Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | April 13, 2007

Life: White Board Sayings Explained – Number 1

“Life is Like the Motion of the Ocean, when the Tide Pulls Against Your – Swim Harder!”

Reverend John E Jordan, Sr – as originally heard thru Rev. John E Jordan, Jr (prior to him being a Reverend).

 I grew up in a small town in South Central Louisiana.  To say that my town was your traditional southern small town would be about right, we had the same issues as most small southern towns ( as well as the same positives ).  I was a poor white kid (4th of 6 children) whom grew up it what would be now considered “Government Housing.”  I had a loving hard-working mom and an absentee father.

John, Jr ( JJ from now on ) was a middle class black kid whose father held a full-time job and was a minister at a local church.  His mother was a wonderful woman who never met anyone she didn’t like, and treated every kid who came through there door as if they were her own.

JJ and I met in middle school and became kindred spirits from nearly the first day, but needless to say our friendship confounded just about everyone.  It may have been the early 80’s, but race relations in our town were never violent, but never quite good.  Blacks and White’s generally did not mix.

This never discouraged JJ and I, we stayed friends. He played in my neighborhood (mostly white) and I played in his (almost exclusively black).  Our friendship continued and he was as close to me as any of my 3 brothers.  We had some minor race issues, but no one really did anything except say occasional words or occasionally “coached” us about friends should be “our color”.  We ignored them all.

Then came our year in High School.  Our Public High School still had segregated proms and homecoming dances.  Yes this was 1986.  John and I decided that this wasn’t right and took to the fight.  We met with our friends, we went to planning meetings, we fought the good fight.  We weren’t alone, the football, basketball, and baseball teams (John played Football and Baseball, and I played Baseball) backed us.

The fight to desegragate our Homecoming dance took it’s toll, we were either loved or hated by almost all of our peers, teachers, and parents. Some were sympathetic, some were hostile, and some were just apathetic.

At a point nearing Homecoming, it became apparent that we had lost the good fight and that our efforts were just not enough to overcome the history of the situation.  JJ and I were depressed about it.

JJ talked to his dad about the situation and the fact that it might be time to just give up, that we were just to kids who nobody cared about when it came to our thoughts on race.  That is when John, Sr. told him the prophetic line, JJ related it to me the next day in class.

 Needless to say, we lost the fight, but I think we won the war.  John and I went our seperate ways after high school, and I rarely see or speak to him anymore, but when he and I finally did get back together after his daughter’s high school graduation (same high school), my niece graduated on the same night, we realized we had won.

Our Prom and Homecoming went on in 1986 as a segregated event. We along with a small cadre of friends boycotted and never had a prom or homecoming, but we got a life lesson about standing up for what we believed in.

I also took away the most influential line in my entire life.  I use it now to help me thru family crisis, career disappointments, and I hope I can teach it to my children.

As to our high school, it went to “mixed” Prom’s and Homecomings in 1989 just three short years later.  I hope we had some impact in that, but I’ll never know for sure.

The other exchangethat will stay with me forever is worth mentioning.  At the “White” homecoming planning meeting a father of one girl in our class asked, ” So what happens when one of those black boys asks my daughter to dance?” – in a heartbeat the “white” co-captain of our football team replied “She gets to say yes or no!”

Isn’t that what we should really learn out of this.  1) through up’s and down’s keep the path and 2) all the race questions actually have simple answers if you are brave enough to face them head on.


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