Catholic Social Teaching Class Welcomes Guest Speakers for Black History Month
Tom Daniels and Tom “Cookie” Marsh have been working with CC students through the entire 2020-2021 school year in a variety of ways. The two published their book “Black and White Like You & Me; Parallel Lines Sometimes Intersect” in February of 2017. The book lays out their stories from roughly 1950 on as they grew up in Metro Detroit.
Last week, as part of our Black History Month celebration, Tom and Cookie came in to spend some time with our seniors in their Catholic Social Teachings class. We sat down with a few of our seniors to get their feedback.
What was your first reaction when you heard you were going to have a guest presentation about race in your theology class?
Tommy Grace '21 (Dexter): I was excited! The pandemic prevented school assemblies from taking place. This was the first time any guest speakers have come into one of my classes this school year. It felt like we were going to have a little assembly in theology class with the guest speakers.
David Ibegbu '21 (Canton): Initially, I was excited. I feel like this topic needs to be discussed more so everyone can be open about it and understand one another.
George Nunu '21 (Dearborn Heights): I thought a presentation about race in my theology class was strange, but it seemed fitting with our current discussion of justice and rights. This topic of race seems very necessary and it was enjoyable to hear about it from two highly respected individuals from the Metro-Detroit area.
Michael Ramirez '21 (Livonia): I thought it would be very beneficial and refreshing to hear a new story and perspective about race topics in society today.
Did any moments stand out to you during the presentation?
TG: Mr. Thomas “Cookie” Marsh told my class a story about his teenage years as an African-American. Cookie and his cousin entered a “white-only” restaurant. Cookie’s cousin stood at the door with his head down and his hands folded. Cookie walked right in and tried to order food. They both had to leave shortly after, and Cookie’s cousin was brought out back and beaten. Cookie explained that since his cousin “knew better than to come to the restaurant”, he was beaten for it, while Cookie was not harmed. Even though Cookie was the one who entered all the way, his cousin received the beatings for Cookie’s actions. This story stood out to me the most because the laws of that era allowed for discrimination against African-Americans, with little to no consequences for those who would discriminate. It was considered “socially acceptable” to discriminate, especially in the ways the people of the restaurant did.
DI: The moment that stood out to me the most was when Mr. Marsh spoke about the time he went down south to visit his family. While visiting family, he tried to get food from a restaurant that doesn’t serve people of color. He was young and didn’t understand. He didn't do anything to deserve that kind of treatment.
GN: Mr. Marsh's experience in a restaurant in the south during his youth stood out to me. Knowing that people are treated in such a bad manner is very upsetting, and although we have improved as a society, there is still more work to do.
MR: The moments that stood out were the stories of the Mississippi. I thought that the stories they shared about how people were hung if they went into an all white restaurant spoke so much volume to their message. It was very beneficial to hear these stories because it put a new perspective in my mind of how much progress society has made but also how much more of it needs to be done.
What were your two biggest takeaways from the presentation?
TG: First, as a society we have come a long way from the days of Jim Crow Laws, but there is still a need for improvement. There is way too much good in this world for racism to exist, and being anti-racist and actively pursing to end racial discrimination is what will bring everyone together. Second, I was fortunate enough to get a shirt from Mr. Marsh and Mr. Daniels at the end of the class. It reads “Black and White like you & me - DETROIT STYLE”. If any place can come together to fight against racial discrimination, it’s Detroit. The motto on the shirt, “Detroit style”, is something I feel can bring together each and every group of people. Our generation will be the generation that puts an end to racial discrimination.
DI: The first takeaway was creating relationships with others. Through different avenues in life, we can create lifelong relationships with one another, and race shouldn’t stop us from making these relationships. The second thing is understanding. People come from different walks of life and are raised differently from others, so we shouldn’t always assume wrong but yet and understand why they made that decision, and make sure that they also learn from it.
GN: The first major take away from this presentation was that I need to be more conscious of how I treat others, especially those individuals from different races. Nobody deserves to be treated differently based on their origin, and I must be an individual who uplifts my peers. The second thing I learned was to reach out to my classmates. Although we may seem different, my classmates and I may have very similar stories, just like Mr. Marsh and Mr. Daniels. They lived very different lives, but the parallel lines in their lives crossed.
MR: It's not about what someone looks like, what culture they come from, or what flag they hoist up. We should treat one another with love and kindness and find out who they truly are. Sometimes even the most different kind of people can end up being so similar in life.
“Teach Me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge” is the motto of the Basilian Fathers and the sacred mission of Catholic Central High School. For ninety years, the graduates of Catholic Central have made a positive impact locally, nationally, and around the world.