Building Bridges of Hope

In lieu of my recent college graduation I feel the need to get a little educational on you all so bare with me but I promise you won’t regret it. In one of my history classes this semester we talked about Ruby Bridges (now Ruby Bridges Hall). Ruby was an exceptional little girl and still continues to make a difference in people’s lives well into adulthood. While I was sitting in class, listening to my professor talk about Ruby, it suddenly hit me- Ruby Bridges Hall is a lipstick confident woman. I knew then that I needed to do a blog post about her for those of you who already don’t know who she is.

Long story short, at the age of six Ruby was the first African American child to attend an all white elementary school in the South (more specifically the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans). Many white parents withdrew their children from the school and all the teachers refused to teach a colored student. This alone leaves Ruby to be one of the most lipstick confident women I know. At such a young age of innocence and naivety it takes a lot of confidence to be able to walk into a place you aren’t wanted with your head held high. The Deputy Marshal described Ruby’s sense of purpose and determination on that life-changing day, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very proud of her.”

The school hired Barbara Henry to teach Ruby since all the other teachers refused. For a year, Mrs. Henry taught Ruby alone. The public continued to harass Ruby and her family- threatening to poison her, protesting daily outside the school, her father lost his job, and her grandparents were driven off their land. But the Bridges never gave up on what they believed in- they had each other and that was all that mattered. The little support the Bridges family did receive from their community encouraged them to continue as well. Some families sent their children to school despite the protests in support of the family, a family friend gave her father a new job, and neighbors took shifts protecting the Bridges household.

Ruby turned her childhood experiences into a life mission. In 1999 she formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation to combat continuing racism in schools and communities today. Ruby particularly focuses on the use of children as a tool to spread racism. Ruby works to connect students, parents, and educators with the realities of racism and its effects. The foundation works to involve students in service projects that encourage community responsibility and team work. From these projects, students learn skills needed to participate in meaningful causes. The Ruby Bridges Foundation starts at the bottom, focusing on children in order to inflict change on the society as a whole. Children can educate their parents just as much as parents educate and influence their children. Ruby also travels around the country on frequent speaking tours and has received many awards and recognitions such as the Presidential Citizens Medal by Bill Clinton in 2001.

Ruby Bridges Hall has seen a lot of ugly in her life but instead of giving up she pushed through the negatives to make a positive. Not everyone is capable of doing this, but to a lipstick confident woman there is no other choice.

Find something your passionate about and get involved (no matter how small a contribution) and practice your ‘lipstick confidence’!

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