Charisse Spencer (CS) and Myles Spencer-Watson (MSW)
CS: I could stand in my backyard and listen to Ku Klux Klan meetings. And in my young mind, I’d imagine these ghostly demons in white sheets with their eyes being black holes, and —
MSW: Your imagination is too far. I’m sorry.
CS: But, it wasn’t that far off. That’s a real prominent memory in my head. Daddy was a civilian employee at the U.S. Navy, so it was illegal for him to be involved in civil rights work. So my mother, Clara —
MSW: [laughs] She was holding it down.
CS: Yup. She became the front man in the public eye, and by the time I was in the fifth grade, my parents told me I was going to integrate an elementary school in a white neighborhood not too far away. And there were going to be five of us that were doing it. So we’d walk about two to three miles from Cavalier Manor —
MSW: Woah, two to three miles.
CS: Yeah, that wasn’t a big deal then.
MSW: You know you couldn’t get me to do that.
CS: Yes, I know you can’t do that. In any case, we’d walk two to three miles over to Academy Park Elementary every day. Every day.
Some days, gangs of white boys would spit at us, throw cigarettes at us, they’d have growling dogs. And you just kind of hunched together, and you just kept going.
MSW: Y’all didn’t want to fight back?
CS: They wanted you to fight back, ‘cause if you fought back then you could get kicked out. But your parents are telling you, ’You got to do this, because if you can just withstand this, things are going to change for everybody.’ So you just grit your teeth and hang in there, you know. That’s a lot of strength to ask for a child. But we did really good at that school. We had to. We were representing our whole race. And I want you to know about it so I can give that legacy to you so it can continue, you know?
MSW: So you’re saying I have to pass this on?
MSW: I have no choice.
CS: No choice. Hopefully, you know, you’ll be inspired with that and have a lot of pride in it, and keep up the struggle.
MSW: I do.