Black History: The Sad Story of Subtle Segregation

The late Miss Georgia Newsome, (r) Black Historian with her sister, Mrs. Maggie Breaston (l) and blogger, Christina Ryan Claypool (c).

As February ends, it would be remiss not to mention that it’s Black History month. I’d like to tell you that Black History is an inspirational narrative about societal acceptance and positive change, but often it’s not. Sadly, it’s more of a one step forward and two steps back kind of progression. Although sometimes it’s been the other way around. “The ASALH [Association for the Study of African American Life and History has dedicated] … the 2013 Annual Black History Theme to celebrating the anniversary of two important African American turning points – the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington,” reported the Davenport University Library Services.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In explanation, on August 28, 1963, approximately a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington D. C. There are historical photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. waving to the huge crowd. That summer day, the Lincoln Memorial audience heard the Civil Rights leader share his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King spoke passionately about his vision of an America where one day in the future, his children would “… not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I thought about the progression of racial equality, while celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past January at the Mount Zion Holy Union Church of God in Sidney, an event organized by Rev. Phil Chilcote. Keynote speaker, 73-year-old Dr. Ervin Smith of Columbus, an emeritus professor of Christian Ethics at Methesco, a Methodist Seminary, explained what segregation in Georgia looked like in his youth. Dr. Smith shared that he couldn’t go into the main library, restaurants, get the same medical treatment, or drink out of the same drinking fountains as whites, solely because of being black. Eventually, the scholar authored his own books including: “The Ethics of Martin Luther King Jr.,” and “Black Theology: Toward an Inclusive Church,” among others. Segregation affected Smith’s choice of a college as well. “I couldn’t go to the University of Georgia…couldn’t go to Georgia Tech. Why? Because of the color of my skin,” he said. When the educator who obtained his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Illinois moved to Delaware, Ohio, in 1971, he thought he had escaped segregation. Yet he met a different kind of segregation in the north.

Bishop Ernest Wilson, pastor at Mount Zion, says that he could identify with Dr. Smith’s story. After all, he was “reared in Alabama.” He said, “I’ve been here [in Sidney] 52 years, but I remember where I came from.” For Bishop Wilson many of those memories are painful. He said, “I would talk to my mom…I can’t go around here saying, ‘Yes, Sir’ and they calling me a boy.” The 72 year old minister told of other serious injustices when he was teenager. Like seeing a friend stabbed for no reason, whowalked to the doctor’s offices with his intestines in his hands, only because he was black.” Bishop Wilson defines, “Equality, [as] the state or quality of being equal…we just wanted to be treated fairly,” he said. “One of the great deceptions I had 52 years ago when I came to Shelby County… [I] was really surprised some things going on here [concerning racism]. Thought I was leaving those things behind,” said the pastor. During the sixties, he found out that Blacks could only live in certain neighborhoods, and that there were still local businesses where he couldn’t get service.

I listened as both older African American men portrayed growing up in the segregated south. Escaping to the Midwest, believing they would be accepted for who they were. Although often they were met with a subtle segregation, that was a difficult enemy to combat. In past interviews with Lima’s Black History expert, the now deceased Miss Georgia Newsome, she and her sister, Mrs. Maggie Breaston, also spoke of the subtle segregation they experienced many decades ago moving here from the south. After all, it happened most everywhere.

Maybe some folks would say, it’s over and we should just forget it. Yet to paraphrase the wise words of late Holocaust survivor, Elisabeth Sondheimer of Lima, Ohio, “If we bury the past, we are likely to repeat it.” Instead, “We’ve got to do better,” urged Bishop Wilson. “Fifty years after Dr. King made the speech I’m finding out…We’ve got to do better.”  But how can we?  Dr. Ervin Smith believes there is a remedy to the racism that seeks to destroy communities. The retired educator said, [We have] “Got to work with our children, work with each other…until we all see each other as children of God.”

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on Feb. 22, 2013. 

Battling Addictions: There is Help!

Scotch & WaterWith headlines pointing to celebrities in and out of rehab clinics and many communities plagued with serious drug issues, we can forget that alcoholism remains a problem of great dimension. It is, “The most abused drug in our society,” said Cynthia Moore.

A lot of clients who are struggling with addictions including alcohol are referred to the Shelby County Counseling Center where Mrs. Moore is the Substance Abuse Clinical Supervisor. “…90 percent of our [addictions] client base are ordered by the court to be here, which means they have had an alcohol or drug related offense.” Getting help is often, “An alternative to jail or prison, if they successfully complete a program,” she said. Mrs. Moore has been in the business of helping folks overcome addictions since 1987. Yet the passion for the cause is still evident in her voice. Working in the field began as a college internship. “…I had some family members who struggled with alcohol addiction. I just thought…I’ll just try it. I never did anything else since. I love it,” she said.

It appears difficult to isolate alcohol abuse solely though, since many of the agency’s clients struggle with cross-addiction. “They may have another primary drug, heroin is huge right now, but always drinking in the interim,” said the addictions expert. “We see cross-addiction…where they are addicted to many substances.”

As for putting a face on the problem, the supervisor believes, “The reality is we are interacting with people who are functioning with addictions everyday. First, we must get to know individuals better, before we see their struggle.” Whether it is an employer or family member, “Sometimes they get angry, they don’t understand that drug addiction or alcoholism is a disease,” she said. “It’s important to separate the person from the disease.” Moore is emphatic in stressing the importance of recognizing that, “This is always a disease. You are going to see mood swings…[also] this disease causes people to break their value systems.”

How do we know when it’s time to seek help for someone we care about? “As theAlcoholics Anonymous disease progresses, the effect on those major life areas get bigger and bigger and easier to see,” said the supervisor. “What people don’t realize is that chemical dependency treatment is a cumulative process,” she said. “Many things throughout someone’s life have to accumulate before they are ready [to get help]. They might be job problems, health problems, legal problems, medical problems, spiritual problems, [ etc.]” Alcoholism is “cunning, baffling, and powerful,” said Moore, quoting from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Part of our treatment program is to introduce them to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon. She asserts that it is, “Very important for an addicted person to find others who have walked that path and succeeded. They cannot fight addiction alone. They need others with them to help them deal with the thing that has become more powerful then themselves.”

As for church support groups like Celebrate Recovery, Cynthia Moore considers these to be, “Very helpful avenues, as well.” Although she admits that the drawback is that many individuals battling with substance abuse can also struggle with a lack of worthiness initially making seeking assistance from a religiously-affiliated source difficult for them. To be an advocate for someone fighting addiction, “We have to be aware of the resources in our community. In every county there is an agency that is dedicated to helping the addicted population,” said Moore. Agencies like Shelby County Counseling Center offer, “…support services to the family, as well the addict,” she said. The Center’s primary “funding stream comes from the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services. We have a sliding scale based on family size and income,” Moore explained. [Although] “…we never ever refuse anyone service based on ability to pay,” she added.

If you are wondering if you have a problem, or concerned that someone you love might, you “…can call and just talk to counselor,” said Moore. This doesn’t require an appointment, instead phone the center and ask, “Can I just talk to counselor for a moment?” Moore suggested. “Really, what it is about, if this is the time for them to be ready,” said the mental health professional.

Is it your time to get some help? It takes a lot more courage to pick up the phone, than to simply suffer in silence. Call the Board of Mental Health in your area and ask for a referral, visit a church recovery group, or attend an AA, NA, or Al-Anon meeting to learn more. Check your local newspaper’s community calendar for meeting places and times. There is hope for breaking free of addictions, but you have to take the first step. After all, the life you save may be your own.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. This post is excerpted from a column which originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on February 4, 2013.