By Isonah Dlodlo ’22 News Reporter
The Hale Field House this past Friday was characterized by stark contrast: on a weekend dedicated to honoring people of color, the audience was predominantly white. Heading the stage were four strong, inspiring black leaders, while the observers were mostly a sea of white faces. The emotions evoked by the disparity were not troubling nor disturbing. Instead, the sense of inspiration and excitement was palpable.
The main focus on the stage was Ernest Green, one of the most influential people in twentieth century American history – a man who fought for the right to be educated in an all-white school despite the long history of segregation in the south. Ernest Green was a member of the Little Rock Nine, the group of nine black students who enrolled in Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 with the expressed intention of breaking the color barrier. When the students arrived to attend classes, they were initially prevented from entering by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. They gained access only once the federal government intervened.
The fact that Green was speaking to a crowd of students at Mercersburg Academy, an educational institution known for its progressiveness, was telling in itself. Without the bravery he possessed and the suffering he endured, many students currently studying at Mercersburg Academy might not have had the opportunity to pursue their education at such an institution. He paved the way for many people of color to be able to thrive in a learning environment that had once been home to only white students.
Many years after his fight to integrate Little Rock’s Central High, Green’s story is still relevant. Thirty years after the founding of the Black Student Union (BSU) at Mercersburg and fifty-five years after black student integration at the Academy, Green’s presence on campus was part of a celebration and an important reminder of the organization’s role in future generations. It is the BSU’s duty to continue in his footsteps, challenging the status quo in the fight to make the world a better place for everyone. It was awe-inspiring to hear his story and listen to his advice, as he encouraged black students to push themselves to their fullest potential and appreciate their experience at Mercersburg. Emily Rivera Castro ‘20, the vice president of BSU said, “It makes you aware about how integration is not as far removed as we think it is. People who are still living had to go through racism and had to fight for their most basic rights.”
The weekend of tribute to the BSU was inspiring, as it drew current members of BSU together with black alumni to share stories and advice. Ernest Green is a role model for everyone, regardless of color. He represents the capacity for courage and strength that all people should strive to embody. It was an honor to have Ernest Green on campus, and he inspired many Mercersburg students to strengthen their resolve to fight for the betterment of our world.