On May 14, 2016, more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the junior high and high schools in Cleveland, MS were ordered to integrate to end segregation of the public schools. Without going into logistics or whether or not this should happen, I want to focus on the emotional toll that this may have.
I’m a graduate of East Side High School (Trojans). I celebrated my 25th class reunion in 2014 and on May 19, 2016, my mom will celebrate her 50th class reunion. That’s two generations. For some families, there are three to four generations that have graduated from East Side. That’s what makes homecoming so special. We proudly say that we are Trojans for life. I didn’t realize how special it was until my 25th reunion when my classmate/friend, Sheila H. said she brought one of her new friends to the reunion so she could see how special it was and how we relate to each other. The LOVE is REAL even if we don’t like each other. I guess she didn’t have that experience at her high school. I assumed everyone did.
Being a Trojan is a big part of the identity of the community. It is who we are. Many of us have graduated from several colleges and universities, but we remain Trojans first. That’s what’s in our hearts. Until reading the article and video that implied that graduates of East Side had received a less than education, the thought had never occurred to me. Many of my classmates are very well educated with professions such as nurses, teaching faculty, engineers, lawyers, psychologists and on and on. So, I take issue with that. We received a great education at East Side with teachers, in some cases classmates of our parents, who cared about us.
But if this merger will actually happen, I hope that the transition can go smoothly. I believe that sports can play a major part in the success of this merger. Just as Jackie Robinson’s integration of professional baseball played a major role in the civil rights movement in this country, sports, in particular, football, can unify both communities. This is the south, so football is like a second religion. With the merger, Cleveland can be a powerhouse team. Hopefully, a new mascot will be chosen so that no one feels slighted that they now have to take on the name of a crosstown rival. When Art Modell took his Cleveland Browns team to Baltimore to become the Ravens, he left the records and legacy intact for the next Cleveland Browns team. The same should be done here in a way that maintains the legacy of both the East Side Trojans and the Cleveland Wildcats.