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Merlin's Story

merlin stewart 85

merlin stewart 85

Hope Realized

As we celebrate Black History Month, this is a look back
On one young girl’s story of what is was like to be poor and black
For she grew up in a rural town in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement
She witnessed the many struggles as well as the improvements

Her family were ‘sharecroppers’ and in the cotton fields she did toil
Digging and planting and chopping and tilling the soil
Her hands ached and burned from using a hoe
Calluses formed in her palm, as they had so many times before
When the cotton was ready to pick, a cotton sack she did adorn
Picking rows and rows of cotton, her cuticles bloody and torn
Each sack of cotton was weighed, and when there was enough to make a bale
By mule and wagon, it was taken to the cotton gin to sell
Most of the money went to the landowner to pay for the house and land
And after buying flour, sugar and corn meal, there was little left in hand
The house had no running water, no indoor bathrooms, no heat in the room where she lay
Even as a child there was so much work to be done, so little time for play
There was no affection in the home and she mostly lived in fear
For if the work was not done, the whoopin’s were severe
There were hogs to slop and chicken to feed
Little time for enjoyment, until she learned to read...

When she started first grade, school for black children was held in churches in town
The pews were rearranged to separate the classes; the school books were “rebounds”
But the teachers were very dedicated, and the young girl did learn
And books became her escape from life on the farm

Changes were slow to occur in rural Mississippi. For example, her family wasn’t able to vote until the 1960s
The Civil Rights Movement brought both hope and unrest. She came to understand her rights and wanted to be her best
Many of the things that she read about and learned as a girl, helped her imagine a life beyond the Mississippi world
After graduation, from the fields of Mississippi she did go; Out into a world that she did not know
But what she did know was that she was smart; For this she believed deep in her heart

She did not look at the people around her through lens of color or race
She just focused on opportunities and finding her place
She worked and studied hard - getting 3 college degrees
She was able to realize her hopes and dreams. I know because she was me

Growing up in the South during the ‘50s and ‘60s were challenging times
But the struggles that I faced, did not my life define
Education can change circumstances and experiences in the world that we live in
But the most powerful of all changes are the changes that come from within

- Merlin Stewart '85

merlin stewart 85

Sep 5, 2018