Minnijean Brown Trickey to Wright State community: “We kicked the door open; please walk in”

Photo of Minnijean Brown Trickey speaking at Wright State.

Minnijean Brown Trickey, 71, has devoted her life to diversity education and training, peacemaking, environmental issues, developing youth leadership, cross-cultural communication and gender and social justice advocacy. She served in the Clinton administration as deputy assistant secretary for workforce diversity at the Department of Interior and was the Shipley Visiting Writer for Heritage Studies at Arkansas State University.

Civil rights stalwart Minnijean Brown Trickey addressed a crowd of about 100 Wright State University students, staff and faculty Jan. 24 as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. week celebration. Trickey urged the audience to be change agents and not silent witnesses to injustice.

Trickey was one of the nine African-American students who collectively resisted opposition to desegregation by enrolling at Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

One of the Little Rock Nine, the 16-year-old Trickey and her fellow students defied an angry mob and walked into the formerly all-white Arkansas high school under the gaze of 1,200 national guardsmen.

“The Little Rock desegregation crisis is one of those events that seem to get just a single paragraph in the American history textbooks,” said Trickey to a captivated crowd. “Let me tell you, the Little Rock desegregation crisis was one of the largest American history events ever.”

Trickey described the scene in graphic, vivid detail, including the infamous moments of the students’ first entrance and the coming days and weeks in which they endured unspeakable conditions at Central High School.

“That first day, those moments on TV, it showed us who we were as a nation, that we were hateful, mean-spirited and that we were willing to terrorize children in public. There were thousands of people in the mob,” said Trickey. About how she was treated at school, Trickey added, “there were 100 kids there who were willing to kick you down the steps, drop acid on you down the stairwell, spit in your face, slam you into lockers.”

Despite the violence and menacing intimidation tactics, Trickey reveled in rising above it with a smile.

“They threw away their dignity and it landed on us,” said Trickey, though she is proud of something she threw back.

“I’ve been made out to be the girl that dumped the chili on the one guy and got kicked out of school. That’s just not true. I dumped the tray, the chili, the fork, the rolls, the milk and it was on two dudes’ heads! Bad girl that I was, I told the girls’ principal ‘I did it accidentally…on purpose,’” said Trickey.

Trickey said there were about 20 kids who would smile at them or even walk with them, about 100 terrorized them and about 1,900 did nothing. “They were the silent witnesses,” said Trickey.

Tying her message back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Trickey urged the crowd to stop being silent to make change, by being the change.

“We have to act, we have to stop being silent witnesses because nothing changes if there is silence. Non-violence or non-existence? The man, Dr. King, was a prophet. He predicted this day, so we really need to listen,” said Trickey.

“We kicked the door open; please walk in.”

Comments are closed.