Mom’s Legacy: We Are All Equal

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. 

‘Sparky’ Barrick

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.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2021. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of Grassroots Appalachia LLC. Children photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

3 comments

  1. I remember with great honor your mom and her red hair and sweet smile. She was a truly godly woman and a friend to me and Barbara. So was BIG Mike and you as well Michael.

  2. Hi Michael,
    I am a classmate of your sister Michelle, a student at St Mary’s in Mrs. Barrick’s classroom, attended All Saint’s with both parents, took Holy Communion to your dad at the nursing home and all 3 of my daughters were in Mrs. Barrick’s classroom at Johnson.
    Every time I see mac and cheese with the burnish edges, I clearly remember your mom and I in the cafeteria line asking for that portion!
    Our community loved your Mom. She was a loving surrogate Mom to the Bumgarner child when his mother died young. I have many more memories, but she certainly earned her wings and her nickname “Sparky”.
    I read each and every one of you reports.
    Thank you for your gifts and sensibilities.
    Theresa Midlege Gain

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