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April 14, 2015

The next story enters much darker territory than I’ve been exploring lately.

Last week’s account was one of a series I’ll be doing about my own personal evolution as an artist, looking at the little events that seemed innocuous at the time, but came to shape a life. I suspect we can all look back on those moments that have meaning only in retrospect.

Other events had a more immediate impact.

It’s still hard for me to believe how different life in this country was only half a century ago. One of the reasons I decided to write “Sleeper Ave.” was because my children were so amazed at what we took for granted when we were their age, and at how much has changed since then.

Like segregation.

How many of us even knew a Black person when we were young? Oh, some of us, those who could afford such luxuries, had colored maids and cooks and gardeners, but they were servants, not people who shared our lives in any meaningful way. They came and worked and went home to families we never knew, neighborhoods we never saw. They shopped in different stores; they ate in different restaurants; their kids went to different schools; they were not welcome in our world.
Growth Spurt10Looking back, we may wonder how we so willingly participated in the human degradation that we simply assented to as an inevitable aspect of life in our town, how few of us fought against it, how easy it was to accept the unacceptable.

Tomorrow’s story is about the first time I learned about the legal apartheid that was the norm in Texas in the 1950s.

It was a revelation that I still find shocking all these years later.