Students attend assembly on Little Rock Nine

Hasmik Djoulakian

(March 8, 2011) — Dr. Terrence Roberts was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage of an auditorium at Glendale Community College on Feb. 25. The admiration was plain to see in the faces of many, and Roberts waited for his audience to be subdued. He began to talk about how irrational society had seemed before he had been a member of the Little Rock Nine, a group of students who challenged the restrictions that were placed upon them by the society of 1954. He didn’t understand at the time why he couldn’t sit down to eat at a certain restaurant or why he couldn’t sit in the front of the bus. He went along blindly with these limitations and with the hostility until 1954, when the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education declared that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The opportunity came for Roberts and eight other African-American high school students to make history and break the social bounds which had held them back and kept them in fear their entire lives; they would do this by enrolling in the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their fear would only increase with the move they were about to make, but it was eventually replaced by courage and a fervent desire to make a stand for the first time in their lives. “I was not going to let that opportunity pass,” said Roberts in regards to his decision in 1954. Both he and his parents had agreed to the bold step, realizing the significance as well as danger of it. The students faced intense opposition when the National Guard was called in to keep them out. The police could not offer them sufficient protection, so they arrived with the 101st Airborne division of the U.S. Army, who would be their personal body guards for the remainder of the year. “I felt inspired by his story. Nowadays we take everything for granted, especially our education,” said junior Anna Baburyan. “His actions for learning were strong and inspired me to rise above my surroundings and myself to achieve whatever greatness I hope to become.” The harassment, both mental and physical, did not diminish over time. White students would hit Roberts from the back and run away, leaving his guard with the choice to either pursue him or stay and defend Roberts from more attacks; Roberts preferred the latter. Roberts spoke about the topic of acceptance to GCC students and about 80 of Advanced History teacher Nicholas Doom’s students. “He said that he tries to spread his message of inclusion to schools but he didn’t pretend that everyone accepts everyone else,” said junior Aram Gevorgyan. Roberts said that even today, we have not learned how to cope with difference. According to him, difference is important and that as every human being is different, we cannot claim to be a part of any one group of people. If one is able to accept himself as unique, it will be easier for him to accept others as such.