I forget the exact day it happened, but I will never forget the moment Dahlia and Christal Bacon took the microphone at a Richmond Public School (RPS) "student town hall meeting" and schooled former Richmond Mayor and Virginia Governor, L. Douglas Wilder about right and wrong.
After the rah-rah introductions, Wilder explained that the purpose of the town hall meeting was to allow the students to ask Hizzoner anything they wanted. Anything.
He explained that staff members would be moving through the auditorium with hand-held microphones and that there was also a microphone near the stage if students wanted to line up.
Monroe's role appeared to be that of mostly window-dressing, however, his presence did cause some students to wonder later why the Mayor thought he needed to bring not just the police chief, but also a security entourage to a student gathering at John Marshall High School.
Hardly necessary, given that these were top students from high schools throughout the city who were bused in to be a part of the event. Up to the moment the Bacon girls stepped up and asked their questions, the students had all lobbed relatively squishy softball questions his way, all of which Wilder masterfully avoided answering directly and insinuated that whatever problem or question the student addressed was the fault of the school system -- not the Mayor's problem.
And, then it happened. Dahlia and Christal were so soft-spoken and polite, Wilder didn't realize at first that they were throwing hardballs his way. They wanted to know why it was right that Wilder had essentially forced their father, Christopher Bacon (and others) to sue RPS and the City of Richmond to make the school buildings comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They wanted to know why it was right that anyone should have to sue the the government to make IT obey state and federal laws that protect the civil rights of people with disabilities?
Why was it right in the Mayor's mind that their father be forced to crawl up the steps at Albert Hill Middle School and at Richmond Community High School in order to attend a parent-teacher conference or a school program? Why couldn't their father easily access music celebrations that their mother (Diane), an RPS school music teacher, put together at schools throughout the city?
Suddenly, it was if all the sound had been sucked out of the room. Clearly, these girls knew the difference between right and wrong.
Recovering himself, he hubba-dub-dubbed the questions and blamed the school system for wasting the money in years past that should have been used to fix the schools. He gave me and then RPS School Supt. Deborah Jewell-Sherman an angry glare reminiscent of the one Sigourney Weaver gave right before she killed the monster in "Alien."
He then thanked the girls for their questions and told them to sit down. Dahlia nodded and politely said she and her sister would be happy to sit down when he answered their questions.
He gave me yet another dirty look and answered the Bacon sisters by telling a staffer to cut their microphone and give another student a chance to ask a question.
With God as my witness, I had nothing to do with the girls' decision to ask those questions that afternoon. To be sure, I have known this family for years and they are a good and loving family who have worked hard and raised their children right.
I remember asking Diane years ago how hard it had been for them as a couple to adjust to the fact that Chris had left both his legs in Viet Nam. She laughed and said that she didn't know Chris before he went to Viet Nam. She said they met at Virginia Commonwealth University and that, after hearing him speak in class a few times, she knew he was the love of her life and the man she wanted to be the father of their children.
So, as this family and loved ones endure the profound pain of grieving and burying "Princess Dahlia," a precious child who died at age 23 May 29th from complications due to a heart attack, please hold them in your prayers.
And, Chris, as you, Diane and your family celebrate Dahlia's life and prepare for your first Father's Day without her, please know that she is in Heaven -- no doubt making sure that the stairway and the gates are handicapped accessible.
|Dahlia Latrice Bacon, 23, of Richmond, died May 29, 2013. She was preceded in death by her maternal grandmother, Dahlia Y. Briggs and paternal grandfather, Mckinley Hudgins. Surviving are her parents, Chris E. and Diane Briggs Bacon; two sisters, Christal D. Bacon and Bergitta Hawkins; paternal grandmother, Dora O. Hudgins; maternal grandfather, Perry L. Briggs, Sr.; aunts, uncles, cousins; host of other relatives and friends. Remains rest at Scott’s Funeral Home, 115 E. Brookland Park Blvd., where the family will receive friends Tuesday, June 5 from 6 to 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5 at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, 4247 Creighton Road. Dr. Lance D. Watson, officiating. Interment Forest Lawn Cemetery.|