Missed opportunity

MOLLIE F. BELT | 5/26/2019, 8:05 p.m.
Most of us are too far away from history to know the sacrifices made by many so that African Americans ...
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

Most of us are too far away from history to know the sacrifices made by many so that African Americans could vote. And many of us have not studied our history to know about the sacrifices made by others so we can vote today.

The stories have been told, but have we listened?

I know many stories. I lived in a segregated society, through the Civil Rights Movement, and I am blessed to still be living.

The story I like to share is that of a student from Dallas, Leiwanda Kayrette Jordan. Many years ago, we only had three high schools in Dallas that Negroes could attend – Booker T. Washington, Lincoln and Madison. Kayrette attended Booker T. and graduated in 1959. She was only 16 when she graduated.

After graduation, Kayrette’s parents, Dr. Frank Jordan and Julia Jordan, sent her to Fisk University – one of the Historically Black College and Universities located in Nashville, Tennessee. Kayrette’s father was a local physician, and her mother was a teacher and counselor with Dallas ISD.

At Fisk, Kayrette joined the Nashville Student Movement, an organization that challenged racial segregation in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This organization was created during workshops on nonviolence taught by James Lawson. The students from this organization initiated the Nashville sit-ins in 1960.

Kayrette participated in the sit-ins at lunch counters and was arrested several times in Nashville. Because of her young age, each time she was arrested she was sent to a juvenile detention center. Her parents immediately got her out.

Her mother – who is now deceased – shared with me that she and her husband were told by the authorities in Nashville that if they did not stop their daughter from protesting, they would put her somewhere where they could not get her out.

Julia said she asked her daughter why she continued to protest – though they continued to get her out of the detention center, she would go back to protesting and get arrested again. Her response was, “I am doing this for generations not yet born.”

Her parents finally had to send her to California to live with a relative to stop her from protesting. When Kayrette Jordan died, she had scars on her back from cigar and cigarette butt burns that she sustained while she was sitting in at lunch counters in Nashville.

Kayrette’s story is only one of many stories of young people who sacrificed during the Civil Rights Movement. Many lost their lives in the movement. They are no longer here to vote and have a voice. But we are here and do have a voice.

Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Give Us the Ballot address in 1957, “Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.”

Today, we have the ballot because of the sacrifices made by all of those who protested against injustice and the fact that Negroes could not vote.