Writer remembers rising above Jim Crow

It hardly seems like 50 years have passed since the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech.

I can remember exactly where I was that day: I was a maid, working for a family on Miami Beach, feeling a bit forlorn that I couldn’t afford to take the time off to be a part of the history-making event. But on that day, I was determined to be a witness, even if I couldn’t be in Washington.

There was a television in nearly every room in the house. So as I moved around, doing my chores, one eye was always fixed on the television. I still get goose bumps when I remember pushing the heavy vacuum, as I watched the vast mass of people who had gathered as one on that day. I sang along with them when they sang "We Shall Overcome," and my heart swelled with pride as I listened to Dr. King’s speech.

A few years passed. Things in America changed for African Americans. such as the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, giving minorities and women a better opportunity at getting better jobs. As things changed, I saw that there was an opportunity for me, too. It was very depressing at times to give my heart to a family who thought so little of me that they constantly told me, "Maids are a dime a dozen."

Not true, I thought, but I could show them better than I could tell them. So, each Sunday after church, I’d read the comics to my young two sons and then search the want ads section of the paper, looking for the ads that specifically said, "We are an equal opportunity employer." I would underline several, and on Monday, I made my calls.

One of the ads I answered was for a teller trainee at a bank. I was asked on the phone what high school I’d graduated from. When I said, "Booker T. Washington High School," the person on the line got a bit nervous and asked me to speak to her manager. A man came to the phone and said abruptly, "That job has been filled, as of right now." And he hung up the phone.

I knew why. Booker T. Washington was a "Colored" school, and this was before integration. I learned from that incident that not all businesses meant what they said in their ads.

Finally I saw the ad for a file clerk at The Miami Herald. There was no phone number to call, so I had to write a letter of application. My letter got me an interview and later the job.

I gave a two-week notice to the woman where I worked as a maid and she told me that this new-found opportunity wouldn’t last. "As soon as President Johnson is out of the chair, things will go back as they were," she said.

And I said, "Maybe you are right. But I have this chance to better myself, and I am going to take it."

I’m so happy I did. That was in 1965. I started my job at the paper on the first Monday of 1966, working days while attending classes at night. And In 1970, I became the paper’s first African-American woman reporter.

Not bad for a former dime-a-dozen maid, wouldn’t you agree?

‘Rally Day’ at South Miami Lutheran

Get ready for Rally Day at South Miami Lutheran Church. The event will begin at 9 a.m. on Sept. 15, with the installation of 21 of the preschool teachers and assistants and the church’s Sunday School teachers.

According to Elaine Mills, the church’s preschool is accredited, and is a gold-seal school with 105 students. On Rally Day, there will be a special Sunday School class for the preschool students.

Following the service, there will be a covered-dish picnic, to include a water dump tank and a bounce house for the children. And in keeping with the tradition of the Rally Day celebration, the "Balloon Lady" will be on hand to entertain the children and adults.

It’s free and the community is invited. South Miami Lutheran Church is at 7190 Sunset Drive.

ACND celebrates 60 years

Archbishop Curley Notre Dame Prep School will celebrate its 60th anniversary throughout the year, beginning at 10 a.m. on Aug. 29 with an Opening School Mass with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The Mass will be celebrated at the former home of Notre Dame Academy for Girls, Notre Dame D’Haiti Mission Church, 110 NE 62nd St.

Alumni members of the class as well as Archdiocese of Miami schools Superintendent Kim Pryzbylski and current students will attend the Mass.

The First Reading at the Mass will be read by one of the school’s first graduates, Eugene Yagle of the class of 1954.

The Mass will be followed by a tour of the site, now home to The Pierrre Toussaint Leadership and Learning Center and a luncheon.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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