Friday, January 16, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

I agree with many of my friends that Facebook may be the new crack. I’ve been on Facebook for about nine months. Introduced to it by my girl Lise, who does her best to keep me cool and in the loop. At first I resisted, but after a few days I decided to give it a shot. I’ve been hooked ever since and have even introduced my mom, other family members and friends to the joy of social networking via FB.

Earlier this week, while trolling other friends’ pages, I saw a familiar face from my days in elementary school, Bill Logan. Before I go any further, let me offer a bit of back-story. After 4th grade at Evans Elementary, a fully integrated school, my parents enrolled me in St. Louis, our local parish Catholic’s school. I attended St. Louis from 5th to 8th grade and was always the only African American in my class. This was from 1976-1979, prior to the era of political correctness. Although I made out fine academically, socially I had lots of problems. I did develop some friendships, none of which were maintained beyond my 8th grade graduation.

I found myself in the same situation, when after my sophomore year, my first high school, St. Leonard’s Academy, closed and I was forced to transfer to the local all-girls Catholic high school, Archbishop Prendergast. The social alienation I experienced at St. Louis was multiplied by 300 because again, I found myself to be the only African American in a class of 400 girls. I excelled academically, made a few friends and was even elected to student council. But, once graduation hit in June 1983, I bellowed a hearty “adios chicas,” and never looked back.

The issues I faced at both St. Louis and Prendergast stemmed from the “overwhelming majority” not used to interacting on any level with anyone who looked different then they did and daily I had to deal with the ignorance of my fellow students, teachers and administrators. My classmates rarely invited me to parties outside of school and to a child it’s painful to always be excluded. My mom’s constant refrain, “We’re not sending you to school to make friends, we’re sending you there to get an education,” did little to help me weather the loneliness. No one ever came out and said why I wasn’t invited, but I imagined their parents weren’t open to welcoming a Black child into their home. The nuns weren’t much better and were often even more insensitive than the kids. I posted once about being called Kizzy by my 6th grade teacher, Sr. Stephens, during the week of the original broadcast of Roots.

Honestly, not everyone at either St. Louis or Prendergast was a total jerk and thus on Wednesday evening when I peeped Bill Logan’s profile photo on Facebook, I hesitated for only a second before sending a friend request. Bill was actually quite decent to me. He never went out of his way to say anything mean or join in with other kids if they were giving me a hard time. I have thought of him periodically over the years and thought if given the opportunity I would thank him for his kindness.

Bill readily confirmed my request and that’s when my journey down the rabbit hole to revisit my time at St. Louis began. He immediately flooded my inbox with messages, explaining how happy he was to reconnect with me. He bombarded me with questions and urged me to join the FB group he created, St. Louis Class of 1979. Curiosity got the better of me and I did. I spent the next 90 mins. pouring over the group page checking out the photos posted by other group members. Suddenly, I started receiving friend requests from former classmates who caught glimpse of me as one of Bill’s friends. Fortunately all of these requests have come from people I didn’t actually despise. What’s been the most amazing have been their reflections of our time together at St. Louis. All have offered the variations of the same tune regarding their admiration for me.

WHAT?! I understand we were just kids back in 1977, but damn, where were these warm and fuzzy feelings back in the day? Reconnecting with folks has forced me to reflect upon my own feelings about that time in a way that I haven’t allowed myself to do over the past 30 years. Maybe I need to acknowledge that many of them may have grown up, evolved… changed.


QueenGeek said...

Talk about deja vue. As I read your post, it brought back some painful memories of my school days at Riverdale Baptist School/Church in Maryland. I HATED that racist place. There were moments of life being ok but not many. The line from my parents was more "people will always try to take something from you...your dignity, pride but they cannot take your education". So, my sister and I endured.

I found an old classmate online from Riverdale but have yet to contact him. Perhaps I will now.

Mango Mama said...

QG, I know what you mean and now that I have my own children, I'm hell-bent on them understanding and demonstrating compassion, empathy and kindness towards their classmates, because the crap you endure as a child can stay with you for life.

Yolanda said...

I too have resisted contacting anyone from my high school days on facebook. My school had a little more diversity but as the lone black honors student in the entire school I didn't exactly connect with much of anyone. Very interesting food for thought, but I still can't get past the idea that opening that can of worms I've long abandoned to sit on a shelf in the deep recesses of my mind might not be as positive an experience as yours. One day I'll have to try, but my college years were such an overwhelming improvement that its hard to contemplate reaching beyond that time.

sandramaac said...

are you talking about st. leonard's in philadelphia?? I assume yes if you mention you then went to prendie sla was the most wonderful school a diverse mix of students from all over philly and the surrounding burbs young women of different religions, race and backgrounds it was the most amazing place to be the sister of the SHCJ were a wonderfully progessive group of women the foundress of the order believed in the education of women and not just sewing and piano but real subjects such as math, science, english as well as the arts and sports there is an active st. leonard's academy group on facebook i fund when I see the profile pics of us there again the same mix of faces I saw each day at sla I am so glad I was able to finish my years there as a memeber of the class of 1980