Susan Husk

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As a child, we lived in Louisville, KY. It was on a trip downtown (no malls in the suburbs yet) to shop that I first learned as a 4 year old that I could not sit on the bus with our housekeeper. In our home, there had been no difference. I later became aware of separate entry doors, drinking fountains, restrooms, more. With segregated schools, I was in 7th grade before I had a black child in my class. That didn’t matter to me, but I was curious about her and why friends didn’t like me talking to her. She was uncomfortable with my questions. By my teenage years, I experienced racism in the deep South. My grandparents retired on the Gulf and their housekeeper became our friend and part of the family. When I married and lived away, I did not understand why she would not write to me, ‘wouldn’t be fittin’. Regardless, I wrote to her and continued to do so every Christmas, even after my grandparents died. I never received a reply or a notice of her death, found accidentally while searching online for something else. Did she ever get the letters that told her family news, shared pictures of my children, and said how much I loved her? I don’t know. Sometimes what keeps us apart is not the individual, but the collective conscious, wrong though it may be. I still miss that gentle woman and respect the boundaries she felt safer living within. I marvel at what she overcame, kind of living life with one hand tied behind her back. Everything was harder for her than it needed to be. I share my experiences with my children and grandchildren and want them to wonder why African-Americans are treated differently. I want it not to make sense.

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.