St. Paul School Board Presentation, RE: Monroe School name change
About 10 years ago, I took my father on a bucket list trip to his grandparent’s farm near Hannibal Missouri. The trip became a life lesson that began during a stop at the town hall to look up old family records. That’s when I discovered my ancestors were slave holders… Five people, five souls, were controlled by Alfred and Theodosia Pickett. I couldn’t believe it.
It didn’t make sense to me. My grandparents were strict Baptists. My parents adamantly taught us that every soul had equal value and that our life works would be measured based on how we respected others.
I asked my father, “How could our family have been slave holders?”
“A lot can change in a generation,” he said, “or even in a year. There’s no reconciling slavery. It bothered my father his whole life.”
If I could wave a wand, and correct my family’s past, I would do so. But I can’t. Just as none of us can erase the flaws and injustices of other Americans. Not Jackson’s Trail of Tears, FDR’s internment policy, and not Abe Lincoln’s condescension toward black people (that was, until he met Frederick Douglass, of course). We can, however, learn through error and through the innovations of their good deeds. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I know 10,000 things that don’t work.” One thing we know, is that when we purge the information of the past, we do not learn – we simply purge.
One of the most impressive people on the planet to me is a woman named Felicia Sanders. I don’t know Ms. Sanders, but she forgave a mass murderer, Dylann Roof, for killing her son at a church in South Carolina. Her grace is so humbling. She reminded me – us – of the great lesson that forgiveness is more for the one who offers it, than it is for the perpetrator.
I ask this board to lead us in an effort to embrace the ugliness and the beauty of our past… together… with the mutual goal of unity and understanding. I ask you to lead us in celebrating the entire neighborhood – young and old, every race and creed. If you’ve been to a Safe Summer Nights event, you know this area – known as ‘Monroe’ to several generations – is a very special place, one worthy of every voice, and its many traditions.
Abolition of the name Monroe will not alter history.