Dawne Gee shares heart-racing memories of desegregation, busing

40 years after de-segregation, a look back at busing in Louisville
Published: Feb. 9, 2016 at 1:46 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 25, 2016 at 12:46 AM EDT
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Dawne Gee was the first African-American cheerleader at Pleasure Ridge Park High School.
Dawne Gee was the first African-American cheerleader at Pleasure Ridge Park High School.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As WAVE 3 News stops to take a look at the issue of school desegregation and busing now 40 years later, it caused my heart to race and some tears to fall.

As a 12-year-old it was very hard to understand and very hard to watch as people became physically and verbally abusive simply because students were asked to sit together. I do understand the bus rides were long and the territory unknown.

While gathering information for our week long look back at the 40th anniversary of busing, I interviewed Tracy E. K'Meyer. K'Meyer is the author of From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954-2007. 

[RELATED: 40 years after de-segregation, a look back at busing in Louisville]

K'Meyer chronicles the local response to Brown v. Board of Education in 1956 and describes the start of countywide busing in 1975 as well as the crisis sparked by violent opposition to it.

As I sat down to interview her for my story she said, "Thank you very much for allowing me to share your experience during some of the toughest times this school system has been through."

I did not understand her gratitude. She picked up her book and turned to a picture of me as the first African-American cheerleader at Pleasure Ridge Park High School. I was very surprised. It took me a minute to remember being interviewed for this oral narrative as a young girl in junior high school. I could only tear up as I looked at the picture and remembered the account I detailed to for K'Meyer's book.

I lived not very far from Pleasure Ridge Park, but during the time of busing it really didn't matter where you lived in the heat of rioting and fighting. Only my brown skin stood out to those who did not want African Americans in the classrooms with whites. You could not see my address.

One afternoon in the parking lot of PRP some of the other African American students were running right passed me yelling for me to run too. I wasn't really sure what game they were playing or why they were running, so I continued to just stand laughing and talking to friends. I didn't think they were running out of fear until I heard a few people begin to scream as they passed me. I saw young white boys with chains and sticks hitting anyone that didn't look like them. I didn't look like them. I ran. I ran fast.

As I made my way closer to Greenwood Road, I saw a TARC bus. I ran to the TARC bus and began to hit the side of it with my hands as hard as I could begging the driver to please open the door and disregard the fact we were not at a proper stop. It seemed like it took an hour as I pounded on the side of that bus screaming for help and a ride to safety. I could hear other students crying and yelling as they ran or fought. I could hear the sounds of fighting and name calling, but I could not, I did not stop to look back or help.

The driver finally opened the door only to shut it as fast as lightening as I made my way on board. We just looked at each other. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. He didn't ask me for money. He just allowed me to take a seat.

It seemed like the ride a few blocks to my home took forever. It was the first time ever that I realized the mere color of my skin was an issue in my life, or should I say, in other's lives.

When I stepped through the door of my home it all hit me - hard. I began to cry so hard I could not breathe. I began to yell at my mother that someone should have warned me that this is what I would be facing. It certainly was not my mother's fault, but I had nowhere to put my pain and fear.

We don't really talk about this part of the city's history much and what you don't face you cannot fix.

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