Speaker enlightens students


Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

During Black History month, the life and achievements of African Americans are celebrated. One such person is Martin Luther King Jr.

At an event hosted by the Multicultural Center, civil rights activist and greater New Haven community leader Carroll E. Brown shared how King had impacted her life and how she hopes to inspire others.

“I speak to you on a subject I live every day of my life,” said Brown. She did not have a particularly “sad” life story to tell such as living in the projects or being unable to keep food in her children’s mouths, nor did she have stories of her parents being fabulously wealthy, she said.

“My father was a sharecropper,” said Brown.

Brown said she often tells people she is from Seattle, Wash.; it was there she said she learned to “share and care and that people who don’t look like me matter.”

At the age of six, Brown said her mother passed away at 42-years-old and she was sent to live with an aunt in Washington D.C for two years.

“While living there, I was not a happy little girl,” Brown said, “because I couldn’t play with other kids. I dressed differently from other kids. And I wasn’t feeling like I needed to be there because I had no mommy.”

Brown said as a people person all she wanted was to be included.

“On a Saturday while everyone was riding a bicycle or playing basketball, volleyball or jacks,” said Brown, “I had to go to piano…tap dancing, toe-dancing, accordion – that was my Saturday.”

Brown said her aunt was strict about who she could or couldn’t hang out with and how she presented herself. She said she cried to her father every night until he took her back home.

Brown said eventually she even formed a quartet. “As young people, you don’t have to wait for somebody to tell you when you are good at something,” said Brown. “You should know when you have a skill that you can share with everyone else.”

At 8-years-old, Brown said she began piano lessons.

Brown said she had overheard her teacher tell her mother over-the-phone that she was to use the back doors and wait on a bench by the room in which she was to be practicing in.

While waiting for her lessons to begin, Brown said she did a bit of snooping and discovered she would playing on a Chickering piano; she said looking into her teacher’s living room, she saw a baby grand piano being played by a white girl.

One day, Brown said she went to her lesson alone and used the front door instead where she argued with her teacher’s wife about using the back door.

“So, finally [the teacher] said ‘Let her in’” said Brown, “of course it was because he was going to give me a lecture, but the little girl playing was told, ‘You are not to tell your mother that I let a little colored girl come into this room and play on this piano.’”

Brown said that day had taught her a lesson.

“We’re not free, I am not free until we are all free,” said Brown.

From that experience, Brown said she never felt good “being the only one that they accepted,” and simply wanted similar opportunities.

“There are times that we – as we go through this life as African-Americans,” said Brown, “there are going to be some of us that are going to want to do everything that our white friends do and we’re not able to, so what did we do we sell out.”

Brown said whatever she did she “brought someone of color with her” as she progressed throughout her high school career and beyond to get the chance at the same opportunities; her life, she said, was “geared toward helping others.”

“We can’t go through this life alone,” said Brown. “We need to help somebody.”

The country, Brown said is “being run by so much racism” and it is important for people to remember to “do the right thing.”

Brown said she urges young people to get involved in local politics as well as get involved within their schools.

“You can’t sit back and complain and criticize,” said Brown. “You need to get in there and help.”

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