I have written about the difficulties I have faced in dealing with my family through the years, particularly on my Mom’s side. However, today June 22nd is a very special day for my cousin on my Dad’s side. Edna June is 89 years young today! She is one of the sweetest and most unassuming people I have ever met. She has told me about things I only read about. She told me about growing up and remembering the Great Depression and WWII. She told me a story that really resonates today.
In 1961, Edna June traveled to Europe on vacation. When she returned to the US, she made a stop in New York City for 2 days. When she was preparing to leave for Kentucky, she was at Grand Central Station in New York, waiting for her train. She went to the ladies room and as she was washing her hands she noticed a Black woman using the sink right next to her. She told me that there in that place, 3 years before I was even born, that she had a revelation. The woman noticed her looking and asked Edna June what was the matter?
Edna June told me that she looked at the woman and smiled before saying “Absolutely nothing, I just had a moment of truth strike me”. The Black woman asked what she meant and Edna June told her about being raised in Kentucky during the 1930’s through the 1950’s and never once realizing that she was the beneficiary of privilege simply because she was White. Edna June told the woman “This is the first time I have ever been in a public restroom with a Black woman, and I realize that there is nothing wrong with it. The problem is with how I was raised.”
Edna June said that the woman looked stunned before smiling and hugging her, saying that she had never witnessed someone confront and overcome their own prejudice right in front of her eyes. She and Edna June had a cup of coffee and talked until their trains were announced. Edna June returned to Kentucky a changed woman, she got involved with the Civil Rights movement and as a teacher, joined the fight to integrate the local schools.
This wonderful woman in 89 wonderful years young today. Happy Birthday, Edna June!