Barbara Turman Ferguson, 71, is founder of the Afro-American Children’s Theatre and board chair and program coordinator of Tomorrow’s R.O.A.D. (Roots of the African Diaspora).
I grew up in Asheville. And when I was a teenager, in the early 1960s, I was part of a student group – ASCORE – Asheville Student Committee On Racial Equality that advocated to local business leaders about desegregating their workforce. We were mentored by some adults in the community.
We made appointments and went into the offices of corporate leaders at Ivey’s, Winner’s, Belk, Winn Dixie and other large employers and talked with them about creating job opportunities for African-Americans in the community.
Our goal was to let them know we didn’t want Asheville to experience the negative consequences other communities across the country had seen because of the business community’s resistance to desegregation.
Winner’s ended up establishing a youth day for students to come in and work alongside the staff. This was a result of our efforts. Over time those department stores opened up and starting hiring African-Americans.
I’ve always been sort of an introvert. I would have never envisioned myself doing some of the things I do now, but by being part of that group I learned how to stand behind ideas and convictions I felt were important.
I’m just not a person who is out there, except when there’s something I see that needs to be done. I don’t think about myself, I think about what I need to do and I’m able to remove myself and play a role.
I felt confident and knew there was a reason in doing this. I didn’t feel intimidated. Despite being an introvert, I never felt intimidated or afraid.
When you see something you think you can do something about, go forward with it.
Understand what your heart is telling you. If you see a vision, even if it seems intimidating or impossible, just go with it.
As told to Michael J. Solender