“We’re so fine, We’re so great, We’re the class of ’78!” That was the slogan we all hollered to the underclassmen when we were finally the graduating class at Little Rock Central High School. Of course every class wants to think they’re the best, but our class, well, our class really WAS the best! And here we are still working together easily in 2018 to plan a meaningful reunion to celebrate the special bonds and friendships shared among members of the Golden Anniversary Class of LRCH. While so many of my friends view their reunions with ambivalence and lukewarm interest, often choosing not to attend, I feel like our class of Tigers genuinely wants to reunite, come together, reminisce, catch up. Like being in a sorority or fraternity in college, it seems to me that just sharing our high school years as Little Rock Central High Tigers created a bond between us that I didn’t fully realize at the time. Maybe part of it now is Facebook. Social media has allowed us to reconnect from all over the country. I feel like I’ve gotten to know more classmates more intimately in the last 6-8 years than I even knew in high school. We get to see one another’s children and grandchildren, pictures of weddings and vacations, homes and pets. We join in prayer when one of us needs it. We mourn together the all too many classmates we have lost to date. We share insightful quotes, book recommendations, cartoons and jokes.
Some of us were on a reunion planning conference call in spring 2017 when it was clarified that we were the 49th graduating class, even though it was Central’s 50th anniversary. The high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas were closed during the 1958-59 school year, the result of an ugly part of our history, when racial integration of the school district’s classrooms was first attempted, and Governor Faubus tried to block nine black teens from entering the all-white high school. President Eisenhower sent troops to protect the nine and the school year began, but …… the rest is history.
Many of us remember the attention given to Central by the national media during our junior year, which marked the twentieth anniversary of the “desegregation crisis.” I personally will always remember what an arrogant impression Geraldo Rivera made on us when he walked into the Student Council room that morning to meet with students for the first time, saying, “Hi, I’m Geraldo Rivera and I’ve come to make you famous.” I think you could have heard a pin drop, while inside our heads we were thinking, “Oh, yeah? You’re here because we’re already famous! We don’t need you for that!” When they were finished filming that day, I interviewed Geraldo for our school newspaper, The Tiger. Sitting beside me on that hard, wooden bench in the main office on the second floor, Geraldo unbuttoned the front of his shirt, and ripped off the masking tape that had secured his microphone wire, wadded it up in a ball and pitched it across the room into a big metal trashcan. It went in. Polite Southern gal that I was, I offered, “Hey, that was pretty good!” Geraldo, cool guy that he was, responded, “Yeah, well, it’s the story of my life.” Seriously?!
During our senior year, I worked on the PBS documentary “As We See It” with Tim Best, Joe Madden, Sharon Jewell, Ann Nolan, and Roosevelt Thompson. WTTW in Chicago produced the series, which examined eight or ten high schools across the country to see how desegregation was working twenty years after Brown v. Board of Education had taken effect. We interviewed students past and present, recounted Central’s history, and made note of the strong leadership of Principal Morris Holmes. We showed the Hi-Steppers (without pantyhose, so the variety of skin tones was more obvious!), captured the fun of the student faculty basketball game, and ended with shots filmed at a typical dance in the gym, blacks and whites all dancing together and having a good time. We didn’t seem to see color then, and we don’t seem to now. Instead, we “friend” one another on Facebook and share joys and sorrows, birthdays and photos, we support and pray for one another. We enjoy friendships based on like-minded interests and viewpoints, and our common Tiger heritage. Perhaps Central’s unflattering history gave us something to overcome, for I know that when I’ve asked my white adult friends about desegregation, there’s no real hard feelings, but there are no real strong positive feelings either. That’s what I think Central gave to me — a strong sense of identity as a Tiger united by our unique history.
To see us “back in the day,” please watch the “As We See It” 30 minute documentary from 1977-78 here:
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by__BRpTteU, (thanks to You Tube and PBS WTTW)
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afPzqDBD3jQ (thanks to You Tube and PBS WTTW)
They say “the shortest distance between two people is a story.” I believe understanding and harmony can be achieved if we take the time to tell our stories and to listen to those of others. And I believe that our LRCH Class of 1978 has a story to tell that could contribute to healing the current divisiveness in our nation. Won’t you join in? I think a composite of our stories can paint a positive picture of understanding and all inclusiveness that our country desperately needs.
Between now and the reunion, send me your stories, both written as blog posts or separate submissions, dictated as a voice memo, and/or filmed. Just a few minutes recorded on your phone is just fine. We will also be shooting more professional footage and filming interviews at the reunion itself! If we can raise enough funds to go into production, we hope to produce a follow-up documentary highlighting the understanding, tolerance, and friendship our classmates still enjoy. Our goal would be to complete the documentary sometime in 2019-20, the sooner the better, of course. If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, please email Ginny Martin Fleming at email@example.com. Submitted by: Ginny Martin Fleming