When I was in elementary school I didn’t know anything about racial conflict or even recognize there were racial differences between the kids at my school. My classmates were just friends or people I went to school with. Everyone looked different, some had freckles, some had red hair, and some were darker skinned. That all changed the year of the 6th grade Christmas pageant. The program represented waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve with two students representing a brother and sister. All the other students singing various songs. The student selected to play the brother was white while the student selected to play the sister was African American. I remember being jealous that they were getting so much attention, but I quickly forgot my negative feelings as I prepared and rehearsed my part in the program. Then, the program grew negative as the boy’s mother protested her son being on stage with a non-white sister character. He was pulled from the show. I remember being so confused because I thought this is just a play and everyone knows they aren’t a real brother and sister, so why was this such a big deal. That was the first time I remember learning about racism, and to this day I remember this moment whenever I hear the Christmas carol I sang during that program.

I’ve discovered that I often associate different songs or artists with events in my life. Music is such a boon to an old woman’s memories. Some songs connect to events or ideas, such as my sixth grade Christmas pageant. Some songs connect to people, such as how I remember my late uncle from the song we often lip-synced to as we worked together. Music has the power to carry more than just a melody. I remember reading how Glen Campbell had developed Alzheimer’s Disease, but even as he lost the ability to remember the lyrics, he could still play the guitar. Music stays with you long after other things are forgotten, evoking emotions that are connected to the past.

– Cherry Whipple (Teacher)