A Strong Witness to History…and Golden Rule Moments

Arizona Interfaith Movement member Reverend Ozetta Kirby is a witness to history. She lived in Jim Crow-segregated Kentucky. She had to get up early in the morning to take a two-hour bus ride of twenty miles to get to her school. Two grades were fit in one classroom. The school building’s roof leaked when it rained. Their teachers had to spend a lot of time fixing ripped and tattered books which were used by white kids for six years before they were passed down to black kids. There was a dividing line between blacks and whites in her town. They could buy ice cream in the drug store or go to the grocery store but had to exit out immediately.In 1962, her Mom chose to move to Racine, Wisconsin, hundreds of miles away from her hometown. The family had friends there and there were prospective jobs in factories and an apartment to rent.

It was a frightening experience to be presented with the idea of going to a new school especially that she was threatened to be placed a grade lower. Ozetta appealed and convinced the school official to be placed on the ninth grade.The biggest surprise for her was the way she was received by her other kids. She had Golden Rule moments.  A white girl offered her help; she was totally shocked. The kids were more friendly; they talk in hallway. Unlike her old school, they had gym class, fine arts, and special classes. Her introduction to integration was a fine moment. Up to this day, she is still in touch with people from her school by correspondence and Facebook.

Through the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Ozetta found a home where she and her family can worship and express their faith. Their movement for inclusion was peaceful and nonviolent. They campaigned for reform and change, albeit slow to come. They participated in marches for fair and equal housing. Through the NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – they participated in the process of seeking black teachers, principals, key positions in the city council, and police officers. Up until today, through the NAACP and AME, Ozetta found role models for compassion, leadership, and participation in the life of the community.

On Saturday, February 25th, Rev. Ozetta will host the ninth year of “Unity in the CommUnity” for Black History month. This was her idea for a response to the continued work for inclusion and eradicating discrimination. The continued incidences of killings and racial tensions involving police officers called for fellowship.We need to sit down together, talk about how we can work together, and in the process hopefully develop respect and understanding. 

The Holy Trinity Community AME Church will host this event. It will start with a continental breakfast at 10am and a program will follow.I am encouraging all of you to participate in opportunities for members of the community to gather, to exchange views, get to know each other and develop increased understanding.  Animated by faith and welcoming attitude we hope to “build bridges of understanding, respect and support among diverse people of faith through education, dialogue, and service.” The spirit of Golden Rule experience of Reverend Ozetta in Racine, Wisconsin will hopefully be repeated a thousand-fold for us in Arizona.

Unity in the Community Celebration of Black History Fellowship Breakfast, Saturday, February 25, 2023, Holy Trinity AME Church. 220 South Chestnut Street, Mesa, AZ 85204.

Details HERE on our website. Hope to see you there!

Blessings,Albert Celoza, Ph.D., Executive Director
PS You, too, can be a traveling billboard for kindness and empathy. Details here.on our website, and the AZ MVD