Dr. Terrence Roberts, remembering the hatred and violence that plagued his youth, told a crowd January 23 in the Shepherd University Storer Ballroom, “Understanding the nature of our existence helps us get through it.”
As a member of the pivotal “Little Rock Nine,” Roberts is familiar with history. He was one of nine black students to volunteer to enter an all white high school.
Roberts, with a humorous nature, told of his choice to break segregation lines. His choice to face a culture that had “spent 335 years in indoctrinated hate.” Dr. Roberts bravely faced daily torture from the other students and leaned on his strong family ties and passion for knowledge
Roberts and the other Little Rock Nine students were initially met by armed guards blocking the school door. Soon that changed to an armed escort and guard into the school.
Roberts told about when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Little Rock when he heard of the actions of the nine students. King asked that students “go home and ponder your humanity” and asking that they “love their enemy as a human and take an approach of non violence.”
Roberts did not touch on the brutality of his experience long. He mentioned only briefly the students that would hit and then run away.
He next began a discussion with the crowd, pulling from the questions his “lessons” from Little Rock.
From the crowd came the question of how does a culture transcend its difficulties with difference. Roberts followed with the most avid lesson that was relayed: the importance of building relationships.
Roberts spoke of his strong belief that all humans are equal peers.
He said “that one creates peers through respectful conversations, genuine and sincere attitudes.”
Roberts wanted the crowd of students and faculty to understand the importance of reaching out and forming connections. Roberts calmly and rational reminded the crowd that we are all unique, but all connected.
Sean Pained, a sophomore, “I did not expect it to be as inspirational as it was.”
Roberts and the Little Rock Nine where active in reforming public education forever. It is with that in mind that Roberts reminded the crowd of the importance of education and of history.
“Get involved in high level self awareness,” said Roberts. “If what you know doesn’t change you, change what you know.”