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The Valentine 1955

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Published on Jan 26, 2007

Racial politics plays out between two small girls in 1955 St Louis.

1955 saw the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and the beginning of school desegregation. They were unsafe and worrisome times, especially in big cities like St. Louis, where white neighborhoods experienced an influx of poor rural black folks.

This short-short story recounts a single moment in time. Valentine's Day, 1955. My mother had given me valentines only for the white children in my class and, at the age of seven, I faced the terrible dilemma of what to do when a girl with a brown face reached out to get a card from me. Obey my mother or be kind to another child? In movies and books, children are often portrayed as wiser than adults. But in real life children are little mirrors of their parents, who in turn are often only playing out the larger issues of their society. It was a cruel moment.

Screened at the United Nations Association Film Festival at Stanford University in 2003 and subsequently with its traveling film festival in Monterrey CA, at Harvard U, and elsewhere.

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