Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Irene Morgan Kikaldy, a hero you should know

"If something happens to you
which is wrong, the best thing to
do is have it corrected in the best way you can. The best thing for me to do was take it to the Supreme Court.
--Irene Morgan Kikaldy, in 1984

Listen up. Today, the daddy interrupting the celebration of great African American
poets for a day to say to Irene Morgan Kikaldy, on her birthday, "Thanks you for standing up to racism and being a hero and a person we all should know."

Check this: The daddy's a black man who doesn't have to ride Jim Crow: doesn't have to sit in the back of the bus, and when boarding, doesn't have to put up with a bus driver calling the daddy or other black folks names under his breath or stating in a very harsh tone, "Move along, niggas!" In fact, he doesn't ha
ve to put with being humiliated in any way, thanks to some courageous people who, by refusing to stand, ensured that he could sit anywhere and be respected as a human being.

Now, when the daddy boards a bus, he sits at any seat that's unoccupied. Wh
ether he's going downtown on weekends to get a little crazy and paint the town red in Minneapolis, or going "down home" to Atlanta, Georgia to re-acquaint himself with old folks who dispense motherwit like water out of faucet and life-lessons like gulps of moonshine on a back porch.

When the daddy goes home, his former neighbors like to put in their "two cents worth" of motherwit and life-lessons. Neighbors? You know, the ones his parents made him call uncles and aunts, the ones who made him go to the corner grocery store and buy them CC (whatever that was) and snuff, the ones who only spoke ebonics. Now, the daddy's ride to see them is all good: hassle-free. No drama. Just an aching back from the long ride. He has seen worse.

Now, like the daddy, you board the bus, and nobody tells you where to sit. Now, when you give up your seat, it's out of kindness to an elder male who might slip and fall or an older lady trying to negotiate the rail while carrying bags.

Irene Morgan Kikaldy in 2000
receiving honors in Virgina,
Photo, AP

For this change, give thanks to the woman who really started it all. Give up a couple of serious double high-fives all around for Ms. Irene Morgan Kikaldy. Do you know her? Did you know that, long before Rosa Parks refused to give up a seat to a white person in Montgomery in 1955, Ms. Kirkaldy, refused to do the same in 1944, 11 years earlier in Virginia? Did you know that, when the officer came to arrest her, she fought him, kicking him in the groin; and she was pulled off the bus kicking and screaming.

Yes, Ms. Kikaldy (know as Irene Morgan then) was feisty lady alright, so feisty that she took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court... and won! On June 3, 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated busing during interstate travel to be unconstitutional and set a strong precedent for future dispensation of discriminatory cases with respect to travel.

And did you know that The NAACP lawyer who argued her case before that august body was? A young Thurgood Marshall, the same Thurgood Marshall who would later be appointed to that court.

And did you know that the subsequent "freedom rides" of which people like now Rep. John Lewis, the organizer Bayard Rusting were involved had as its genesis in that same law that Ms. Kikaldy won at the Supreme Court level against discrimination during interstate travel? What the freed rides were all about was thie simple logic that, if you can't discriminate in interstate travel in Virginia, you can't do it anywhere else in the country. They were testing the law and the government to make sure what was put in law became public practice.

And, yes, one of the leaders of the freedom Rides was Bayard Rustin, who was an organizer for a group called The Journey of Reconciliation at the time but would later become an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the chief organizer of the March on Washington. But speaking of Ms. Kikaldy's efforts that started it all, Raymond Arsenault, author of the book "Freedom Riders," wrote:

“She was young, attractive, articulate and, judging by her poised performance in Saluda, strong enough to withstand the pressures of a high-profile legal battle."

As for her later life, in her fifties, she ran a child-care center with her second husband, Stanley Kirkaldy. And she went back to school. At age 68, she received a bachelor's degree from St. John's University. Five years later, she received a master's in Urban Studies from Queens College. In 2000, Glouchester County, where she got on the Greyhound bus and began her remarkable ride with history, honored her on its 350th anniversary. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest honor that could be bestowed on an American citizen. The citation read:

“When Irene Morgan boarded a bus for Baltimore in the summer of 1944, she took the first step on a journey that would change America forever.”

Yes, today the daddy's sipping from the cup of history. He's feeding to his soul the the already warm love of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy. The poetry of her actions made the daddy-- no, made us all-- singer a little louder and with greater conviction, "We shall overcome" and "I ain't gon let nobody/turn me around/turn me around/turn me around."

To the Creator the daddy prays:

We raise our voices as one and shout,
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you for bringing for to earth, for give her the courage
to sit with us, to fight us in the battle for civil rights and against hopelessness
and despair.

Thank you for sending us Irene Morgan Kikaldy,
a lovely, courageous woman who brought sunlight to a movement,
confidence and hope that a sun people could fight and win
in a cold and distant land and thereby redeem their souls.



Anonymous said...

Anon: Who is she? Are you going to get back to the poetry tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this piece reminding us of the cost of change, and of people like Ms. Kikaldy, who've paid dearly for our freedoms. Thurgood Marshall -- awesome.
I love the dog -- great photo.