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My Brush with Greatness

I've actually met a lot of famous people over the years, but not many of the stories
of how I met them are interesting. I thought this one was worthwhile, though.

I was born in 1968 and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1986, I graduated from
high school third in my class. That year, for the first time ever, the local newspaper
decided to have an "Academic Achievers" banquet to which the top five graduating
seniors from all of the local high schools (from all over East Tennessee, not just
Knoxville) were invited.

The special guest at the banquet was Alex Haley. Each student was called up to the stage,
got to shake hands with Alex Haley, and got a personalized autographed copy of Roots.

I've been thinking about this event lately because I think it illustrates something important.
Our country still has a very long way to go in race relations, obviously. But the fact is that
even ten years before that, it probably would have been far too controversial for them to
have such a banquet with Alex Haley as the honored guest.

But things had changed enough for the better by then, even in East Tennessee, that I'm
pretty sure all of us appreciated what a true honor it was to meet him--even the students
from the small towns. And if anyone wasn't happy about it, they knew enough to keep
their mouths shut (which is another sign of progress!)

Keep swinging the hammer,
 Tina the Pillar

I think Roots was a biggger deal then than today's kids know.
I remember Roots stopping America in her tracks when it was on TV.

I'd always know about slaves and stuff, but to see them bought and sold, to see familes
torn apart, and the women enduring legal, nightly rapes by the "owners" was new to me.

Roots might have been, for the first time, racism slapping every white American
in the face at the same time while asking, "WTF?"


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