Mrs. Nicholas was my fourth grade teacher. She was unique in that she was perfectly put together. To a small boy with little fashion sense to make that assessment, she represented an ideal to me that I could not verbalize. She wore suits complete with her signature double strand of pearls and wore her salt and pepper hair in what I now know is a chignon. She walked tall and was economical with her smiles, but she inspired me in ways I was to appreciate as an adult. One day Mrs. Nicholas asked us to name three famous Negroes. I date myself by that word and mean to do so. Sadly my world was very limited and I struggled with the answer coming up with these three names: Chubby Checker, Willy Mays and Sammy Davis Jr. I did not feel good about my response sensing I was way off and that there had to be different choices than just from the world of sports and entertainment. Now I realize what a sad cliche my answer was, and with help from Mrs. Nicholas, my answer certainly changed.
I learned about Crispus Attucks, a Black American patriot. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Dr. Ralph Bunche, and the powerful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I learned about Marian Anderson and how she bravely sang in defiance of ignorance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I learned about the dignity of Rosa Parks and how her small action caused a cataclysm that shook our country from coast to coast.
What I learned most was that Mrs. Nicholas was a role model to me and allowed me to understand the world in different terms all those years ago, terms that I hold true today; a value for all people.
Celebrate the month of February by increasing your awareness and make Black History month and every month a celebration of all peoples.