Multicultural Club Guest Speaker: Darlene Ayers


Ella Olds

Ayers speaking at the multicultural club sharing her story to the members.

Ella Olds, Magazine Editor

As we near the end of Black History Month, the multicultural club at Bullitt East had a guest speaker Feb. 26. Ms. Darlene Ayers spoke upon her struggle about attending the only segregated school in Bullitt County and then switching to an all-color high school. 

Ayers attended Bowman Valley School for black children up until sixth grade, starting at 6 years old in the first grade. The school consisted of two rooms, with no lunchroom or washroom. Their bathroom was an outhouse, and the boys of the school had to pump water from a well. The water conditions were not compatible to those today, as sulfur was contaminating the school’s well water. To get to school she had to cross the Salt River every day. 

Up until sixth grade, she was told that she was going to start working right after her eighth-grade year. During year six at the school, the Brown vs Board of Education supreme court case happened, his supreme court case marked a turning point in the history of race relations in the United States, allowing free education opportunities for anybody no matter their race. After the case, she began attending an all color high school, Shepherdsville High. Her new school was only a block away, contrasting her previous commute of crossing the river. 

Going into a new school is scary for anybody but more difficult than ever at this point in history. Racial discrimination has been an issue since the start of America with slavery and seemed to become more prominent around the time of the court case. With the pressure of white schools having to include everybody no matter their race, the same tensions from before continued to grow and all colored students, including Ayers went through struggles to gain complete equality. 

“The struggles naturally had to be accepted. I didn’t look like anybody in the class and from my standpoint, I did not see any teachers that looked like the teacher I had come from. Of course, some people were friendly and others were very opposed to black students in their school. My goal for me was education. My parents’ goal for me was education. The goal was to be educated. Of course, the educators were there for learning but I’m not sure that they wanted the black students in the school either. But the supreme court had come down to say that we would be there,” said Ayers. 

Fay Anderson, the club sponsor of the multicultural club, was inspired by Ayer’s words. “Her story just amplifies the major sacrifices her family and herself made to give teachers like myself an opportunity to teach at any school and on all levels,” said Anderson. 

As a woman of color, Anderson has gone through her own battles. When somebody stands out among their work, school and community setting people are going to notice and talk. Mount Washington and Bullitt County, as a whole, have their downfalls when it comes to inclusivity. Throughout her personal struggles, she realized reaction is key. “As a teenager, I would address, confront, discuss, or argue a person down.  As you mature, you realize that hate is really taught and folk are ignorant. As an adult, I pick and choose carefully how I am going to respond and when I am going to respond. There are many people in this world that are willing to help you fight the battle. Understand that you have many allies in this building and you will also have many allies when you leave this building. You can’t help the hate being taught and it’s not your job to do so.  Respect yourself, your culture, and your beliefs, don’t ever be ashamed. With that being said, respect others as well. Teach when possible, listen when possible and lead by example,” said Anderson. 

When discussing changes in the school system today, Ayers has noticed a shift in the level of acceptance but knows some discrimination will always be prominent. “There have been growths in the attitude of the system, but growth and acceptance are two different things. They [non-people of color] grow to accept. Whether it’s school educators or the students you are with, you have to focus on your goal of education because you will need the ambition to get through the public school system,” said Ayers.

Being part of a minority group in a small town has its downsides, but the multicultural club is bringing light to those issues and helping to solve some.