Medford, Ore.– Her mother was frightened for her. She was frightened herself. But in a time of segregation and oppression, one young teenager, like so many other young African Americans in the 1960s, was spurred on by frustration and a hungry mind for change.
Dr. Geneva Craig, born and raised in Selma, Alabama during the the civil rights movement was determined to change the course of her future and avoid a part of life her parents had lived through.
“In Selma, Alabama that’s what I knew. Black people, white people and I knew that I was on the inferior side of the racists,” said Craig. “Segregation made me angry.”
In a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday, Craig, who now resides in Medford, spoke of her time in the movement and the memories of such events as Selma’s “Bloody Sunday.” She remembers vividly still the sounds and the screams as a peaceful march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge turned into chaos.
“We were there because we all wanted change,” said Craig, “We didn’t want to live like our parents had lived. No… Change.”
At the forefront of the cause was Dr. King, striving for a dream of equality and freedom for African Americans. Geneva, who described her anger as a driving force for her in the movement, had a few encounters with Dr. King. She says one was a bit of chastising but she remembers another encounter where Dr. King pulled her aside and spoke with her, leaving a lasting impression with one key word. Patience.
“He gave me the one word and I dwelled and it stayed with me,” said Craig. “That was important. He reinforced in his teaching to the youth that education was the way, education was the key.”
While a young and brash Craig wanted to initiate change as fast as possible, she now looks back on that time and realizes what Dr. King was trying to say. Patience in the effort to educate and teach younger generations the idea of love, not hate, would lead to a brighter future.
As Craig continued to share her story and words of experience, she pointed out that the events of today echo the struggles of her time in the movement. But she firmly believes things will only get better.
Dr. King showed her there was another way besides anger in accomplishing one’s dream. “Be determined but be respectful,” is one phrase she repeated.
In her own life, that phrase has played out in numerous ways. From the civil rights movement to her dream of becoming a nurse, Craig has successfully carried out her goals. She has achieved becoming a registered nurse in Oregon and has also become a clinical program coordinator for Asante in Medford. Each step of her life taken forward while remembering all that has happened behind her.
“The lessons we learn from history help us to not make the same mistakes going forward but it also give us clues and insight to path that we need to go down,” said Craig. “The way to go, the strategies that we can incorporate to make change that is better for everyone.”