“It’s time for Mattie to share her story with the world,” says Gratia Lousma. Mattie King, eighty-seven, moved to Ann Arbor from North Carolina in 1950, escaping the humiliations of Jim Crow. Gratia was just thirteen when they met as neighbors on Joy Road. They kept in touch during the years when Gratia was moving around the country with her astronaut husband, Jack, and have seen each other often since the Lousmas returned to Ann Arbor (they now live in Scio Township).
It was at their urging that King first wrote about her experience in the segregated South as the daughter of a sharecropper. “Daddy and the others workers picked cotton,” King writes, “while I picked the rocks so that the horses wouldn’t hurt their hooves when they pulled up the wagons that collected the harvest.” At church on Sundays, “Our tired bones sat on those hard seats as if they were wax on a hot day, but hearing the word of the Lord and songs of His goodness made our hearts dance, too . . .”
In the 1950s, with the names of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks on everyone’s lips, King wanted to find her own way to make a difference--to be “counted among the faithful, not just the outwardly brave.” Her moment came unexpectedly, on a bus trip back to North Carolina to visit her sister.
All the seats were filled when a blind white man got on. He banged his thick cane as he shuffled down the aisle. The white passengers at the front of the bus, King recalls, looked away from him as if he could see them. None offered him a seat.
“Who will show this man mercy?” King wondered as he moved toward the back of the bus, where she and the other black passengers sat. Though dizzy with fear, she forced herself to stand up. “From somewhere inside my shaky self,” she writes, she heard a “quiet, steady voice
"My Time Had Come"
Thank you Mattie for your story and wonderful example of love and kindness also thank you Eve Silberman and John Hilton at the Ann Arbor Observer for telling Mattie's story.It is even more special that her story appears on this Special Inaugural Day 2009
We liked reading your story, Mattie. We know you like doing good in the world. We are thankful to be your neighbors.
This story is an inspiration regardless of one's race or gender. We each encounter opportunities to show compassion and kindness in situations where it take courage to do so, when it is not the easy choice to make. Thank you, Mattie, for sharing your story.
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