Two years of teaching English at Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois from September 1967 to May 1969 prepared me for a life of purpose, determination, resilience and courage I didn’t know I had. Those traits were beneficial for me to find reasons to create health and as a result–Super-Aging.
It began with my being hired in May for the upcoming year. Principal Hubert Pitt said to me, “Miss Pippenger, we welcome you as a teacher to our beautifully integrated school,” An integrated school was one of my requirements as a new hire. I refused job offers from two other Chicago suburb school systems with whiter populations.
A week after school began Fred Hampton a ’66 graduate was across the street leading a “race riot”—really a modest protest by African American students because only white girls were nominated for homecoming queen. The administration who called in the local police force managed to flame the protest into a “race riot”. You might recognize Fred’s name. He was murdered in his bed by Chicago police on a raid on Black Panthers in December 1969. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton
I was shocked, concerned and as a recent participant in a graduate school Human Relations Course wanted to know what was going on. In the teacher’s lounge Fred was described as a brilliant student, debate champion, great athlete and smart aleck. No one on staff had seemed to take him under their wing to help him get an athletic or academic scholarship.
Last night I went to a mixed choir, ages 11-81, several races, mostly black and white and wrote on Facebook: “My soul is exalted, my mind stretched and my heart wrenched open by the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Chorus concert tonight! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcLoX7SrjuI
That student protest at Proviso East stretched my mind and wrenched my heart open also. More to follow in the week to come.