Janet Goodman notices a lot of young people don’t realize society is the way it is today because of the sacrifices of past generations. She’s planning to educate them.
The fourth annual Covington Black History program will take place from 3-5 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Historic Courthouse, and the theme for this year’s program is "Civil Rights in America."
"I tried to build the program this time to tell about some of the things that happened in Covington as far as Civil Rights, so the kids know the things they enjoy, people in Covington made a sacrifice (for those things). They didn’t just happen overnight, though a lot of (young people) seem to think so. It’s a situation where the story has to continue to be told so we don’t forget from whence we came," said Goodman, a Covington City Council member.
Goodman will tell tales from Covington’s segregated history, and the event will feature several other facets, including interpretative dancing, vocal performances, various speakers – including one man doing a tribute to the recently deceased Nelson Mandela – and select Civil Rights essays read by area students. Refreshments will be served after the event.
Students are writing essays answering the question of whether Civil Rights are still needed in America and whether the Civil Rights movement had an effect in the past. The best essay will be read, Goodman said.
Although the event is a Black History event, Goodman said she hopes a diverse group of people attends.
"I want it to be an inclusive, enjoyable and informative event," Goodman said. "I hope (attendees) learn one thing they didn’t about Covington before they leave."
Goodman grew up in Covington during the time when its businesses and schools were being integrated, and she remembers how far the city has come.
"For instance, in the courthouse, many people don’t realize where we’ll be sitting, (black people) weren’t allowed to sit there. We had to go upstairs. If we were there, we didn’t want to go upstairs, because whatever the verdict was we were going to be guilty because they said it," Goodman said. "The atmosphere has completely changed, and some people can’t imagine how people felt a long time ago. We had no lawyers, and if we did, we would still be guilty. There was no sense in wasting time on one.
"We were forbidden in the square. A lot of people don’t know that, because people go down thre all the time and don’t think about the fact we used to not come up there. As young as I am, people have no idea, I saw those signs, ‘White Only.’ I know what it means.
"I never worked because my parents wouldn’t let me, but to be able to see black folks working in the kitchen (of restaurants) when they couldn’t even come in the front door for work – they had to use the back door – but they could cook the food; how crazy is that?" Goodman said.
Goodman said the conditions in black schools during segregation were poor, with tattered books in terrible shape.
"At the time, to discriminate was really fashionable; it was the thing to do even when people knew it was better," she said.
"A few years ago, I got a letter from Pierce Cline. We used to talk a lot. One statement he made in a letter, he said, ‘Janet, I am so sorry that those of us who knew better didn’t do better.’
"It’s just like being in a fight when there’s something you could do to stop it and you just keep going like it never happened. You’re just as guilty as everybody else."
Goodman said one of the positives of the annual event is the showcase of singing and dance, which Goodman said has declined in Covington with the economy. She said she hopes the city will be able to offer more cultural activities in the future as the economy improves to offer local students a glimpse of the world outside Covington.