I wrote the following article more than ten years ago while living in Red Bank, New Jersey. At the time, my friend Eileen Moon was kind enough to publish it in the Two River Times. I think about the article every year around this time, because it reminds me in a vivid, personal way of the monumental civil rights struggle waged in this country during my formative years. I reprint it here in hopes that some will gain an appreciation of why so many feel it important to pause and reflect on occasions such as Martin Luther King’s birthday and Black History Month. I welcome your comments.
Copyright 2003, W. David Tarver
A few years ago, when I was still living in Little Silver [New Jersey], I was sitting at my kitchen table enjoying a ham sandwich. It was a nice summer day, and a warm breeze was coming through the open kitchen window. I was home alone and I was enjoying the moment. Suddenly, as I was eating the sandwich, I started to shake and cry uncontrollably. At first, I didn’t know why, but as I sat there sobbing, my mind began to replay an episode from my childhood. As the episode unfolded, I began to understand the reason for my emotional breakdown. Continue reading →
A few months ago, we were moving my mother out of her condo, and I came across her nursing school diploma. I knew that she had graduated from the Grady COLORED School of Nursing in Atlanta, but seeing the racial adjective so prominently displayed on her diploma reminded me of all that she, my father, and so many others of their generation went through so that their children wouldn’t have to suffer such indignities.
It may be hard to grasp today, but despite my mother’s segregated education, her nursing school diploma was progress. She went on to become the first black nursing administrator in the City of Flint — Assistant Director of Nursing at Hurley Hospital. And while segregation and racial bias certainly limited her opportunities, my mother never let such injustice define or embitter her. She was and is a gracious lady, and her beauty and grace still shine through today, even in her much diminished state.
On this Martin Luther King Day, let us remember and honor all those who struggled to defeat institutionalized racism/sexism/xenophobia, for they surely laid the groundwork for the society we live in today — a society in which no one questions whether a Catholic can be president, or Asians can participate fully in American life, or a woman can run General Motors. A society where, even though many of his colleagues are spitting nails, a black man can lead the most powerful nation on earth.
Let’s honor those who sacrificed, because yeah, they built that.
David Tarver with Fred and Louise Tarver Scholar, Caleb Brazier
The most recent Fred and Louise Tarver Scholars, Charles White and Caleb Brazier, should have an exciting and eventful summer. Charles just finished his first year in the U-M College of Engineering, and I understand that he did very well. He landed a coveted internship with Intel Corporation in Folsom, California, and that is where is is right now. Before he left, he wrote one of the nicest letters I have ever received from a scholarship recipient. It is so nice to know that students appreciate and recognize the opportunities and support they receive. Charles would seem to have a very bright future.
Caleb Brazier graduated from the U-M College of Engineering this Spring, and next month he is off to begin his professional career at Microsoft Corporation in Seattle, Washington. I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Caleb this past weekend, and can attest that he is chomping at the bit to get started on his software development career.
Both of these fellows are fine young men who will be a real asset to their community and to the profession. I look forward to following their careers, and to seeing them when they are back on campus at U-M. Speaking of which, I’m hoping to hold an event soon that will bring all of the previous Fred and Louise Tarver Scholars together in Ann Arbor to share their career lessons and stories with the next generation of engineers. They are quite a talented, accomplished bunch already. Should be quite a group photo, too…all of the scholars pictured with one of the people the scholarship is named for, my mother, Claudia Louise Tarver. My mom is ninety-one years old now, but I know she wouldn’t miss a picture like that for the world.
Claudia Louise Tarver (my mother) surrounded by me and local relatives after Albany State lecture.
Earlier this year, I had the distinct honor of presenting a lecture to honors program students at Albany State University (ASURAMS) in Albany, Georgia. It was especially satisfying to lecture there because my family hails from that area, and because my mother and some local family members attended. The folks at Albany State were nice enough to produce a really good video of the lecture, which they kept in their archives and made available to local television stations.
Check out the video (below) and let me know what you think! This video is part of the new ProvingGroundVideo channel on YouTube. Please try out the channel and subscribe — it’s FREE!