Living

A high school trip to Boston is life-changing

Greg McMurray, 57, worked many years for CMS as a custodian until 2012 when an automobile accident left him on disability. McMurray is a lifelong freelance photographer. He lives in Matthews.
Greg McMurray, 57, worked many years for CMS as a custodian until 2012 when an automobile accident left him on disability. McMurray is a lifelong freelance photographer. He lives in Matthews. Joe Martin

Greg McMurray, 57, worked many years for CMS as a custodian until 2012 when an automobile accident left him on disability. McMurray is a lifelong freelance photographer. He lives in Matthews.

In December 1974 a U.S. District Court found members of the Boston School Committee in contempt for failing to implement a school desegregation plan as ordered. Violent incidents took place in following months, some of them fatal. In 1975, high school students from the Carolinas were invited to Boston to meet with community members to discuss busing and the impact of desegregation they’d experienced.

In 1975 I was a junior at West Charlotte High School. I was selected to accompany a group of students to go to Boston for a busing summit held by the Boston School Committee and the community up there. I was asked to report on and photograph my classmates as they met with administrators and community members.

My mom was a single parent. She thought my going was a good opportunity. This was the first time I’d ever been on a plane.

I grew up in the projects of Piedmont Court. The schools the black kids went to had secondhand materials. I saw the same thing up there in the black schools. We were there for three days, but there wasn’t any rioting.

No one knew how bad things were going to get. People experienced all that hate for no reason other than kids trying to have a better education.

At the time I went, I wasn’t really afraid. We didn’t experience violence at the time; it happened after we left. Later, looking back and seeing the footage of the riots, I became very afraid.

The experience changed me. It opened my eyes to the way the world is. If you don’t know something, and you’re afraid of it, the first thing you want to do is get rid of it. We can’t get rid of every little problem that pops up. We have to grab these things by the horns and work it out.

I was glad to be selected to go. I learned that if I’m not familiar with something I need to find out more about it. It taught me to be respectful of people and deal with things directly. As told to Michael J. Solender

Know someone who’d like to share his or her life’s lessons? Reach out to michaeljsolender@gmail.com.

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