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Jerry Kinderman What I witnessed as a boy at this school I will never forget

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Jerry Kinderman

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:21 pm, Thu May 10, 2012.

To challenge Attorney General Eric Holder's assertion that as a nation we're cowards as it pertains to discussion of matters of race, I thought as someone with a direct connection to the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia, I might shed a different light on the matter.

In September 1965, as an 8-year-old boy from South Jersey, I was deposited into Girard College, a private boarding school located in North Philadelphia founded in 1848 by Stephen Girard for "poor, white, male orphans."

In short, Girard College was a hard place to get used to. The abuse from other boys and those paid to care for us was often severe and unrelenting. Over time, I learned to bob and weave while blending into the woodwork. But even those tactics didn't always work. In time I had toughened up enough to develop a love/hate relationship for the place I will always refer to as my childhood home.

In 1965, however, things were not peaceful on the other side of the Wall, a 10-foot-high structure surrounding the school's impressive 42-acre campus. While Girard's will had been unsuccessfully challenged many times before, with the changes going on throughout the country black leaders and citizens in Philadelphia would find a way to "break" it once and for all.

So it was in 1968, after one death, years of picketing, a visit from Martin Luther King, small riots, sharp and heavy objects hurled over the wall from the streets onto our playgrounds, and strict limitations on our comings and goings, when the U.S. Supreme Court found the way to alter the course of history for Girard College. In spite of its private funding, Girard's money had been managed by a city entity. This connection alone would be enough.

Although we didn't realize it at the time, the Class of 1974 — of which I was a member — would become a part of racial history. Because on June 8, 1974, along with 27 of his Girard brothers, Charles W. Hicks would be the first black boy to graduate from a school whose graduating classes had been white for its previous 126 years.

Diminutive and quiet, Charlie found his place in our class in much the same manner we all did. Disagreements were commonplace and often resulted in name-calling and fights followed by making up and moving forward. Our yearbook ("The Corinthian") bears out that Charlie at least appeared to assimilate well as he participated in sports; Boy Scouting; a member of the Society of Outstanding American High School Students; and recipient of the Union League of Philadelphia Good Citizenship Award among other accolades. He even signed my book as his "'G' bro, Charlie." Oh, and his nickname was "Brew" (an offshoot of the word "Bro," a name Charlie himself included on his page in the 1974 yearbook).

On graduation day we were greeted by all manner of media from newspaper reporters to cameras from CBS's "60 Minutes." This was indeed a big deal for Philadelphia, and for Charlie.

Still, memories have a way of changing even in spite of evidence such as memorialized in my yearbook. A few short years ago Charlie was quoted as saying that Girard was very racially charged for all of his six years, he had few friends, and that a member of his class threatened to kill him nightly prior to going to sleep.

One thing is for certain: There is no way I could imagine what it was like for Charlie being the only black student among a class of white faces, especially considering that he was admonished to do nothing to give the school a reason to get rid of him. After all, he was special — he had to succeed. To be fair, nearly all of us were threatened with bodily injury or death from those who hated us. And in all the time I was at Girard, no black student ever threatened me in this fashion; but the white upper-classmen took their shots.

I suppose Charlie has reasons for his memories. I won't challenge them. However, after conferring with other 1974 graduates, our perception of Charlie's life with us at the Hum reveals that he was treated no better and certainly no worse than anyone else during his six years as our "brother."

I ran into Charlie at Girard about five years ago. He didn't have much to say as he was busy signing autographs for the myriad current Girardians in awe of this historical figure. While Girard College still admits children from financially challenged households, there are no longer limitations based upon race or gender. Some of the older alumni have a hard time with these changes, but not those of us who graduated with Charles W. Hicks, aka "Brew." I didn't really understand it nearly 38 years ago, but it is an honor and privilege to be a part of that history and to have Charlie as one of my "'G' bro's." Perhaps in time he'll feel the same way again; or maybe he never really felt that way at all. But at least I'm talking about it now.


As a postscript: Today Girard College offers full scholarships which include tuition, clothing, food, healthcare and virtually anything and everything necessary to prepare its students to become happy, well-adjusted and contributing members of society. In addition, the majority are black and female.

Nearly all graduates are accepted to good colleges and universities around the country. Missing from these statistics however, are the numbers indicating how many of them actually finish their advanced education. There are also other data requested by the alumni and others that would give a better picture of what is really happening within the confines of the Wall.

Jerry Kinderman is a retired 20-year Lodi resident, computer software developer and writer. He can be reached at girard1974@comcast.net.

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  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:49 am on Fri, May 18, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    I'm not buying the BS. Stevie: Repeat after BP: "Everything BUT the ECONOMY ...STUPIDS!!!"

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 5:21 am on Fri, May 18, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    As opposed to Mittens the Bully who's motto is "Hold him down boys, I'm coming...."

    I think Mittens attack on his classmate makes a nice metaphor for this years GOP primary in which the Republican electorate was held down screaming while Mittens was forced down their throat.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 1:17 pm on Mon, May 14, 2012.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    That's hilarious he "only attacked one gay". How many "gays" do you need to attack to put you character in question?

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 5:54 pm on Sun, May 13, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    DB, a lot of people have accused Mittens of being a liberal over the years but I am a little surprised to see you label him thusly here.

    That said, the word I was thinking of was "coward".

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 12:07 pm on Sun, May 13, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    I agree Steve...there is a word for that... "iberals"...good point!

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:35 am on Sun, May 13, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    mrss: "Pat, wasn't it your boys who demanded..." I believe it was Dan (the liar) Rather who PUT it ON the table. Is that the best you could do?

    Stevie: Repeat the BO mantra: "Everything BUT the ECONOMY ...STUPIDS!!!"

  • John Lucas posted at 9:02 am on Sun, May 13, 2012.

    John Lucas Posts: 2730

    again, bingo

  • John Lucas posted at 9:01 am on Sun, May 13, 2012.

    John Lucas Posts: 2730


  • Steve Schmidt posted at 12:17 pm on Sat, May 12, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    Of course, the attack itself does raise some issues. Back when I was in High School, we had a word for the kind of a guy who would only fight when the odds were five to one.....

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 12:16 pm on Sat, May 12, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    Chuckle... Pat, wasn't it your boys who demanded that we take "youthful drug indiscretions" off the table back when everyone was talking about George W's cocaine habit?

    In any case, for me, the problem isn't so much Romney's (and four of his closest friends) brutal assault on a young boy, it is the fact the attack on a screaming young man made so little of an impression on the Mittonater that he can't even recall it.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 7:02 am on Sat, May 12, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    When are we going to hear about BO's drug use, college pranks, hazings, punking and the rest?

    I find it interesting that the POST could find one incident 50 years ago but can't even find a published paper by BO. Reminds me of Dan Rather.

    I further find it interesting that the FAMILY of the deceased young man said no such thing ever happened and that the young man would be furious at what was written.

    The BO mantra is and will be : Everything BUT the ECONOMY STUPIDS!!!

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 8:42 pm on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    Larry, it is time for you to get your meds adjusted.

  • Florence McSpoon posted at 6:34 pm on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Florence McSpoon Posts: 18

    If Romney had attended Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat would have put him in Slytherin.

  • Lawrence Steinberg posted at 5:13 pm on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Lawrence Steinberg Posts: 65

    REELECT ROMNEY IN 2016!!!!

    The OBMINATIONS are lying as always. Mitt Romney (THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) only attacked one gay and he has publically apologized.

    REELECT ROMNEY IN 2016!!!!

  • John Lucas posted at 11:19 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    John Lucas Posts: 2730

    One of the attackers of Mr Lauber was one of the rare birds. One of the Romney's fellow attackers who's is a lawyer said that the attack was assault and battery, that he was sorry for participating in it and he thought it was a blemish on his character. I think that was a statement from a man of character. It is when I see a statement like that is when I feel hope for our species. I Mr Romney espoused every political idea I value and was a Democrat I could never vote for him. It is not his politics that makes my skin crawl but his complete lack of character.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 10:07 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Although I attempted to be clear, Mr. Lucas misunderstands the racial makeup of Girard at that time. Charlie Hicks was not the only black student in the school; as the first to graduate he was the only black student in the class of 1974. While I do not have the numbers regarding the percentage of black to white boys at that time, to be sure there were quite a few in the classes that followed, including his brother who was a member of the class of 1976.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:46 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Lucas stated...I have not seen you once engage in a meaningful discussion or honest debate.

    I suggest you then open your eyes...

    As far as personal attacks, I have not once questioned your intelligence. I have stated that you are a bright man who is terribly misguided and biased. Exactly what do you mean by personal attack? I have questioned your positions, thoughts, ideas, conclusions and when you use vicious insults I respond to them. Show me one post where I viciously attacked you where I said anything close to anything you have said... it does not exist.
    I also am not whining. I said the paper should feel free to delete any comment anyone makes... however, there should be consistency...

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 5:21 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2677

    Mr Kinderman's column about hazing is all the more timely given the recent revelations concerning Mitt Romney's brutal attacks on gay students during his prep school days.

    Jerry, I am not at all surprised that the individual who threatened Mr. Hicks lacks the testicular fortitude to come clean with you and your classmates. I don't necessarily think America is a nation of cowards but, as Mr Romney's recent statements show, the courage to confess such dark sins is a rare bird indeed.

  • John Lucas posted at 2:55 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    John Lucas Posts: 2730

    Darrell, you are trying to be funny. Right?. You are complaining about personal attacks? Do you read any of your own posts? You only write three types of posts. 90% of your posts are blatant personal attacks and lately you rarely miss an opportunity to hammer me. Do you ever hear me complain? Never and I am not complaining now. Have at it. What gets to me is guys like you dish it out constantly and whine when you get it back in return. That is why I made up that LNS "you are so mean, give me a hankie" award and you are surely in the running. 5% of your post are used in kissing up to your buddies here and the remaining 5% no one can really figure out what you are talking about. I have not seen you once engage in a meaningful discussion or honest debate.

  • John Lucas posted at 2:24 am on Fri, May 11, 2012.

    John Lucas Posts: 2730

    It is impossible for me to believe that the only black kid in a school in 1968 was not treated differently than the other kids. He may have made it there but the idea that he did not put up with racist comments and abuse just goes against my life experience and I am willing to bet the vast majority of those who lived those racially charged and turbulent times would agree with me. I am not at all surprised and would have bet that Jerome would have been blind to what was going on.

    I grew up in a racially mixed Neighborhood ,35% Hispanic, 35% black and the rest us honkies. One of my best friends a blue black guy named Carl. Blue black means he was 100% black. He was a straight A student but I beat him all sports especially basketball. He just did not have any rhythm. He was a boy who was calm, reserved and had a quality of integrity and pride that was very apparent. He lived two streets over and one day him and his brother came over and a bunch of us kids were playing football in the street. One of the kids parents came out and took their kid because we were playing these black kids. We kept playing but I will never forget the hurt look on my friends face. I can still see it today. After high school I went off to Vietnam(where I saw the same nonsense, but worse) and Carl went off to college on a four year academic scholarship.

    I have seen this sort of stuff all my life but it is better now. It still exists but much of it is underground. Here are just a couple of stories and these are not even close to being the worst.

    I drove semi over thirty years. Every new trucking company I had the same experience. Some guy or guys would make some racial slur usually involving the word "ni--er". I would not get angry but I would make perfectly clear that I would not put up with that nonsense. The interesting thing was the responses. 30% to 40% you could see that they felt some guilt about their remark. 30% to 40% it just blew over their head. The last 30% were your enemies for life and all of them were Conservative Republicans. It usual happened 2 or 3 times until the word got out.
  A funny story along these lines happened when I worked for Jewish owned long haul produce company. One of the owners was also a dispatcher and a very good guy. It was a sleeper team operation and one day he asked if I would mind running salt and pepper meaning would I run with a black driver. I told him I would even run with a Jew if he knew how to drive. I can still see the look on his face. Beautiful.

    Sometimes in life you get a moment of clarity. I was hauling tomatoes to canneries in the Central Valley in California. One of my fellow drivers was a black guy who like me is large physically. I like to think we were both intelligent and we would have long discussions about politics, race and, of course, women. The important things in life. Our straw boss was a white guy who for reasons I still do not know hated me. He would give me all the bad runs and nail me every way he could. I was whining to my friend about this and his response was, "Now you know how it feels". Bingo

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:58 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Lucas is allowed to state derogatory belittlement in his posts. He is allowed to call me a person who supports molesters of woman as well as other terrible comments ...and his comments are not deleted.

    Ms Bobin has recently accused me falsely of supporting priests who molest and rape children... and her inflammatory comments are not deleted.

    I simply say that Ms Bobin has a history with Mr Kinderman where she hates him in a sarcastic manner and my post is deleted.

    I have no problem with anyone at LNS keeping standards as they see fit as it is their paper. However, it is very unclear why certain posts are deleted and others that appear much more inflammatory are allowed to remain. If personal attacks are the concern, why the inconsistencies?

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:24 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    That's "discrepancies." Before Mr. Baumbach runs my post through spell check before he files it away in his creepy effort to keep track of my comments.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:22 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Mr. Baumbach, regarding your 2:41PM post, I have read this column no less than six times in an effort to really understand why Mr. Kinderman is trying to connect the Attorney General's comments to the story of his childhood at a boarding school for "poor, white, male orphans" and the sole "black boy" in his graduating class.

    From what I have read, if the "Internet" is to be believed, this institution as a very prestigious one, contrary to the description Mr. Kinderman makes which pretty much makes it sound like Deuel Vocational Institute. I'm not going to argue his POV since he was there and I wasn't - Mr. Kinderman makes a similar statement with regard to Mr. Hicks.

    Bottom line is that there are too many descepancies contained within this writing that leads one to question the writer - not to mention the underlying current of resentment that Mr. Kinderman seems to express regarding the forced racial integration and the "braggadocio" that Mr. Hicks seems to have exhibited according to Mr. Kinderman.

    "Wonderfule intent." Sorry, I still disagree.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 5:45 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Time for your meds, Mr. Baumbach.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 4:06 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    I don't care what color you are...green with purple polk-adots...does not matter...just do your job...BO.

    I'm Native Tribal...our lands were taken from us under the use of "Treaties" how about if you rail against that for US...msb?

    We have become a country of victims...lazy ones at that...a "you owe me" set of pots and pans that no one can cook in.

    It's someone else's fault, someone else's responsibility, someone else's debt, someone else's problem....the consequesces of a ME generation.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 2:41 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Kinderman stated...I ran into Charlie at Girard about five years ago. He didn't have much to say as he was busy signing autographs for the myriad current Girardians in awe of this historical figure. While Girard College still admits children from financially challenged households, there are no longer limitations based upon race or gender..

    To get back to the wonderful intent of Mr Kinderman's article, it is obvious that race relations are far better now than in the past. It is obvious that the melting pot that is America has produced some very positive results as evidenced by this story. It does bring to question the intent and motives of Mr Holder and his boss however. Well... they are politicians trying to play politics so maybe their agenda is more obvious than I am thinking.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:39 pm on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    "Everyone knows?" I don't "hate" Mr. Kinderman at all. I just think that he is arrogant and pompous and, as you stated articulates well his disgust for anyone who has an opinion contrary to his own, but no reason for hatred.

    Everything else you wrote is nonsense and paranoia. You really need some psychological help and hope you consider it soon before you hurt yourself or someone else.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 10:26 am on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    No, I'm not pretending. And unless you have evidence that Mr. Kinderman used the article you referenced, then your argument has no basis whatsoever. I don't even know why you are making some type of comparison.

    Dictionary.com: Wordsmith: an expert in the use of words. That is how I meant that comment - that Mr. Kinderman is one of the few on these boards who pays attention to composing a comprehensible sentence.

    And really, Mr. Baumbach, don't you think it is REALLY creepy that you keep a record of comments? You need treatment for that OCD.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:47 am on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Clearly, Mr Kinderman and Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at NYU's Stern Business School and many other Americans believe Eric Holder was inappropriate in his characterization of race in United States. Reasonable people can disagree, but for Ms Bobin to pretend she cannot understand the connection of Mr Kinderman's experience to the point of the article is rather shallow.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:40 am on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405


    What bothers him, it seems, is that we tend to self-segregate in our free time--as he sees it. To quote at length from his unsavory speech: "As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by 'American instinct' and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one's character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago."

    In other words: It's all well and good that our workplaces are free of racial discrimination. But the cowards that we are, we self-segregate on weekends. White folks don't invite black folks to their dinner parties. This is shocking. In fact, it's almost like 1959.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:40 am on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Los Estados Unidos
    America, A Nation Of Cowards
    Tunku Varadarajan, 02.23.09, 12:00 AM EST
    President Obama should rebuke Attorney General Holder.

    Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at NYU's Stern Business School and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, is executive editor for opinions at Forbes. He writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.

    A nation of cowards. Why did he say that? It is because--in spite of the best efforts of patronizing, self-appointed racial arbiters--"we, average Americans, do not talk enough with each other about race." We do not "have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."
    Hang on a minute, I hear you say. Haven't we just elected a black president? And didn't we elect him in a contest that was as close as possible to being nonracial in a two-man face-off involving one man who was black, the other white? Didn't we, in fact, go to great lengths as a nation--even those among us who opposed Barack Obama--to ensure that race was never on the table as a substantive issue, and that, in fact, the election was passionately, even punctiliously, about ideas? Didn't we, in fact and effect, transcend race as an issue in the most important political contest in the land? Isn't that, in fact, what Barack Obama wanted? And wasn't that, in fact, part of the undeniable racial catharsis wrought by Obama's election? And aren't we rightly, electrifyingly, proud of the fact that we elected a black man to the White House not as an act of nationwide affirmative action, but as a recognition of his intelligence, character and charisma, and also of the fact that he was, quite simply, better than his opponent (who just happened to be white)?
    If that is cowardly, count me (an Indian immigrant) among the cowards. Count my cowardly wife, too, and her parents, cowardly white people born in North Carolina in the 1930s, who voted for Obama.
    So what exactly is eating Holder, the unelected attorney general of all Americans?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:32 am on Thu, May 10, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr. Kinderman is described as a "writer." I make the assumption that this is his first effort and a product of a creative writing assignment since his previous contributions have only been LTE's. Keep up the good work, Mr. Kinderman. There is a reason they are called 'first drafts."

    Evidently, Ms Bobin simply does not appreciate the content of what Mr Kinderman writes and is is simply being petty and disingenuous with her description of Mr Kinderman's writing skills as evidenced by her previous post...

    Joanne Bobin posted at 9:42 am on Sun, Jul 31, 2011... Mr. Kinderman is a skilled wordsmith.

    Mr Kinderman later replied... Well, as the thread is wearing bare on this LTE, I'll sign off with my profound appreciation for being identified as a "wordsmith" (defined as "a person who works with words; especially: a skillful writer" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wordsmith)) by those who clearly don't understand what a compliment that is to any writer. Thank you!

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 10:29 pm on Wed, May 9, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    What Eric Holder actually said:

    “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards,” Holder said in remarks to his staff in honor of Black History Month. His comments appear on a transcript provided by the Justice Department.

    “Even as we fight a war against terrorism; deal with the reality of electing an African-American, for the first time, as the president of the United States; and deal with other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past and to understand our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country — that all endures,” the attorney general added."

    Regardless, as the seeming "thesis statement" of this piece, I fail to see how Mr. Kinderman connects his version of Holder's comments to some type of "challenge" solely based on the story of "a black boy" (Really? A 17 or 18 year old high school graduate is refered to in 2012 as "a black boy?") who made it through, by Mr. Kinderman's account, a very tough boarding school.

    And "direct connection to the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia" Not supported by this piece and Mr. Kinderman, as described by his own writing, was confined in a walled environment that, as described, seems to be a parallel to the plot of "The Lord of the Flies."

    Mr. Kinderman is described as a "writer." I make the assumption that this is his first effort and a product of a creative writing assignment since his previous contributions have only been LTE's.

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Kinderman. There is a reason they are called 'first drafts."

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 10:21 am on Wed, May 9, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Jerome: I was offered a full ride swimming scholarship to Tennessee State Univ in 1969...I still have the school annual and offer letter in my records. I chose the Univ of Arkansas instead...then the Army.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:46 am on Wed, May 9, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Kinderman, thank you sharing such an interesting story. Your life and experiences have led to a wisdom I very much appreciate.


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