Our lifelong teacher had no patience for racism or injustice of any kind
Note: February is Black HIstory Month. This is the second in a series of articles to be published throughout the month about the lives and experiences of Black Amercians (and their allies) in Appalachia.
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — If she were still alive, our mom — Minetta “Sparky” Barrick — would turn 89 today. She was a lifelong educator, and if she was still in the classroom, 5th graders would be spending the month learning about the contributions of black people to the world.
One way I try to honor her life is to follow her example of persistent championing for the oppressed. Where injustice was encountered, we were taught to fight it. And should we perpetrate it upon another, God help us, because nobody else would.
I was born here in 1956. For the next 18 years, I rarely encountered a black person. There were two exceptions. Our parents sent us to Catholic School and one — yes, just one — of my classmates was from a black family. The other exception was when we’d make our annual trek to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Beyond that, all I knew was what I saw on television and what other, less enlightened, family members had to say about race relations and black people in particular.
Mom would have none of it. She was clearly an ally of the Civil Rights Movement despite her quite pale skin and striking red hair. As a teacher, she wouldn’t pass on a teachable moment, especially during the turbulent 1960s. Her mantra never changed — all of God’s children are equal.
So, despite a childhood with very limited encounters with black people, our mom’s commands guide me still today. After all, our souls recognize truth when it is spoken.