By Pastor Rasheed Z. Baaith
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:5)
In the 1950s, Topeka, Kansas, where Linda Brown lived, like a lot of America had dual de facto school systems. One for Black children and one for white children. Black children might be living only a few blocks away from a school but could not attend that school if it was a “white” school. Instead Black children would be shuttled miles away from their neighborhood school to a “Black” school.
In 1952 when Linda Brown was only 9-years-old, her father attempted to enroll her in her neighborhood school a few blocks from where she lived. The problem was her neighborhood school, the Summer School, was a “white” school. She was refused enrollment and the battle to desegregate schools in Kansas and in all of America began.
Partnering with the NAACP, Linda’s father sued the Topeka Board of Education all the way to the United States Supreme Court and in May,1954, the Court ruled that Kansas state laws that had established the “separate but equal” public schools system for Black and white students was, based on the 14th amendment, unconstitutional. To say the Supreme Court decision changed America forever is a faint description of what was to happen as a result of the case.
Linda Brown, despite the court victory, was never to attend the Summer School where Brown vs Board of Education began. But she did two things as a result of what happened. She became part of that vanguard of heroic Black children who risked their future and often their lives to force America to understand the Constitution was applicable to all Americans. Irrespective of color or age or gender. Secondly, Linda Brown went on to have a successful life of achievement and contribution. Her transition from this world to the next at the age of 75 has to be noted, especially by our community.
There is no doubt her legacy is one of courage and sacrifice. The same is true of her father who clearly showed that he was not just thinking of his child but of Black children everywhere. Here was a man who clearly understood the concept and the importance of the “Village” we speak so often off today. Think of the threats, the violence, the fear and uncertainties these children must have faced each day. Trust had to be in God because only He knew how righteous their sacrifice was.
But the question now becomes do we still have the fire in our hearts to flame change, do we still understand that without sacrifice there will not be progress specific to us, are we passing on to our children the understanding that while it’s good to have consensus, sometimes we’ll have to walk alone and most of all, you never accept a normality that makes you acquiesce to your destruction.
Linda Brown, her family and all those others like them remind us that while much has been done, there is still much to do for our children and their future. Including much we have to teach our children to do for themselves. Most of us to let them know as plainly as we can that it is educate or die. Linda Brown and her family understood that dictum very well.