As I was reading [Lisa Frazier's "Inside Prince George's" column, Prince George's Extra, Oct. 27] tears welled up in my eyes as I recalled my youth. I, too, grew up in the late '60s and '70s and remember vividly my school days, being one of only five African Americans in my school. I lived in two worlds. My family lived in St. Albans, N.Y., where everyone on my street looked like me or at least of color. I went to school in Woodmere, a community on Long Island, where everyone was white.
In school, I was treated no differently from any of the other students, but my grandmother drilled it into my head that I had to excel, I had to get better grades. Other than that, I had my friends, I went to their homes and social events. Racism was not in my vocabulary or world as I saw it. However, there was one event when I realized I really was different from everyone else. It was my 11th birthday. Like your situation, every girl in my class got an invitation to my party. I was excited, because everyone said they would come. I was especially excited, because there was one girl who always gave the best gift and the same gift at every birthday: a beautiful parasol engraved with the birthday girl's name. However, when I opened my present from her, there wasn't a parasol in the box, but an ugly red pencil holder. At the top of the holder was a black face, round button eyes, large gold hoop earrings and bushy hair sticking straight up. I bit my lip to hold back the tears. I didn't understand why I got this instead of the parasol. Of course, I was gracious. A few months later, I learned that the girl's mother switched gift ideas when she found out I was black. She had already committed her child to come to the party, and everyone else was going. She wanted to be as "progressive" as all the other parents, but I wouldn't get the parasol. In doing so, I would have been equal to all the other (white) girls, and that wasn't acceptable.
Obviously, it was painful. However, like you, I'd like to believe that race relations could and would get better. I can't believe that I am being naive when I say this. But I also live in the real world. Thank you for providing some insight and introspection today.
I, too, had a childhood friend who was white. We even made attempts to become "blood sisters" like the Native American depictions demonstrated on TV of that day. As an African American, I sometimes would get severely scolded by my mother for "entertaining and making a [fool] out of myself for my white neighbor." It did not lessen my need to befriend this lonely little girl. Her mother or guardian seemed older than my own mother. Her mother and friend maintained a house for the elderly.
"Joy" was my friend's name.
Something must have happened in the adult, real world that led her mother to build a wire and wood-enforced fence between our two yards to discourage Joy and me from playing with each other.
But we would not be denied as we played through the available open space (three or so inches) that remained between the walls and fence. Eventually, Joy and her family moved away. I hope Joy is well and wonder if she even remembers me and our special friendship that took place in the District in the 1950s.
Sukarhi S. Smith
Purple Metro Line
We need to have our U.S. representatives, Steny H. Hoyer and Albert R. Wynn, do more for the long-term economic development of Prince George's County.
Southern Prince George's County needs a Metro station now, part of the proposed purple line to connect our region with existing Metro stations at Branch Avenue and across the Potomac at the Wilson crossing to the Eisenhower Avenue station in Alexandria.
Ask Rep. Hoyer (202-225-4131) and Rep. Wynn (202-224-3121) to work with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the U.S. Department of Transportation to bring the Metro to Oxon Hill now! This line is already in the Metro expansion plan.
Let's bring quality economic development back to Oxon Hill now! Like Arlington and Silver Spring, our elected officials can promote revitalization of Oxon Hill around a new Metro station now. Ask Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Wynn to work with County Executive Wayne K. Curry to reinvest in the heart of Oxon Hill!
As former delegate Walter Fauntroy said at the Democratic Party presidential convention in 1972, . . . "Come home." Come home, congressmen, to fight for quality development in Prince George's County, not more glitzy theme parks.
Come home to protect our neighborhoods, our precious environment and our families' health. Come home, Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Wynn, to fight for federal funding for a Metro line from Alexandria to Branch Avenue with a station in Oxon Hill.
Oxon Hill Metro now! Less traffic and more transportation choices now!
Willa M. Peters
Peters is a member of Friends of Oxon Hill
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