As Chrystella (Cooper) Smith grew older, she decided to venture to New York City to live with some of her siblings. She said she thought it would be different in the city.
“It was the same no matter where you went,” said Chrystella. “I was still a mammy to white children and would continue to be for many years to come.”
Pauline (Williams) Ellis said when Chrystella returned to Evarts, after living a number of years in New York, Chrystella would preach from the porch of her home.
“She’s an ordained minister,” said Pauline. “I remember going and sitting up a lawn chair and listening to her preach to black and white alike. She didn’t need a church house to preach in and she didn’t care who came to listen to her. In Evarts, not everyone was prejudice. There were a lot of people who didn’t look at the color of one’s skin to judge what sort of person they were.”
With only one black business owner in the city of Evarts during the segregation years, Chrystella remembered John Toney, who shined shoes and sold peanuts from an old school bus he owned.
“Black and white both went there to see old John,” said Chrystella. “Wasn’t like that everywhere else in town. If you wanted something to eat at Pierce Drug or other restaurants, you had to go to a little window they had installed, peck on it and a black man or woman would take your order and hand it out the window for you to eat outside.
Chrystella said other places in Evarts were off limits to black folks such as a skating rink, owned by the Trospers.
“I remember standing back and just watching and wishing I could just try it out, but I never got that chance because I was black,” said Chrystella. “The theater, owned by P.O. Lewis, was the same. We had a specific place to sit and that was where we sat. If you didn’t, somebody would kick you right out of there.”
Pauline (Williams) Ellis and Chrystella both agreed their friendship had crossed all race barriers and had endured throughout the years.
“I know Chrystella and all the other black families in our area had it hard from time to time and I wish they hadn’t,” said Pauline. “Here in our little community I think it was probably not as bad as other places. There were times when you’d wish you could do something about segregation but you knew you could only find kindness in yourself and hope others would follow that example. That’s what I did and I think that’s why Chrystella and I are still such good friends today. We’ve come a long way and we’re not looking back.”
Chrystella said even though she endured a lot of hardship she didn’t let it define the person she is today.
“I never thought it would always be that way. I just knew in my heart one day it would change and it did,” said Chrystella. “You can’t live in the past. You have to have a forgiving heart and march toward a better place. Black folks across the world now live as everyone else lives and just for a moment we can all stop and say that’s a good thing to remember today.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com