STEUBENVILLE - As a teenager growing up in the 1960s in Columbia, Ala., the Rev. Calvin McLoyd could have easily turned to hate.
"I remember when we were called to the school auditorium and we were told President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Most of us felt deep emotion that day. Some of the kids felt we were going to be back in slavery. But the teachers in our school who were involved in the Civil Rights movement were speaking to us and telling everyone, 'don't panic. This will all work out,'" recalled the pastor of the Second Baptist Church.
"And I remember one teacher who kept telling us, 'don't retaliate ... educate. He was encouraging us we could do more with education and academics. And that stayed with me as I grew up a young man and saw the Civil Rights Act signed in 1964.
SPEAKING OUT — The Rev. Calvin McLoyd, pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Steubenville, stands at the pulpit in his church. McLoyd talked about growing up in the 1960s in Columbia, Ala., and the 50th anniversary of the signing of Civil Rights Act. - Dave Gossett
The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson prompted McLoyd to speak about growing up in a small town in Alabama and how he rejected bitterness and hate to seek education and a pastorship in Steubenville.
"I was a teenager when the Civil Rights Act was signed. The best communication we had about the Civil Rights movement was through our teachers. They knew how to help the younger generation to survive. I attended segregated schools through the 12th grade. The Civil Rights Act had a mammoth effect on our country. And I believe God had a hand in shaping things then and things now," continued McLoyd.
"I had moments with the police in our town and I saw the Klan in the community. My high school finally desegregated in 1970. But the spirit of segregation is still there in the employment and the economy. It is now a matter of green that rules our lives. My philosophy is we are not an integrated society, we are a desegregated society. The signs have been taken down from the restaurants and the rest rooms. But integration means you can't tell where a sign was once posted," remarked McLoyd.
"I grew up in a segregated era. I remember the colored restrooms and the whites only signs. It was accepted and the law guaranteed it. I knew people who went missing. I know people who were beaten. And I knew people who were accused of raping white women. They went to prison and never came back. I graduated in 1967 from a segregated high school. Three years later I went back and the school was desegregated. Not integrated but desegregated," McLoyd noted.
"I had ill feelings in my youth because of the way my father and other black men were treated. He had to call younger white men mister and they would refer to my father as 'boy' or 'uncle.' And the black women were called 'auntie.' I could have remained bitter but I decided not to retaliate, but to educate. There were some angry moments but I got past that," McLoyd explained.
"I make myself available and accessible. During my time in the military and while obtaining my education I learned how to reach out to everyone. People will accept you when they know you are accessible and reachable. When we saw Dr. (Martin Luther) King on television standing behind President Johnson for the signing of the Civil Rights Act it hit me here," he said touching his chest.
"But my father just said it's about time. He still had a reluctance to go to a restaurant because he grew up where the black people had to go to the back door. My siblings and I would try to take him out to dinner in later years but he would just say our mom was already cooking dinner and we could eat at home," McLoyd said.
"The Civil Rights movement caused deep emotional conflicts in the white community and deep disturbances in the black community. Some of our black leaders were looked on as Uncle Toms and accused of selling out. There was a perception among some of our churches that King was a lightning rod and shouldn't be allowed to speak in our churches. Now thank God there is a just awareness of the movement. Dr. King's dream is not fulfilled yet but we have to move it forward," McLoyd said.
"The youth of today can read about the Civil Rights movement. My message to our youth is to be different. Don't fall into the same conformity. Assert yourself to be different. Don't fall into the same rut as everyone else. I am a strong proponent of education. And I am grateful I was able to see the change in our country and the healing from the signing of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago. I learned a long time ago that no matter the odds or the issues we face we can still make it. We need the desire and drive to make it," said McLoyd.
"This is where my heart is. This has affected me personally because what I came through growing up. But I am not bitter. What I learned has made me a better person. And there are people of good will everywhere," he added.
"The hand of God guided the Civil Rights movement. God inspires, God directs and God guides us. I learned as a youth growing up in Columbia, Ala., that there is no redemption in hate, only in God," McLoyd stated.