Interview with Melba Pattillo Beals
QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

IT DOESN'T SOUND LIKE THE KIND OF YEAR THAT A FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD WOULD WANT TO HAVE. TALK TO ME ABOUT THAT. DID YOU FEEL THAT IT WAS UNFAIR THAT THIS SHOULDN'T BE?

Melba Pattillo Beals:

Well, you know, when people take out their high school annuals and they look back at their high schools, I get sick in the stomach as hell to look at mine. I remember once, see because, we're not being accepted in the white high school, we can't go anywhere, or do anything or be anybody. At the same time, we aren't accepted anymore in the black high school because we have now made trouble for the black people of the city. They're losing their jobs. My mother lost her job. They're asking us to withdraw and also we're on national media, so it separates us. We become separate people by virtue of what we endure. We become separate, and in some ways symbiotic because only another one of us can understand what we are doing. And in a strange way, we're going through a rite of passage that makes us separate, that makes us an adult, that makes us understand spirit, that makes us understand who we are and our limits and you can't obliterate that, you can't change that, and you can't separate it. So we really had no camaraderie. We had very little camaraderie with our, you know, black schoolmates. I remember once going to a dance and getting there and saying, "OK guys, we're going to go for it. This is our big social occasion." It was around Christmas time, and we got to this dance and maybe twenty minutes into it, we were all clustered together, held together and I remember Ernie Green saying, "All right, we got to get together, now let's spread out, not talk to each other." But we were in a space where we had gone beyond where everyone else was in their heads, and what could we do. So, my social life, you know, Ernie's a party guy, Jeff's a party guy, Terry—my social life was fairly quiet. Other people made the kinds of connections that they could. You watched television. You became obviously much more introspective—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

TAKE 9.