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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Flying with Vivian Malone

I went to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL. While the first African-American at the university, founded in 1831, was Autherine Lucy, who arrived in February 1956 to pursue a master's degree in library science. She left after experiencing three days of threats Ms. Lucy was suspended, ostensibly for her own safety, and later expelled. More than 35 years later, she earned a master's degree in elementary education at Alabama. Way to go sistergirlfriend!

Vivian Malone Jones became one of two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama after first being barred at the door by the defiant governor, George C. Wallace. On May 30, 1965, she became the first black to graduate from the University of Alabama in its 134 years of existence, earning a degree in business management with a B-plus average.

James Hood, the other African American who went to the university with Vivian, left the university after two months due to mental anguish. He returned to the University of Alabama and earned a doctorate in higher education in 1997. Way to go brotherboyfriend! I know, that does not sound too good, but what else can I say?

When I went to the school there, one of the first things I did was walk through the doorway of Foster Auditorium. That was the place where then governor George C. Wallace stood and proudly announced that no blacks would enter. I walked through that doorway no less than 15 times for all of the people I could think of that could not have gone there.

those brave souls are my heroes, especially Vivian. She did not sit and wait for someone else to be the first. She rose to the challenge. She walked out of there with degree in hand. Unfortunately she is dead and I will not have the opportunity to ask her how she felt, what she thought, or what made her decide to take up the torch for the rest of us. To her I will be forever grateful.

That is why I cannot sit idle and what for the someone else to do what I feel needs to be done. That is why you should not sit idle either. Someone has to be the first. So why shouldn't it be one of us? Do not be constrained by your skin color, your gender, or your ethnicity. Fly, sistergirlfriend, fly high and proud!

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