Kelly B. Ferrell
As the child of nomadic parents, we lived where we could and/or where my parents found work. At one point in the mid “70s, we lived in up-state NY, outside of Ithaca. We were the only black family in the area (in the county the way I remember it) and I was the only Black child that many of my classmates had ever seen. I went to Freeville Elementary and to Dryden Elementary and I remember being IT. The only time I ever saw Black people were at home. Mrs. Shapiro was my 3rd grade teacher and was the kind that makes such an impression on you that you never forget their name. When tryouts for the Christmas play were over and I was awarded the part of Mrs. Santa, PARENTS complained that I couldn’t possibly play that role as Mrs. Santa was WHITE. Mrs. Shapiro gave me the role in spite of them and I have that photo to this day. That experience shaped the way that I learned to think, speak and even how I learned. We moved after I finished the 3rd grade and ended up in Gary, Indiana. Both the Jacksons and the steel mills were gone and pretty much the entire city was out of work. It was there that I was introduced to all Black schools and neighborhoods. Because I “talked White” I got my behind kicked every day on the way too and from school until I finally learned to stand up for myself. All that being said, I am against segregation in any form. Segregation causes the mind to atrophy. It leads people into thinking that there is only one right way…or only one wrong way. Those who believe themselves superior are acting on an insecurity and a cultivated fear of the unknown and those made to feel inferior have to overcome a toxic self-hatred and crippling self doubt that tends toward negative self-fulfilling prophesies. I personally have found myself most comfortable in environments in the US where no one is in the majority.