on seeing groups of our men waving goodbye to love ones, as the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” echoed through every nook and cranny of our small town of Morton, Pennsylvania, located 10 miles from Philadelphia; the City of Brotherly Love.
Our vocabulary exploded with new words that embraced fear, anger, ones symbolic of horror and destruction such as Nazi, Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and newsreels that showed pictures of young men wearing brown shirts, yelling the salute of Sieg Heil, causing all to tremble.
For the youngsters, it was the sound of the “blackout” alert that frightened the most, fore it represented the possibility of an air attack, forcing us all to move on a grand stage, commanding our known safety zones for survival. Lights were immediately doused, doors locked, and families huddled together quietly, ultimately waiting for the “all clear” signal from an air raid warden assigned to the street. Citizens who remained home were usually found in the shipyards working long shifts in support of the war and their families.
Women suddenly became the backbone and support of everything this country stood for: “The myth that they were just homemakers was utterly destroyed. Whatever job their men had done before enlisting in the arm-services, they commanded with ease and with this discovery, a new American woman was born.”
The impact of the war also affected the importance of the school and the teacher became an invaluable part of the community — there connection with the students and parents was critical. In many ways, they were the extended family as well as role models. For me, it was one of my teachers who opened new doors of hope and greater possibilities of shaping a better and a more civilized world.
I wanted so desperately to be like Rosa L. Watson who constantly lectured on the importance of education and the power that would be initiated because of it. I would spend hours after school just to discuss with her about music, literature, how things might change for the Negro if only we were given the opportunity. She made me believe that anything is possible if you are determined to make it so. It was this teacher who made me realize that I did not have to sit on the back of the bus intellectually — that through education and using it to eradicate the dark cloud of ignorance that still lingers over our nation I could be one of those who might be able to make a difference in the perception of who Black people really are.
She was aware if the rebel in me and that had a tremendous need and desire for new experiences and discoveries which might lessen the sting of bigotry, ignorance and intolerance that loomed high throughout the nation. The idea of an education was pounded in our brain on a daily basis. I became obsessed with the idea of “learning.” Very seldom was I seen without a pencil or a book in hand.
It became my trademark in my neighborhood. It wasn’t something that I did on purpose or for show, it was something that became a part of who I was. “Education is a gateway to freedom.” Miss Watson said to me and the class continually. She went on to make us understand that your freedom and rights as human beings might be limited by a government or a ruling group, but never allow your spirit to be dampened or beaten.
The knowledge you have stored in inside is more powerful than any weapon that might be used against you. Your body might be destroyed but never your spirit.