Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Author

Living Life in the Country As A Writer, Photographer

Dearest Readers:

Lately, every time I open a newspaper to read the local and world news, EVERY PAGE has something pertaining to the recent movements in the USA. For example — events for blacks. Events and discussions regarding abolishing law enforcement. Events. Subjects….While I understand the black community is finally having a voice regarding their recent movements, actions from law enforcement, protests and riots, I am curious. Maybe a bit angry too, but it isn’t an anger where I will go to the property or event and shoot into the audience. I’m not angry at the black communities. My anger is the type of emotion where I ask why. Why? WHY?

Why has it taken so long for the black communities to be heard? Why has the USA (especially the South) always chosen to sweep these issues under the rug? Why is it always an issue of: “he was black. She was black.” And so on???

Why? Isn’t it past the time to roll up the rug where these subjects of racism have been swept. I say it is too little too late.

Understand, I am not a racist. I am the one who stood tall when, as a teenager, I could not dance with ‘black soldiers.’ I didn’t understand. I was ridiculed and told if I returned to the USO, I must tell the ‘black soldiers’ no!

WHAT??? I questioned the President of the USO organization. After dancing with an amazingly courteous ‘black soldier’ the President tapped me on the shoulder. He requested that I meet him in his office. So, being the courteous young lady I was (and still am — up to a point) I knocked on his door. He sat behind his desk. I sat in a chair.

Clearing his throat he said: “It’s come to my attention that you were dancing with a ‘black soldier.’ ” He coughed.

I sat up taller. Perplexed.

“I danced with a soldier. He asked me to dance. I’ve been told black girls are not permitted to join the USO. I’ve never seen a black girl here. He wanted to dance. What’s the problem here?”

He cleared his throat. “He’s black. White girls in the South never dance with a black.”

I exhaled a deep breath. “Well. I did. I don’t see a problem. This gentleman who is a soldier is black. He wanted to dance. He conducted himself as a gentleman soldier. Let me get this straight? It is OK for him to fight for our country. And it’s OK for him to pay the five dollar fee to attend the dance; however, if he wants to dance, just who should he ask?”

“We do not allow white girls to dance with a black soldier. This is the deep South. We don’t allow this. Not while I’m the President here. You’ve disgraced us.”

I sat quietly for a moment. “Disgraced you? I disgraced No One! All I did was dance! And the dance wasn’t a dirty dance, nor did he get fresh with me.”

I did not like the descriptions of ‘black soldier’ or ‘white girl,’ but I was alone in his office defending my actions which shouldn’t need defending. By now, I was shaking.

“I never want to watch you dancing with a ‘black soldier’ again. Do you understand?”

I exhaled a long breath. “Then don’t watch me,” I said. “I will not say no to dancing with anyone.”

I excused myself. My hands were shaking like a leaf. Still, I didn’t understand what I did wrong. Little did I know what was happening outside of his office.

When I left, I went to get my handbag. I was leaving. Three soldiers (all white) followed me. They saw everything, they said. The dancing with the soldier. How he held me gently and respectfully. And they watched me being called into the President’s office after the music ended.

Without a doubt, they knew what happened. Larry, a soldier from Louisiana, spoke up: “What was the problem?” He asked. “Are you in trouble?”

I burst into tears, rushing out of the dance I said, “I’m all right.”

Larry knew me better! He and the other soldiers standing next to him followed me outside. “Did he reprimand you for dancing with Scott?”

Wiping tears from my eyes, I said Yes. “How did you know?”

“Don’t you worry. You’ve got lots of friends here who respect you. We know you will not go out with us. We’ll take care of this.”

The next afternoon, Larry phoned me, letting me know I would be getting a phone call from the President of the USO. Four soldiers met with him after I left. All of them were white, not that it mattered to me.

“Let’s just say, we demanded the President to make a few changes!”

I was shocked. Never have I had someone stand up for me after I asked why. I suppose I’ve always had the courage to stand up, never anticipating someone else would back my beliefs. Most people simply walk away. They ‘don’t want to get involved.’

I lost respect for the USO and their dances after that issue. The President phoned me, wanting me to return. He said I had lots of friends there. Little did he know I heard about the soldiers meeting with him. I attended a few more dances and at one of the dances, I met my husband. Shameful, aren’t I!

Over the years, I’ve stood tall for other issues regarding racism. While I do not understand why the protests happening on a daily basis become violent riots, I do believe in the freedom we in America have to voice our opinions. To those who’ve told me to simply walk away, I refuse. I find a way for my voice to be heard. I’ve written letters to my Congress, Mayors and the President. Happy to say, all of those letters received a reply. Not that it did anything to help the situations, but my voice was heard.

Whenever I’ve seen a man and woman in a domestic situation, I do not turn my head to look away. I speak up! This drives my husband a bit nuts, wondering just when I’ll ‘learn to keep my mouth shut.’

I suppose the answer to that comment is a simple – when I die!

I’ve seen changes happen, and I’ve held my head high while knowing we in America should be equal. During the feminist movement, I worked to vocalize my beliefs and when I asked a former employer why a guy doing the same job as I was performing was being paid more, the employer said: “He has a family to care for.”

My fingers tightened along with my body. “And so do I!”

Equality, that is truly what these movements are about. We want equality.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering if I’ve been a part of the protests, I will answer a big NO. For me, I find my strength in writing what I believe. I still remember what I felt like on the evening when I ‘disgraced the USO while dancing with a ‘black soldier.’

Never did I imagine a group of soldiers watched in awe what was happening after I was called into the President’s office. Never did I expect anyone to back me. I simply did not see an issue. I was dancing gracefully with a soldier, not disgracing ANYONE!

Sometimes I am curious if the guy I danced with ever thinks about that night in Columbus, Georgia. The night I recognized racism is not about the color of skin. Racism is about people. Beliefs. And most of all, equality.

I was hopeful all of these issues would be put to rest; nevertheless, it is now the year of 2020. The year of anger. The year of Corona virus quarantine. The year of fear that we are losing our rights if we don’t fight. The year of change. 2020 is a year of burning buildings. Shootings. Police brutality. Demolishing restaurants, and so much more. I pray nightly 2020 will become a year where we are all able to stand tall and see change in ourselves and our communities. Like the cliche says: “We are all in this together,” referring to the Corona Virus. I say: “Really? Are we all in this together?”

The subjects I read about in the newspaper shares stories of Black Lives Matter. Yes. That is true; however, I truly believe ALL LIVES MATTER. Yes, it is time to change some things within law enforcement. It is time to acknowledge our history records reveal too much about leaders who really did not deserve to become leaders, or monuments. It is time for all of us to pray and to learn we must improve our beliefs. Our lives. We must change what we learned in church and our communities. We need to love one another. We need EQUALITY!

The time is now. Equality. Respect. Dignity. Pride. And most of all to believe not only do BLACK LIVES MATTER. ALL LIVES MATTER!

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