A Utopia in My Heart (Part One)

The way that thirteen-year old Alicia Tucker imagined it, her small African American neighborhood of Utopia Hill near New Orleans was a perfect place. In her neighborhood, there were no wars, no prejudice, no violence, and no hatred. On a cool Saturday afternoon in November, she could hear the sounds of water running in the creek, children playing, and music that could be heard for long distances and that stayed in the air and your heart forever. Being on “the hill” made her feel that, despite the chilly weather, it was always springtime. She thought her school had a nice teacher and that everyone felt welcome there. She envisioned her school to be like a utopia.   Yet it was on that very day, as she sat so peacefully, Alicia began to have doubts about her utopia.

            It happened as she was reading Look Magazine, the bi-weekly magazine her parents got in the mail, when she glanced at the headline, “Ruby Bridges becomes the First Black Student to attend the previously All White School, William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.” She read the following story:

         On Monday November 14, 1960, six-year old Ruby Nells Bridges walked up the stone steps for her first day at William Frantz Elementary located in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was allowed to attend because she passed a test that said she would go to an integrated school. People were shouting and calling her names. Some of the white parents even went inside and removed their children from the premises. She had to be escorted by federal marshals to get inside the building. One of the white parents had a black doll in a coffin. Ruby seemed to be the most bothered by the doll than by anything else. She had to be taught by the only white teacher who would teach her, Mrs. Henry. There was a mob of people watching from the window of the principal’s office. They made her know that she didn’t belong.

             Alicia was stunned as she finished reading the article. “Momma, why do white people treat black people so terribly?”

            “Honey, some people don’t like us because we’re different, “Momma told her.

            “But Momma, I don’t understand,” Alicia sighed.

            “You will when you are older,” Momma told her.

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16 thoughts on “A Utopia in My Heart (Part One)”

  1. What a well written story that seems to be a never ending saga. I am a New Orleanian and lived through the Ruby Bridges era. As a child I could not understand my experiences of racism either. I can remember speaking those same words, “I don’t understand,” and hearing the same reply, “You will when you get older” from my own mother. However, I still don’t understand. Thank you for writing this piece, but I do have some suggestions about any future essays you might write about New Orleans in terms of its terrain. 🙂 New Orleans is very flat; there are no “hills.” The highest point is the highrise on Interstate 10 that crosses over the Industrial Canal. Our “creeks” are called bayous which are a bit wider than the creeks you might find in the north. We kayak in our bayous (Bayou St. John and Bayou Savage). New Orleans is surrounded by water and includes many other bodies of water within its boundaries; it is sandwiched between Lake Pontchartrain (27 miles wide) and the Mississippi River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico just south of the city. We rarely get to see the lovely fall foliage colors as depicted in the photo. We do not have such distinct seasons, so much of our foliage is green most of the time and in winter some trees just lose their leaves. It was strange to see so much brown grass after Hurricane Katrina. Keep writing. I would like to read more about Alicia’s Utopia.

    1. Dear Sr. Alicia,
      Thank you for reading my story, “A Utopia In My Heart” and for your suggestions. I hope to tour New Orleans with you some day.

    2. Dear Sr. Alicia,
      Thank you for reading my story and for your suggestions. I hope to tour New Orleans with you someday.

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