“Rev. Ozetta Kirby’s life full of Golden Rule moments” in AZCentral

Reverend Ozetta Kirby’s life full of Golden Rule moments

Albert Celoza

Special to the Republic

Women are witnesses to the unfolding of Golden Rule moments in history. Ozetta Kirby is one such witness to changing times often fraught with challenges. She lived in Jim Crow-segregated South. She had to get up early in the morning to take a two-hour bus ride of twenty miles to get to her school. Students from two grades were squeezed into 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 of the buildings 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 since she was threatened to be placed a grade lower. Ozetta reasoned that she had already accomplished knowledge and skills requirements. Her appeal convinced the school official to be placed rightfully in the ninth grade.

The biggest surprise for her was the way she was received by her other kids. She had a series of Golden Rule moments interacting with others. A white girl offered her help; she was totally shocked. The kids were more friendly; they talk to each other outside the classroom and in the hallway. Unlike her old school, they had gym, 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 her church, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), Ozetta found a home where she and her family can worship and express their faith. They joined in the movement for inclusion though peaceful and nonviolent means. 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. More Golden Rule Moments unfolded as she emulated examples of kindness and leadership.

Ozetta had since become Reverend Ozetta Kirby, a leader in the community and a pastor in the Holy Trinity Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Mesa, Arizona. She continues the work for inclusion and eradicating discrimination. She expressed that ‘we need to sit down together, talk about how we can work together and in the process hopefully develop respect and understanding,’ which is just what she did with the East Valley Community Builders, and they received a Golden Rule Award in 2019. See https://interfaithmovement.com/golden-rule-honorees/.

Her ‘Unity in the CommUnity’ annual events are welcome opportunities for members of the community to gather, to exchange views, get to know each other, and develop increased understanding of each other. As Golden Rule moments animated Reverend Ozetta Kirby’s life, she has not only become a witness but a maker of history!

PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK Copyright © 2023 The Arizona Republic 3/11/2023

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