According to Sparta Ishmaelite editor Chuck Reynolds, “dwelling on the past, dooms you to re-living it.” I agree. Unfortunately our community seems content re-living the past, resisting attempts to learn from it.

Passionately sharing his story: “… Born and raised here. I remember what it used to be like. I witnessed the transformation… Hancock County and Sparta going from a thriving community with businesses and industry to the ghost town today…”

I remember downtown Sparta/Hancock County’s thriving economy built on enslavement, oppression and exploitation of African-American citizens well into the 20th century.

Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” begins: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…in short, the period was so far like the present period...”

My best memories are Deacon Brown’s Sunday School, Miss Lilly’s candy store and playing softball. These hopeful memories are tainted with the humiliating conditions of segregation.

My worst memories are Dr. Green’s colored waiting room, colored bathrooms, sharecropping and adolescences using my mother’s first name. I remember legal segregation, separate and unequal schools, and taxation without representation.

We can’t change the past, we can learn from it by telling the whole story. The conditions I describe were legally sanctioned. Segregation was wrong. Stop pretending it wasn’t so bad, that I didn’t mind; it was my God given place.

Dickens concludes “A Tale of Two Cities,” “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long, long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time…gradually… wearing out.”

Recent activism signals the “wearing out” of the old system. What happens when it does? We have an unprecedented opportunity to create “the beloved community;” a community built on equity and fairness.

What are we waiting for? Let’s get started. We have work to do.

Jeanette Vaughn Waddell


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