I began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on October 10, 1978. I had been reared with almost exclusively white people. The little non-denominational church that I attended in Elkville, Illinois had one African American member. I thought that African Americans were fascinating but I did not know any. My first foreman was Jim and he was African American. On one occasion when a white supervisor was giving me some unnecessary difficulty…Jim told him that,’ Brooks was his son…he just won’t call him Daddy.’ I loved Jim. He gave me my start at Building Services and I will never forget him!
I could not believe the diverse family that I had become a part of. The first custodial crew that I was assigned to had students from Iran and Turkey and Malaysia and Africa. I was immersed in the peoples of the world… When I became a crew supervisor, Christian from Gahna told me that all of the international students wanted to work with me because I had no prejudice. I have never received a greater commendation! I learned that people who are ethnically different than me or who have a different faith or who have no faith…are wonderful people. The world became a new home for me!
My dear friend, Rita, told me that when she thinks of me she thinks of a person who wanted to extend employment opportunities to all people…and with an emphasis on the disabled. The victories that we experienced in hiring the disabled and challenged were the sweetest victories that I experienced during my career. I had a passion to hire those who are unseen and unheard and marginalized and ignored. What I did was not special and certainly was not worthy of an award or recognition…it was simply my heart and soul…and could not imagine being a manager/administrator and not attempting to extend opportunities to those who have limited employment options.
Perhaps it was something in the water…but I lay the passion at the feet of my dear mother who loved those who seemed to be unloved. ‘One Eye’ was mom’s good friend. She actually had one eye and was nicknamed according to her disability. Mom loved her and took her to the market to pay her bills and had her to dinner at our home. Many made fun of ‘One Eye’ but not mom. She was mom’s equal and peer and dear friend.
Rosie lived alone and talked to herself a little. She had been married in earlier years and lost her husband to death. She was a lover of the dress called the Moo Moo. Rosie loved JFK and she had photos of him throughout her little home. When people saw Rosie walking down the street…they crossed to the other side. Not Mom! Mom loved Rosie and laughed with her and went places with her and let her know that she was important to her.
Jewel, who is the first foreman that I hired when I became Superintendent of Building Servies, told me on more than one occasion that she thought that I must be from Mars…as I had no prejudice… I love Jewel…she is one of the wisest people that I have ever known. Am I deserving of the kind compliments…of course not…but they have stayed with me since they were said to me.
African American people are precious and I am honored each time they trust me.
Disabled people are much more intelligent than me. They have an insight that I do not possess. They know when you are artificial and they know when you are real. Being friends with a diverse community at SIUC was the high point of my career.
Absolutely wonderful post my friend
You are, too kind.