Magic Cot­tage teacher shares mem­o­ries of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks

The Advance of Bucks County - - YARDLEY-MORRISVILLE AREA - By Cary Beavers

LOWER MAKEFIELD - It takes a spe­cial per­son to grab the at­ten­tion of a group of 3- and 4-year-olds and hold it. Cathrine Wil­liams, then, is spe­cial.

Wil­liams, 6T, is a teacher at Magic Cot­tage in Lower 0DkH­fiHOd, Dnd WKDW DORnH wRuOd PDkH KHr sSHFLDO. On FrL­day she cap­ti­vated a room full of stu­dents with sto­ries of meet­ing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, ar­guably the two names most as­so­ci­ated with the civil rights move­ment a half­cen­tury ago.

Born in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., and raised in Mont­gomery, Ala., Wil­liams saw Dnd IHOW firsWKDnd WKH wKLWHRn-EODFk KDWrHd WKDW dHfinHd life in the South dur­ing her child­hood. As she told the kids, she did not let those ex­pe­ri­ences shape who she would be­come.

“It made me a bet­ter per­son,” said the mother of six, grand­mother of 18 and great-grand­mother of one. “It made me love all races. I didn’t have any per­sonal deal­ings with white peo­ple grow­ing up, so when I moved up here I learned to love peo­ple of all col­ors.”

Wil­liams moved to Le­vit­town, where she still re­sides, in 1960. Prior to mov­ing, she had a front-row seat for the civil rights move­ment, get­ting to meet King and Parks sev­eral times. The chil­dren laughed when she re­called be­ing pat­ted on the head by King and smiled at be­ing told about the af­ter­noon Wil­liams met Parks, thanked her and gave her a hug. They gasped when she re­counted sev­eral mem­o­ries of seg­re­ga­tion.

“Black and white kids didn’t go to school to­gether,” Wil­liams told her young, racially di­verse au­di­ence. “We couldn’t drink from the same water foun­tains. Seg­re­ga­tion was all I knew.”

For the most part, the chil­dren sat cross-legged, speak­ing only when of­fered the op­por­tu­nity by Wil­liams or Magic Cot­tage Di­rec­tor Deb­bie Haver­son.

“Ev­ery­one should sit where they want to sit,” 3-yearold Tyler Rodriguez said in re­ac­tion to the story of Parks re­fus­ing to give up her seat on a bus to a white per­son. The pre-kin­der­gartener was like the rest of his class­mates in look­ing at life rather sim­ply, and not in terms of black and white. The at­ti­tude did not sur­prise Wil­liams.

“They ab­so­lutely get the mes­sage,” Wil­liams said. “They un­der­stand. I gave this talk two years ago and I just saw a boy from that class and he told me, ‘I re­mem­ber you telling me that story.’”

Wil­liams was quick to point out that the chil­dren weren’t WKH RnOy RnHs WR EHnH­fiW IrRP KHr sWRryWHOOLnJ.

“It brings back old mem­o­ries,” Wil­liams said. “I’m glad I shared my ex­pe­ri­ences with them. A lot of peo­ple my age [in this area] don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ences I have.”

ABOVE: Magic Cot­tage stu­dent Molly Holm, 3, asks a ques­tion of Cathrine Wil­liams af­ter Wil­liamsí talk Fri­day morn­ing.

LEFT: Cathrine Wil­liams speaks to a group of Magic Cot­tage stu­dents Fri­day morn­ing.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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