Updated: Nov 15, 2019
A conversation with a 90 y.o. queen
The most memorable quote that I can remember my grandmother saying to me graces today's strategic title. So with this write up, I am compelled to write about a conversation and an experience I had just recently. First, if anyone knows me, know that I am a sucker for one on one conversations with those who have fully lived life. I look to capture their stories, their experiences, some of which I attend to capture in my book. Stay tuned! But because this interaction left me with inspiration, I thought I would share.
I visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA (the church in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral was held). As I entered the doors, I took a quick second to look behind me to see a lady in a wheelchair, looking at the three steps in front of this church. With her grandson and granddaughter, she said, "Alright now, here we go."
With amazement, she stands and grips her grandson's arm as she slowly climbs the stairs. I worked with folks with disabilities for a long time, and I understand falling forward is just as common as falling backward. So I ask, "Maam, can I act as a level of support." Which she looks up and says that old southern classic, "Oh bless your heart." I give her my hand, and with her grandson behind her, and I in front, helped, who I soon find out, Ms. Clara Moore.
Now in the lobby of this building, I do a glance around for an accessible ramp, elevator, or lift. After all, this is a historical landmark, and to my delight, I see the ADA elevator. I looked at the lady and said, can we get the lift down, in which she responded, "The elevator doesn't work. its been broken for a while now."
As an individual who has provided ADA accommodations at college campuses, I was very saddened. Still, looking at Ms. Moore, she looked at her grandson and said, "I want to go upstairs." Three flights of stairs! Without a second beat, her grandson wheels her to the foot of the stairs, and again, I watch as she grips his hand. I rush over and say, "Ma'am," holding out my arm, and she looks up at me and says, "You gonna help me again."
"Yes, Ma'am, it would be my pleasure." So up the three flights of stairs we go. As we reach the top, I look down and see that the wheelchair was given her granddaughter trouble, so I run down to grab it and bring it up so she can sit and proceed into the church. After the talk is over, I stick around because I know going upstairs is hard, but going downstairs is dangerous. So together we go down the stairs. As we reach the bottom, she looks at me and says, "God always is there when you need him." Something my grandma said all the time. With that, I say, "Maam, I would love to take a moment to chat with you, and if you are ok with it, record it."
She said, "You help me up and down three flights of stairs, the most I can do is chat with you for a minute." At this, I laugh.
Talking to this 90-year-old queen begins.
"I've seen a lot!" she tells me.
"I've grown up here partially, and went to school here partially."
Ms. Moore recalled her time as a young girl going to the Fox Theater.
"My uncle would put is in the Fox Theater, and we would stay because he had to work a half of day at the coal company. When he got off, he would pick us up, and we would just sit there. But you can't just leave children now."
Ms. Moore tells me that she remembered this area nearly 80 years ago and her memories of going to a segregated school called Moses Park. Ms. Moore remembers her youth, rolling skating and playing in the streets. As she said, "there weren't many cars around that time, so you could do this. We could put our skates on and just skate in the street."
Ms. Moore also recalls another memory with her uncle. "We use to take my uncle's food to the coal company. On skates. We would go straight down the hill, just flying. We just had a few cars."
"It's amazing, I tell ya," she says about her experience and the sights she saw today at the MLK sites. Some folks won't take time to view nothing, and they live here."
"It's right at home, you need to get out and see it."
I asked her, "why was it so important catching today's sites?" She responded that she wishes more people in Atlanta, GA, would visit these historical sites. "its really something to see." Later on, I had met up with her again at the birthplace of MLK. I was happy to see that this place had an accessible entrance for downstairs; however, the lift outside to see upstairs was broken.
Her adviser to the younger generation, "Pull up your pants and stop shooting each other." She goes on to tell me that she just observes but will never tell anyone this because "they will shoot you," she tells me.
What an amazing conversation!