Judge Helen Shores Lee on growing up on ‘Dynamite Hill,’ her ‘journey to equality’
on March 12, 2013 at 3:41 PM
VESTAVIA HILLS, Alabama — Judge Helen Shores Lee took to the microphone at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon at the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce Luncheon to discuss her childhood in Birmingham, growing up not only as an African-American during the tumultuous 50s and 60s, but also as the daughter of famed Birmingham lawyer and Civil Rights leader, Arthur Shores.
“I’m here to talk about what I call my journey to equality,” said Shores Lee, before reminding the audience that 50 years ago, the diversity of the faces in the crowd would not have been the same.
Despite the progress, she said, there is still more that should be accomplished.
“Our journey to equality is not yet complete,” said Shores Lee.
The progress made is in fact, “warmed by the sunshine of freedom,” but remains “plagued,” by continued racism and inequality.
Shores Lee, once the Director of Clinical Outreach Services with the Jefferson County Department of Health, then went on to share intimate details of her life, stirring up laughter in the crowd as she spoke of her “fiery nature,” her outspoken antics in direct rebellion to segregation that was once protected by law.
“Segregation wasn’t funny,” said Shores Lee, reminding the audience that although now, her antics might inspire laughter, her actions were bold for the time, the acts of a child confused about the inequalities of the land.
“It brought out that hot temper of mine,” she said.
There were quiet acts of rebellion–drinking from a “whites only” water fountain, moving the “blacks only” board a couple of rows forward on the bus so that her mother could take a seat–but there were also some that spoke to the innocence of her nature because of their boldness and inherent danger.
Once, she said, she tried to fire a gun at a car full of white me who had been driving back and forth down her street hurling insults at her family.
“My father deflected the gun,” said Shores Lee, lowering her voice.
She was 13-years-old then.
Today, the practicing judge and recent author of “The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill: The Untold Story of Arthur Shores and His Family’s Fight for Civil Rights,” closed her speech with a lesson.
“It’s impossible to embrace the future unless we know the direction we came from,” she said.
And with that, she asked the following four questions:
“Are you willing to take an active stand when you see racism?
“Will you stand up for what is right in the face of opposition?
“Will you reach out and help others in their time of need?
“Are you going to walk through life passively or try to make a difference?”
Answering yes, she said, makes you a certain kind of someone.
“You are the kind of person who can change the world,” said Shores Lee, mirroring the words of Frederick Douglass.
“Unless we learn to see each other through the eyes of God,” she added, “we will never be able to see each other without fear or prejudice.”
Be sure to visit AL.com this week for a more in-depth article on the stories shared by Judge Helen Shores Lee.