A project of R.A.C.E. Muncie
RECONCILIATION ACHIEVED THROUGH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
with The Facing Project
The Facing Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
that connects people through stories to strengthen communities.
Founded in Muncie, Indiana,
by J.R. Jamison and Kelsey Timmerman,
the organization has connected
writers, storytellers, artists, educators, and community leaders
in over 100 communities across the country.
Hailed by The Huffington Post, Harlem World Magazine, and Soul Train
as one of three oral history projects to watch,
The Facing Project provides a model, tools, and a platform
for communities to arm themselves with stories
to begin crucial conversations on social justice issues—
neighbor to neighbor, community to community—
by discussing solutions
and exploring healing
through their own narratives.
A project of R.A.C.E. Muncie
RECONCILIATION ACHIEVED THROUGH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
with The Facing Project
Follow us on Facebook at Facing Racism
Jay S. Zimmerman | Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
FACING RACISM PROJECT SPONSORS
Mayor Dennis Tyler and Family
Multicultural Center, Ball State University
Preface & Acknowledgments
Facing Racism began at a series of meetings at the Muncie Public Library (MPL) where a
diverse group of people from the community came together at the invitation of the Director,
Ginny Nilles, to discuss a community read. A book is chosen to be read and discussed
throughout the community. All the books discussed would deal with issues of race and racism.
Those of us on the committee from the group R.A.C.E. (Reconciliation Achieved through
Community Engagement) suggested that, instead, we create a Facing Project focused on
issues of race and racism in Delaware County. After talking with the founders of the Facing
Project, Facing Racism was born as a project of R.A.C.E. Muncie. We are extremely grateful
to the following: Ginny Nilles, MPL, and Yvonne Thompson, Director of the Muncie Human
Rights Commission for providing the initial funding to the Facing Project that launched
Facing Racism; to Mayor Dennis Tyler for his early personal financial support and to the
Muncie Action Plan for their willingness to be the fiscal agent for the project.
Following the model established by J.R. Jamison and Kelsey Timmerman for the Facing
Project, Facing Racism tells the first-person stories of individual experiences with racism and
perceptions of race. The Facing Project is a model for developing community awareness and
integration through first-person narratives and “connects people through stories to strengthen
communities” (www.facingproject.com/about). The project brings together writers and
storytellers, those with stories about a particular issue, and culminates in a book and a
community event(s) to bring the stories to the public. Hopefully, it would enhance awareness,
create dialogue and impact change. We are also very indebted to Kelsey and J.R. for taking a
special interest in this project, giving unsparingly of their time to consult with us and initially
editing all the stories. They also provided help proofreading the final copy of the book that
emerged. Their commitment and depth of involvement have been phenomenal
This project could not happen without people willing to tell their stories, to share their pain
and suffering, anguish, fear, and tears, as well as for some, their personal struggles with their
own racism. There are also stories of great triumph, enlightenment, overcoming of challenges
and coming to terms with the impact of race and racism. These storytellers were open and
brave, revealing themselves so that others might grow from their experiences. We cannot thank
them enough. And then there are the writers who built relationships with storytellers and used
their talents to take on the voice and persona of their subjects. By writing in the first person
they brought to life a variety of unheard voices while keeping the anonymity of their subjects
unless the storytellers gave permission to be identified. We thank you, too.
The stories will also be presented in a theatrical format. We are so appreciative of Muncie Civic
Theater for producing the first public enactment of the stories and especially to Michael Daehn,
faculty member in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Ball State University for coming on
board and writing the script and working with Laura Williamson, Executive Director of Civic
Theatre to recruit actors and co-direct and produce the opening performance. We knew we
were in excellent hands when these two talents signed onto this project. Thank you.
There are many people who have worked diligently to make this project a success. The
Steering Committee who worked on Facing Racism provided their knowledge, expertise,
guidance and support, inspiration and hard work. Special thanks goes to Renae Mayes who
took on the job of Chief Editor and worked with writers and other editors to get the stories in
perfect form for inclusion in the book. Thanks also to Tania Said who took on the initial task of
recruiting and pairing of writers and storytellers. Michelle Kinsey has handled the publicity for
the project, set up our Facebook page and twitter feed and provided her guidance on the best
ways to advertise the project. Thanks to WIPB and IPR for whom she works for partnering
with us in this endeavor. Other members of the Steering Committee include Jason Donati who
manages our web page, Ruby Cain, Yvonne Thompson, Daniel and Lynne Stallings, Laura
Williamson, Maude Jennings, Joshua Holowell, Kimberly Hamilton, Kevin Nolan and Kelby
Stallings. Thanks also to Emilie Carpenter for volunteering her photographic skills.
No project of this magnitude can be successful without the financial support of the
community. In addition to the support mentioned earlier we are deeply appreciative of the
Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County and the Champions for a Safe
Community who provided the major funding for Facing Racism and saw its benefit for our
community. We are also grateful for Whitely Community Council, The YWCA, Muncie Black
Expo, the NAACP and Motivate Our Minds for being our sponsors as well as the Islamic
Center of Muncie, The Boys and Girls Club of Muncie, Stallings Wealth Management and It is
Well with MySoul. Thanks also go to the Multicultural Center at Ball State University as well
as individuals including Annemarie Voss and Kimberly Hamilton.
A lot of hands working together with a strong commitment make positive things happen. It
is our hope that these stories affect lives, open minds, produce constructive dialogue, educate,
inform and ultimately lead to change. Stories are powerful. They can change lives by bringing
home the personal experiences of people’s “neighbors,” people in our community who we
may see and pass by daily but do so unaware. The exposure to these personal stories has been
deeply moving for all of us working on the project who have read them. We hope they do the
same for you. Through understanding that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers we can
move forward to create significant change in our community.
Jay S. Zimmerman
C O N T E N T S
Preface & Acknowledgements Jay S. Zimmerman 3
Introduction to Facing Racism, 2016 Dr. Maude Jennings 6
Maria Williams-Hawkins: The Question Mark Lizz Alezetes 9
Cornelius Dollison: Facing the Fight: Systemic Racism in Muncie Lauren Bishop-Weidner 11
Lonna Jordan: Lonna’s Poem Michael Brockley 13
Michael Timothy Duerson:
Transcending Racism with Culture and Pride Dr. Ruby Cain 15
Emily: The Dreams of the Hopeful Youth Maggie West 17
Daniel (anonymous): When the Unrest Came to Middletown Melinda Messineo 18
Mary Dollison: Fighting Racism with Love Lauren Bishop-Weidner 20
Jayla Scaife: In the Punch Line Travis Graves 22
Sam Abram: Facing Racism with Help Lauren Bishop-Weidner 24
Anonymous: On Not Feeling Safe Resa Matlock 26
Legend (anonymous): You Don’t Know What God Look Like,
So How You Gonna Be Racist? Stephanie Winn 27
Ella McNeary: A Battle to Fight Lenore Allen 28
Tom Carey: Cutting Up. Getting Along. Working Together J.R. Jamison 30
Christine Satory’s Story: A Person Without a Story,
A Person Without a Name Michael Brockley 32
Yvonne Thompson: The human right to be seen,
the responsibility to see Kelsey Timmerman 33
D.P. (anonymous): “We’re all messed up,
but we all came out of somewhere, you know?” Deborah Mix 35
Jason Donati: Uprooting Racism Josh Holowell 36
Daniel Stallings: Sunrise, Sundown Jackson Efflin 38
Anonymous: Enemies Out of Allies Ari Hurwitz 40
Karen Dowling: A Cultural Racial Identity Struggle Annemarie Voss 43
Miles and His Father’s story (anonymous)
Father wants justice after son arrested Christine Rhine 45
Fred Long: I See Things More Clearly Now Beth Messner 47
Matt Bailey: Another Kind of Racism Barbara Miller 49
Tonikia Steans: Good Anna Groover 51
Renae Mayes: Who’s on Your Team? Taylor Wicker 53
Heather Gilvary-Hamad: The Need to Belong:
The Life of a Muslim in America Angela Jackson-Brown 55
Charles Payne: A Long Road Travelled Steve Knote 57
Muriel Weeden: I Prefer to Be Called Muriel Levi Todd 59
Dr. Ruby Cain: Sink or Swim; in Code Aimee Robertson-Fant 60
Vivian Morrison: Time Warp Sherri Beaty 62
Richard McKinney: The Anger is Mine Tom Steiner 63
Mina Saaman: Hospitality Josh Holowell 65
Lynn (anonymous): Living in My Neighborhood Chris Bavender 67
June Payne: Ok I’ll do it Travis Graves 69
WaTasha Barnes Griffin: It Shouldn’t Matter Seth Carrier-Ladd 71
Mia Johnson: The New Racism Andrea Wolfe 73
Rashid Shabazz: I Was Mad, Real Mad River Lin 75
Shalia Gupta: Learning From Our Children Clarissa Bowers 77
Deanna (anonymous): What’s on the Menu? WaTasha Barnes Griffin 79
About Our Writers & Storytellers… 81
FACING RACISM: 2016
by Dr. Maude Jennings
On 30 May, 2016, Roots (revisited) was shown on national television. As a black woman I have
some strong reactions about this program, especially in the light of this current project. You see,
forty years ago a version of life for Africans arriving in America was a story that many Americans—
black or white, had never considered dramatic before. This was due, in part, to the fact that the
history of Africans in this country was not a pressing problem; the story was not essential to the
America being celebrated at the time—not to the nation’s dreams or its aspirations then. There
was the pride in achieving 200 years of a dream and little attention could be paid to anything
that besmirched that dream. Slavery was such a distraction—except that it was and it held a nation’s
attention for one week. Except that it remained on a “back burner”; every once in a while it echoed
or irritated the national conscience.
And then there were the “other” others—the Native Americans, currently the Muslims
and all “other” others yearning to breathe free. Native Americans have been decimated.
Apparently, not tractable enough to be made slaves, so relegate them to “reservations” where
defeat, degeneration and despair reign as “wards” of the nation. What would such treatment be
called in a Fascist state? Oh, yes. Concentration Camps where the residents are concentrated
so they can concentrate on living lives less than their conquerors.
And then there are the Muslims, who dare to call their “God” by another name, who dare to
have different styles of dress, and different times and even positions of worship…and to make
matters even worse, beside the Muslims, what about those people whose life-callings are not
part of the “gingerbread” mold of the nation’s norm?
The history of these United States is filled with its public assertions of its democratic intent
as it marches toward the future. Things do take time, but it appears to these unhappy few
that the time to become the ideal that was initiated in the 18th century needs to be more
fully realized now in the 21st century. Time has passed and now a project like Facing Racism
surfaces in a Midwestern state that once supported the Ku Klux Klan. What has happened?
How comes such communal support for Facing Racism? Surely there have been changes in the
nation since 1976. Why now?
Well, consider some of these things. No denying there have been changes. Voting rights, other
civil rights, equal opportunity, end of school segregation, and the list could go on, except each
step forward has appeared to cause ten steps back. The water fountains don’t specify who can drink,
but the schools do (Cleveland, Mississippi, as of 2016, has been ordered to integrate its school
system); voter registration is taking hits (gerrymandering); environmental discrimination (Flint,
Michigan water problems); and a presidential candidate in 2016 whose rhetoric has been hateful and
incendiary. But why Facing Racism now? Because the stories of the aftermaths of abduction must
be told. Because the psychological scars and the mental and physical degradation must be exposed.
Because the stories of survival despite barriers must be revealed to the public. Because these life
stories must be told to encourage the march toward a universal awareness of all
humanity. Because what was once conceived as the greatest goal humans could aspire
to by a few privileged men must now become a goal achievable for women and men
regardless of color or religion or country of origin or sexual orientation or gender
identity. Why? Because to do otherwise is to continue to lie to the world.
In 1925, Langston Hughes wrote the poem, “I, Too.” He addressed the problems of
being black in his time little realizing how his poem would remain meaningful nearly a
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
Still, the stories reveal strength, resilience, and beauty—the beauty the poet spoke of. Although,
as with everything this project reveals, there is another side. Recently, an extremely talented black actress
was—even though commended for her performance—criticized because she was not a “classical beauty.”
Was the inference that she wasn’t in the Hellenistic mode and that was the only accepted style of
beauty? Explanations did not follow once the questions were raised. Was this yet another example of
the way efforts by black women could be diminished? How was this to be interpreted? The Facing
Racism project presents quandaries like that to ponder. And there are other instances which reveal how
lives often had to be “re-directed.”
Just recently, scientists have discovered that traumatic events (e.g. slavery, name-calling, discrimination,
economic deprivation, academic disparities, poverty, etc.) affect the genetic structure of individuals. Imagine
that. And if we add religion to the mix, could the changes bring recollections of a “krystallnacht”
experience—and all that followed—only for a different religion? Who would have thought that
somethings as simple as name changing (from Kunte Kinte to Toby, for example) would affect someone
so deeply that his genome would be affected and that the change would be passed on to his progeny?
And while this project may not explore in any great depth the alterations in the genetic structure of its
contributors, it may very well open eyes to the pains experienced by those storytellers needing to be
told of their poetic “beauty.”
But time, inexorably, passes and other thoughts about life in these times surface. As if presenting
a counter argument to the wistful hopefulness of Hughes, comes an article by Michael Henry Adams in
a Sunday New York Times article about “The End of Black Harlem.” Perhaps this article is necessary
to our assessments about the current state of affairs and why Facing Racism is needed. How did we get
here? What has the journey caused us? And what has been the cost?
I include this assessment because Harlem is where I was born and lived until I was
seventeen. It touches on some of the current unspoken or unappreciated issues affecting
problems today. However, many of the “solutions” offered to erase the age-old problems of
environment, economic and academic racism (n.b. Separate does not mean equal) frequently
lead to displacement, discouragement and disillusion. Harlem has been viewed as one of the
leading enclaves (i.e. “ghettoes”) for black people in the world. Harlem was ugly and beautiful
at once. There were the dilapidated apartments, but there was also “Striver’s Row.” There
were the store-front churches, but there was also Abysinnia Baptist Church. There was Father
Divine, but there was Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X. There was the Schomberg library
that saved me; the public schools and the Hearst Milk fund and Harlem Hospital which gave
me my first job when I was eleven (I lied about my age) where I met Bessie Bearden, a New
York councilwoman and mother to Romare Bearden, the painter, who was so kind to me as
she urged me to stay in school. And Augusta Savage and the exposure to art, and Hughes at
the library...and now it is all becoming gentrified. Which means change. It means removal and
eventual disappearance. It means loss of its special identity. It won’t be the Harlem of music
and art and musicians and writers or poets, or strivers and students or other transplants. It will
be another New York address filled with big city “wannabes” or what Adams calls “urban
pioneers.” And with an eyebrow raised, I ask, “But what were the black people who came
first?” Weren’t they pioneers? Or is this yet another example of denying the black presence?”
Must dirges be sung? If one bemoans the fact that an historic part of the nation’s history is
about to fade into the mist, then yes. If one regrets the loss of places where “refugees” from
intolerance and injustice is about to be eradicated in the name of progress, then weep.
The new streets have deleted the memories. Even now, I would not recognize the
streets I walked as a child. All is gone—and will, eventually be forgotten. The voices
of all cry out for awareness!“ We are here. We only want to be what you claim to offer.
And to understand us, we tell you about what we have lived and felt and survived.”
Which brings me back to the project. Some of us have awakened to the fact that the
American Dream has been a cruel nightmare for others. And some of us in an effort,
possibly to remind many of us of the potential that still exists to make that dream a
reality. It is with this intent that the stories about our lives, our experiences, our work,
our children, our dreams and our recognition of the essential humanity of all, that this
effort is made.
The Question Mark
Maria Williams-Hawkin’s story by Lizz Alezetes
Maria is 63 years old.
Question marks fill the space between us.
What separates us: Black…White…Yellow…Brown?
Are you for me? Are you against me?
When I was young, I asked to understand:
“Daddy, why do White men have to stay on the front porch when they come by?”
“Daughter, why do Black men have to enter through the back doors of White houses?”
Question marks separate us.
“Daddy, why do they want you to call White men Mister?”
“Daughter, for the same reason White men call me Boy.”
The question marks, indeed, separate us.
When Daddy explained that the world is Black and White, I saw the question mark
as a Shepherd’s crook, keeping me safe.
In high school a White college girl offered to help me research my homework.
When she came to pick me up, the question mark hooked my jacket, pulling me back.
“Where do I sit?
In the front, like her friend?
In the back, like her maid?”
The question mark became the hook upon which I hung all interactions.
In college I walked home alone after my night class.
A White boy said it was dangerous for me to walk alone and offered to walk me home.
The question mark appeared.
“Am I safer with him or alone against what lurks in the dark?
Isn’t he what lurks in the dark?”
The darkness seemed a safer option. Daddy’s Shepherd’s crook continued to
guide me, to separate us:
Black. White. Yellow. Brown.
Sometimes the question mark of racism is pulled taut,
forming a line as straight as a mouth full of contempt.
The exclamation points form rows,
The rows form columns,
The columns form a wall:
“You don’t belong!”
It’s easier, safer to let that hook hold onto us.
After time, our skin just grows over it,
The question mark becomes part of us—
It’s in our doubtful looks, raised eyebrows, lowered voices.
Ripping that hook out—it’s painful, risky.
In college I ran for a short-term student government office.
The first quarter I lost by eight votes—
and I met ten Black students who didn’t vote.
They didn’t see the question mark; they knew the answer.
“Can a Black student win?”
Of course not.
The next quarter I ran for a full term office.
A Black guy asked,
“Why waste your time?”
But I wouldn’t let the hook catch me again;
I became the first Black elected Student Government officer.
Time passed. My Daddy passed. Laws passed.
But the question mark lingered.
That barbed hook must be pulled out, tossed aside,
So that we have the freedom to step forward and connect.
Facing the Fight: Systemic Racism in Muncie
Cornelius Dollison’s story by Lauren Bishop-Weidner.
Cornelius is 74 years old.
My parents came to Muncie from Mississippi, after my dad realized that no matter
how good a farmer he was, he would never succeed in the corrupt sharecropping system.
Bad year, good year, it was all the same with the white landowners keeping the books.
My father got a job in a foundry, and he encouraged his brothers and sisters to come
north. I am an only child, but I sure didn’t grow up as one—our house was crawling with
cousins. One family at a time, relatives would move in with us until they got a check
or two ahead and could get a place of their own. Even when they moved out, we all
lived close by each other in the Industry neighborhood, not far from where Millennium
Place is now. When I was about 12, we moved to Whitely. We continued to host people
coming up from the South—my dad always helped the community.
With the move, I transferred from Blaine School to McKinley. At Blaine, I had been
enrolled in Algebra, but the principal at McKinley discouraged all black kids from any
college preparatory classes. “Oh, you don’t want to do that,” he told me, “I’ll just put
you in General Math.”
Looking back you see the racism, all that potential wasted. It’s really sad, how the
school system kept black students out of challenging classes, just because of the color
of their skin. Algebra or not, I finished school. And my jobs all required me to use the
higher math skills he didn’t think I could learn.
God granted me favor in my jobs by directing me to people willing to take a chance
on a black man. I hired on at Westinghouse as an assembler, and then became the
first African-American in Production Control. When I put in for that position, the
supervisor told me no. I stood there fighting tears, and he decided to give me a chance to
prove I could do the work. This was a management position, a real opportunity for me
to develop and grow in a job usually reserved for white men. Eventually I transferred to
Quality Control, where I did engineering-type testing, calibration, and inspection.
My next job was in the Station Department of Indiana & Michigan Power, overseeing
maintenance and new construction. The work was challenging both technically and
intellectually. I’ve always felt very fortunate that they saw my potential as an employee.
My last job before retirement was at the GM plant in Anderson. Anderson had the best
Process Engineering department of any General Motors plant in the country at that
time, with a lot of innovative new directions. I even got to work on developing the first
computer for use in a car.
When I graduated from high school in 1960, African-Americans in Muncie were
expected to take menial jobs. We didn’t even have black teachers, let alone black bankers
or managers. But during the 1960s, things started to change. As far as I’m concerned,
Rev. A.J. Oliver of Shaffer Chapel A.M.E. gets the credit for opening up employment
opportunities for Muncie’s black community. Rev. Oliver operated a lot like Dr. King,
gently but firmly guiding civil rights work in Muncie. We did some picketing of local
utility companies and downtown businesses. Rev. Oliver would ask the managers,
“Why can’t we have some of our girls working as clerks and tellers?” or “You take our
money but you won’t hire us to work for you?”
Most of the businesses started to hire blacks—they didn’t like that negative publicity—
but the manager at Pepsi just wouldn’t budge. Rev. Oliver tried all the usual tactics, and
during one visit to the manager’s office, Rev. Oliver asked if he could use the phone.
As he picked up the receiver, he casually asked who the manager reported to, and then
called the guy’s boss—the president of Pepsi Cola! Pretty soon Pepsi was hiring us, too.
Muncie joined the nationwide sit-in to desegregate Woolworth lunch counters. The store
was downtown on Walnut. Three or four of us sat down to order, and the girls behind the
counter didn’t quite know what to do. They glanced back at the manager, who shook his
head, so they said, “We can’t serve you here.” We just sat there. One whole business day we
occupied that counter—and this was going on at all the Woolworth stores across the country!
Woolworth’s finally relented, and other businesses followed suit. What sense does it make to
turn down somebody who wants to spend some money for food?
In those days, the downtown YMCA was for whites, and black kids hung out at the Madison
Street Y. It was a wooden building with an outdoor basketball court on one side and a baseball
diamond on the other. Inside we had pool tables and ping pong. I remember when I was little
we had a swimming pool. It seemed so big, all that blue water. But when it developed a leak,
they had to close it, and we didn’t have a pool until Tuhey was desegregated.
Segregation is less obvious today, but it’s still there. We had college students just last
semester who were warned not to go east of Martin Luther King Boulevard. They felt silly
after they got to know the Whitely neighborhood—folks here would help anybody! Law
enforcement has a long way to go, too. It’s a work in progress, for sure. But one person can
make a difference. Rev. Oliver proved that.
Lonna Jordan’s story by Michael Brockley
Lonna is 53 years old.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
During the Christmas season, my friends and I gathered in the sanctuary at
Trinity United Methodist Church where we recited Bible verses about the birth of
Christ. The Grimes children turned somersaults and backflips. I tap danced with my
brothers and sister to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” At the end of the celebration,
the congregation summoned Santa Claus with “Jingle Bells” and “Here Comes Santa
Claus” as we circled the pulpit, anticipating the arrival of the jolly old saint. The
women wore glorious hats, some with veils across their eyes, and others with orchids
attached to bright ribbons. I wore a red, hand-me down dress my sister wore the year
before. My friends giggled as we sang “Santa Claus comes tonight.” As the song drew
to its close, Reverend J. C. Williams stepped into the doorway at the top of the stairs
from the basement, bellowing “Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas.” He leaned forward
with a red sack as large as a Nativity camel heavy upon his back. We sang of Jack Frost
nipping at your nose, until our pastor sat in the worship chair to tell us the story about
angels and shepherds and about the Three Wise Men and the star. The youngest babies
rocked in the Reverend Williams’ arms as the deacons gave us the gift of Christmas
books. “The Night Before Christmas.” “The Little Drummer Boy.” “Earth Angel,”
a book Reverend Williams wrote himself. My first Santa Claus was a black man who
welcomed a rainbow of black and brown and tan and white. And all the colors in
between. This is my memory of peace.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
When I asked him why God made me white and guided me to his church, Reverend
Williams answered that everyone brings a gift to the table. That everyone has a time
and a place and a purpose. As I combed the hair of my Trinity girlfriends, I questioned
my blonde hair and fair skin. On television, policemen sprayed men and women who
looked like my pastor with a fire hose. My pastor, who wrote poetry and ran for
mayor. Whose father was lynched by people who looked like me. We drank lemonade
in the kitchen in the basement of the church. I trusted the wisdom of this man who
stood waist deep in the baptism river and lowered me into salvation. He said, “Those
are not your sins.” And prayed I would not be silent in the presence of evil. Said my
time to stand for justice would come.
Through It All
In the year Gloria Gaynor charted with “I Will Survive,” my dad co-signed a loan
for me to buy a 1975 Chevrolet Malibu Classic. Silver with a black vinyl roof and black
bucket seats that swiveled. $85.00 a month. I played Earth, Wind and Fire on my eighttrack.
Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger. I christened my car “Silver Bullet.” I worked as a
crew member at the Tillotson McDonald’s to make money for my payments. Ran the
cash register. Cooked fries. Took drive-through orders for milkshakes. And I played
touch football in the streets. Lettered in basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics.
I became one of the first females to be awarded a Bearcat varsity letterman’s jacket. I
drove Silver Bullet to practices, to school, to work and to worship. Whenever I saw
the lady, who taught me how to make fried chicken, waiting for a bus or walking to
church, I always gave her a ride. Once a friend dared me to push Silver Bullet’s 350
engine to 100 mph but, driving west on Kilgore by Warner Gear, I chickened out at 95. On
Halloween morning, someone soaped and egged my car. Insulted my friends, the people I
loved, with what they wrote on the car windows. The most hateful words I know. My dad
reminded me people learn to hate because they have never been taught the way my mother and
he had taught me. The way Reverend Williams and the Trinity ladies taught me about love. My
dad helped me clean the car. We used warm, soapy water to soak and wash away the yolk and
shells before they ruined the finish. I drove Silver Bullet to a Halloween party at church that
night. Singing “Shining Star” with the windows rolled down to the forgiveness in my heart.
Oh Happy Day!
I came to God white, and through the grace of gospel and soul was baptized black. The
Trinity Senior Choir, a procession of blue robes with red stoles, walking in step to gospel
hymns. Lifting me up with “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” Summoning me to be someone
better than I am by opening with “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch
like me.” At every service, I hoped the Senior Choir would bless my life with “Just a Closer
Walk with Thee.” All God’s music filled me with His Spirit. My father bought my first albums.
Diana Ross and the Supremes. Otis Redding sitting on the dock of the bay. I sang “Stop in
the Name of Love” with my sister, choreographed with turns and hand signals. Even today, I
thrill to the sound of Jackie Wilson reaching for a love that lifts me higher. Dena, my sister and
I brought heavenly kisses to weddings and worship services where we sang “Stand By Me”
and “How Great Is Our God.” The ringer on my cell phone plays “Let’s Stay Together.” I still
sing Earth, Wind and Fire with the windows rolled down. I hear “I’ve Got Christmas in My
Soul.” I hope those righteous men and women will bear me to Trinity’s sanctuary to teach me
one last glorious lesson to the chorus of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
Transcending Racism with Culture and Pride
Michael Timothy Duerson’s story by Dr. Ruby Cain
Michael is 58 years old.
The integration effort in Muncie was for all grades, K-12, starting when I was in
eighth grade, in 1971-72. Much of the South had integration before Indiana got on
the wagon train. I always say the new South is more Northern, in that we live here
in Indiana, in the old South. I transferred from Kuhner Junior High school to Storer
Junior High school.
The first year was challenging from an academic standpoint. I went from being ranked
1 st in my old school in seventh grade to 25 th in eighth grade. Competition was much
greater. I readily saw that subjects white students were proficient with were never taught
at my seventh grade class. I had to work hard to learn the subject matter. All grading
was based on the curve. That was interesting. It made it more difficult for us, because
someone would set the bar high. I did not like being 25 th out of about 450 students in
the eighth grade, not when I was used to being first in Math, Science, and even English.
In my 1 st year at Storer, they took 100 kids from my neighborhood and blended in
with 1,100 or so white students. We were each paired with a white student to be our
guide. They teamed us up according to our curriculum, grade level, and our GPA. My
guide was Dwayne Adrian who now is my doctor and godfather to my first child. We
developed a friendship that lasted, even until today. We were in all classes together.
We competed and ran track together. He was team trainer for our basketball team. We
would go out to Pizza King as a group. Dwayne was a drummer in a band and I played
piano by ear. We formed a band for school variety shows. In the middle of the song, he
and I would sometimes exchange instruments.
We were conscious of the racial divide. Dwayne offered to be my campaign manager
when I ran for president of the seventh and eighth grades. My opponent, Phil Isenbarger,
was very popular. We had a debate before the entire school. I felt I won the debate. With
Dwayne’s help and guidance, I was elected. It was exhilarating.
This elected position was hard work – dealing with issues from the school parties and
extracurricular activities to being called to be a speaker on civil rights at the Chamber of
Commerce. At this event, I sat next to the person who would become my future boss
and mentor, Van P. Smith, Owner of Ontario Corporation, an aerospace company.
We did not have any race riots at school, like on the south side of town during school
integration. There were only 100 of us. We weren’t stupid. Being six or seven miles from
home, we couldn’t pick a fight and run home. The odds were 11 to one against us.
I seemed to be able to mix with the white students okay. It was probably, because I
was competitive, academically. That demanded some respect. I was a starter in every
sport. In high school, I won state in choir and sang solos. I was also a member of the
City/County-Wide barber shop quartet. My mother’s cousin, we called her Aunt Doris,
was a teacher in high school. I had her for music, four years in high school. I was in the
swing choir, doing singing and choreography. There were maybe two Black teachers at
high school and one at middle school. Mr. Damon Moore taught science. He became
head of the Teachers Union in Muncie.
High School basketball coach was a tremendous bigot. He did not want me to get in
the scorers box with the highest scores. I led in rebounds and assists. He could not stop
me there. I played varsity as a sophomore in High School.
In my Junior and Senior year, the coach made sure I never received recruiting
letters from colleges. The way I was recruited was that a guy from an all-white town,
Greenville, saw me play. He contacted a coach at IUPUI who then reached out to me,
directly. Taylor University also reached out to me. I wanted a Purdue degree so I went
I graduated on a Saturday and was a supervisor at Ontario Corporation on Monday.
I was part of the company’s Co-Op program while attending IUPUI. I worked
there for eight years. Smith, the owner, is still in Muncie and highly regarded in the
I drove Van P. Smith’s Winnebago for him and his colleagues to many events. I met Senator
Lugar, Dan Quayle and other highly regarded Republicans. Van always introduced me to
everyone. I met a lot of politicians that way.
My college professor asked if I would like to test out of all English courses. I had written
a paper for my senior year in high school, titled Sexuality of Racism. The white middle-aged
high school teacher had given me a D on the paper. It included research on how white men
held white women on a pedestal of purity and would go out back to have their way with Black
women. I had done a lot of research to substantiate the paper. This was the same paper I used
to test out of all required English courses at the university and got an A. I was only in the
English class for four weeks.
At IUPUI, I moved to Indy and continued to work for Ontario, located in Muncie. I worked
as supervisor in the co-op program that allowed me to apply my learning in the workplace. I
developed curriculum for managing engineers.
As a benefit of being on the basketball team, I got a job in the union, at Detroit Diesel Allison
at General Motors. By the time I was 21 and graduated from IUPUI, I was Vice President at
Borg Warner Corporation.
I was the first Black to be selected for the Board of Regents of Indiana University (probably,
1979 and 1980). I was the first Black to be in management training program at Ontario
Corporation. I was the first Black to graduate from School of Engineering with a B.S. degree in
Industrial Management and Supervision at Purdue and a certificate in Industrial Engineering.
The degree blended Engineering with Management, providing comprehensive skills for rapid
promotion in my field. I completed the 5-Year program in three years and a semester.
This may sound strange. Even though I am married to a white woman I am, now, more in
tuned with blackness than when I was in school.
I believe that I control racial transactions. My conclusion is drawn upon modern day “Jim
Crow” functional choices: A function of character. I choose to rise above stereotypes of
institutional blackness and thrive spiritually by practicing love.
The Dreams of the Hopeful Youth
Emily’s story by Maggie West
Emily is 12 years old.
My parents taught me that I should never judge people. Everyone is equal and
everyone is a person.
My dad is the reason why I have a strong interest in these issues. He is a student and
is studying Social Work. I love to go with him to talks and meetings about dealing with
race and religion issues. It teaches me how to be open-minded and I feel that it makes a
good impact on me.
It all started before I was born. My aunt told my mom that she was ruining my life.
I am mixed. I’m Mexican and American. My aunt believed that I wouldn’t be accepted
by my Mexican or my American sides. The only reason she came to see me after I was
born was because I looked white; not mixed.
My parents are Muslim. My aunt doesn’t like that, because she is a Christian. She
posted on Facebook: “All I need to know about Islam and Muslims is the first five
minutes of 9/11.”
As I’ve gotten older, I think she has changed her views. She doesn’t see me as anything
other than a person. Even though we don’t talk as much, I hope to eventually have a
conversation with her about these things. But if not, I still love her even if she made
those bad decisions and choices. I will always love her; she is still my aunt.
My friends at school accept me. A lot of my friends are of mixed race. When we
talk about racial or religious issues at school, we like to educate each other instead of
fighting each other about it. We learn that it’s better to learn the right things about each
other instead of believing the wrong things.
When I reflect on certain issues, I like to think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
because he wanted everyone to be treated as a human being regardless of their skin
color. One thing I believe could help ease racial and religious tension is jus t everyone
having a civilized meeting about issues going on around the world. I want them to be
able to talk about everything without violence and hatred.
When I grow up I think I want to be an animator—drawing for video games. I think
through my drawings and games I could set an example on being open about different
cultures and ethnicities.
I want to teach people that they shouldn’t judge others. I want to show people
it’s okay to be themselves.
When the Unrest Came to Middletown
Daniel’s story by Melinda Messineo.
Daniel is a pseudonym and he is 73 years old.
Things were so tense at that point in the 1960s. We opened the fire station doors and there
was this group of black men there blocking the exit. They were keeping us from going out
on the call and I’ll tell you, we were scared. They weren’t angry at us in particular. They were
just really angry and wanted to let whatever it was on fire just go on and burn. Another time
there was this false alarm where as soon as the firemen were inside the building, a crowd of
75-100 people surrounded the place. The firefighters at the truck radioed for help. It wasn’t
until officers with a dog came that the crowd was dispersed. There were deliberate fires set,
too. There was this one time when we were called out to a small structure fire. It was an
outbuilding that was burning, but as soon as we got there, the house on the property just
exploded. It burned in a way that houses do when the fire is intentionally set. It was timed to
go off when we pulled up. We saw this other house where buckets of gasoline were strung up
on hooks with fishing line. Only a small fire would be set but once that line would melt, it was
And here I was this naïve young white guy, not really understanding what was going on.
Who knows who set the fires. It doesn’t really matter. Looking back I see it differently. I
know better now why people were upset, President Kennedy was gone, Martin Luther King
was gone, and Bobby Kennedy, too. We were part of the authority as some people saw it. The
unrest from what was happening in the big cities was making its way here and it was bad.
You see, it wasn’t always like this here when we were growing up. We didn’t see any
animosity in the neighborhood. I grew up in the working class part of town. It was integrated.
In fact, we played baseball together. We never had issues. We were friendly. My dad took us
to the dentist on the corner and I never thought about it until later that he was a black dentist.
He was just who we went to…never even thought about it.
As we got older things changed. Going to the high school you started to see differences.
People were acting differently and treating people differently. Different groups would even
use different doors. You could feel the tension; see it in people’s eyes.
I remember one day some friends and I, we went to the carnival down the road. It was one
of those mobile ones that would go from town to town. We lost track of time and weren’t
paying attention to the fact that as white teens, we should have left already. People were
nervous that we were there, anxious, upset, deciding what we were doing there still, if they
should do something. Things were tense; we knew we shouldn’t have been there that late
because it made things complicated for everyone. We just got ourselves out of there as quick
as we could and didn’t look back.
We all were just expected to stay in our own place. I remember there would be these dances
in high school where the white kids would have their record hops which were nice and all, but
the dances you really wanted to go to were the live music shows in the armory that the black
community put on. I was lucky because my folks were involved at the armory, so I got to see
all the great acts. Otis Redding, Mary Wells, The Drifters, Jackie Wilson, who was the best
singer there was—this was before Michael Jackson—and I got to see him, to see all of them.
Everyone should have been able to see them but it wasn’t that way back then. Things needed
to change and they did change, but it was rough.
There wasn’t a particular incident that I can point to as the start of it all. We had been
isolated, protected from the unrest for a while and I think I know why. What we had then was
jobs, and work, and people making a good living, a way to provide for their families. Maybe
that’s why it took a while for the unrest to come. But I will tell you, I have seen ugliness, an
ugliness that only comes from people when they are really afraid. You see, ignorance leads to
fear which creates anger which makes hatred. And people, they become sick in a way, unwell,
their mental health declines and they become overwhelmed by it all and get so angry. Though
I have wondered, and nobody can answer this for me yet, I have wondered, is it the mental illness that causes
the hatred or the hatred that causes the illness? Hatred can make you crazy, I have seen it…I have seen it destroy
people. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
You know, you aren’t born even knowing what race is…it has to be taught to you…someone has to tell you
people are different and that difference means something. It don’t mean something unless someone says it means
something, and even then it doesn’t really mean anything.
People use it as a reason and as we get older, we need to be careful with our words because the kids are
listening, that’s how they learn it. We need to work as a community to teach them. It takes all of us together
to make a change. And what people don’t want to hear is that it is expensive to do it right. It takes time and
money and people working together. We are all just too busy. When I was a kid, the police, they had time to
mentor to get to know the kids in the neighborhood. Neighbors knew each other. We would help each other
out. Now, we don’t invest, we don’t take the time. I worry now because I see it starting again…the unrest is
coming back. It worries me. The Islamaphobia is starting here, it’s like 1967 all over again. People want to hide
and not talk about it, but we have to talk about it, you know? We have to keep talking to each other and build
relationships and learn from each other and not be ignorant about who we all are because we can’t afford to have
that ignorance turn into hatred. It can’t happen that way again.
We can’t let the unrest come again.
Fighting Racism with Love
Mary Dollison’s story by Lauren Bishop-Weidner
Mary is almost 74 years old.
Although I was born in Tangipahoa, Louisiana, my memories of the open racism of
the segregated South are vague. My mother was very light, but her mother was extremely
dark. We used to wonder why our mother was so fair, and her hair was so pretty, and she
looked so different from her own family. Well, as we found out much later, her daddy
was white. This was Louisiana in the early 1900s, and my grandmother was a domestic
worker. She was married, but that didn’t matter to her abusive employer. He never did
admit my mother or her sister. My mother could have sued her biological father and
gotten some of his money, but she didn’t want anything to do with that man. She just
wanted to get away from the whole situation.
We moved to Muncie when I was 12. My mother worked at Green Hills Country
Club, where she met Joel and Inez Reese, both of whom cooked in the dining room
there. In addition to that job, Reverend Reese pastored the Kirby Avenue Church of
God. Their adopted son, Vernon, was about my age, and even though we were just
kids, Reverend Reese trusted us to lead the youth, a role we continued throughout high
school. We made some mistakes—bossiness, tattling—but we learned valuable lessons
about leadership, discipline, and flexibility. When Cornelius and I married, he joined me
in leadership, and we are still working with the kids of Kirby Avenue Church of God
all these years later. As a timid young girl with no confidence, working with children
helped me to see a little of God’s plan, a plan that unfolded gradually.
Around 1956, I started doing domestic work after school and weekends for a wealthy
white family who lived near Ball State campus. Despite the racial stereotypes associated
with domestic work, that job showed me a future I never could have imagined. I
learned to cook a broad array of dishes, to set a formal dinner table, to make small
talk with strangers. My vocabulary and my world grew larger from reading their travel
magazines, studying the family’s fine art pieces, and reading their seemingly endless
supply of books. Observing from behind the scenes, I saw what education can do, and I
wanted to be a part of that world. With God’s help and Cornelius’ support, I completed
a teaching degree in 1964.
It wasn’t easy for a black teacher to find work in Muncie Community Schools at this
time. Most African-American students were served by either Longfellow or Garfield,
and these were the only Muncie schools with African-American teachers. I was given
a first grade class at Longfellow that year, along with three other brand new teachers.
I loved working with those women. We shared our lives and our passion for teaching,
collaborating in innovative ways to give our students a solid educational foundation.
Many of those first graders went on to complete college.
In December 1965, my son Larry was born. When I returned to teaching two years
later, Dr. Sam Abram was a rising star in Muncie Community Schools and the only
African-American administrator. Although both Longfellow and Garfield had openings,
he strongly encouraged me to request placement in a school serving white students.
Three weeks into the school year, I was finally hired at Morrison-Mock. You could
say the Dollison family integrated Morrison-Mock – I was their first African-American
teacher, and my children were the first black students to enroll in regular education
When my children faced racism, and they did, I would talk to their teachers. I didn’t
want special treatment, but I wanted what was right. Each situation was different, and I
approached each one as a separate incident rather than as a pattern. At Morrison-Mock,
especially in the early years, I sometimes surprised parents: “I didn’t know you were
black!” they’d tell me. But children don’t see race as adults do. It’s our responsibility
to demonstrate love and hope and opportunity to ALL children. My great-granddaughter recently asked her
mother, “Why are you black, MeeMee’s white, and I’m brown?” She’s seeing colors, not race.
In my family, we knew about hard work. We knew you needed to have a garden. We knew you needed to
save money. These are good traits to have, but they are not enough. Children need nurturing and encouraging
and empowering. Black people understand hard knocks, and sometimes the obstacles we face can make us hard
people. If we look at individuals, and treat others as we want to be treated, we can fight racism with love. As
my grandmother always told us—I can hear her in my head right now—“You reap what you sow.”
Throughout my teaching career, I made a practice of inviting my students to share a meal with my family,
a few at a time until everyone in class had a chance to participate each year. As we worked together to
prepare the meal and clean up after, we learned about one another, getting to know each other outside of the
classroom. The time together offered many teachable moments. We talked about hygiene—handwashing,
proper dishwashing. We discussed nutrition: What makes a healthy meal? The children learned new words,
such as “condiments.”I got to know parents, too, since they had to pick up their children. These individual
relationships helped us to trust one another, regardless of race. If we look at the person first and the skin color
second, racism doesn’t stand a chance.
I’m not a stranger to the ways race can be used against us. But I believe in fighting with love, starting with
In the Punch Line
Jayla Scaife’s story by Travis Graves
Jayla is 18 years old.
They always make jokes about Whitely, where I live,
and how it’s the ghetto, broken down, and the worst
place in Muncie, which it’s not. They don’t care what
they say, they’ll say whatever. No matter who’s around,
they’ll make jokes in class.
Our teachers say they don’t know how to discipline
them ‘cause the jokes aren’t that bad. Every time race is
talked about in class it gets turned into jokes. We were
watching some video in our government class about how
we shouldn’t label people based on their skin color, and
thirty seconds after the video was over they were making
jokes about the black person in the video. I hated the
Black Lives Matter movement because it just turned into
jokes and they would say “all lives matter,” “all lives
Really, I’m not amused by any attention brought to
race and racism because it always gets turned into some
joke that isn’t true and isn’t funny and doesn’t help.
Most recently during Black History Month our teacher
was planning on taking us on a field trip to the Capitol
building in Indy for some Black History Month event.
A few weeks before the field trip, one student counted
the black kids in class. It was just me and another mixed
boy. He started telling the teacher for everyone to hear
we shouldn’t have to go because there were only two
black kids. Because of this I really didn’t even want to
go on the field trip knowing I would be made a target for
mocking. One of the main guy’s that makes these jokes
is a youth leader in a popular student Christian group at
the schoo—a group that I’m also a part of. He’s actually
gone on a mission trip to Africa and came back saying
“we should help them,” but then also makes jokes about
how dark they were. I don’t know what point he’s trying
to make with his jokes, but they weren’t funny, and then
he tried to apologize for it but his apology was more like
he was sorry that I didn’t have a sense of humor.
I’ve always gone to schools that don’t have that many
black people, so I’ve been used to not having students
around who were like me. There are quite a few black
students at Central High School, but not in the advanced
placement classes that I’m in.
I never really caught on to the jokes that were made
when I was younger, ‘cause they kinda went over my
head, but as I got older I’ve caught on to the jokes people
were making and took offense to them and have taken
them personally, and I’m not expecting it to be better
next year when I’m at college.
In the Punch Line by Travis Graves
like flying fists
lay hard against me
and everyday I remain
waiting to receive
in my gut, on my chest.
Cautious I move
I sit and slowly eat
so not to insight a thing
as you begin to speak
my throat seizes and I must think
to swallow so I won’t choke
when you strike
and I lose my human dignity.
Every day I can see it coming
and tomorrow will be the same
an oppressive reminder
I’m not your equal
my place you find me fit
Is in the punch line.
Facing Racism with Help
Sam Abram’s story by Lauren Bishop-Weidner
Sam is 78 years old.
My father, Lonnie Abram, was the most efficient picker on the Money, Mississippi,
cotton plantation where he sharecropped, a distinction that earned him $1.00 each week
as well as permission to travel to Greenwood and to cut hair on weekends. In 1940s
Mississippi, a person of color still needed permission from a plantation owner just to
be on the roads. My father was valuable enough to the landowner that he was given the
privilege to travel as well as to earn a little extra money barbering. A car accident left
him with an injured right hand, poorly cared for in an outbuilding behind the hospital.
As a result of the injury, he couldn’t pick cotton or use the barber chair on the street
outside a business owned by a relative of the landowner.
We moved to Muncie in 1944, staying with relatives until he got a job and could buy
a house. Although my mother stayed in Mississippi, my father never let us lose touch
with her. My father drove the nearly 1400 mile round trip in a weekend, making sure we
got to Memphis by 6:00 a.m. in order to buy gas—any later, and we might not be served.
Once we hit the Mississippi line, his caution increased greatly—remember, Emmett Till
was murdered in Money, Mississippi. We’d head back to Muncie in time for my father
to be ready for work at 6:00 a.m. Monday. From a very early age, I saw the sacrifices my
father made for his family.
Leroy Ash, a neighbor several years older than I, was like a big brother. He helped
with homework and encouraged me to try new things. Kids from Mississippi didn’t just
automatically fit in. We looked different, we sounded different. Some of the local boys
took advantage, but Mr. Ash helped me to gain the confidence I needed. He worked at
the Branch YMCA on Madison Street, and I’d go there after school. When I was new to
softball, I wasn’t a very good hitter. After two strikes, someone would usually beg for
my last strike. Seeing this, Mr. Ash asked me:
“How many strikes do you get?”
“Three,” I answered.
“And how many are you taking?”
“Sam, you can’t give away the opportunities you’re given.”
That advice stayed with me all my life.
I used to follow Mr. Ash around the Y, helping out wherever I could. When I was a
little older, I applied for a job there. Mr. Roy Buley, Director of the Branch YMCA,
hired me because he’d seen me helping out and he trusted Mr. Ash’s recommendation.
In the mid-1950s, the city planned a new building for the Madison Street YMCA, but
it was to remain a segregated facility. Many in the neighborhood were overjoyed, but
not Mr. Buley. Well known and highly respected, he’d walk through the community
talking with people. He included me in these conversations, as he explained that we
needed to desegregate the downtown Y if we were going to have equal access to facilities
and programs. Mr. Buley’s logic escaped most, and plans for the new building came to
pass. History proved Mr. Buley to be right. I was privileged to learn from his example
of courage, dignity, and leadership.
My first dream was to be an Air Force pilot, the result of stories I heard from one of my elementary
teachers, Mr. Dygert, who had been a fighter pilot and a real hero. I enrolled in Ball State’s ROTC program,
majoring in Social Studies, Driver’s Education, and Business. Halfway through my junior year, I passed
everything I needed to in order to continue—except for the eye exam. I needed a new goal. With my major,
high school teaching would have been a logical path. Unfortunately, Muncie was not hiring high school
teachers who were Black, and I didn’t want to leave Muncie. At that time, Muncie had five Black teachers,
all at one or the other of the two Longfellow Elementary buildings. After petitioning to take a double
overload in order to complete the necessary credit hours for an Elementary Education license, I graduated
I was deeply committed to learning as much as I could during my student teaching at West Longfellow.
I typed my lesson plans and organized my materials carefully, hoping my efforts would lead to a job offer
for the following school year. I knew if I wasn’t hired at Longfellow, I wouldn’t have a teaching job—no
other school in Muncie would have even considered my application. Mr. Burl Clark was principal, and we
met twice that spring. The second time, he told me that he wasn’t going to recommend me because he was
pushing for schools other than Longfellow to open up for teachers of color. Thanks to Mr. Clark, Doris
Faulkner transferred from Longfellow to become the first African-American teacher in Blaine School, and
I began that fall of 1960 teaching fifth grade at East Longfellow.
While teaching, I continued my education and in 1966 became principal at Longfellow, a job I cherished
for four years. When I wanted to transfer to a larger school, I was told I would not be transferred, and
not to ask again. The excuse given was that I was the youngest elementary principal. The truth was that
I was Black. I looked for a new job. I accepted an excellent upper administration position with Marion
Community Schools and tendered my resignation.
Then I got a phone call on a Sunday evening from Dr. Robert Freeman, who had been hired that weekend
as Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools. I was abrupt with him, telling him I already had a
job. He was patient with me, explaining that he wouldn’t have called me if he hadn’t already spoken with
the Marion Superintendent. I accepted the position he offered as his Administrative Assistant, and he
continued to mentor me, modeling and teaching necessary skills. After three years, I took a leave of absence
to complete my doctorate, and in 1989 I became Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools.
God has blessed me with many mentors, and my path grew clear as I learned from every one of them. My
father, Mr. Ash, Mr. Buley, Mr. Dygert, Mr. Clark, Dr. Freeman, and so many others, Black and White—
without their leadership and guidance, I would not have become the man God intended me to be. I pray
that God has used me in the same way, to help shape the lives of others.
On Not Feeling Safe
An Anonymous story by Resa Matlock
Storyteller is 44 years old.
It was our destiny.
I lived in Iraq. My husband bounced between Iraq and Indiana. His mother was from Indiana
and his father from Iraq. They met at IU. Our families knew each other. My sister married his
brother. We met and talked, and we, and our families, agreed to our marriage.
God meant for us to be together.
When I moved to the U.S., I spoke very little English. I started to learn at the Muncie Career
Center and was treated well. All over Muncie, even after 9/11 and the wars, I didn’t see any difficulty
with people accepting me. I took CNA classes, became a nurse’s assistant and worked for four years
until our second child was born. The hardest thing was to be away from my family in Iraq with new
babies. I worked to adjust to my new life because I had no choice. This is my life. I can deal with it.
My husband has problems and his problems are my problems.
Racism is not just about black and white. Racism is not just about individuals. Racism is about
I came to the U.S. having the idea that this is a free country with rules, rights, and obligations.
I still have that in mind, but year after year I find more discrimination. When I was working,
some people would ask why do you wear that, because I wear the hijab in public. I worked with
women from Mexico, Poland, and Sierra Leone, and we sometimes felt like the other nurses
treated us differently.
I tell my children we are different. We will stay different. Different is not a negative thing. People
will know from our names, our color, our accent, our behavior. We are different.
My children are white, and don’t have accents, but they have Arabic names.
When I came here I became a U.S. citizen and believed that if you work hard, you would be okay.
There is unfairness everywhere, but not like this unfairness that my husband has faced at his work.
He doesn’t want to tell because he does not want to lose his job.
You see, my husband is a U.S. citizen. He was born here. But his boss treats him like an outsider.
His boss is more than just rude. His boss is racist. His boss constantly puts him down, calls him
names, cusses at him, and says terrible things about our religion. What makes it worse is that my
husband never gets a break. He’s not allowed to take vacation. He works overtime and is always
called in on “time off”, both of which are unpaid. No one else in the company works as much as
When I say that racism impacts families this is what I mean. My husband is treated unfairly. Of
course this comes home. Of course this impacts us. We believe that family time is important. And
what little time we have together gets interrupted. Interrupted by these so called emergencies that
I’m certain someone else can solve. Vacation days? No. He can’t use those either because it would
be too chaotic at work without him. If he’s able to get a vacation days it’s never more than two days
and at that, he usually has to work overtime the day before so make up for that time off.
I also worry about what this teaches our children. I want our children to know that how their
father is treated isn’t ok. That they shouldn’t expect that and they should speak up. I’ve tried to
help my husband stand up, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t realize that he has rights as an employee. So
instead he just takes it because he’s lucky to have a job. And our children see this. Do they know
that this isn’t right? Is this what they think will happen to them when they start working? Will they
just accept that this is normal and they will be lucky to have a job? I hope not.
Our children come to me with their concerns or questions about school, the community, or
things they see in the news. They come to me because they believe their father won’t stand up for
them. They think this because he won’t stand up to his boss. So I have to take this on all by myself.
I do my best to learn about whatever it is, to stand up for them when is necessary, and to teach them
to do the same.
I love my husband but I’m worried about him. I’m worried about us. I’m worried about our
family. He is so consumed with work things that I worry about our family. Because I handle most
things with our children, I worry about what will happen if something happens to me. Will he be
able to stand up and protect our kids if I can’t? Will he stand up and protect me if I can’t do so? Will
it always be like this?
You Don’t Know What God Look Like,
So How You Gonna Be Racist?
Legend’s story by Stephanie Winn | Legend is a pseudonym and she is 36 years old.
When I first got here from Liberia, the change in school was like going straight from the
second grade to seventh grade. My accent was real thick so I hated talking in class. I still get
anxiety today to read in front of a big crowd. And you know, it was opposite of what you
would think for me. Because it was the black kids that bullied me. They would call me names
and make fun of me. They will ask the most crazy questions. They used to say, do you guys
wear clothes in Africa? Do you guys have moms and dads? Like we’re not human. We just
fall outta the sky and here we are. But, the white kids, they’d be real nice and interested in me.
They’d ask me where I was from and think it was cool to hear about it.
My dad bought a house in a white neighborhood and we didn’t know it at the time, but the
head of the Ku Klux Klan lived two doors down from us. In the beginning, it was bad because
they thought we was straight up African American. And then one day, we was standing outside
speaking our language cause our step mom, she didn’t know how to speak English, so we was
speaking our language towards her and one of the guys came out. He was like, ”Where you
guys from? We said, “We are from Africa. We’re African.” They was like, “Well you guys are
different from the black Americans.” And we was like, “What’s the difference?”
But, after that it wasn’t bad for us anymore. And that’s how I started to know about racism
towards black Americans.
Back at school, it was Black History Month. They showed one movie about slavery and
that’s how I found out what was goin’ on between black and white people. I didn’t know about
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, anybody before this. I would get upset at the white people
for what they did and what they continue to do to the black people. But then I would get upset
at the black people for not putting a foot down and changing their lives around. I heard people
say, “Well, the white man holds us back.” That might be true, but there’s always a way around.
I started doing my own research about what is going on. You know, I had to wonder, why is
there just one month in a whole year to learn about our own history?
That’s what I learned in those books, and I learned a lot that first year just by the way I
was treated. You see rumor has it, that, as an African, the Americans like us more than they
like black Americans. I think that’s why the black kids at school didn’t like me. White people
always seemed to like me better than them. Well, you know how high school is. Guys won’t
date you ‘cause you’re dark skinned. They’d like the light skinned girls ‘cause that might be
who is in the rap videos and on TV. And even grown people would stand there and say, “Oh, I
don’t date black guys or Asian guys,” or whatever. I could never understand how adults could
say this because what God may plan he didn’t say, oh you gonna be with this white person, he
didn’t say that. And now, as an adult, I’m so thankful I didn’t accept what they said as truth.
Because if I was racist, two of my sweet children wouldn’t even be here. I believe one way God
shows the beauty of races coming together is through biracial people.
Yes, I am part of a beautiful biracial family, African American, Black American, biracial,
and white. And you know, it’s still hurtful and confusing because people assume we’re not
together. At the grocery store, even though we’d be holding hands and talking, the cashier will
be like, scan, scan, scan, “Your total’s $14.88.” Then look at me, “Can I help you?” Like she
don’t know we’re together.
People need to ask God to help them start seeing things different. People who are straight
up racist, they have no respect for God. Because we were made in the image of God and you
don’t know what God look like, so how you gonna be racist?
A Battle to Fight
Ella McNeary’s story by Lenore Allen
Ella is 72 years old.
I came to Muncie in 1965 from Dayton, Ohio, after a 12-month internship. That’s
when I got the job at Ball Memorial Hospital. I was the second black dietician that they
ever had. The first one, Mrs. Gaylord, worked there a few months. Her husband was
completing his degree as a veterinarian. Then, they left.
I was at Ball Memorial Hospital for a year and a half as a clinical dietician. Then, I
went to Ball State. I was hired easily at both jobs. To talk about the racism in Muncie is
a touchy subject. I worked at Ball State for 28 years and retired at 51. I’m 72 now.
At Ball State after Betty Tipton left to work for Muncie Public Schools, I was the only
registered dietician on the staff at Ball State dining service. The first department head,
Ms. Ellen Nicholson, was a great head of the department. She was like a mother. She
was a sweet lady. You could go to her with your problems. She kept things confidential.
Information wasn’t written on your evaluation or job description. She was very honest,
trustworthy, and decent with high moral standards. I presume she was very spiritual. I
had a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree, so I had more education than anyone
else in the department including my past and present boss at the time.
After working 24 years, there were two positions that were open in the department. I
was a Manager, an M-4 or the fourth level of management. I was competing for the job
with assistant managers, M-2s or people who were on the second level of management.
The snack bar managers were M-3s, or the third level of management. This position
of Assistant Director of Dining service was the second position of the same name.
We already had one Assistant Director. This position was created by the boss. It was
posted supposedly in all of the national journals, so anyone in the United States could
have applied for this position. You had to have a minimum of a Master’s degree in
management or food service in order to apply.
I had Food Nutrition and Institutional Management. I was the only one who had
that background. I had a Master’s degree in Dietetics and Health Science. I was mighty
knowledgeable for the position. I had worked at Studebaker dining service at Ball
State for over 28 years. I had plenty of experience under my belt, especially with the
maintenance budget. There always seemed to be maintenance issues and I was steady
making requests to have things repaired. A few things would get done, but not the
major requests, which meant that each year that there was money left that went into
a sinking fund at Ball State. Over the years, I saved the University at least $8,400,000
which helped to build new dormitories that they probably didn’t need. Surely that
should have been enough experience.
I applied for the position knowing that my present Department Head probably
would not appreciate it. I felt that she didn’t want to work with me because I was black.
I was right because an M-2 received the position. It was someone that I had previously
supervised. Almost all of the M-2s and M-1s had worked under my supervision at some
point in time. A few of my co-workers egged me on to ask the Director about the
position. “Ella, what are you gonna do about it?”
They knew I was the best person for the position. This was in the summer time. Ed,
my son and I were in Canada. I was just getting over a cold so I wasn’t thinking about
anything, but my illness. It was so unfair knowing that I was the only one who was
qualified for the position. Anyone else would have to take Bachelor’s degree classes as
well as Master’s in order to gain the knowledge and credentials required for the position.
I didn’t corner anyone to talk to them about any of this. I went straight to the Muncie Human Rights
Commission. I told them that I was there for an age discrimination lawsuit. I decided to use a law firm from
Indianapolis. I was in my 40s and I noticed there were not people in management in that age range. Only
the young women were hired, but women my age…we were dependable. Most women my age didn’t have
children. I wanted to file against the department head, but the university wouldn’t allow me, so I had to sue
Ball State University. I had no other choice. I believe I was the first black single woman to file a lawsuit against
I went to the EEOC which was a waste of my time and theirs as well. The Ball Family owned most things
in Muncie. I felt like little David going against Goliath. Then I felt like Lot and those friends of his. I got
frightened about it, but it seems like God would open windows for me at times. And I would say, “O God,
you’ve done it again!”
I remember before the depositions things would be placed in my hands. I had to thank God. When I reviewed
them, I had 73 exhibits. My department head only had 9 exhibits which was mostly untrue. Every now and
then I would hear that our department head said that she could not discuss this or that because of the lawsuit. It
made me feel uncomfortable. People were walking on eggshells and the grapevine was very long. Immediately
someone would know what you had said. There were accusations from the department head that I kept my
employees in an uproar all the time. I know this came from my department head because I saw it on paper.
These allegations were not true. As time went on we settled. It was not a big settlement. Not nearly what people
thought I received. You know the black community would make comments like, “Girl, I know you got about
$500,000!” No, I did not.
My husband and I had always been frugal. We didn’t always spend our money. I was a saver. The one thing
that we did was pay off the house. I stayed at Ball State until I was 50. I could retire because I had more than
15 years of service. My son was going to college and he would receive 75 percent off of his tuition if I did so. I
stayed there until 1995 and he graduated in 1998. It was a long journey and very stressful. This began in 1991
and it ended in 1995. I lost $45,000 because I retired at 50 instead of 66 years old. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I didn’t make $45,000 when I left because Ball State did not pay me well. And they treated me worse. I went
to the library and discovered the Board of Trustees minutes. I would look at raises they had given people.
Different people had gotten raises from 8% to 11%. I have had evaluations that I felt were incorrect and I felt
It was written into one of my evaluations that I did not appear to have read the engineer or architect’s report
for that day. At one point they were going to renovate Studebaker dining service. I still don’t recall that I had
never read their notes, but that was put in the evaluation. This was not in my job description. Using the term,
“it appeared” was very misleading.
But life after retirement has been fulfilling and rewarding. Volunteering has been my motivation and passion.
I have stayed involved in helping others and the community through the NAACP, the YWCA, and Trinity
United Methodist Church where I am involved in the ministry. I try to reflect God in all I do because I know
that I would have never made it in life without God and my faith. I know that I would have never made it in
life without God and my faith.
Cutting Up. Getting Along. Working Together
Tom Carey’s story written by J.R. Jamison
Tom is 75 years old.
What you want? You wanna hear some stories?
Well, it was always cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the halls.
“Man, you got the best hands I’ve ever seen,” is what one supervisor would always say.
And I was just cleaning the bathroom. I was like, “What you talking about? They’re
We got real tight. He said, “If you stick with me, you’ll take my job when I leave.”
This other supervisor was prejudiced. He didn’t care for nobody. He was a little guy,
5’6”, and boy he’d give us a hard time. A group leader position came open under him,
and my boss went and told this guy that if he wanted the best man to hire he should hire
me. I told my boss, “Man, I don’t ‘stand that joker and he don’t like me. I can’t work
with that dude.”
He told me just to try it for 90 days, so I did and ended up staying.
At the time, there were no women custodians and very few blacks. I trained the first
women custodians at Ball State, two white and one black. This was in the 70s.
One white woman was named Nellie, the black woman, Julia, and the other white
woman was Donna from Eaton. Donna would tell on everybody. She kissed the
supervisor’s butt. Everybody knew she was a snitch. Just stuff that went on, you know.
So we all were sitting at the table having our staff Christmas dinner, and Julia said:
“Earl, what you gonna do now that we all know Donna is your snitch?”
He turned red and just grinned. Shocked everybody. These types of things went on all
the time. Just cutting up and getting along.
Then they brought a guy in from Yorktown to work under me. He and the supervisor
went to school together, and this guy wouldn’t let me train him. He was one of those
people who thinks nobody could train him. He was rotten, too.
So this other supervisor job in our area eventually came up, and we both put in for it
and they hired him over me. I wrote a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and they tried to get me to claim discrimination and told me to go black
against white, but that’s not how it was. He was hired because they were friends. Or
that’s what I thought.
But two weeks later because of the letter, they called and had us come in to talk about
it. They brought out our evaluation papers to show how we stacked up, side-by-side.
Where I had an “A” he had an “A.” Where I had a “B” he had a “B.”
I think they made those papers up.
They said why he was hired over me was because he had management experience running a few
restaurants in town. I said, “If that’s the case, I’ve managed a barber shop in town for years on top of
this job and have more overall experience.”
It didn’t matter. So I eventually let it go.
But guess what? One man ended up dying and they gave me his job as a supervisor. Finally, a supervisor.
The first two years, I had to go through some things. But everybody started to accept me.
When I first went into supervision, whites thought I favored them. Blacks thought I favored them. I
just tried to get people to bond as people. Not because we’re black or white, or even green for that
matter. We’ve just got to work together. I mean, we are all working people, we have to work together.
One day, though, my group leader, Barry—me and him was real tight—he told me one of our guys used
the N-word when I wasn’t around. I was shocked.
I was like, “No!”
“Carey!” He said with his hands up and head down.
So I called them all in, “Has anyone heard Mark use the N-word? Has anyone heard Mark use the
So finally this girl spoke up, “I have. When no blacks are around, he uses it consistently.”
Man, I gave him a talking. “Let me tell you something. If I ever hear you use that again, it will be your
job.” He started crying! But that’s all it took, and we got it settled and was cool after that.
When I retired, I had more seniority than any supervisor even though I was the youngest.
You know, they were my people. I mean, everybody is completely different. Black, white, green, or
purple. We all have different personalities. But we got to learn how to deal with each other. And that’s
what I was good at.
They’d always say, “Why y’all following behind Carey?”
‘Cause I’ve got their backs.
It was always cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the halls. I’d tell them, “You stick with me. You’ll take
my job when I leave.”
A Person Without a Story, A Person Without a Name
Christine Satory’s Story by Michael Brockley
Christine is 58 years old.
Call me NoName Changeling. I was born in the year the Lumbee stood down the
Klan in the Battle of Maxton Field. The government placed mixed-blood babies with
white adoptive families. The children with blond or red hair. With blue or green eyes.
America’s forgotten children. My hair was as red as wild strawberries. My eyes, the
color of luna moths. Even then, my skin was light. In Canada, I carry papers that say I
am Métis but, in my country, I have no tribe.
In my country, I have no tribe. I am a split-feather. One of the lost birds set apart
from the legends of Nanabozho. I never sat in a circle while the grandfathers spoke of
how Nanabozho dwells among the seraphim of the Northern lights on a great island of
floating ice. I am neither Potawatomi nor Ojibwa. Neither Menominee nor Kickapoo.
I am the daughter who dreams of feeding her grand-daughters pemmican.
I am the daughter who feeds her grand-daughters pemmican made from a recipe
printed in a book. I read Roget’s Thesaurus in search of synonyms for the language
I cannot speak. I rescue abandoned words and shield them from harm’s way. Quid
nunc. Gobsmacked. Hear me when I tell you, the songs my ancestors bequeathed me
remain unsung. I do not resemble the silver screen image of Sacagawea, but I joined
the caravan to Pine Ridge to restore what was stolen. Each day I thank the spirit leader
whose gift to me was her trust. And the elders who told me to follow my spirit.
The elders told me to follow my spirit. My first husband sought his heritage among
his Choctaw roots. My husband, like a Hollywood Indian from Thunderheart or
Dances with Wolves. Black hair, brown eyes and copper skin. Stoic until his final
devastation. Our sons danced in midwestern powwows. Grew their blond hair long to
hold their mysteries and prayers. Were taunted in the high school halls. Others at the
powwows complained of wannabes to the BIA. They stripped the feathers from my
sons’ regalia. One son was a drummer. The other a firekeeper. I taught my sons to live
with honor, and they honor their mother. My sons walked away. I cut my hair. Still I
walk in a spirit way.
I walk in a spirit way. I host a feast for dancers who travel with wolves. I serve
squash, maize and beans. The Three Sisters. We sing for The Child of Many Colors.
Practice trills. I wear long skirts. One summer, fifty people from a Bible camp stood
in my lawn to ask if I had been saved. I ordered a statue of Pan for the front yard.
They never returned. I teach college freshmen to celebrate mistakes in their paintings.
To see beyond the limits of oil and water. For my fiftieth birthday, I had a phoenix
tattooed the length of my arm. I dyed my short hair teal. To remind myself how to live
as a mixed-blood in Indiana. How to live in this age without my ancestor songs. I live
without a name and without a people. I walk alone in a spirit way.
The human right to be seen, the responsibility to see
Yvonne Thompson’s story by Kelsey Timmerman
Yvonne is 58 years old.
I had a two-parent home. I got to be a cheerleader. I got to be in the band. I got to do
all those unusual things.
A lot of times I was the only black person in the organizations in school. I thought
they treated me the same, but when I look back, they didn’t. There are things I can see
now that I see as racist. I remember being called mammy.
If I knew what I know now as the Executive Director of the Muncie Human Rights
Commission, I would have been scared. I never thought racism was in everything. Now
I see it. I see racism in particular police behavior. I see it in the school system. I see it in
housing. Oh God, housing is bad. It’s just horrible.
I was shielded by my family and church.
When I wasn’t at home or at school, I was at church. Church influenced my belief
in God, but also, too, my belief in people. I think for a time I thought everybody was
good. I was naive. This job has been a rude awakening for me.
The things I have seen people say and do…Why in the world would you say or do
that to another human being?
When kids are young they don’t really understand what racism is.
I had a friend who was my best friend in the world. She’s white. She showed me a lot
about not being racist. I could go and stay overnight with her and her family. I would
go to her church; she would go to mine. She showed me that things can be different.
Not, “You can only play with your black friends or white friends.” She has had a big
influence on my life.
Both my parents were very hard working people. My mom worked outside of the
home. My dad owned a filling station here in Muncie. He was an African-American
business owner. I had a good upbringing. I look back at it now, grateful and thankful.
Two of my uncles owned businesses. One uncle on my mom’s side owned a filling
station. All the businesses were on Broadway. I look at them today and see my family
in those places.
They each had the chance to be people of substance.
Mom wanted me to learn how to arrange flowers. Honestly, I thought my goal in life
was to work at the Muncie Mall. That was it for me. I was like, “Yeah, that’s big time!”
My family thought I would stay in Muncie, thought I’d work at GM. My brother and
sister tried their darndest to get me to work there. I applied and didn’t get the job. My
mind was never towards working in a factory.
My parents were very upset with me in wanting to leave. They came up here to
Muncie to find work from the South. They knew racism. They left their parents to
come up here, but they couldn’t imagine me leaving them.
I wanted to see something different. I always thought my calling was to go to Oral
Roberts University. I went out to Oklahoma on a campus visit by myself. I was dating
the man who would become my husband, and when I got back I prayed, “Lord, if you
want me to go to ORU, you’re gonna have to work on Aaron’s heart.”
When I think about my marriage to Aaron, I think that is what I was really looking
for—someone to get me out of Muncie. We had a daughter in Muncie, two sons born in
Michigan City, we lived in Paducah, Kentucky, and eventually we moved out to Ada,
Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Oral Roberts University.
God must have misheard me because at first it wasn’t me who attended class at Oral
Roberts, it was Aaron. I held down jobs, took care of the kids. But fifteen years later, I
did graduate from Oral Roberts.
My education in social work opened my eyes to the pain of people, what people go through,
the expectations people have for their lives. The desire to always want to be something.
Everything was more appealing than Muncie. I think it was just nice to be somewhere
different. To learn different things, to see different people.
So it might surprise you that where I live right now is the house I grew up in.
When I came back to Muncie after getting my degree and a divorce, I was here to take care
of my mom. When my mom passed, I knew I needed to make the decision about Muncie. My
kids were grown; I didn’t have any reason to stay in Oklahoma.
It’s crazy. I came back to Muncie and was like, “This really is a nice place.” I started to go
into parts of Muncie I had never been—parts of Ball State, Minnetrista.
As an adult, I had never been part of a community other than a church community, until
moving back to Muncie. Muncie Black Expo was my first experience volunteering. I also got
involved in Whitely Community Council, Motivate Our Minds, Habitat for Humanity. Dr.
Maria Hawkins, Mary Dollison, Miss Foster, those women taught me to give back, to invest
in this place.
I grew up in Whitely, Muncie Central, and the church. That was my sphere of living; that
Everyone in Muncie has an opinion about Whitely even if they’ve never been there. That’s
shocking to me. I don’t want to live anywhere else, and I could. I love Whitely. Everybody
waves to each other. If you want a tour, I’ll give you a tour.
I used to wonder when I was growing up why people would stop me and tell me their
stories. And I would think, “Why in the world would they tell me everything. I don’t know
them, never met them.”
I feel what people are going through. Now, that’s my job.
At the Human Rights Commission, we protect people. Protect their emotions, jobs,
livelihoods, and their being. When a person feels discriminated against, it hits them hard.
“They just said I’m not worthy; I’m not a person.” It’s something to see a person shaken to
the core. We’ve seen it numerous times. We help that person gain worth and value again. It
means a lot to see that.
Usually someone comes in and explains how they have been treated differently. We then
determine if it against the law and if it is a civil rights violation.
I’ve wept and cried about the injustices I’ve seen. It’s hard to believe that there are systems
in place thathold people back. People that gave their all, tried their best, people who wanted
to pull up their boot straps, but something pushed them back.
I think I’ve grown up in that respect. Growing up isn’t easy, but I had to. We all have to.
Kids don’t even know what racism is. You know something is pure and beautiful when there
are no labels for it. I’ve told students that if I could shield them from racism I would. But you
gotta deal with it.
Right before I took this job, I read about hate crimes and thought, “Why would people do
that to other people?” I just never grasped that magnitude of hate and inequality. I wish I
could work myself out of this, but it ain’t gonna happen.
As a naive little girl growing up in Muncie, I thought everybody was good. As a woman, I
don’t see it like that. Everyone isn’t good, but I believe that there is good in everyone.
People just want someone to notice them, to see them. I try to be that person.
Lord let me see people. See them in their pain and joy, in their hurt and in their shine.
“We’re all messed up,
but we all came out of somewhere, you know?”
D.P.’s story by Deborah Mix | D.P. is a pseudonym and he is 23 years old.
The first thing you should know is that my parents aren’t racists. They tried to talk to
me about it. But I listened to my granddad—his dad was the head of a white supremacist
organization in Kentucky. He told me that black skin was the mark of Cain, so it was a sign
of evil. When he died I was in fourth grade, and I thought I could honor him by keeping
My school was all white, and my best friend was also racist, so it was easy to keep to the
thinking that African Americans were different. It was rooted in me. It didn’t mean anything
to me to use slurs, like the N-word. Now I know I was depressed and confused. I was drinking
and just talking big.
Then in November 2014, I was in an accident driving to work. My truck slid into a ditch and
when I got out to see what happened, I got hit by a passing car, which hit another car before
sliding off the road. After being hit, I was somehow able to help that driver and the other
person he hit before the ambulance came. But it turned out my pelvis was fractured. At the
hospital, I had a black nurse. She was so loving and compassionate, and she didn’t even know
me! But once they gave me painkillers, I started saying all kinds of things, calling her names,
the N-word. I don’t even know her name, but I wish I could apologize to her now.
I was in the hospital for five weeks, in and out of consciousness, and when I got home, I was
completely dependent on other people. I hated it. I reached for a beer, like I always did when I
was unhappy, but for some reason it just tasted awful, just literally sickening.
Then I remembered a family friend who visited when I was in the hospital. He prayed over
me, and he invited me and my wife to visit his church. We took him up on the offer, and the
first time we walked in I couldn’t believe how diverse it was. It was insane! I mean, I’ve been
thinking difference is wrong, and here are all these people talking to me and welcoming us.
Everything in the past I’ve done and said—I’m thinking about it and feeling guilty, but I’m still
kind of numb.
I get involved in the choir—music has always been really important to me—and I get asked
to lead a song. So I lead the congregation in “Something About the Name Jesus,” by Kirk
Franklin. I’m singing and looking out at the congregation, and it’s just like a stained-glass
picture. All these people have come together to praise the same God. Something in my spirit
tells me that this is what is should be like. We’re supposed to be together, not segregated.
After the service, I’m eating lunch and I hear this man say, “When I heard them say your
name, I wasn’t picturing a white kid. But you brought it. You sang that song!” I realize the
person talking to me is the associate pastor, a black man. Before I know it, we’re friends, like
real friends. I’m telling him about my marriage, about my life. He makes time for me, calling
me his brother, and he’s like my family now. We talk every day.
When I think about how I used to think, what I used to say then. . . I couldn’t understand
how my words affected others. I was hurting, angry. I always tell people you have to respond
with love because you don’t know what that angry person is going through, what they’ve dealt
with that makes them act that way.
I think God is asking me to tell my story. Where I was isn’t all that uncommon here in
Muncie. I just want to see people love people. I keep coming back to what the Bible says,
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I know now that’s
how I want to live, and I’m trying to be that man every day of my life.
It’s not easy to change. It hurts. Everything I thought is being obliterated. I spent time not
knowing what to believe. But God is showing me love through other people. We’re all messed
up, but we all came out of somewhere, you know? I want to help other people see they can
change. I’ll tell my story to anyone who will listen.
Jason Donati’s story by Josh Holowell.
Jason is 36 years old.
“What did you just say?”
Anger overtook me as I stood with the young men I was working with by the
It was one of my many opportunities to interact with the youth of our
community, educating them on our environment. One of them had just used a
nasty racial slur to describe the black students working in another part of the
field. I challenged him. He stood firm by his comment and began to explain how
he saw the world. How everyone in his neighborhood knew what “black people”
were really like.
The others joined in. I let them continue to spit out words of hate, words which
fell heavy upon my heart, each like a dagger against my family. And here I had a
choice to make. I was brought here to teach about the environment, but today’s
lesson was going to be about racism. Who else was going to have this conversation
with these kids if not me?
I began to tell the boys about my biracial family. That racial slur was not at some
unknown “them,” but against the love of my life and our wonderful children. I
told the boys of the pain this causes. I told them that this is not just the way the
world is, but that racism is evil. I also told them that this hate aimed at others
would eat away at them too, slowly killing their compassion. There was a better
way forward. But to do so, they would have to go outside their comfort zone.
They would need to put themselves into places that challenged their privilege as
white males in America.
As I felt rage against their racism, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life’s
journey. I couldn’t help but see that these boys were a product of their neighborhood
as much as I was, growing up a privileged white male in Muncie, Indiana. While I
was always taught better, I held biases myself and tolerated the blatant racism that
surrounded me. I may not have always joined in, but I stood alongside, allowing
such hate to infect the ground I walked upon. And just as weeds overtake a
beautiful garden that is neglected, the weeds of racism had crept in and overtaken
my community and even myself.
This all changed for me when I had the chance to leave Muncie and serve inner
city communities throughout the East Coast in AmeriCorps. I lived and worked
in some of the roughest communities in our nation. There I saw the brokenness
and the beauty of people. There I developed relationships with those who were
very different from me.
And there I saw the realities of systemic racism in our nation. Where
communities of color were talked about and not talked with. Where decisions
were made for these communities and not with them. Where young men had to
hustle their way into money because the jobs I could provide for them wouldn’t
pay enough. Where I saw young men turn to violence against one another because
no one cared enough to care about them.
And where everything I had learned and absorbed was challenged.
It changed me. The people I worked alongside, and for, changed me.
And so, when I returned to Muncie, this time with my biracial family, I was committed to making a difference.
Committed to changing the narrative.
Committed to stepping into uncomfortable spaces and places.
Committed to not allowing the status quo of racism to continue unchallenged.
Committed to helping others abandon their racism and to pursue a better way.
To this way I have given my life. The way of love and reconciliation. To step up in the moment so that the
boys spitting hate could learn to speak peace instead. So that this community would not be overtaken by the
weeds of racism. That all of us would embrace our role as stewards and gardeners pulling up racism at its roots.
It may be painful at first, but it will result in a beautiful garden full of flowers of every color living in harmony
and peace together.
Step out of your comfort zone and join me.
Daniel Stallings’ story by Jackson Eflin
Daniel is 49 years old.
Heavy fog was just lifting when we started to make out the silhouettes of officers
with rifles looking down on us from every overpass. It was an early, cold February
morning in 1987. We were four tired college students – definitely not used to that early
hour – making a sleep-deprived drive north from Atlanta to Forsythe County, Georgia.
Despite everything we’d watched about what was happening there on the news, the
nation’s eyes glued to a nowhere town, we were not prepared for what we were about to
see that morning.
As the miles passed, we noticed more vehicles heading in the same direction; the
south-bound lanes on the interstate were still very quiet. We were thinking out loud,
trying to figure out which cars were going to join us as we got closer to the gathering
site for the march. It was exciting to know that there were other like-minded folks, and
we would nod as we made eye contact with the other drivers and passengers. With every
mile I gained confidence that there were others who would be marching in solidarity
in the little town of Cumming, Georgia. Forsythe County, I learned, was known as a
“White” county. I knew little of these things, having grown up in California, but my
friends, who grew up in the South, were not so naïve. They knew that Cumming was a
Sundown Town – a place where the black workers, for fear of their lives, would not want
to be caught after sundown.
It was just sunrise when we exited the highway and followed the traffic, slowly crawling
towards a large gravel parking area, as directed by the army of law enforcement present.
With all of the activity and anticipation, it was almost like arriving at an amusement
park. We stretched out of the car and felt the chill. We chattered excitedly about all of the
people who were there to support the same cause; we were there to show our support
for the events that had occurred at the first MLK, Jr Day march, which had taken place a
few weeks earlier, and which was then counter-protested by local members of the KKK
and citizen militia groups. This was the third weekend of back and forth protest and
counter-protests, and we were excited by the turnout. As we reached into our trunk to
grab our coats for the march, the passengers in the car next to us also reached into their
trunk to pull out their gear for the march – white robes!
We suddenly hushed our voices. Quick nods at each other and anxious glances at
them. I watched with disbelief as more and more white robes appeared, fluttering in the
cold dawn light.
Close to a thousand people had appeared that morning – as we approached the staging
area, the armed officers started to sort the protestors, often using our apparel to funnel
us into different chutes, like cattle. The police, the Georgie Bureau of Investigation, the
Georgia State Patrol and other lawmen had come in force, and they stood shoulder to
shoulder along the march route. MLK supporters to the left, and counter-protestors
(white robes joined by camouflage jackets and pants) to the right. On the left, we started
the march toward the town center; we joined in the chorus of traditional civil rights
march songs, feeling the excitement of solidarity. On the right, the counter-protestors
were gaining in size and strength, as well.
I can’t say if it was intentional, or if someone had made a split-second decision,
someone who didn’t know the road, didn’t think of the consequences. But about half
a mile down the road, an embankment rose to the right of the road, and the haters
had the higher ground. Now, I’ve never been in war, but I know that the high ground
is the stronger position. I looked up and all I could see were white robes, camo, and
confederate flags. We felt increasingly vulnerable as the crowd grew on the hill, and
we became the targets of their hate-filled shouts and racial epithets (regardless of our
We kept our heads high and raised our voices up toward the embankment with choruses of civil rights songs
to the sporadic drumbeats of rocks clattering down around us. When I’d seen the robes, I’d braced for violence.
That was part of the story, this idea of people marching for peace and being attacked. Of course, I had this naïve
optimism that it was simply a part of our past history, and that it could not still happen today. But there I was,
looking up, thinking “Hate still lives here today.” There I was, looking up at not just men, not just men and their
wives, but at their children. And the children shouted things no child should ever shout or even know. These
young children were not born with this hate.
Then, I understood. This is how hate survives. This is how hatred is learned and taught. This was part of their
learning experience, their indoctrination.
From where I marched, I didn’t see everything that happened that morning. I didn’t see Jesse Jackson, or
Coretta Scott King, or Hosea Williams or many other Civil Rights leaders. I also didn’t see David Duke, once
Grand Wizard of the KKK. But they were all there that morning. It was even covered by a new talk show host
that we watched when we got home – Oprah Winfrey!
Eventually, the protests died down. MLK Day became a national holiday. But 30 years later, as I travel back to
Atlanta and reflect on this landmark event, it seems we may never stop working to root out racism and hatred.
For me, it was a single day, but I gained a lasting impression of how, for others, the sense of vulnerability and
fear of those on the high ground is daily life.
Enemies Out of Allies
An Anonymous Story by Ari Hurwitz
I would say some things are better in the country. There has been some improvement, but it
seems like everything wants to take a step backwards now. When I was in my 20s, I had got a
job at US Steel, working basically as a laborer, but I was going to school for electrical, to be an
electrician, you know. US Steel is as big as the city of Muncie. So I’m all the way on the other
side of the mill one day and this electrical foreman walked up on me as I was sweeping out a
tunnel. He was white. We got talking about electricity and he said, “How the hell you know
that stuff and you sweepin’ the damn tunnel?” He got my name and badge number.
It was a couple or so months later, my foreman tells me this electrical foreman wants to see
me and I was like, “WHAT?” So I went over there and he said, “I’m gonna start you out as a
janitor over here, but there’s postings that come up and when one come up, you sign it.” At
the time, there was only one other black electrician who I knew of that worked at US Steel,
and that’s a big plant.
So I was the janitor, time goes on and a posting comes up and I signed the damn thing, along
with other people. They didn’t know I was going to school, see, it’s an all-white department.
They all laughed, “Look at this dumb-ass janitor signing.” Nobody could pass the test for the
job though. Well, I passed the test. It was a major uproar, “Oh no, this can’t be!” I was still in
my 20s. These people, they in their 40s-50s. . .and I’m black. They said, “You gotta retest.”
When they set up this retest they set up a motor controller and you got to this one part
where this DC motor would accelerate, and all of a sudden you hear a explosion and the
motor would try to reverse itself. Nobody had seen nothing like that before. So I sit down
and I’m basically going through wire per wire. It was like a compound motor and they had
reversed it by accident, even they had no idea, total freak of nature. I caught it and fixed it and
I started it up. Everybody said, “What the hell, this black guy, the damn janitor?”
So they sent me up to the Headquarters. That first electrical foreman apologized to me. He
said, “These guys are so upset, they even got the union in, they making me send you up to be
re-tested again.” At Headquarters, the guy couldn’t find nothing wrong. It was racism that
motivated that, any other guy they would have said, “Fine, fine.”
But I got the job. I guess by me bein’ young and me bein’ black, they did not like that and
every day was like a test. I did learn. We had what we called electricians’ helpers and they all
older than me. I said to myself, “Fuck, I ain’t telling them what to do, them guys white and in
they 40s and 50s.”
So they tolerated me, a couple guys accepted it. There was always the bunch to stay away
from, you know, don’t hang around over there ‘cause they’ll do something to ya. The biggest
plus that I had there—it was by luck—I enjoyed playing chess. Gary, Indiana had a chess club
at that time. I went down to play chess, all white guys. One guy there, he also worked at US
Steel and he also was in the electrical part of it and he knew me. We kinda made friends and he
had balls, didn’t nobody mess with him. So when we kinda buddied up, they kinda like, ”Well,
that’s so and so friend, don’t mess with him.” He kinda had my back, was my bodyguard.
So lucky for me I played chess. He knew the places that I needed to be and where not to be.
In fact, a lot of times I would let him lead the way even though I was the electrician and he
was the helper. He was older. I say, “Who cares, fuck, people think he the electrician and I’m
So everything, it worked good like that and I didn’t mind it. He would lead the way because
he knew the attitude of some of those other folks. He’d play the role. You have some good
relationships like that and nowadays, yeah, you still do.
The police though, this is the main problem. The police are killing the good for blacks and
whites, makin’ all that counterproductive. Earlier in my life, I had this experience with the
police, too, back then. Actually, it was a white guy who wanted to kill me and a white guy
who saved my ass. I had a girlfriend and we were driving down the highway, heading toward
Michigan City and, all of a sudden, it seemed like my car went airborne. A guy had hit us from
the back, white guy.
He was an older man, or seemed so at that time to me. He had a truck. He didn’t have his head lights on and
he was so drunk he couldn’t even stand up. Man totaled my car, and the police, three squad cars, they came.
First, the guy that caused the accident, they carried him home. They got him home quick. Then they began to
search my car. I’m standing there and they was going all through my car and whatever and my girlfriend, she
hadn’t got out the car. But they were forcing her out and she started screaming. This one police in particular
gets my girlfriend and he just slamming her all everywhere. I’m like, “What the hell’s going on, man, what you
And then I took a step.
I told you I worked at US Steel and there was a fella that used to work at US Steel and he had quit. So now,
as I begin to take a step toward the police, something grabbed me and it was like a vice, another policeman. This
guy says, “That guy’ll kill you!” And I’m like, “Wha . . .?”
He whispered to me that he used to work with me at US Steel. It turned out to be the guy who had quit. He
restrained me. This other guy was wanting to kill me; he roughed up my girlfriend. But this other cop, from US
Steel, was telling me that’s enough for that guy to shoot you, so he was holding me back. Nowadays, with what
goes on, I believe it too. You know what I been seeing, he’d a shot me dead.
They took me and her to jail, but they didn’t put us in the same car. This guy, the dangerous one, he puts the
handcuffs on me and he puts them on so tight, it just cuts off my circulation. Police station is way up in the
woods and I just said, “Oh fuck, I’m dead.”
For me, that was it. They drove us to the police station. Both cars got there around the same time and I heard
my girlfriend screaming. To this day this hurts me too. They decided she needed to be strip searched, you know
how they finger you, cavity searched I guess they call it. That just broke her heart.
Luckily, I had enough money to bail us out and then we had to go to court. I hired a lawyer and he knew
folks in high places and all this kind of shit. And my girlfriend worked in Crown Point at the Justice Center,
as a secretary. Her bosses was all judges and lawyers and shit, so they told the police to leave us the fuck alone.
That’s how she got out. She had to write some apology letter for hollering and screaming and raising hell. Later
on, our friends told us the cops knew they was wrong but what they was trying to do was try to find probable
cause for what they had done. And the man who caused the accident, never heard or seen him since. The guy
that saved me, he was a white guy and he definitely saved me, so I’m not a complete extremist because I know
he saved me. I seen the good and bad in both races, but this bad stuff really pisses me off cause it ain’t necessary.
Nowadays, I’m witnessin’ all these murders on TV. I’m hearing about all these police that shootin’ people
down that’s unarmed basically for no reason and they mostly black. The cops actually tried to murder my son
over in Anderson, 2-3 years ago. My son, he wasn’t a perfect American citizen. He had these tendencies to get
hisself in trouble, but he’s non-violent. He’s never been in a fight in his life; violence is not in his nature, as a
rule. Well, he had warrants out for his arrest; he got his ass in trouble for check fraud. I don’t know if he went
to make a turn or didn’t put his signals on or if he just looked suspicious. It was at night and him and his wife
was in the car. Whatever it was, police stopped him. According to him, everything was going along pretty good
until this one policeman showed up. And then all of a sudden everything changed. They demanded his wife get
out the car. She was having an asthma attack and he was trying to comfort her, but they snatched her out the
car. They told my son to get out the car but he couldn’t, he had his seatbelt on. One officer started spraying
him in the face with that mace while he was still in the car and the other one, the one that caused all the trouble,
tased him. I guess it all happened real fast and before he could get the seatbelt off, one of them started gassin’
him and the other one, when he was openin’ the door, put the taser on him. So they had him in a situation
where he couldn’t breathe cause he was gassin’ to death and they electrocutin’ him all at the same time and they
wonderin’ why he ain’t responding, see. He had passed out and his wife said they was still taserin’ him, even
though he had already fainted. She started screamin’, “what are y’all tryin’ to do, kill my husband?” People
started comin’ out they houses and stuff, so they carryin’ him to the hospital. He said when he came to, they
had him strapped. He heard the nurse saying something like, “you tasered him 5 times?” So they tried to kill
my own son. As you can imagine, with my experience, plus all this stuff goin’ on now, that really pissed me
off. I don’t understand why police are not obligated to police other policeman. If I got a partner riding with me
and I see he’s got craziness in him, I should have the right to say, “hey, I got a buddy and I think he needs to be
evaluated or whatever.”
I had an experience with the police here like five years ago that made me mad enough that
I wanted to do something to them but I couldn’t. My son had a warrant out for his arrest
and one morning I was getting ready to go to work; this is like seven in the morning. They
hittin’ the door like, ‘BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.’ I’m like, ‘what the fuck?’ Then you know,
“POLICE, POLICE, OPEN UP!” Like fuck, I’m getting ready to go to work. I opened
the door and they shoved me aside, knocked me down. This one guy says, “SHUT UP, SIT
DOWN, DON’T MOVE!” And I’m like, “what the fuck’s going on? You’re in my house, I
let you in.” He just tell me again, “SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, DON’T MOVE!” They runnin’
all through in the bedroom, under the couch and I’m like, ‘what the fuck’s going on?’ “Don’t
you say nothing!” they say. Then he had this picture and he said, “this ain’t you, is it?” I said,
“no, this ain’t me.” I swear it seemed like that could a been handled better. He dared me to
move in my own fuckin house. They should a treated me, they should treat people accordin’
to the situation. For instance, if my son was a mass murderer or some kinda well known
terrorist, then I could see why they tough. All he did was wrote a damn check, they call it
fraud, not violent at all, so why all this drama and force and waking up all the damn people in
the apartment and commandin’ me. For what? To me, that was just too much for too little. If
I’d had a weapon, they mighta killed me. That kinda stuff just angers me to death and for this
country it’s a big mistake cause what they doin’ is makin’ enemies out of allies.
A Cultural Racial Identity Struggle
Karen Dowling’s story by Annemarie Voss
Karen is 41 years old.
I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Ashok Inamdar, who had immigrated from
India as a thirty-year-old man to pursue an engineering degree, and Kathleen, who was
of Czechoslovakian descent. My parents had met in a hospital in Youngstown, Ohio,
where my father was working in a blood lab, while attending engineering school, and
my mother as a registered nurse. Getting married in 1974 was complicated because my
mother was Roman Catholic and my father was a Hindu. The Roman Catholic Church
in which she had grown up refused to marry them until they had proof from India that
my father had no other wives. Therefore, they first got married in front of Justice of
Peace and later in the Catholic Church.
Neither of my parents impressed their cultural identity upon me or my brother. In
his great desire to become a true American and to pursue the American Dream, my
father did not want to teach me his language or his culture or tell many stories about his
upbringing or his Indian family. Except for having a few Indian friends and liking Indian
foods, he suppressed his Indian identity. When we got together with Indian friends and
a few family members, I was excluded because I could not understand that language.
My mother also did not stress her national heritage much, other than special foods for
holidays and special occasions and the Roman Catholic religion.
My cultural identity crisis began already when I was yet a small child. People would
stare at me with my dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, wondering how I could possibly
be my blue-eyed, light-skinned mother’s child, noting that my six-year-younger brother
had inherited her features. Some would even ask me whether I belonged to my mom.
The issue of my cultural identity continued to be problematical during my school
time. My father’s job as chemical engineer, required us to move frequently, each move
necessitating a new integration into a school, where others attempted to classify me. In
one place with a large Hispanic and African-American population, I was more accepted
but assumed to be either of Hispanic origin or half black. When others would discover
that my outer appearance features were from my Indian background, they would
classify me as a model minority, assuming I was of superior intelligence and the child of
a medical doctor. To be a faux Indian or a faux Czech was not satisfactory.
My sense of unease with my identity continued into my years as a college student,
studying Spanish and Japanese. One evening in 1996, when my father drove me back
to my apartment we talked about my dreams to get a Masters and a Ph.D., a love for
education that I shared with him. I had always admired his love for learning that had led
him to leave his family in hope of better opportunities in the United States. We talked
about my desire to go to Spain to get an authentic language experience. That evening we
had a very special moment, I call it “God’s timing,” in which he came to understand my
yearning to come to terms with who I was. We made plans to travel to India to visit his
family, a trip he had only taken once since he had left.
This promise and my hopes were dashed when I learned two days later that my father
had suddenly died of a heart attack. That might have been the end of my journey of selfdiscovery
if it had not been for three fortuitous events that converged in 2013.
The first was a contact from a cousin in India, the son of my father’s only sister, who
contacted me on Facebook and welcomed me to the family and invited me to visit. The
second was my new friendship with an Indian mother of a little boy. I felt a certain
kinship with her, and she invited me to be her companion on a trip to India for her
sister’s wedding. The final opportunity was through my job as a director of education
at Indiana Wesleyan. The University had a relationship with two Indian schools in
Pune, both—though unofficially—Christian. The schools had requested training for the
teachers and administrators. My all-American husband immediately understood that
this was an opportunity I could not refuse.
This trip to India was going to confirm my racial and cultural identity for me.
Everywhere I went I was not seen as an outsider. I was family at my friend’s sister’s wedding
in Punjab before I even met my own family. The highlight of my stay was with my father’s
family in his home in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, home also to Gandhi. One male cousin and one
female cousin became my interpreters and my guides to my Indian family, their way of life and
especially to recreating a memory of my father as a child and young man, from his birth as a
conjoined twin, whose sibling died shortly after birth, to his being considered the wisest and
most handsome of all of his childhood friends.
I met my father’s brother who had been offered the opportunity to go to the United
States first, but who recognized the superior intelligence of my father and insisted that
my father go in his stead because he would have wasted his life if he had stayed in India
working in insurance.
I learned that my father’s only sister, now deceased, was, like me, a teacher and lover of
world languages who taught English and Hindi in a Gujarati school.
I learned that my great-aunt gave my father a nickname for his red cheeks, the same trait I
am known for having.
When I was offered to try a new Indian dish, I found out I asked for his favorite dish. I
smelled the fragrant Indian roses my father had tried to tell me about. I saw photo albums with
a picture of my father on his last day in India at the wedding of his brother. I saw faces and
heard voices that reminded me of my father.
I was a sister, a daughter, and an aunt, not a first or second cousin.
Since my return from India, I know who I am and to whom I belong. I am no longer restless
in search of my cultural identity. My mother who had known of my struggle is pleased for me
as well. My husband who has been very supportive of my journey is also very happy with my
new sense of myself.
It does not matter that I do not speak any of the Indian languages and that I am not an expert
Indian cook. I am in touch with my family in India and have joined S.A.M.A., The South Asia
Muncie Association, where I have found another home I belong to. I have embraced that I
have different traits from my mother, my brother or my own children. I have come to know
my cultural identity and that it is from within, originating in heart connections, and it can be
further developed, rather than static and focused on outer appearances and differences.
Father wants justice after son arrested
Miles and His Father’s story by Christine Rhine
Miles is a pseudonym and Miles is 18 years old. His father is 52 years old.
Dad drops us off at this restaurant and we eat some beignets, and about 15 minutes later
we’re walking out. There’s an intersection where there’s a bar, and everybody else in our
group was like, “We’re just going to walk through.” And I’m like, “I’ll just meet you on the
I understand. I’m sure the other side is just straight across, so I’m walking along on Bourbon
Street, looking for the other students. I don’t see them, so I walk back and I’m waiting. They’re
eventually going to walk by. My dad called, but I couldn’t hear him, so I said, “I’m going to
walk down a quieter street.”
Then three cops came. I didn’t know they were cops. I didn’t see them. I thought it was
strippers because I was watching a cop and a stripper, and I thought: Whoa, I’m pretty sure
they can’t grab people.
The cops came up behind me and grabbed my hands and immediately put on handcuffs
and somebody grabbed my phone. They did all that immediately. I didn’t think they were
real. I tried to push them off. Then I saw they were actually cops and I thought: Whoa,
better calm down.
They said they were taking me to jail. They walked me to the precinct, and then they drove
me to the jail. They said I assaulted a police officer because I tried to get away at first. I didn’t
know they were cops.
I remember seeing my dad walk into the police station. I was just sitting there, really mad. I
thought I would get out.
What happened next? I don’t remember. I have to look at the notes we wrote down. I
The prison was dirty and cold. I don’t remember everything.
I think I just want to move on, not talk about it anymore.
Miles’ Father’s Story
I’ve taken Ball State architecture students to New Orleans 17 or 18 times since Hurricane
Katrina. My son Miles has come along three times. He is a senior in high school.
On this trip, I dropped the students off at Café du Monde, and I told them to walk through
the French Quarter, that I would meet them after I checked into the hotel. I told them, “when
you all get to Bourbon Street and St. Peter’s, I want you to cut through a locally famous
restaurant/bar establishment, so you can see the courtyard there.” Miles is underage, so I said,
“Miles, while the students are passing through the bar, I want you to walk around the corner
to the other side and meet them there.”
I’ve thought about that so many times since. What if I’d been more explicit?
Miles walked to the opposite side of the block. He didn’t understand that I meant just one
quarter of the way around. He couldn’t find the group, so he walked up and down the street
looking. Then the students called me, and the faculty member accompanying the students
texted me to say they’d lost Miles. So, I called Miles, and he said, “Oh, I’m right here on the
corner of Saint —” and then he yelled.
I wanted to think someone had bumped into him or that he’d dropped the phone. I called
back three times, and each time someone answered the phone and hung up. I called my mobile
phone provider to see if someone had been using the phone or if the phone could be located.
The provider indicated that there had been no outgoing calls and that location services were
turned off; thus, they were not able to assist in locating the phone.
I called the police and said, “I think my son was mugged.” They responded by asking if
I wanted to file a missing person’s report. They then transferred me to the French Quarter
precinct, and they informed me they had my son. I was so happy, and I rushed down there.
Upon arriving, I found Miles sitting behind the main desk, in handcuffs, on a bench just
staring ahead. I’d never seen him look like that. He looked through me.
I asked, “Why is my son in handcuffs?” And the officer replied, “Your son assaulted a police
officer.” I said, “No, that’s not possible.”
Miles is an unusually sweet kid. I’ve never even heard him raise his voice.
The policeman said, “we have reason to believe your son was involved in a drug deal,” and
I said, “that’s not possible. We’ve been in New Orleans for 20 minutes. He’s a high school
student from Indiana, and we are here with students from Ball State University on a field trip.
They just got out of the car a few minutes ago.”
They said they had a description and that Miles had been following undercover officers
involved in a drug bust for an extended period of time. I said again, “that’s not possible. We
just got here.”
I asked to speak to someone in charge, and while I was talking to him they took Miles away
in a van. Miles is 18. He is considered an adult. I asked where they took him, and they gave me
an address to the notorious Orleans Parish Prison. I drove for nearly two hours trying to find
the jail. They’d given me the wrong address. Finally I found it, and I was there until midnight.
They told me there would be a hearing the next day at three o’clock, and there was no way I
could see my son before then.
We were delayed in arriving at the municipal court, because the Orleans Parish Prison staff had
provided me with an incorrect location for the hearing. When we arrived, Miles had already been
seated in the courtroom. His feet and hands had been chained like those of a hardened criminal, and
he was chained to someone who was charged with attempted murder. Miles later indicated that it
was because they had a shortage of handcuffs. The students all witnessed this mockery of justice.
They’d become pretty close to Miles and were deeply affected . . .deeply affected.
During the hearing, I was able to approach the bench, and I explained how we’d just arrived
in New Orleans on a field study and college visit. I pleaded to the judge to release Miles and
not to allow the New Orleans Criminal Justice system to ruin the life of yet another black
male. The judge said this was just to set bail, and then he lectured the students about not
partying and getting into trouble. It was awful.
The prosecutor proposed a $25,000 bail. The public defender proposed reducing the bail to
$10,000. The judged issued a $2,500 bail; however, upon realizing that Miles was a high school
student, he reduced the bail to $1,000, so we paid $100 cash bond. After the hearing, they took
Miles back to the prison. It took another 12 hours before they ultimately released him.
While I sat there waiting for hours, I reflected on people like Sandra Bland whose family
couldn’t scrape together $500 to get her out. And I’m thinking about all the others in the
Orleans Parish Prison, waiting for a trial date because they couldn’t come up with money for
bail. I’m thinking about the police officers’ smugness. I thought about the time I had a gun
put to my head by a policeman when I was the same age as Miles. I also thought about other
run-ins I had with the police. I’ve been pulled over and screamed at by officers on the Fallen
Heroes Memorial Bridge – a memorial I had volunteered to design on their behalf. I recalled
having my luggage dumped out of the car, having my baby daughter pulled out of her car seat,
so they could search for drugs I didn’t have. I was thinking about all the times we came down
here to volunteer to help the people of New Orleans rebuild. I was thinking how fortunate I
was that Miles wasn’t tased or shot.
And I thought about how this otherwise wonderful field trip was destroyed by ignorance,
stupidity, hatred, and racial profiling.
Am I coming back to New Orleans? No time soon. Not New Orleans.
But I tell the students, it could have happened anywhere in these United States. This is not
law enforcement. It’s apartheid.
My son wants to forget what happened. I’ve seen that trying to forget doesn’t change anything.
I’ve seen that in my own life. I want justice. I want an apology.
Defense attorneys were successful in getting the case against Miles dismissed. The family is
now seeking to have the record expunged.
I See Things More Clearly Now
Fred Long’s story by Beth Messner
Fred is 55 years old.
My family moved here in the 1950s from Mississippi looking for jobs. I was born here
and lived in Muncie almost all my life. I went to Muncie Central High School and played
on the basketball team. When I finished school in 1979, I worked a couple of jobs—one
in meatpacking and one at Ball Hospital. Then I got a good job at BorgWarner that
lasted over 23 years. Me and my wife, Glenda, we have four kids between us. All four
were raised here.
When I was in school, I knew about racism. But I didn’t take it as seriously as now. Me
and my friends were just kids. We were into girls and sports. We weren’t really into the
race stuff. We did know that you didn’t date outside your race. But, if people called us
names, we just didn’t pay it no attention. Even one of the biggest things that happened
to us, me and my friends just laughed off…
We was playing a basketball game at Blackford. We were a good team, really good.
Over half of us was African-American. We were beating Blackford pretty bad. One of
our guys laid up the ball and scored. When he turned to come back down the court,
someone in the bleachers behind the basket grabbed him and threw him into the crowd.
All we saw was fists flying and him trying to cover himself up. Coach Harrell jumped
up and made us all go to the shower room. We didn’t know what was happening with
our teammate. He finally came into the showers and was laughing. He had knots all over
him. When they finally let us come back out, they had police all around the court. Coach
Harrell said we were never coming back there again. Now, as I look back on it, I realize
how serious it was, how bad our teammate could have been hurt. But, back then, with
us being young, we was just laughing.
Now, as an adult, I look around and see things differently. Like the situation with jobs.
What I see on a day-to-day basis, sometimes I don’t think it represents Muncie.
I worked for BorgWarner for 23 ½ years. That was a real good job. Good pay and
benefits. A pretty diverse company too. I only had a few run-ins with racists. Mostly
name-calling and stuff like that. That job really took care of me and my family. Planned
to retire from there with a good pension. But they closed down.
When I had to get back in the job market, that’s when I seen it . . . the discrimination.
I was looking for jobs that were similar and paid similar. I would apply, then not get it.
I had over 20 years of experience. Then I would see who was hired, people who had less
years in than me, people who was a different color than me. I may be wrong, but I’m just
going from what I see.
I tried for a job at Ball State. They were hiring for lawn care positions. So I talked to
a guy there, pitched my qualifications, told him how I had a landscape business. I didn’t
get a call. They hired someone else. Then it happened again and again at the same place
with the same kind of job. Finally, I got someone to help me and I got an interview. The
guy said, “So you know how to drive a mower?”
They set up a course and I drove the course.
He said, “Okay, you been on a mower.”
Didn’t even check my resume! I did get a job offer, but it was for a part-time,
temporary job. Me with over 20 years of experience and my own landscape business! It
was just something.
Then I started looking around town. I didn’t see too many other African-Americans
getting hired either. In particular, I noticed the people working for the utility companies.
Their employees are out and around a lot. I could see them digging up a road for a water
leak, or setting up service at a house, or up on a ladder beside a utility pole. I only saw
one African-American guy. All the rest I was seeing was white men. I thought: Wow!
You’re in the community, and you’re serving the community, but you’re not representing
the community. Is nobody Black qualified?
I emailed a lady from a utility company. I told her what I saw in the Muncie area and asked if
they were making any attempt to hire African-Americans. The lady said, “I’ll get back to you
on that.” She never did.
For places like that, I’m pretty sure their hiring practices have been like that for quite some
time. But what happens when they got the discrimination exposed? What are they going to do
about it? They would probably say, “Well, we’ll make an effort to do something.”
I don’t understand this. My thinking is that since you know you been doing wrong, then
you not only need to fix it for now and the future, but you need to make up for all the times
you done wrong in the past. Maybe the next ten people you hire should be African-American
or Hispanic. I’m sure someone will say, “Oh no, you can’t do that!” But you can’t just brush
aside the past! Maybe I don’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s just the way I see it. And I
think I’m seeing things more clearly now.
Another Kind of Racism
Matt Bailey’s story as told to Barbara Miller
Tonikia Steans’ story by Anna Groover
Tonikia is 41 years old.
I was born and raised here in Muncie, Indiana, and it has been my foundation for
most of my life.
I’m a licensed insurance agent and a certified life coach.
The way I was raised wasn’t black or white, it was individuality. Racism was
never really a topic of discussion growing up because we have all nationalities in
our family. I’m a black American.
My grandparents felt that white people were superior to black people. My
grandfather would always tell me, “You always are going to have to work for the
white man. You always have to work for someone white.” I was just like, why do
you always say that? Because I always wanted to run my own business. And he
always said, “You will never run your own business. You will always work for
somebody white.” That always rubbed me the wrong way, because it’s just not true.
I had a job when I got out of high school at a chair factory. There were people
there who didn’t take too kindly to black people, I remember. I can walk into a
room and get along with anybody, but that was the first time I was faced with
someone who didn’t like me because of my skin color. I moved up to supervisor,
and some of the girls didn’t like that too well because they didn’t move up. I never
thought it was because of anything other than my work ethic that got me moved
up. I don’t remember any words, it was so long ago, but I just know the treatment
and the shortness and how they acted toward me.
For me, racism is subtle things that you realize but can overlook, like being passed
up for certain positions or told that you’re not ready for a position when you have
way more qualifications than someone else who gets the job. Or being told amongst
white counterparts that I’m the whitest black person they know because of the way
I talk and act—as if being intelligent is only a white thing. Truthfully, I’ve never
used race as a reason to say that I’ve been hurt or shunned. I’ve never looked at it
like that, because I’ve always tried to see the bigger picture. If there’s something I
want to do, I’m capable of it and I have just as much right to do it as anyone else.
Sometimes, people tell me to “calm down.” I am calm. Do you want me to
whisper? You know, like black women have attitudes or they’re going to get all
snippity-snappity. I’m the only black person at my job, and I think that makes a
big difference. At work, for instance, there’s a white girl there who is really out of
control. She yells at people, she confronts people, the whole nine.She gets away
with murder, and I don’t even think they realize it. But if I say something back, I
need to be talked to. Not only that, but I had to have HR come in and talk to me
and ask me if I felt like I had self-control.
I did have a lady one time who called in because her daughter, my client, was
stuck on the highway. Her daughter and I had a really good customer-service agent
relationship. Anyway, her mom called me, so I said, “Okay, let me see what I can do
to help,” and she just started yelling at me for no reason and even used racial slurs
against me. At that point, I was just like, “Okay, ma’am, I was trying to help you
here.” I still tried to help her. Later, I got to talk to her daughter. I told her what had
happened, and she said, “I cannot believe she talked to you like that because my
child is black.” She has a black grandchild, and for her to say something like that…
it’s devastating. It shook me up a little bit, because there’s no reason for that.
I have a step-son, and he’s 20. He’s a very good kid, but he has braids in his hair. I’ll never
forget the neighbor that lived across the street from us when he was younger. She would treat
him like he was a little thug. He was very respectful, but because he had braids in his hair,
she was looking at him like he was something that he’s not. I didn’t appreciate that, because
she didn’t know this young man. She didn’t know his character, what he is really built of, but
because of an outward appearance, she automatically assumed that he was bad. Why does it
have to be that someone’s skin color defines how they’re going to act?
My daughter is light skinned and she has long hair. She goes to school, and she comes
home and she’s like, “Mom, am I mixed? Am I Mexican? People ask me every day what color
I am or why my hair is long.” And I say, “Your grandmother is five shades darker than you
and her hair is just as long as yours. I mean, that’s just the type of hair you have. You got it
from your dad’s side of the family.” Why does this have to be an issue? I don’t agree with
that. It’s disheartening.
I tell my daughter, regardless of what anybody says, you have to love yourself. And nobody
in this world is better than you are. She loves everybody, and we try not to live in a world of
“white people are bad” or anything like that because I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I
don’t think that white people are bad. I don’t think that black people are bad. I think that there
are people who do things that are bad, and there are people who do things that are good.
Who’s on Your Team?
Renae Mayes’ story by Taylor Wicker
Renae is 30 years old.
I played basketball all through junior high. Like most people’s middle school
experiences, there was a group of girls on my team who were at the top of the social
hierarchy, the girls who, for some unknown reason, had all the power, and for some
reason (also unknown) they did not like me.
It’s easy to separate the reasons why someone might be targeted in the way I was: did
these girls not like me for what I was, or for what I wasn’t? Did they not like me because
I didn’t look like them or because I didn’t look like anyone in our community?
The truth is that those two things go hand in hand. Growing up in a predominantly
white community, I know it was because I was different. I am black, and I can only
assume their negative feelings towards me were, in part, because of the color of my
skin and that it didn’t happen match their own. But it wasn’t just that they didn’t
like me, it’s that they made those feelings known by actively excluding me. The
normal camaraderie one feels from being part of a team was taken from me by these
girls, and both me and my close friend felt the sting of that rejection. Inside jokes,
team activities, the social dynamic of playing a sport together for multiple seasons
was something my friend and I were, for some reason, not allowed to experience.
Every game day, it was one person’s job to bring snacks. I can’t remember who
we played that one particular game, but I can remember whose turn it was to bring
the food. This girl, whose mom was a dermatologist, brought something extra to the
game: a small bag with each player’s name on it. It was a sweet gesture, from the
outside. Here, my name written right on the side of the bag, was an opportunity for
this girl to be kind to me for once. Here, she had a chance to treat me the same way
she treated our other teammates.
But when I opened the bag, I found that the contents were not as kind as I would’ve
hoped they’d be. Makeup, specifically foundation, made for a white woman’s pale skin,
rested at the bottom. What was I supposed to do with these? Did she realize the message
she was sending with this “gift?”
You’re different, the make up said. And you don’t fit in.
Later, after the season ended, during a post-season scrimmage, the same girl tackled
me so hard I tore a ligament in my ankle. Moving for months with crutches beneath my
arms, I was done playing basketball.
We first moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma, where my teammates gave me a taste
of what battles lie ahead, when I was in sixth grade. In school, despite being “gifted,”
for all intents and purposes, I was put in the normal class. The distinction of excelling
academically, as well as being involved in sports, only bolstered how “different” my
classmates viewed me. I was new, I was intelligent, I was athletic, I was black, and I was
living in a predominantly white community again, and that combination of things put
me in a vulnerable place.
When I say that I grew up in a predominantly white community, I mean that my parents
and brothers and sister were one of only two black families in my school. Because of
that, when we moved in, it somehow became clear that our family and the other black
family were now, for some reason, directly linked in our community’s minds. I was not
my own person. I was not offered a fresh slate. Because of the community’s naivety, or
perhaps their learned racism, I immediately inherited all of thafamily’s history. Despite
being complete strangers, the two black families in the community were casually thrown
together without even a second thought.
I come from a first generation middle class family, so moving to the Oklahoma suburbs
wasn’t just a new experience for me, but for my parents, too. When we moved from New
Mexico, it was instilled in us that anything my brothers, sister, and I needed we could find at
home. Despite being a typical kid and feeling those rebellious tendencies, my family became
my safe haven. They were my team. The outside community became territory that didn’t
offer what I needed. “They will fail you,” my parents said, who were learning the dynamics of
being a minority at the same time we were. “We will not.” It was through my family that I first
learned the importance of always having a community of my own.
I went to University of Missouri to study Math Education and I loved it. I loved what I
was learning, I loved learning all the different ways to teach, the different types of pedagogy.
But despite enjoying my time there, I noticed that there wasn’t a space to teach diversity
in education, and based on my experiences, I knew that it mattered. I knew, from personal
experience, that being a student of color and having that identity swept under the rug, it was so
very, very important, so very vital, to a student’s education that we do have those conversations.
But we never talked about it.
That propelled me to seek out new experiences where those conversations were happening,
and that’s part of why I ended up in the D.C. area. I was pursuing a master’s degree in a program
that was focused on social justice and urban school counseling. Before then, I wouldn’t call
myself a person in urban ed, but getting thrown into a school with more people of color, and
very critically aware white people, was an amazing experience. When I think about my time in
D.C., I became a different kind of black. There, I wasn’t “the black student,” and I didn’t feel
the need to be a spokesperson, but rather I added to lots of different kinds of narratives about
what it means to be a person of color. I met people from all different backgrounds with all
different kinds of stories to tell, and through them I learned more and more about who I was.
— • —
Once I realized how messed up some people really are, it became easier to distance myself
from the racism that is still very much a part of today’s culture. Once I realized that the racist
remarks people made were more about them and what’s going on in their heads than it was
about me, everything became a little easier to deal with. Being a part of any group that can be
marginalized or oppressed, you have to learn how to do that, how to distance yourself. If you
spend your time addressing all the things people do or say or believe, all the things that are so
incredibly wrong, you will never live a happy life.
There’s this theory called critical race theory, and part of it is this idea that racism or
oppression in any form will always exist. It’s about power and control, and it’s our job to keep
fighting that. I choose the venue I will fight in. I fight it in schools. I fight it there because that’s
where I needed it the most when I was a student. I fight it there because that would’ve made
all the difference in my life, in my youth, in growing up and learning my identity and being
proud of who I was. I talk to my students about it. I help them have a critical consciousness
that they take with them to the classroom. I focus on giving them the skill set they need in
order to continue fighting that. That’s where the battlefield is for me: in schools. And it’s in
schools, and in the classroom, where I will continue to fight.
The Need to Belong: The Life of a Muslim in America
Heather Gilvary-Hamad’s story by Angela Jackson-Brown
Heather is 46 years old.
There are certain topics, as a Muslim…as a Muslim woman…that I am tired of addressing.
Conversations about hijab. Exhausting. Conversations about whether or not Muslims
should apologize for the actions of terrorists who claim to be Muslims. Unfair and
exhausting. Conversations about whether or not Muslim women are downtrodden and
under the thumbs of their husbands. Absolutely wrong and emotionally draining that
continually Muslim women have to explain that not only are we not downtrodden, we
are revered and highly respected by our husbands and families.
At the same time, although I am tired of talking about the same issues over and over,
I understand the conversations still need to occur [be had], particularly now when
potential political leaders say things like, “We need databases for Muslims,” or “We
should exclude Muslims from specific activities.”
So, we sometimes roll our eyes when it is just “us” together, but at the end of the day
we know that we have to continue the dialogue because, in some cases, our lives depend
Yes, talking about hijab can be frustrating. I personally don’t wear hijab on a regular
basis, because we, as Muslims, know that it is not accepted by many non-Muslims. If I
put on hijab, I worry that maybe I risk violent attitudes or negative responses from total
strangers in the grocery store or the mall. Some people feel it is their right to comment
on our attire, which is amazing to me. They don’t get that it is rude. It is the equivalent
of me asking a Christian, “Why are you wearing that cross?”
That is just not something I or any Muslim would do. Until I wore hijab and felt the
eyes on me, I didn’t understand what other Muslim women meant when they would
say, “They are staring at me in public when I wear hijab.” Before I wore hijab, I would
think, well, maybe you misinterpreted the stares, or maybe they really aren’t staring,
or maybe it is more curiosity than animosity. But once I became that one person in the
room who was doing something different like wearing hijab, I felt the fear that other
Muslim women speak about.
And I come to find that fear is a constant in the lives of Muslims. Whether it is the way
we dress or just the ordeal of traveling. . .we can’t get away from fear. The last time my
family and I crossed the border, we were visiting my husband’s brother in Canada. We
drove across the border on the day we stopped fasting for Ramadan. We had breakfast,
prayers, and then we packed up. However, when we got to the border, preparing to
cross over into Detroit, we were stopped for no less than four to five hours. Our car was
searched, and my husband was taken to the back room. Before going to the back room,
the officer put a glove on his hand, and instantly I knew what was about to happen.
My husband did not see the officer put the glove on his hand. My children didn’t
understand what was happening. My husband went into the room with the officer, and
I felt sick to my stomach. When he came out, my husband was almost deathly pale from
the humiliation he had just endured. My son instantly started questioning, “Baba what
happened to you? What did they do to you?” And I was like, “Hush. Baba doesn’t want
to talk about what just happened to him in there.”
I knew it would be too humiliating. And then to have the officer, after hours of
detaining us, say, “Well, there was a misunderstanding. You can go ahead and go.”
We hadn’t eaten during this whole ordeal. This was the first day of the month during
daylight hours that we could eat during the day, and so we were sitting there for all of
those hours with our kids, after having told them earlier that day that, “Oh, today is a
holiday, a celebration,” yet we were allowed no food, no drinks, and no bathroom visits
We had told the kids that once we crossed the border we would get lunch in Detroit. But
there we were, four or five hours later, very hungry, very tired, and the last thing we wanted to
do was to stop. We wanted to get as far away from the border as we could. So the kids were in
the back, saying, “We want to eat. We want to eat.” We were like, “Sorry guys. We need to get
out of here.” We wanted to get the experience as far away from us as we physically could.
Since then, my husband has tried to make sure he was clear to fly with airports and Customs
before he attempted to fly to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but, of course, we were
told there is no guarantee, so we don’t fly anywhere together as a family. If we want to go on
vacation it has to be somewhere we can all get into the car and drive to because there is no
more crossing the border for us. So it limits our ability to visit with his family. It’s tragic,
but, sadly, it is the new normal for Muslim families.
I want my children to live in a place where they can interact with diverse populations of
people, whether they be Muslims or someone else…maybe Jewish, maybe Hindu, maybe
Atheist, maybe gay, maybe Black, maybe Hispanic. My children need to be out there interacting
with all of different types of people because that is the world they are going to work and live
in in the future.
So, I say to non-Muslims…we are just like you. We want the same things for ourselves and
our families that you want for yours, and that is the freedom to love and live in peace.
A Long Road Travelled
Charles Payne’s story by Steve Knote
Charles is 74 years old.
Education is the key to escape the bonds of racism. Both society and individuals must
be educated to overcome the destruction of racism.
My parents’ skin color was extremely light and they were college graduates so I did
not experience racism to the same degree as many of my friends. But since we were
still “Negroes or colored,” terms used back then, we experienced racism every day of
our lives-in terms of what schools we went to and the quality and conditions of those
schools. We were confined to certain neighborhoods, limited to the same menial jobs
and had to follow the same Jim Crow laws.
One of the many unwritten rules we had to follow was to never touch a white person
under any circumstances, so when meeting a group of whites on the sidewalk, especially
females or young white males determined to make contact and cause problems, it was
easier and less threatening to walk in the street to avoid even incidental contact. And
when we paid for goods at a store, we would have to lay the money on the counter. If
there was change, the clerk would place it on the counter or throw it back. This was true
for adults as well as children.
Living conditions in the Jim Crow South meant growing up in white-owned housing.
There was no government housing and many blacks lived in rental homes (shacks)
that belonged to whites. The community was divided into quarters, and each quarter
was named after the white man who owned the houses. However, my parents were
teachers and we owned our home, along with a few other families, in the much smaller
In the segregated black schools there were never enough books or materials, including
text books. All of our text books were second hand books from the white school. Our
books were always 5-7 years or longer behind the white students. It was against the law
to teach black history. One of our teachers would slip and teach us some black history.
Whenever he did this, we couldn’t take notes in order that no record would exist. All
books had a space to write the race of the student to whom it was issued. The book cards
for black students were in the back of the book. In the space for race we were supposed
to write “nigger.” However, we had been instructed to write a capital N, for Negro.
However, the white superintendent had been tipped off to this avoidance of writing the
N word, and one day the superintendent visited to inspect our books. “What is this ‘N’
here?” He asked the black principal. “What does this ‘N’ stand for?” He then stated,
“Give them a pen; I want every one of you to write what that is. I want you to write
‘nigger’ in the back of that book.”
I have never forgotten the look of humiliation on our principal’s face.
Segregation was slow to change. Television helped it along because everyone could
now see what black leaders were saying about the brutal conditions in the South.
Television was to the civil rights movement what body cams today are to police abuse.
I was on a Trailways bus on the Sunday evening James Meredith entered Ole Miss. I was
returning to my home town, Philadelphia MS from Holly Springs, MS, a town about 30
miles from Oxford, where Ole Miss is located, Meredith’s entry was being broadcasted
on radio and television, As such many whites were demonstrating throughout all of the
little towns in the vicinity, parading in their cars with very large rebel flags waving and
horn blowing and supposedly looking for blacks. The bus stopped in New Albany and
the driver got out of the bus and locked the door. I didn’t know if I was being “locked
in,” or if the angry whites were being locked out. A couple of the fellows approached
the driver and said something to him, and I saw him shake his head saying no. I assumed
they had asked him if there were any blacks on the bus. I witnessed the driver stating
that there was no one on the bus. The driver may have very well saved my life that day.
I also realized that he had also put his own life in jeopardy if they had found out he had
lied to them.
In 1968 I left Mississippi Valley State College (an Historically Black College) as a chemistry
instructor to enter a graduate program in chemistry at a predominantly white university in
the south. I was recruited by a white fellow who had just become department chair of the
chemistry department. What I didn’t know when I went there was that he was viewed as a
Yankee by the faculty in the department, and he was also not a popular choice. One of his goals
was to integrate the department, so I became his guinea pig.
In one class we were told to choose lab partners. While all of the white students immediately
distanced themselves from me, one fellow, a white undergraduate honor student, agreed to
work with me. We completed multiple labs to only get a grade of “C” on each report. When
my partner inquired, the professor stated, “You ought to watch your partner as he might
be messing up your stuff.” My partner stated, “Charles has not done anything wrong, he is
probably helping me.” When my partner expressed concern about the effect this would have
on his graduate school aspirations, I told him he had shown me who he was as a person. I told
him not to sacrifice himself that the professor was out to get me, so partner with some other
guys. His first lab report without me and with a white partner, received an “A.”
When I came to Ball State during my first year, when I would leave my class, two of my
white colleagues always seemed to be watching me every day. I became suspicious that they
were somehow trying to evaluate me. One day two of the white males in the class told me
that these two colleagues met them on campus and asked them about me. “Does he appear to
know what he is talking about? Is he prepared for class, and does he treat you all fairly? “So
the next day I went to class and I intentionally left the door open. About half way through
class I walked over to the door and looked out. There they were listening to me teach. So I
waved to them, and I said to myself, if they want to hear good teaching continue standing out
there. Five years later one of those colleagues admitted to me what he was doing then. So, I
asked him what finally convinced him that I was competent. He said it took him five years
of listening to me to be convinced I was competent. I thought to myself five years is an awful
long time to wait on someone to make a mistake. In that same conversation, he confirmed that
he and the other colleague appointed themselves to “observe” me for five years to make sure I
was competent. That’s a long time for somebody to be under the microscope.
These days I am very careful before I assign racism to something unfavorable that happens to
me. For example, I have two attributes that can also cause people to react to me in disrespectful
ways. Those my age, 74, and I walk with a cane. This is important to me because I can deal
with the first two in a rational way, but once I think someone has done something to me
because of race, if I am not careful, I can become too emotional and irrational. In my opinion
too much emotion can become counterproductive.
I think things are getting better, although it appears to be regressing at times. I think the
short view is that we have not improved, but from the long view, we have improved quite a
bit. It is difficult for one African-American to answer for all other African-Americans. There
were many African-American experiences. Those having become middle class probably get
along very well, as life is typically better than those still trapped in levels of poverty. It’s crucial
that those who make it into the middle class don’t forget where we came from. As black
professionals leave the community, they are less available to help lift and inspire those without
academic aspirations and social sensitivities.
When one asks these days if “we” are better off, it definitely makes a difference which
African American is being asked.
I Prefer to Be Called Muriel
Muriel Weeden’s story by Levi Todd
Muriel is 75 years old.
I grew up in Muncie in the 1940s, which was very segregated when I was a girl.
Discrimination in public was the norm. Black people weren’t allowed to eat at lunch
counters downtown. We knew we were allowed at the skating rink only at certain times,
the times when less white folks were there. In middle school I wasn’t allowed a role in the
Christmas play because my teacher said there weren’t any black people in the Nativity.
They did let me act in the Easter play in the role of a woman that I later realized was a
prostitute. Everyone knew that Muncie was a hotbed for the KKK. The mayor, lawyers,
public officials—you knew they were in positions of power around the town. You just dealt
When I graduated high school, I enrolled in the Indiana Business College in downtown
Muncie. The program guaranteed a job after graduation. I was one of only two black
women in the program. The other woman was placed in a doctor’s office, but they told me
that no other offices were hiring black people in Muncie. They said there was a position in
Indianapolis, but I told them, “I don’t live there. I live in Muncie.” I wanted to stay where
my home was.
Eventually a friend told me about a position working in housekeeping at the local hospital. She
told me to go to the supervisor and tell her that I wanted to save up to go back to school—which
I did, years later—and I was hired. I worked weekends cleaning bathrooms and patients’ rooms,
usually by myself since my partner was always slacking off.
At that time the Muncie NAACP was negotiating with the local phone company to
hire their first person of color to work in their office. The phone company argued that
black people only wanted to work for their housekeeping staff, and none were applying
for positions in the office anyway. They also said that no person of color had passed the
test necessary for applications, leaving out the fact that they didn’t even offer to test them.
Eventually, through negotiations with the NAACP, they said that if a black person could
pass the test, they would open up office positions to them. I was referred by a friend to the
President of the Muncie NAACP, and he encouraged me to take the test. I passed with high
marks and was the first black woman hired in Muncie to be a long-distance operator.
When I came to my first day of training, I was told to sit at the end of the board where the
lines were set up. Back then if you wanted to make a long-distance call, you had to have an
operator connect it to wherever you were calling. It wasn’t easily automated like it is now.
There were wires everywhere and phones ringing constantly. There was a row of stools
down the aisle. No partitions or cubicles for privacy. My supervisor kept making comments
during my training like “We just weren’t ready for you” or “We just don’t quite know what
to do with you.” She never explained how they had to get ready for me, or what different
circumstances had to be changed to accommodate me.
When I finally passed training and was able to take an open seat at the board, the white
women seemed unsettled by my presence. It was clear that I was the first black person they
had actually spoken to and interacted with. I learned quickly that if I so much as coughed
or sneezed, they’d go complain to our supervisor that I was making too much noise or that
they were worried they would catch something from me. Although it annoyed me, I was
never too bothered by their comments.
My parents raised me with a strong sense of pride and knowledge about black history. I
actually thought that as a person of color, I had an advantage. I was forced to adapt to white
people’s culture and learned how to interact with them. My coworkers were never put in
circumstances where they were the only white person in a room, and they never had to
learn about my culture the way I had to learn about theirs. I was comfortable around white
people and knew how to manage myself, and I saw that as an advantage.
The white women were always nervous about asking me, “What do we call you? Do
you prefer ‘colored’ or ‘negro’?” They didn’t even know how to speak around me. I
always answered, “I prefer to be called ‘Muriel’.” I think what people don’t realize is that
underneath it all, we’re basically all the same, with the same hopes and desires and dreams.
But in order to realize that, we have to get together and talk to one another. And call each
other by our names.
Sink or Swim; in Code
Ruby Cain’s story by Aimee Robertson-Fant
Ruby is 64 years old.
I didn’t know what to do.
My sister and I were walking home from school and saw the police swarming around
my father in our driveway. They were there to arrest him.
Looking into my father’s face, I understood that something unjust was happening to
him, right in front of our eyes, but I was too young to understand just what that was; I
was only 9, my sister, 8. What could we do? With as much dignity as he could gather, he
unlocked the door, told us to go into the house and call our mom at work.
I called. Through confusion, tears and hysteria, I tried to relay to her the police were
taking our father away. I could barely find my words.
He didn’t argue with them. He was stoic and calm, for us, but inside he must have
been broken and humiliated.
They took him to jail, under false arrest.
My father was a city bus driver, a law-abiding citizen, and never even received a traffic
ticket. We later learned the bank robber looked nothing like my father in height, build,
nor complexion; the only common and distinguishing characteristic between my father
and this bank robber was their race; they were both black men.
I lived in Detroit during the riots of 1967 and 68, through all the curfews, violence, the
“blind pig” raid headlines, and property destruction. As a young girl, I read all about it
in the paper. My parents and others talked about the 20 black men found at the bottom
of the Detroit River.
I read about and listened to others talk about a black man walking from home to the
bus station to work third shift. He did not know the city was under curfew. The police
told him to stop, but he was deaf and could not hear the command. They riddled him
with bullets, in his back. He presented no threat. He was just a black man who was deaf,
going to work.
While our family was stopped at a red light, we saw in the adjacent alley, 3 police
officers beating a black, possibly, homeless man who was begging them to stop. Who do
you call when there is a disturbance, a violent attack? You call the police. But what if the
attackers are the police?
These experiences with police were in stark contrast to the other experiences in my
childhood of a predominantly segregated and nurturing family, neighborhood, church,
and school. We knew all police officers were not hostile, but we did not know if an
encounter would be position or negative. Decades later, as I reflect back, no one could
or would even be willing to report this dark side of blue culture, not like today.
As an African American girl (living in Detroit) blue code was among the first codes I
would learn and as one of the first female African American leaders in the Information
Technology field, I would learn many codes.
Moving to the North from the South was disorienting. It was easier to live among the
overt South vs. the covert North. In the South many decades ago, you knew exactly
what you were dealing with; whites who didn’t care for blacks wouldstay away and
not try to pretend. When my family moved to Detroit, where there was neighborhood
and subdivision de Facto segregation and red-lining; we felt more like immigrants than
Americans, having lived in Camden, Arkansas, where everyone knows everyone on
your block, there was sense of community and we knew who our friends were and who
they were not.
Fast forward. As a young African American woman, college graduate, I decided to enter the
Information Technology field. I unknowingly blazed a new trail, but not before I was left to sink
or swim, with no mentor and no guidance; left to my own devices-my own mathematical mind
and my own two hands and feet; there are barriers placed in your way – you learn how find a
way around them quickly or have the doors close the doors in your face.
Of course, everyone has help along the way. My help, nurture, and guidance, came from
family, church, and friends, mostly, outside of the workplace. They believed in me. They
encouraged me all the way through my doctoral studies.
I came to Indiana at the beginning of my evolving IT career for an interview conducted by 3 white
men. Although I interviewed well and answered many irrelevant questions I was not offered the job
because they said I was “overqualified.” Interestingly enough, a number of years later this company
faced a lawsuit for discrimination and ended up moving from the state.
What I found along the way in my IT positions is that no one actively tried to sabotage me.
Instead, they gave me nearly impossible assignments that I had to figure out on my own while
providing a roadmap and guidance to my Caucasian counterparts. I was first to arrive to work
and last to leave, many days.
I was tested over and over. I just made myself irreplaceable and developed skills no one else
had. This is how I swam. I could write my own ticket and won several regional and national
awards through the course of my career. I was named the most successful data processing
information project manager in both Arkansas and California.
Today, I am in Indiana and have followed my drive to be an educator. I have taught at Ball
State and in Fort Wayne, and today, I have focused my energy on healing internalized and
institutional racism through shared understanding. There is still a sense of unearned privilege,
if not by class, but by the fact that most institutions are run by whites, but not built by them.
It will take time for this to be right-sided and our due diligence is to have patience with equal
We can’t just put things into nice, neat boxes, and construct a “things not to say” list or
worse, say that we are colorblind. If you are colorblind, you don’t see me. I am not allowed to
forget I am a person of color, nor will I ever want to.
We have to stop censoring ourselves when we speak to one another. It’s okay to make
mistakes. I have learned that you must ask questions to grow. You must stop believing someone
doesn’t like me because they aren’t “like” me. We must understand “the why”; always make
sure you understand why we are different and why we are the same. So often we are afraid
of saying the wrong things when speaking to and trying to crack the code of our differences,
particularly surrounding race relations.
Speak up. Ask the questions.
You do not have to be the savior to make a difference - just be one of the foot soldiers.
For me, I just learn the codes and keep swimming.
Vivian Morrison’s story by Sherri Beaty
Vivian is 60 years old.
I’m black, so I live in a time warp. I live in the same year, the same decade, the same
century as everyone else, but I also live in this strange and terrifying universe where one
false step, one wrong word, can send you sliding down uncontrollably into that time
warp where Jim Crow still runs the show.
In that place, no one sees who you are in your community. They don’t see you
volunteering, or teaching, or helping your neighbors and your family. They don’t see the
years you spent pursuing your education or supporting a local church. They don’t see you
loving your children and doing your best to be a good mother. They only see that you are
black, and suddenly, for you, it looks like 2013, but it feels and sounds like 1930.
I had no idea it would turn out the way it did. Maybe I never would have made that
phone call in the first place if I had known. But I knew this person; we had met before.
She knew my family and I trusted her.
I didn’t call 911. It wasn’t an emergency. It was just a family dispute and because I
knew this officer, and she had met both me and Toni (my adult daughter), I knew she
could talk to Toni in a way that maybe she could hear. Cops do that all the time, right?
Toni wanted to use my car to go visit some people I didn’t know and they didn’t look
like nice people to me. I couldn’t stop her from going, but she was NOT taking my car.
Since Toni wasn’t listening, I called dispatch and asked for this police officer by name.
When she first showed up, I was relieved. Then I saw the four black and whites trailing
in behind her. My heart was in my throat and my stomach at the same time. Why were
there four additional cars? This was not a domestic violence call. No one was being
threatened. I hadn’t called 911.
The first officer got out of her car and said to the other officers, “It’s OK, I don’t need
you.” But they didn’t leave. They were already walking toward us as they began putting
their gloves on. I knew what that meant. Somebody was going to jail today.
They grabbed Toni first, and she struggled, she is a big girl and she didn’t want to go to
jail, but she had not done anything for them to take her, so of course she was asking why
were they trying to arrest her?
Well, I’m a mother, and that is my daughter, and they just walked up and put their
hands on her, so I did move over to them to try to keep them from taking her, but I was
trying to talk to them too. I just wanted them to talk to us, but it was like they already
knew before they got there that they were taking us to jail. So the one officer grabbed
my arm and twisted it behind my back, and because I had a mastectomy, that was really
painful. He slammed me into my neighbor’s truck, and he threw me so hard it actually
did damage to the truck. He said in his police report that I caused injury to his arm.
Shoot. I didn’t hurt him.
They charged me with three counts: Battery Resulting in Bodily Injury; Resisting
Law Enforcement; and Disorderly Conduct. I had a bench trial, and I was found NOT
GUILTY on all three counts.
That judge knew what it was. Thank God he is a good man, and cares about doing
what is right. But what if he wasn’t?
The Anger is Mine
Richard McKinney’s story by Tom Steiner.
Richard is 48 years old.
I didn’t start out hating Islam. I grew into it. It was an anger that lived and fed off of itself
throughout my life. As my life unfolded, my anger flourished and dominated my life.
Anger got me an early discharge from the Marines. Anger garnered me a diagnoses
of PTSD that ended my military career. Ager led me to a failed attempt at professional
fighting. Anger fueled many confrontations and ended a career as guard at a local
prison. Anger was three wives and lots of trouble with the law. Anger was the seed of
As anger evolved into hatred it became as vital an organ as my heart. I was afraid to let
it go for fear it was the only thing keeping me alive. It is what got me up in the morning.
Hatred dictated my every thought. Anger slowly eroded every other emotion until
hatred was all I had left.
Hatred led me to a 55 gallon drum half filled with gas, half filled with oil, and two
burner phones for detonation. I had it all planned out. I was going to place it behind the
back stairs of the Islamic Center and set it off on a Friday during the Jumu’ah when the
place would be full. I would be parked across the street watching it all happen.
Nobody knew anything about my plans. This was going to be my statement and my
statement only. I knew I would be caught and that did not bother me. The bombing just
seemed that easy to do. I had learned a long time ago that it is easier to take a life when
you have no feelings for that person except anger and hatred.
The news probably would have blamed PTSD for my actions. However, those who
know, PTSD is triggered. PTSD is usually a spontaneous reaction. Bombing the center
was not just a thought on Monday and put into action on Friday. It was a plan that I had
been working on for several months. I put a lot of thought into it because I wanted to
do it right.
So, what stopped me?
My daughter was in grade school. She came home one day and told me about a
schoolmate of hers whose mother came to pick him up. She was wearing a burka and
hijab. I went off. I did not want my daughter around “those people.” She just looked at
me like I was crazy. She could not understand why I was so upset. And the light bulb
Hey, listen, you are screwing this girl’s life up. This is how prejudice gets passed on.
It was a moment of lucidity that I had not experienced before. But I had no idea what
to do next.
Like most Americans, everything I knew about Islam was based on the news, TV, and
the military. And then I did something I never thought I would do.
On a Friday, I walked into the Islamic Center and asked them to teach me what they
think and feel Islam is. I was given some brochures and sat in the back reading them.
Still in the grips of hatred, my first impression was that these brochures were nothing
I did not want to believe what I was reading. I wanted it to be lies. I wanted to see that
these people condoned murder and torture. I needed to see the uncaring of humanity.
At one point in the evening, I realized that all this had nothing to do with racism. It was
xenophobia. I was in a room full of Arabs and my only thoughts were of a picture of
me on CNN with a sword through my throat. How stupid was that? This is Midwest
America. Nothing like that happens here.
But the real change came when I was handed a Quran and told to read it. Open my mind
and just read it. That same night, a member sat at my feet professing his love of Islam. Maybe
there is something to this was all I could think of. Within a month and a half of planning to
blow up the Mosque, I was ready to convert. And I did. This was it, I needed to be a Muslim.
It suddenly felt like I could breath. It all made sense to me.
What compels me the most about my journey is all the hatred and anger that had been
festering in my body for so long has been replaced by twice as much love.
My life is changed. My family now stands beside me as Muslims and I have made it my life’s
work to help change the world I live in. My conversion has propelled me into a life of activism.
My future is to teach and try to change hatred and not just for Islam. There is hatred for so
much and there is no real reason for such hatred. In my opinion, hate stems from ignorance.
Everyone at the Mosque now knows about my plans to bomb the Islamic Center. Muslims
in this community feel safe here and the shock of thinking something like that could happen
in Muncie was hard to believe. Though it took several months for me to tell them, I wanted
them to know what Islam has done for me. I want people to know they can change. No matter
how much hatred you have in your soul, you can change. It happened to me.
Mina Samaan’s story by Josh Holowell
Mina is 28 years old.
Everything was quiet. Everything. And this is not how it is in Egypt. Egypt is crowded
and loud. But on that day, as I walked home from school, something was different.
I entered my house and my whole family was gathered around the television. My mom
turned to me and said, “America has been hit.” Then she turned back to the television
as my whole family watched the news of airplanes being flown into buildings. My heart
dropped. The place I had dreamed of going to for so long had been attacked and my
heart hurt deeply for the world and for America.
I eventually made it to America, and I have to relive the events of 9/11 over and over again.
As a person who is from the Middle East, I have experienced discrimination. I have
been assumed to be a terrorist. I have been treated as though I am already guilty and I
have been told to go back where I came from. People assume I have malice in my heart
toward them and that I am some sort of ticking time bomb waiting to attack them.
I even had a co-worker invite me to go with him to a shooting range, yet he felt the
need to ask me on our way there if I was going to shoot him.
You know, people often say they are nervous seeing Middle Eastern people in the
airport or on their flight. I can guarantee you that the most nervous people in an airport
are Middle Eastern people. Every time a ”random” security check happens, I am forced
to stand in front of everyone to be patted down while my stuff is strewn all over the
floor. I have to answer extra questions. I have to explain what my camera is and what my
cell phone is. Did I pay any less than the other customers? Am I somehow less human?
It strips away my dignity.
But I’m told that it’s ok to racially profile people from the Middle East.
“You just don’t understand. If you knew what we experienced on 9/11, you would
understand. We have to be careful now.”
Am I not human?
Was I not affected by that dreadful day?
The place I had longed to go to—and now call home—was attacked on that day. I
felt pain in light of the suffering. For the lives lost, I felt pain. For the freedom that was
attacked, I felt pain. And yet now I am forced to relive that pain, simply because I am
from the Middle East.
It is ironic, but the very reason I am here in the US is the hope for a place that is free
from unfair discrimination. I fled Egypt because I faced persecution and discrimination
as a Christian. I could not worship freely and feared for my life daily. I was hated for
simply being a Christian. And because of that I fled to a place where I could openly
practice my religion—America. What I was shocked to find was that, although I no
longer faced religious discrimination, I now faced racial discrimination.
So why do I stay here? I can remember the exact moment down to the minute I landed
in America. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I came to have a better life. To
worship without the fear of death. And though there is this struggle with racism, I stay
because of the people who have embraced me.
When I first landed in New Jersey I had no one. I had to struggle to make a living
and work extra hard to make it in a tough place. But then I met a college student named
John. John changed everything about my life in America. John was living in New Jersey
for the summer as part of a mission trip with a college group. I met John in July and he
left after just a few weeks, but he showed me such hospitality.
In January of the following year, John called me and let me know that he was coming back
for another summer in New Jersey. But after that summer he wanted me to come back with
him to Muncie, Indiana. He had asked his roommates if I could come and live with them.
Still to this day I am shocked by John’s hospitality. This white man from Indiana inviting a
Middle Eastern man he hardly knew not just to come visit but to come and live with him and
be a part of his community and church. How? He was motivated by Jesus’ love for him and
showed that love to me. The world desperately needs a lot more of the Jesus that I saw in John.
Many people in Muncie and my church community have embraced me and loved me. And
even though John is gone I have decided to stay here. It has become my home because of those
who have loved me. Those who have embraced me with the hospitality that John did.
We need more of the hospitality of Jesus in our world.
Living in My Neighborhood
Lynn’s story by Chris Bavender
Lynn is a pseudonym and she is 29 years old.
My story isn’t one of overt racism, but more about racial relationships and what I’ve learned
being the minority in my own little neighborhood. I am white and live in a predominantly
African American neighborhood in Muncie called Industry.
I have learned one thing living here – children are a great means to “safely” voice racial issues.
My husband, Patrick, and I have seen this come up time and time again. When we first moved
here and began to meet our neighbors, Joan was 9-months-old. She was a shy baby and really
only liked for Patrick or I to hold her.
When our African American friends held her she would cry and reach for me – the same
thing she did when close family members tried to hold her. The response was always the same
– “She is afraid of black people.” Or, “She doesn’t like black people.”
People typically laugh when they say this or even tell me they are just joking. I would have
accepted it as a joke, however, if it had happened once or twice. But it’s happened over and
over and over again.
When Joan was a little older, around 2 ½, it happened again. We were at a park and ran
into some teenagers we are friends with through our church who were there with their little
cousins. Joan continues to be a shy child and when the little girls asked if she wanted to play,
she said “No.” So this teenager who has been friends with us for a few years said, “She doesn’t
like black people.” But, as always, followed up with, “I’m just kidding.”
It just makes me wonder that if it isn’t anything more than just jabbing and joking, what is
it? A baby can’t respond back so maybe it’s just the ability for people to speak aloud doubts
and fears without worry of repercussions. Or maybe a way to voice something offensive to
someone who can’t be offended.
But, just like any comment someone makes about your child, you feel it reflects back on
you. It’s like hearing an adult say, “Wow, that kid is really bratty.” You know what it implies –
you don’t discipline well, or aren’t home enough, or just in general are not a very good parent.
So hearing this comment about my child not liking someone because of the color of their
skin makes me wonder if it’s actually a question of our acceptance of black people. A question
of whether we have taught our daughter, through our own actions, to be comfortable and
loving toward people of all races, or only those who look like us?
I hope I’m teaching my children – Joan, who is now 4, and Lynnae – that all people are made
in the image of God and should be treated as such. I hope to teach them the difference between
races and culture are something to be appreciated and not feared or looked down upon. I want
them to see with their own eyes that racism still exists today, so they can be part of the solution.
Living in my neighborhood has also opened my eyes to other things, including what I
consider police brutality.
I still remember last summer when a house just a few down from us was raided. If you haven’t
ever seen a raid, here’s what happens: the police in all their SWAT gear, including masks
covering their faces and huge automatic weapons drawn, fly up, jump out of their vehicle and
throw a flash bomb.
Patrick was home when this happened and he dropped to the floor, hands over his head and
called 911 – that’s how powerful a flash bomb is!
We’re good friends with the family who lives next door to the house that was raided and
they were outside when it happened. Although they had nothing to do with it, they were
treated like criminals. When the police threw the flash bomb their 4-year-old took off running.
When his mother and brother tried to go after him, they were screamed at by police to “shut
up” and told not to move – and had the automatic weapons pointed at them.
When describing what happened, the older brother said, “They had their red dot on me. I
think they actually would have killed me.”
His sisters, who are in elementary school, were yelled at to lay on the ground with their hands
behind their heads. The teenage daughter was told the same thing but she said she must not have
moved fast enough because he shoved her onto the sidewalk with his knee in her back.
She was forced to lay there next to the men who were being arrested.
What made it even worse - none of the officers followed the 4-year-old. So he crossed several
streets by himself and was eventually brought home by a couple who didn’t even know him.
This family was so shaken up. When the mother reported all of this to the police department,
she was told “protocol” was followed.
I’m sorry but if a drug bust was happening in a rich, white neighborhood, I guarantee this is
NOT how they would’ve treated innocent neighbors.
There was another time that same summer I was outside with my kids and a different
neighbor’s kids were over playing on the swing set. All of a sudden police cars flew up and
men with guns drawn ran up to the neighbor’s house. They put the father on the floor with
guns to his head. One of the sons who was in our back yard took off running yelling at them
to leave his father alone.
I picked them up and carried them into my house. The older boy was kicking and screaming.
The younger boy was crying and asking what they were doing to his dad. Maybe five minutes
later, the police were gone.
Their mother came over and said there’d been a report the father had a gun. He didn’t so
the police left. Those poor kids were traumatized for no reason. They saw their father in this
position for no reason. There was no apology or talking to the kids to ease their fear.
I think the biggest lesson this has taught me is that racism is still alive and well today. People
still experience life differently, are still treated differently based on the color of their skin.
There are the black schools and the white schools. The black churches and the white
churches. Black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods.
I think racism and segregation were implemented very purposefully and it will take
purposeful actions to end these things. Purposefully moving into a neighborhood where you
are a minority. Purposefully enrolling your children in a school where not everyone looks the
same as them. Educating yourself on the issues such as present day systemic racism and mass
I have to say I could never go back to living in an all-white neighborhood because now I know
what I was missing out on. I am part of a very diverse church family and have cross-cultural
friendships. Just coming to love and be loved across race lines has impacted my life greatly.
Ok I’ll do it
June Payne’s story by Travis O. Graves
June is 68 years old.
There were black people and there were white people. As a child I didn’t really have a
thought either way about race or racism. Looking back, I’ve only been able to speculate
why; why the white family my father worked for sent Christmas presents to us, why
I had to stay in the kitchen when I came along to help my parents cater white people’s
parties, why my brother the valedictorian of his class had to take second place to the
white student in a speech and debate competition he had won, why I had to be one of
the first black students to integrate the Charlottesville High School, why my skin color
mattered, why my skin color was the “bad” skin color?
I was the youngest of four. My oldest siblings went to all black schools. By the time I
came around, the Supreme Courts decision to enforce school integration meant that in
Charlottesville, Virginia, whites would passively comply by sending a few guinea pigs
into the white high school. The top ten black elementary students were asked to go to
the white school. Two families opted out thinking the added pressure would negatively
effect their children. My father left the decision in my hands with a simple, “I think
you’ll get a better education.” So I said, “Ok, I’ll do it”.
He believed that white schools would prepare me better, and in many ways he was
right. The white schools had better facilities and better books. Single exposed light bulbs
had dimly lit the halls of my elementary school where we used hand-me-down books
that were tattered and outdated. Separate but equal was anything but equal. But I didn’t
know just how much courage I was going to have to come up with. For my dad, fear
was not an option. That stoicism that he had, that’s what I tried to portray. Though I
didn’t feel it all the time, I thought: “I can be strong, I can handle this, and I can handle
it especially if you say I can handle it.”
I didn’t realize just how hard it would be, and, the truth is, my first year of high
school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
The fall of 1961 was the start of my mission so to speak. I kind of felt like this is
what I have to do in life, and that is, in some way, try to make a difference in how I’m
perceived. Not only me but all black people. That we’re not dumb like you think we are,
we’re not dirty like you think we are. That became the cross I had to bear. I had to hoist
that thing up on my back and carry it with little or no emotion. For five years, grade 8
through 12, that’s the cross I was carrying.
That first day of school, I’ll never forget. My uncle Roy dropped me off about a
quarter-mile away from the school. I would have to walk the rest of the way. Getting
out of the car that day it hit me: I was alone. Where were the other black students I
went to elementary school with? Where were my friends? Where is my best buddy
Kenneth? I took an unusually long walk to the high school that day, making the largest
loop around downtown until finally coming to the school. But when I got there another
realization hit me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Unlike the white students
who got their schedules months before school started, the black students were given
nothing, somebody just found us and said “Oh you need to go there.” I didn’t even
know what door to go in.
Finally I found an open side door which I slipped in and made my way down the hall
where I first encountered a daunting group of boy’s who, on spotting me, shouted out,
“I smell a gar, I smell a gar!” In my innocence, I thought they had picked up the smell
of my Uncle Roy’s cigar and I was horrified. All I could think was, “Oh no, I smell
like cigar smoke and it’s on my clothes, I can’t get that cigar smell off me, that’s what they’re
smelling.” They kept howling, “I smell a gar, I smell a gar.” “What a Ci-Gar?” one of the boys
asked, “No, a, Ni….gar!” another replied bringing the joke to it’s triumphant end amid cheers
and laughter. That was the first time I can ever recall hearing that word. And how did I handle
that? I said under my breath. “Oh thank God, they don’t smell uncle Roy’s cigar.” I was so
thankful they didn’t smell that smelly cigar smoke. I knew they were talking about me, but
that word had no significant impact on me.
I soon came to find out, that I would be segregated in another way. That first year I had no
classes with other black students, and my lunch period was different from theirs as well. I was
in a totally different place, and that first year I had to face my hardships alone. I felt invisible
and I wanted to be invisible. No white students ever once spoke to me, unless it was to bark in
my face, “What are you looking at!” or to harass me with the N-word.
Whereas in my last year at my all black elementary school, I was learning algebra, at my
new school I was treated completely ignorant and was put back in classes being taught how
to add and subtract with some of the dumbest people you ever want to meet. Eventually the
gym teacher (who taught the remedial students math) told someone that I didn’t belong there,
and I was moved up to a more appropriate level. I had an English teacher who had me get up
in front of the class and speak so the white students could hear the difference between the way
black and white people talk. And when white students would throw our books out the third
story windows, we had to go get them. The white students were never, at least not in public,
reprimanded for any mistreatment or abuse of black students.
When Richard walked right through me in the hallway, knocking me flat on my back and
cracking my head against the floor, nobody helped me up or said anything. I got turned away
by the principals secretary with: “He doesn’t have time to see every student, he’s busy.” But it
was the lunch period that was the worst part of the day. I hated it when they served peas. The
boys would spit them through their straws at me. Every day I sat invisible and ate my lunch
across from a girl who would try to find my shins and kick the hell out of me, to the point
I would have bruises. I was too afraid to do anything about it. I didn’t want to start a fight
surrounded by white people. If I did that, I knew I’d be dead.
Walking home always included outrunning and maneuvering Richard Meeks who would
chase the black kids with his car. I’m convinced to this day if we had not run he would have
hit us, and it would have somehow been our fault. And then when the school bus passed full
of white students, they would throw all their nickels at us from the bus windows.
I had to fight back so many tears. “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry” became a mantra of sorts.
I didn’t want anyone to know how much pain I was in, how scared and sad I was.
Under the weight of my father’s honor, and the weight of the discrimination facing all black
people, I had to keep moving forward through school instead of retreating like I wanted to
back to the all black high school. That was my cross to bear and I chose to bear it. That pain
I endured helped bring about integration of schools. I know there are still prejudices and
injustices in this world. There are still crosses to bear and people are saying, like I did to my
father, “Ok, I’ll do it.”
It Shouldn’t Matter
WaTasha Barnes Griffin’s story by Seth Carrier-Ladd
Tasha is 41 years old.
“Madeline, what ‘choo doin?” That was the moment everything changed.
Madeline was my best friend. We’d known each other since we met in kindergarten,
delighted when we figured out that we lived across the street from each other. We
noticed, of course, that our skin was a different color – Madeline’s white, mine black
– but that didn’t matter to me, and it didn’t matter to her. I mean we noticed, right?
After we became friends, we asked, “Can I touch your skin and see if it feels different?”
Which it didn’t really. And of course, “Can I touch your hair?” Which did actually feel
different. But outside of those natural curiosities that any kid of that age has, we pretty
much just played.
Now I didn’t play with Madeline all of the time. Our street was the dividing line. So
I always had to choose – out the front door to the white neighborhood, or out the back
door to the black. Two doors in one house, in my house, each door leading to a totally
different kind of place. I liked both – safe and at home with my black friends out back,
different and interesting white friends out front.
My black friends didn’t understand. “Why you wanna’ hang out with the white
kids?” they would ask. “Madeline’s my friend,” I would respond, and leave it at that. My
grandmother, she’d have white friends over for dinner every so often, and our pastor, he
talked all the time at church about how important it was to have friends of every color.
And we went to the same school as all these white kids. So their questions didn’t even
make sense to me. Of course I wanted to hang out with Madeline. She was my friend. I
didn’t get it.
Truthfully, the difference I noticed more between me and Madeline was about class.
Madeline’s folks were poor as could be, despite living on the white side of the street.
And while we weren’t “well off” at my grandmother’s house, we always had enough, we
always had everything we needed, and we certainly had more than enough love.
You could see the difference just looking at our two houses. Plunked down between
two more well-kept houses, a green one on one side, and a yellow one on the other,
Madeline’s dark gray-colored house looked worn. It had a light gray picket fence
around its front yard, with the paint flaking and chipped off in places, and the yard was
all dirt. No grass in Madeline’s front yard, just dirt. Dirt, and two green metal chairs,
that rocked a bit when you sat in them. And the front porch – can’t forget that porch.
Covered in junk, end-to-end, from who knows where.
Our house on the other hand, was proud. Two-stories of brick, with a well-kept front
yard, nice pine shrubs on either side of front steps, pillars on the front porch, and of
course a few pieces of nice patio furniture. The class difference showed in other ways
too. The way we dressed, for example – my clothes were usually in better shape. Now,
we didn’t care, we played in Madeline’s dirt front yard with the green chairs just as often
if not more than we played on the nice front porch at my grandmother’s house, and we
didn’t talk about clothes. But we noticed, or at least I did.
Sometimes I would ask my mama, “Mom, you know those shoes that I don’t wear
anymore? Can I give them to Madeline… she really needs some shoes.” It only made
sense, Madeline was my friend, and she needed stuff, and I had stuff that I wasn’t using.
And so we continued merrily on our way. It wasn’t perfect. No friendship ever is. We
had our little fights and disagreements, but never about the color of our skin. And we
always worked it out. Kindergarten through fourth grade was pretty great. And then
one day everything changed.
It was a nice sunny day. We were sitting out in Madeline’s dirt front yard, near those green
metal chairs, that peeling gray picket fence. We were sitting there playing with dolls – white baby
dolls. Two little girls playing, not a care in the world, and then some white man I didn’t know, a
friend of the neighbors in the yellow house, he shouted out,“Madeline, what ‘choo doin?”
“Why you playin’ with a nigger?”
“This isn’t a nigger, this is Tasha.”
Looking back, I’m glad that white man didn’t push it any further. He just walked away, and
Madeline asked, “What’s a nigger?”
“He’s talking about black people.”
And we left it at that.
Now I don’t know if Madeline talked to her parents, but I talked to my mom as soon as I
got home, and told her what happened. “It made me feel bad mom. It hurt my feelings.”
“Oh honey. Some people are just like that. Some people see color instead of seeing people for
who they really are. In our family, we treat people they we want to be treated – with kindness,
love and respect. You’re beautiful. You’re smart. You’re intelligent. You’re my Tasha.”
“But sometimes other black people call each other nigger… why do they do that?”
“They shouldn’t do it honey. No one should ever call each other by that name.”
What she didn’t say to me then was as important as what she did. She didn’t tell me “No
more going back over there to play with Madeline.” She never said, “You stay away from the
white side of the street.” She just explained and supported. And so the next day, back I went,
to play dolls again with my best friend.
I’ve never forgotten though. Before, I knew about black and white. After, black and white
meant BLACK and WHITE.
The thing is – I’ve never really changed. I’ve experienced my fair share of racism, so much
so in fact that I usually just tune out the consistent, regular, repetitive low-level stuff. But the
color of a person’s skin still doesn’t matter to me. I see it, I know it makes a difference, I talk
to my two black children about how America treats them differently as a black person because
I have to…but when I meet people, skin color is one of the last things I notice. Just like with
Madeline, I see people, I see human beings, I see my friends.
Skin color shouldn’t matter. That’s the way it should be. We have to keep putting in the
work to make it so.
The New Racism
Mia Johnson’s story by Andrea Wolfe
Mia is 36 years old.
About a year and a half ago, a colleague of mine at Ivy Tech Community College and
I were working remotely with an Ivy Tech employee from another region. We were to
meet this other woman at a conference for community college honors students that we
planned to attend together. My colleague—an older, white woman—was struggling to
remember how to pronounce this other employee’s name. She must have assumed that it
was a “black name,” as she approached me for help at the conference a few hours before
our meeting with the woman we had been working with. Students swarming around us,
my colleague asked, “How do you say her name again?”
“Chavonne,” I answered.
My colleague grimaced and sighed. “You girls and your names,” she remarked as she
continued walking through the convention center corridor to our next session.
I stopped moving. My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open a little bit. There
were so many things wrong with what she had just said; I wasn’t even sure where to
begin. First of all, I recognized that I had just been held responsible for the naming
practices of the entire black American population, notwithstanding the fact that I was
actually named after the white actress, Mia Farrow. Moreover, hearkening back to a
long history of white people referring to black adults as children in order to position
themselves as superior, my colleague’s comment revealed that she categorized me, then
a 34-year-old college professor, as well as every other black woman in the world, as a
“girl.” She had also insinuated that the names that some black parents chose for their
children were singularly designed to complicate the lives of white people with “normal”
names. How was it possible that this educated woman could so determinedly miss
the point that non-European names might represent resistance to centuries of white
imperialism, oppression, and violence?
I wanted to tell my colleague all about herself, but I knew that I couldn’t get upset.
I didn’t want to cause an argument in front of the students and colleagues around us.
Also, I recalled past instances of being accused of yelling when only speaking clearly
about issues I was passionate about. I knew that I couldn’t be too loud or too insistent
on being heard. So, I didn’t say a thing. I didn’t want to be “the angry black woman.”
Another time, my colleague was talking about finding out that her daughter was going
to marry a black man. She tried to joke with me, “I guess now I’ll have to start listening
to your kind of music.”
Like last time, I felt struck by her comment. Again, she was suggesting that I,
personally, was answerable for or somehow innately loyal to that which she perceived
as an inherent aspect of African American life—in this case, “black music.” Never
mind that I may like country music! I don’t, but I certainly could. Her comment also
demonstrated her assumption that black Americans produce only one kind of music
and insinuated that this kind of music was abnormal and just a nuisance in the lives of
white people. Furthermore, she failed to understand the social function of rap and hiphop,
the important role that these types of music have played in black artistic expression
and articulation of systemic forms of oppression in black people’s lives.
But, again, I held myself back from saying what I wanted to say. I began to realize,
though, that my sense of personal responsibility for disproving the stereotype of “the
angry black woman”—as well as the additional stereotypes that I perceive others as
using to judge me in other areas of my life, such as “the black thief” when I was shopping
at Target and “the single black mother on welfare” when I am alone with my children
in public—was beginning to feel very heavy. I know that I don’t face the kinds of overt racism
that people in the past faced. The racism that I experience takes the form of microaggressions.
This is the new racism. It is sneakier and, because it propagated by people who pretend to be
my friends, it is sometimes harder to directly contend with.
After the two incidents with my colleague, I talked to a friend about what had happened.
He actually helped me to see racism a little differently than I had before, mentioning that there
are multiple levels of racism and that one level of racism is simple ignorance. The colleague
who had insulted me on these occasions, he suggested, perhaps might not have known that
she was using stereotypes or that her sentiments about naming practices and rap and hip-hip
were offensive. He proposed that an honest conversation with my colleague might allow me to
express how she had hurt me and ultimately even help her to develop more appropriate ways
of discussing race.
Maybe I should take the initiative to educate my colleague, but I haven’t done this. I don’t
like the idea that it is my responsibility to correct her wrongs. I now just try to avoid her. I
simply don’t have anything to say to her. I might be willing to forgive one faux pas, but two is
I Was Mad, Real Mad
Rashid Shabazz’s story by River Lin
Rashid is 73 years old.
Mad. Real mad. That’s how I feel about racism.
I’ve been facing racism since the day I was born. Since I was a baby, every day, racism
was just a part of life. Bad, unfair things happen to you over and over again and it makes
you mad. Real mad.
One time I was at the fair trying to win a Teddy Bear for a little baby. Down to my
last quarter and the man in the booth told me, “You get the best 2 out of 3 and you can
have any Teddy Bear you want.” I said, “OK, I can do that.” I got the first one, missed
the second one, and then I got the third one.
That man said no. He said I had to get the first 2 out of 3.”
I was mad. Real mad.
We argued. Klansmen came around the corner. Crowbars, chains, sledgehammers. All
this over a Teddy Bear. Can you believe that? I was thinking how to jump them all: One
foot on this guy, another foot on that guy, one hand here, my other hand there.
Then 10 black men from the community came. One of them said to me, “What’s happenin’
Lil’ Ticket?” Yeah, he called me “Lil’ Ticket.” Then he said to the clansmen, “What you
gonna do with them toys you got?” I liked it that he called them weapons “toys.”
But I was mad. Real mad.
Another time, the Klan set up a table to recruit for new members. Teaching hate.
Recruiting so they can do more harm to us.
I was mad. Real mad.
We had a confrontation, and one of those guys had a gun. You can’t bring no gun to
the fair! And there were all these little kids standing around! Everyone started yelling,
“He got a gun! He got a gun!” The police, sheriff, all them came running. That man
started shaking, just shaking. I thought he might shoot himself in the leg the way he was
I was mad. Real mad.
I was one of the greatest basketball players in the country. In the world, really. But
racism dogged me so much. By the time I got to high school, I didn’t want it no more.
I was just mad. Real mad.
But I was a good player, so they wanted me to be a Bear Cat. I said no, but they got
me. See, we had a race riot in the high school and I was right there in the middle of it.
Then they gave me an ultimatum: play ball or get kicked out of school.
Oh, no, no. I couldn’t face my mother if I got kicked out of school. So I signed up.
But I was mad. Real mad.
In practice I could out-run, out-jump and out-shoot those guys, but in the games,
they got all the playtime.
I was mad. Real mad.
Then tournament time came. When we got to the sectionals, we had to play two
games in one day, and those white guys, they weren’t up to it, so they had to put me in
And I got down!
But you know what? After that, they had to be careful with me because they didn’t want a black
hero. No, they’d rather lose with a white hero than to win with a black hero.
I was mad. Real mad.
And another thing: they only like you when you on the court. During the season, they treat
you real good, but after that, they dog you. I went from a thousand people calling out my
name and cheering me, to can’t even go across the street and have a Coca-Cola or an ice cream
cone with them.
I was mad. Real mad.
When I was a senior, the team was on the road, and you know, like teams do, there was some
hazing. I didn’t do no hazing, but I know who did it. And nothing happened to those white
players who did it. But all four of us black players got kicked off the team for hazing. It was
my last year and I was nominated to be Mr. Basketball. That was the real threat; they didn’t
want me to be Mr. Basketball.
We didn’t do no hazing, but we got kicked off the team. I know they just couldn’t have a
black Mr. Basketball from Muncie. No title. No scholarships.
I was mad. Real mad.
My anger took me down.
Anger raging inside, my heart was looking for something better.
Religion gave me a white Jesus.
Elijah Mohammed established the Nation of Islam. He preached that the white man was the
devil. Seeing how the white man acted, I heard him. I was ready to listen.
My wife had cancer and she passed. The doctors said my baby had it too, and that he needed
surgery. I didn’t trust them. I read a book by Elijah Mohammed: How to Eat to Live, and it
gave me an alternative.
I was playing professional basketball by then, but I gave that up so I could care for my son.
I got remarried and my wife and I read the Quran to my son every day. Every day. He never
had the surgery. He’s a grown man now. Healthy. Smart. I’m proud of him.
Elijah Mohammed made black people look at ourselves. He prepared us for Islam. After he
died, his son, Imam W. Deen Mohammad, took over as the leader of the Nation of Islam. He
preached from the Quran. He preached that there is no superiority among humans, not white
over black, and not black over white; not Arab over non-Arab, nor non-Arab over Arab. I
became a Muslim.
Racism is still here. It looks different from how it used to look, but inside, it’s still racism.
And sometimes, I’m still mad. Real mad.
But today, I’m different because I believe. Oh yes, I believe.
Learning From Our Children
Shalia Gupta’s story by Clarissa Bowers
Shalia is 80 years old.
When I was a child growing up in India, I was taught that when an adult came to your
door, you welcomed them in and offered them a seat. It was a sign of respect.
At age seven, a man came to the door and I welcomed him in just as I had been taught.
When my father entered the room, the man immediately rose to his feet to greet my
father. As I watched from the corner of the room, I couldn’t help but wonder why the
man kept standing until my father asked him to be seated.
In that moment, I had this twinge, this uncomfortable feeling deep inside me. I had
asked someone from another walk of life, someone that I should have known was
“different” in the eyes of my culture, to sit down in my family’s home. All at once, I felt
the embarrassment that comes from the unknown. I didn’t know why it was wrong but
I felt a deep rooted acknowledgment that there was a difference between the two of us,
yet it was so undefined
As I reflect on this and the way bias was formed in such an innocent mind; I realize that
all biases whether it be social, class, cast, or race are learned behavior. Most importantly,
I have realized that what is learned can be unlearned. We, as humans, are not as strong
or complete as we would like to think, and by stopping our vulnerabilities from being
shown, we let fear become a cancer that grows from within.
One of my fondest childhood memories was learning to knit from our kind and
loving neighbor, a Muslim woman.. As I was Hindu, I was not allowed to partake in
their family meals but that did not stop her from welcoming me into her home. You
see, India was and is a land of gentle and gracious people but in the late 1940’s partition
tore through our country, Hindu-Muslim migration created dividing lines that were
fueled by rage and hate. Helpless men became devils and blood saturated both India and
Pakistan; but even throughout these trials, the bonds of friendship survived.
When I was just 10 years old, I awoke one morning to see our neighbors gone. Despite
the risks it posed to my family, I later came to know that my father had helped them to
escape to safety when the risk became too great for them to stay in our neighborhood. In
the darkest hours, people still helped each other because we were people, not because we
were one religion or another. If in that moment we were able to erase bias, why should
it be any different now, living in a country with hundreds of different nationalities and
religions all poured into one? Somehow and somewhere racism finds and takes root
here, but why?
For me, I believe that racism or any discrimination grows because we are ignorant
and we cocoon ourselves out of fear when we should instead be asking and educating.
It is difficult for us as adults to break away from these cocoons but luckily we have the
ultimate resource available to help us overcome. Children are the ultimate resource in
combatting this ignorance.
I have come to find that if I am at a grocery store, curiosity will always win over in
an interaction with a child. If there is a toddler or a child standing with their mother or
sitting on their lap, they will look at bindi—a decorative mark worn in the middle of
the forehead by Indian women, and say “Do you have an ouchie?” or they will reach
out to touch it. Children want to know. They want to learn, and I want to share. But,
the embarrassments from parents who are conditioned to fear cultural embarrassment
quickly stifle their child’s curiosity. In those moments, they are telling the child not to
touch and not to ask and suddenly the child learns that for some reason, I am different.
Years ago I discovered a beautiful quote that spoke to our need to grow outside of
our own comfort, it said, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” Sure, life
is safe in your own little cocoon, never questioning your bias or getting out so you may be
exposed to the world’s biases. But, that is not what this life is for. Life is meant to be lived, to
be experienced, and to be shaped by it. As you grow, of course there are challenges. There will
be rocks and hidden cliffs in your ship’s path, but you will learn to navigate and you will grow
stronger because of it.
When I first came to the United States, I was faced with one of the most curious experiences
I had ever had with a child. While out in the common area of our university housing, a young
girl asked me if I was a witch. I, of course, responded that I was not. She thought for a moment
and then asked if I was a Queen. Again, I smiled and said no. Her final line of questioning
asked if I was a fairy. As I said no for the final time, the child looked at me and ran away. It was
as though she couldn’t see the similarities between her and I, so she assumed they did not exist.
What’s on the Menu?
Deanna’s story by WaTasha Barnes Griffin
Deanna is a pseudonym and she is in 7th grade.
I live in a vibrant house full of color, compassion, tolerance, and acceptance. Many people
in the community know that my parents are of different races, and that my siblings each have
DNA’s that are blended with love. You want to know the race of my parents, don’t you?
Okay, okay, my dad is Italian American and my mom is African. To some of you, that might
seem strange, but to us it is nothing out of the ordinary.
My mom and dad teach me to treat each and every one that I meet with kindness, even when
I don’t think they deserve it. I have also been taught that not everyone will extend that same
respect and kindness to me.
One fall morning, I was sitting in my science class with my stomach growling louder than the
teacher’s voice-signaling to me and all those within earshot, that lunchtime is on its way. Mind
you that this is the last class prior to my lunch period. Although I am attentively listening to
our teacher go on and on about ancient Rome, my mind is already thinking of what is on the
Finally, the 11:20 a.m. bell rings to dismiss us from class and now it’s lunchtime! Time to
quiet this beastly belly growl that I have going on, time to unwind and let down my hair, and
yep, it is time to kick it and socialize with my friends!
I get to the cafeteria and race through the hordes of kids to get to the tray line. I look at the
menu and make my food selections. As I make my way back through the cafeteria, waving
and saying “Hello” as I go, attempting to balance my lunch tray all at the same time, I notice
that several of my friends have already beat me to “our” claimed lunch table. I join them
and, before long, Allie, Mackenzie, Marie, and I are eating from a diverse group of foods
and chatting away. Someone has hot Cheetos, snack cakes, and milk, another has a salad, one
has Subway that was carried in by her mother, and I have the standard cafeteria selections,
hooray!…Not. All four of our racial profiles are just as unique as our food choices, and yet we
are the best of friends.
My friend Allie, who is Caucasian, begins to talk about her relationship with her boyfriend,
David, who is black. She says that her mother knows she is dating a black guy, but her dad does
not. She states that if her dad knew that she was dating a black guy, he would be very upset
with her, have a conniption fit, or disown her. So to avoid a big ol’ misunderstanding, she and
her mother have decided to keep this little secret, named David, to themselves. Mackenzie,
who is also Caucasian, shakes her head from side to side and says, “Really Allie? Now that you
are mentioning it, I never understood how you could date David. I will never date a black guy
because my religion states that the black and white races should not mix. The Bible says that
whites are to date whites and blacks should only date blacks—we all should just date within
our own color.”
My mouth drops open in shock; luckily no flies are swarming around, gross right? I am
flabbergasted by what I am hearing sitting at this lunch table in the school cafeteria. This
conversation was definitely not on the lunch menu! I mean, really? My dear friend Mackenzie
really thinks this way? Is she a racist? I am black, so is she only pretending to like me?
There are so many thoughts running through my mind, disbelief being the main one. So I ask
Mackenzie what her religion is and she replies, “I am of the Christian faith.” I respond by
saying, “Mackenzie, I am of the Christian faith, too. Where in the Bible did you find scripture
that’s says that blacks and whites should not date?” “Oh, I cannot remember exactly. My
mother tells us that ’God didn’t intend for the black and white races to mix,’ all of the time.
Heck, we can just Google it and see,” Mackenzie says with a giggle.
I feel my fury begin to rise up inside of me, but I keep my cool on the surface. I think to
myself, “Wow, all of those times I have spent hanging out with the Jones family, and I never
knew Mrs. Jones was racist? What about Mackenzie’s dad? Wait, are they really racist?”
Of course I would never say any of this out loud. My parents and the R.A.C.E. Group that
we attend have taught me, through dialogues and activities, to remain calm and not retaliate
from a place of hate—but to think things through and then answer from a positive place. But
right at this very minute, I cannot think of one politically correct thing to say. So I just sit there
stunned, and say nothing. In fact several of us do.
It feels like an eternity before someone speaks, but in all actuality, it is only about five
seconds. The person who speaks up is hot-headed Marie, and she is not happy. You see, Marie
has a black father and a white mother.
“What the heck do you mean, Mackenzie? Are you telling us that I do not deserve to be born
because you and your parents believe that my parents should not have fallen in love because their
skin doesn’t match? What kind of religion would cause others to judge who belongs with who
based on color? You can take your racist comments and get far away from me! I have known you
for a very long time and I would never imagine that you would think this way! Better yet, I cannot
believe that you let that stupidity come out of your mouth with a black chick, and a bi-racial chick
sitting right here with you! Whites are not superior to other races, you know! Get for real! As a
matter of fact, you stay your racist butt right here! I will leave!”
And with that she stands up quickly and begins to gather her belongings. Allie and Mackenzie
look at each other, and then at me, in horror.
I try to think of a response I can offer to help defuse the situation, and I calmly say, “Okay
guys, let’s all take a deep breath here. I know that this conversation is hard to handle, but we
have been friends way too long to walk out of this lunch room without at least trying to work
through what has just happened. It is okay for us to have our opinions but we need to do it in
a respectful way.”
Marie looks at Allie, Mackenzie, and then at me and says: “You all can do what you want,
but I am just going to walk away.”
And she did. But she didn’t just walk away, she raced out of the cafeteria, and she ran away
from the conversation. She never got to hear what could have been one of the most enlightening
conversations about teenagers and racism. She never got to hear Mackenzie say she was sorry
for being offensive. She never got to hear Allie say that she will be honest with her father about
her boyfriend, Dave, and she never got to hear me say that when I was little girl hearing the
word “race” always made me think of a group of competitive people running really fast trying
to beat each other, to claim the title of “winner.”
She never got to hear me say, “And I guess until all races, young and old, are willing to come
to the table to have the tough conversations about race, diversity, and stereotypes, and until
we are willing to hear, learn and understand each other’s voices, “Race” will continue to be a
competition. It will just keep being various groups of people trying to out run each other in an
effort to claim the title that declares them or their race as “the winner.” We have come so far,
yet we still have a ways to go. Why don’t all of us just run the race together?
Let’s add that to the menu.
WRITERS & STORYTELLERS
WaTasha Barnes Griffin
Dr. Ruby Cain
Rev. Seth Carrier-Ladd
Travis Oliver Graves
Andrea Powell Wolfe
WaTasha Barnes Griffin
Dr. Ruby Cain
Dr. Karen A. Dowling
Michael Timothy Duerson
Mia D. Johnson, PhD
Dr. Renae Mayes
Dr. Charles R. Payne
Dr. June Payne
Maria Williams-Hawkins, PhD
About Our Writers…
Lizz Alezetes…teaches English to speakers of other languages in the Intensive English
Institute at Ball State University. She spent five years teaching English in Saudi Arabia, which
is where she met her husband and gave birth to her first child. She is now the proud mother of
two children, Yusef and Yasmeen.
LenoreIAllen…a newcomer to the Muncie community, has been a Christian blog
writer for 4 years. She has taught for 8 years as a special education teacher as well as a
substitute teacher in Georgia. She also has experience working in state government in the
DUI Intervention program for six years. Her passions include ministry, nonprofit, business,
substance abuse prevention and recovery, education, advocacy, literacy, writing and music. She
is a mother of one daughter and grandmother of two boys.
WaTashaIBarnesIGriffin…President of the Muncie Chapter of the Indiana
Black Expo, Inc. and the Director of Residential Services at the YWCA. She grew up on the
Southside of Muncie and remains a life-long resident, committed to serving those in need in our
community. WaTasha is married to Minister Shoka J. Griffin. They have two children, Shoka II and
Sa’Niya. She is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Facing Racism project.
Chris Bavender…is an Indianapolis-based writer. A Muncie native, she is a proud
Ball State alum. Follow her on Twitter at @crbavender and Instagram @chris_bavender
Sherri Beaty…a writer, music lover, and nature enthusiast who lives in East Central
Indiana with her husband Paul, and their Jack Russel (Jack). She is employed at Ball State
University Teachers College. She consumes her spare time by ditching the dirty dishes and
laundry to read books and hang out with her 18-month-old granddaughter.
LaurenIBishop-Weidner…an essayist who taught university English courses
for many years. A long-time volunteer in local public schools, she loves reading to children
and working individually with struggling readers. She also loves to quilt, stitching memories
into warmth while savoring the stories and history of each pattern. She writes family stories,
Facebook posts, and occasional opinion pieces, particularly on issues affecting public education.
ClarissaIBowers…a 26 year old Communication Masters student living on the
NE side of Indianapolis. This is her third time working with The Facing Project and she is
thrilled to be able to help shed some light on the immense power that can be found through
embracing diversity. When she is not researching communication theory or writing for The
Facing Project, Clarissa performs with her band Second Story and plays roller derby for the
Michael Brockley…works as a school psychologist in rural northeast Indiana. He
published poems in other Facing Project publications as well as in Flying Island, Gyroscope Review,
Zingara Poetry Picks, Panoplyzine, and I am not a silent poet.
Dr.IRubyICain…Assistant Director of Adult and Community Education and Director of
M.A. degree programs and graduate certificates in Adult and Community Education and Executive
Development for Public Service in the Department of Educational Studies at Ball State University.
She also serves as the Director for It Is Well With My Soul (regional community program focused
on racial healing and equity via family and cultural historical research, presentation, and publication)
and is Leadership Council Member for Within our Lifetime (national network on racial healing and
equity). Her research agenda encompasses transformative and collaborative learning, racial equity,
social justice, and community mobilization. She has presented and published her research findings
locally, regionally, and internationally.
Rev.ISethICarrier-Ladd…senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Muncie. He has lived in Muncie, with his wife Elizabeth, and children Mira and Theo, for almost
three years, and is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Facing Racism project.
Jackson Eflin… a mercurial fey creature who absconded with an English degree from Ball
State and hasn’t stopped running since. He has been published in The Digital Literature Review, The
Broken Plate, and No Horns on These Helmets! He spends his nights trying to coax novels down out
of the ether.
Travis Oliver Graves…from Missoula, Montana and has lived and worked in New York
City and Vientiane, Laos, but now calls Muncie home. He’s worked as a fashion assistant, event
planner, interior painter, florist, and spent two years teaching English in Southeast Asia. Writing has
mostly been to him a place of refuge to process his experiences, but as his passion for writing has
increased, he’s sought opportunity to use writing to serve the furtherance of love, thoughtfulness, and
generosity to his friends, community, and world.
AnnaIGroover… a freshman English and political science major who hopes to become
a writer or civil rights lawyer. She believes that words and stories are essential to breaking down
prejudice and hatred.
Josh Holowell…a 29-year-old Pastor who lives in Muncie with his wife Whitney and their
three children. Josh is a 2009 Ball State University graduate from the College of Architecture and
Planning and is in the process of starting a new church in downtown Muncie.
Ari Hurwitz…a graduate of Beloit College with a masters degree from Marian University, has
worked in education for most of his adult life bringing intentional focus on human rights, equality, and
justice to his students. Last year, as 6th grade teacher at Inspire Academy, he developed a semesterlong
expedition entitled, “The Other: Bringing Empathy to History and the Now.” Through this he
was re-invigorated to the pursuit of bringing stories of rights and justice from all communities and
to all communities.
Angela Jackson-Brown…an award winning writer, poet and playwright who teaches
Creative Writing and English at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is a graduate of the Spalding
low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing program. She is the author of the novel Drinking
From A Bitter Cup and has published in numerous literary journals. Recently Angela’s play, Anna’s
Wings, was selected to be a part of the IndyFringe 2016 and this fall, her play Flossie Bailey Takes a
Stand will be part of the Indiana Bicentennial Celebration at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Currently,
Angela is collaborating with musicians on a musical she wrote called Underneath the Chinaberry
Tree and her next play, It Is Well, will go on the road this fall.
J.R.IJamison…the Co-Founder of The Facing Project, where he also serves as the Chief
Storytelling Officer. In addition to The Facing Project, J.R. is the Executive Director of the Indiana
Campus Compact, a coalition of 40 colleges and universities that have dedicated their institutions to
campus and community partnerships for the public good. He has been featured in The Huffington
Post, Harlem World Magazine, and on NPR. He calls Muncie home.
SteveIKnote…a sixty-one year-old Hoosier with precious little interaction with other races
until attending college. At IU-Bloomington and later at Ball State, Steve began to cultivate a more
“worldly outlook.” After a thirty-three-year career with General Motors, Steve now is an associate
instructor with Ivy Tech. Steve is an advocate for life-long learning and reports learning a great deal
from Dr. Charles Payne.
River Lin…a life-long learner who loves to travel. Her career in ESL offers opportunities to teach
abroad; she spent 10 years in Japan and her next venture is to the Middle East (UAE). A native of Muncie,
Indiana, River Lin currently teaches ESL in the Intensive English Institute at Ball State University.
Resa Matlock…born and raised in the USA, has more family in Costa Rica. At a young age,
Resa became aware of the strange and complicated ways in which humans view each other. Stories can
help build bridges between people and their different points of view.
Beth Messner…an associate professor of Communication Studies at Ball State University.
She teaches courses related to persuasion and rhetoric. She also studies the discourse of people whose
voices are traditionally silenced.
Melinda Messineo… teaches sociology at Ball State University and studies the portrayal of
race, class, and gender in media. She is passionate about connecting people to the many transformative
not-for-profits in Muncie, Indiana – AKA Middletown.
Barbara Miller…a veteran English teacher who has taught in three very different high schools
in East Central Indiana. In each of her classrooms, she has seen racism. Often that racism has been
directed toward local people of color but at other times it has been directed toward anyone who simply
is different. One of Barb’s goals as an educator is to provide her students with authentic experiences
that foster relationships between students of varied backgrounds. Barb has created many opportunities
for students to interact with people who are different, including working with teachers in Japan, India
and Peru. Through that work, she has seen that when personal experiences are shared, prejudices
often dissolve. Barb looks forward this summer to participating in a National Endowment for the
Humanities summer teacher workshop learning about the ancestral Pueblo people and their modern
Deborah Mix…an associate professor of English at Ball State University.
AndreaIPowellIWolfe…teaches English and Honors courses and works as a Writing
Consultant in the Office of National and International Scholarships at Ball State University. She lives
in Muncie with her husband and two children, who attend Muncie Community Schools and participate
in various extracurricular activities in the Muncie community. Andrea is also a member of the Unitarian
Universalist Church of Muncie.
Christine Rhine…a Muncie-based freelance writer and editor.
Aimee Robertson-Fant…serves as Coordinator and Community Organizer for Muncie
Action Plan, Executive Director of Cancer Services of East Central Indiana-Little Red Door, and is
Co-Founder of Muncie Matters. She is a writer and photojournalist and has participated in five Facing
Projects: Facing Autism, Facing Disabilities, Facing Cancer, Facing Racism and Facing Addiction.
Aimee studied Psychology at Ball State University and is the mother of 3 children; Laurelen, 18, Audra,
9, and Owen, 5.
Tom Steiner… lives in Muncie with his wife and 18-year-old daughter. When not working as a
business advisor for the ISBDC, rehabbing his house in the Historic Emily Kimbrough Neighborhood,
or in his woodshop working on the lathe, Tom is always looking for new and interesting challenges.
Kelsey Timmerman…a co-founder of the The Facing Project.
Levi Todd… a junior English major at Ball State University. He is the Founder and Executive
Director of Reacting Out Loud, an independent organization devoted to uplifting poetry and
affirming community in Muncie, Indiana. He is grateful to the Facing Project for the opportunity
to engage with the Muncie community and learn more about the problems it faces and the ways in
which it overcomes them.
Maggie West…from Chicago, Illinois and attends ball State University. She is a junior,
double majoring in journalism and telecommunications with a minor in political science. Writing has
been a passion of hers and becoming a story teller is one of many life goals.
Taylor Wicker…a creative writing major at Ball State, and has been involved in community
work in both Muncie and Indianapolis during her studies and beyond. She hopes to continue working
with projects related to diversity and identity in the future.
Stephanie Winn…a 29-year-old wife and mother of two little girls. She works as a speech
language pathologist in a skilled nursing facility. Stephanie loves the Lord and enjoys spending her days
with friends and family!
Annemarie Voss…retired Professor of English from Ball State University, grandmother of
two grandchildren whose other grandfather is of Indian origin from Trinidad.
About Our Storytellers…
Sam Abram…From a scrap iron business with three employees (he was ten at
the time) to Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools, Dr. Sam Abram’s leadership
qualities have been apparent. His quiet courage, humble attitude, and compassion enable
him to communicate effectively with people of every background. He was the sixth African-
American teacher hired in Muncie Community Schools; he became the second person of
color to be principal, and the first to be Superintendent. His wife and partner of 59 years,
Millie O’Neal Abram, is also a Muncie native who attended Ball State. Her financial,
intellectual, psychological, and emotional support are integral to his success.
MattIBailey…as a third grader, Matt Bailey attended school on a New Mexico Navajo
reservation where his father was hired to develop curriculum. As a result of his family’s move,
Matt felt the isolation of being an English-speaking, “blond-haired little white kid.” Later,
as a college student, Matt reached out to others of different backgrounds; in fact, his best
friend’s family was from India. After college, Matt donned a Kevlar vest to work at an inner
city Florida middle school as a truant officer where he later taught social studies. He saw the
effects of racism and poverty first hand, as one of the few professional whites in his school
and neighborhood. As a father, Matt was eager to introduce his own sons to a multi-cultured
world and moved his family to London. When they returned to Indiana, Matt took a position
working in local government and felt the impact of racism once again, as residents made
assumptions about his policies based on his skin color and not on his background and beliefs.
Currently, Matt Bailey continues his work in bringing people of diversity together at Ball State
University where he connects faculty and students with community service opportunities that
are mutually enriching.
WaTashaIBarnesIGriffin…Director of Residential Services at the YWCA. She
grew up on the Southside of Muncie and remains a life-long resident, committed to helping
those in need in our community.
Dr.IRubyICain…Assistant Director of Adult and Community Education and Director
of MA degree programs and graduate certificates in Adult and Community Education and
Executive Development for Public Service in the Department of Educational Studies at Ball State
University. She also serves as the Director for It Is Well With My Soul (regional community
program focused on racial healing and equity via family and cultural historical research,
presentation, and publication) and is Leadership Council Member for Within our Lifetime
(national network on racial healing and equity). Her research agenda encompasses transformative
and collaborative learning, racial equity, social justice, and community mobilization. She has
presented and published her research findings locally, regionally, and internationally.
Tom Carey…a life-long resident of Muncie and a fixture on Willard Street where he has
operated Carey’s Superior Barber Shop for more than four decades. He is a retiree of Ball State
University where he served on the maintenance, custodial, and paint shop teams in a career
that spanned thirty years.
Cornelius Dollison…Gentle and soft-spoken, with a keen intellect and talented
hands (this man can weld paper!), Cornelius Dollison knows how to build bridges both literally
and figuratively. He and his wife Mary continue to reach out across boundaries of race, class, and
background to build sustainable cross-cultural relationships that make a difference in Muncie.
MaryIDollison…Lifelong children’s advocate Mary Dollison taught 35 years in the Muncie
Community Schools. In 1987, with a friend, she co-founded Motivate Our Minds, a widely emulated
educational enrichment program with proven results in the form of highly successful alumni-including
physicians, nurses, teachers, parents, skilled and unskilled laborers, and business owners. She has been
characterized as “a bulldog in a chihuahua’s body” by fellow community activists. She and her husband
Cornelius married in 1962.
Jason Donati…an environmental educator for the Muncie Sanitary District and father
of four, who grew up in Delaware County and currently lives in Downtown Muncie. Jason left
Muncie in 2000 to serve in AmeriCorps NCCC which took him many places throughout the east
coast eventually settling in Buffalo, New York. Jason returned to Muncie in 2008 and serves on the
board of directors of the Cardinal Greenway, the White River Alliance, The Roy C. Buley Center,
past president of Muncie-Delaware Clean and Beautiful, and the current president of the Muncie
Urban Forestry Committee. Jason and his family helped to start R.A.C.E. (Reconciliation Achieved
through Community Engagement) Muncie in the winter of 2014, which meets monthly with citizens
and community leaders to drive dialogue and action.
Dr.IKarenIA.IDowling…has taught in Indiana public K-12 education as a secondary
Spanish and Japanese teacher and has also served as a faculty member and administrator at the
university level. She and her husband, Trent have two sons, Jared and Joel. She is passionate about her
faith and family, serving the community, multicultural education/cultural competence, and connecting
with diverse people.
Michael Timothy Duerson…In 2006 Michael Timothy Duerson was inducted into the
Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago as one of Top 10 African American Engineers in the United
States. He is the Founder of The Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. The organization advocates
for stronger concussion regulations, educates students on concussion awareness and detection, and
provides pre and post neurocognitive testing for all male and female student athletes in all sports,
5th–12th grade. For more information, visit http://www.ddfund.org/. Michael and his brother, Dave
suffered the harsh effects of sports-related concussions. Michael’s story is one of meeting adversity
head on and emerging victorious time after time.
HeatherIGilvary-Hamad…and her Palestinian husband are raising two children.
Heather was raised Catholic in a large family in Indiana. She converted to Islam after 11 years of
marriage. She works in the field of higher education in the area of international education. She holds a
Master’s in Liberal Studies from IUSB where her thesis project was on cross cultural marriages between
American women and Middle Eastern men. She lectures on cross-cultural relationships/international
education at a variety of venues.
Shalia Gupta…born In Simla, India, and moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, 23 years after marrying
her husband in 1936. Shalia and her husband have three daughters. Shalia is a graduate of Lady
Irwin College in New Delhi and holds two Master’s Degrees in Child Development and Secondary
Principalship from Iowa. Shalia is a currently retired, but was a teacher and business owner.
Mia D. Johnson, PhD…the program chair for Human Services in the East Central Region
at Ivy Tech Community College, and also teaches psychology, sociology and leadership courses at
Indiana Tech and Anderson University. She lives in Muncie with her husband and two children, who
will attend Del Com Schools in the fall.
Lonna Jordan… Delaware County Probation Officer who spent her formative years attending
Trinity United Methodist Church in Muncie, Indiana. She graduated from Muncie Central High School
and Ball State University. Mrs. Jordan is a wife and the mother of two children.
Fred Long…born in 1961 to parents Eddie Long and Ada (Funches) Long. Fred and his wife
Glenda have been married 26 years and have 4 children. Fred works as Nestle USA in Anderson and
attends Word of Life Christian Church and Halal Kingdom Ministries.
Dr. Renae Mayes…an Assistant Professor at Ball State University where she trains masters
level students to be counselors and change agents in PreK-12 schools and community settings. Dr. Mayes
focuses on diversity and social justice in her teaching and research. Additionally, Dr. Mayes is engaged
in community efforts addressing inequities in the greater Muncie community.
Richard McKinney…served 25 years in the military, both in the Marine Corps and the
Army. In reflecting on his military journey, he realized that it was hate that got him through. However,
later experiences in life have lead to great a awakening, allowing Richard to come to terms with his hate
and find compassion and empathy for himself and the diverse community he lives in.
EllaIMcNeary…a mother and a grandmother who has been married to Edward McNeary
for 48 years. She has been recognized as the Valiant Woman and Young Christian Woman for Church
Women United. In addition to being heavily involved in the church community, she has served on the
Board for the Delaware County Prevention Council as well as served in many leadership roles in the
Muncie chapter of the NAACP.
Vivian Morrison…born and raised in Muncie Indiana and deeply involved in Trinity United
Methodist Church during the Civil Rights Movement in the late sixties and early seventies. The fight
for civil rights made a major difference in her life and the lives of many others. Mrs. Vivian Conley and
Reverend J. C. Williams and many other spiritual leaders stressed the fact that education and street sense
were the only way to survive in this world. Being a first-generation college graduate in her immediate
family and a freedom fighter and singer in the Muncie black coalition choir made such a major impact
on her that, to this very day, she is very passionate about advocating for the disadvantaged of different
numerous walks of life.
Dr.ICharlesIR.IPayne…in 1962, began teaching in segregated schools in Neshoba
County, Mississippi. In 1972 he became an assistant professor of secondary education, but his specific
responsibility was to start and develop a multi-cultural education program for secondary teachers.
The first of such a program in the country. In 2013 he retired as Assistant Provost for Diversity,
Emeritus; Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Emeritus; and, Professor of Secondary
Dr. June Payne…a native of Charlottesville VA where in 1961, she was one of the first
students in the public school system to participate in the start of integration. After high school
graduation, she earned a BS degree in Sociology from Virginia State University, and MA and PhD
degrees in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University. She worked in the Muncie, Indiana,
community for over 35 years as a psychologist and university administrator. She served as Director
of Counseling and Health Services at Ball State for 12 years before her retirement in 2015.
JaylaIScaife…daughter of Robert and Wilisha Scaife and a proud member of the Whitely
Community. Jayla graduated from Muncie community schools this year, and participated in the gifted
and talented program, National Honor Society, Society of High School Scholars, and Best Buddies
in addition to being recognized as an outstanding math student. Jayla is also active in youth ministry
through her church and activities in school. She will be attending the University of Dayton in the fall
on a full ride scholarship to play basketball and pursue a bachelors degree in Kinesiology.
Mina Samaan…grew up in Egypt and moved to the states in June 2010. He’s a senior in
Indiana University East studying nursing. After graduation, Mina is planning to do medical missions
all over the world especially Africa.
Christine Satory…is a mixed-blood American Indian who was forcibly taken, at birth, from
her mother and adopted by white parents through the U.S. Government’s Indian Adoption Project
(1950s/1960s). She is one of the thousands of transracial “Split-feathers” that live with the consequences
of forced assimilation.
Rashid Shabaaz…a native of Muncie, Indiana, played professional basketball for Cincinnati
Royals, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. He became a Muslim in 1971 and was the owner of
Rasheed’s Fish-n-Chips in Muncie until it closed. He currently owns Graffix, a printing company,
resides in Muncie and is a member of the Islamic Center of Muncie.
Daniel Stallings…President of Stallings Wealth Management; he spent his early childhood
in Spain, and his school years in southern California. He went to college in Atlanta, Georgia, at
Emory University, and his master’s degree at Azusa Pacific University, and was a higher education
professional at the University of Southern California, Cal State Fullerton and Ball State University.
He and his family have lived in Indiana for over 17 years, and are engaged in youth, education and
Tonikia Steans…a wife and mother who loves giving back to her community through
volunteering and mentoring. She believes that beauty reflects what’s within.
Muriel Weeden…retired educator, having served in the Marion and Muncie Community
Schools for 27 years. She has received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education
and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University. Muriel is also a playwright
and songwriter, and is the founder of MLK Gospel Choir and Holy Angels School Gospel Choir. She
currently resides in Muncie, Indiana.
Maria Williams-Hawkins, PhD…a graduate of The Ohio State University (1994)
and Associate Professor of Telecommunications at Ball State University. Research foci include:
media criticism, ethnic, gender, age and ability representations, international media, religion and
women in prison issues; often engaged in health related, multidisciplinary projects that are focused
on marginalized groups using technology to advance or improve upon a need. She is minister, wife,
mother and grandmother.
R.A.C.E. was created to initiate thoughtful conversation
and promote activities that focus intentional efforts
towards reconciliation, equality, and respect
for all races and cultures.
Through public community dialogue
we believe we can strengthen relationships
in our city and focus on prevention.
We strive to eradicate racism and
promote reconciliation in Muncie Indiana.