because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pat Morris

Most people in the United States and many outside it are aware of the work of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After all, it was founded in 1909 by individuals (both Black and White) who wanted to see everyone born in the U.S. treated as full citizens.

Through the decades since then, members of the NAACP have helped to change life in the U.S.A., one example being the famous Brown v. the Board of Education legal case that (ostensibly) integrated the public schools nationally in 1957. While it has become increasingly obvious that many schools -- especially many poverty-stricken schools -- remain racially segregated for the most part, few stand to call this practice into question.

In a rural, half Black parish in the belly of Louisiana, however, an in-your-face woman named Pat Morris not so quietly chips away at the feet of clay under the monument of White Supremacy. Not only did she -- as President of her local NAACP branch -- successfully get her parish's School Board dragged back into federal court in 2007 for not living up to the court's order to de-segregate the parish schools back in 1977 (already more than twenty years after Brown v. Board and now thirty years ago!), but she has stayed on their tails constantly since then, forcing them at every turn to do what is legal and right for the future of the parish's children.

Her decision to take on a power structure that has been in place for generations cost her economic security while she was blackballed by every employer in the parish for the first four years of the fight. During that time, it also cost her access to employer-provided health insurance to cover the stress-related health issues created by her commitment to social change. And it's resulted in a constant on-going barrage of insults, name-calling, and other people's fears that to be perceived as close to Morris is to risk their own well-being.

Worse, however, it's cost her many nights of sleep, interrupted by muffled death threats on her personal telephone. And these are not idle threats. Her car motor has already been destroyed twice by vandalism and on one occasion, all her tire lug nuts were found to have been loosened by someone who knew full well how much time she spends on the highway.

How does she handle death threats on the phone in the middle of the night, knowing they come from people more than willing to do the deed if they can get away with it? She tells them she'll meet them anywhere they say anytime, lay down her life, and then haunt their every waking moment until their miserable days on earth are done. Apparently, they believe her. And they know an in-your-face woman when they see one.

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