Asserting Our Rights as Citizens

Lucille Bridges was the daughter of sharecroppers living in the deep south.  She was unable to get past elementary school due to a need to help her family.  She wanted much more for her daughter.  When the Supreme Court decided on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, effectively integrating schools, Lucille decided that her daughter would attend a formerly all-white elementary school.  Her husband was fearful for their daughter, but Lucille insisted that Ruby attend the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

When Ruby prepared to go to school that first day, Lucille simply said to Ruby: “You’re going to a new school today, and you better behave.”  Ruby did behave but adults did not.  Ruby was accompanied by U. S. Marshalls.  Crowds along the way cussed at them.  They threw garbage.

When Ruby arrived at school, she was the only child in the classroom.  Parents had withdrawn their children from the school.  Ruby’s father was fired from his job. Ruby and her parents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for 25 years.  Grocery stores refused to sell to them.  But Lucille insisted that Ruby had a right to attend the Frantz elementary school.

While the Bridges family suffered by insisting upon their rights, they opened schoolhouse doors across the country for children of color.  Norman Rockwell, the painter of American culture, shamed American citizens with his painting (see here).  Rockwell’s painting has been revived in a photo illustration (see here) by Gordon Jones and Bria Goeller which they posted on Twitter and Instagram.

Citizens in every society have certain rights.  The U. S. Constitution spells out rights for American citizens.  Likewise, employees have rights as spelled out in their employment agreements.  Students have rights in the schools they attend.  Rights on paper mean nothing if those who have those rights don’t advocate for themselves.  This advocacy may be painful, but it is necessary if society is to advance.

Those who insist on their rights are pioneers in advancing our society and the organizations which make up our society.  Lucille Bridges was a pioneer in advocating for the rights of her daughter, Ruby.  Just imagine that six-year-old Ruby became the child who would integrate schools across the south.  By exercising a right for her daughter, Lucille unleashed a vibrancy that has enriched our society.  There is a basic reason why our rights exist, but we have to exercise those rights or they will atrophy.

Just imagine the courage that Lucille Bridges must have had in asserting the rights to an education for her daughter? Just imagine how brave any of us would be in asserting for our rights when doing so would face intense opposition? Just imagine what would happen to our rights as citizens if we don’t take actions to assert for ourselves?

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“Activism works.  So what I’m telling you to do now, is to act.  Because no one is too small to make a difference.”  – Greta Thunberg (Swedish climate change activist and youngest recipient of the Time magazine Person of the Year)

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