Many times, we wonder why things happen when they do. Many times, the atmosphere is conducive for things that are inevitable to occur. Some things just must happen.

Strife is one of the seven deadly sins and has been present from the beginning of time since he was there with Adam and Eve. He did not give up then and will never give up trying to enter our domain. He will find a way to enter; that is the nature of Strife. He will find some opening in our weakest link and most times it is a human being or a group of human beings. Stopping some things that are destined to happen is like stopping the wind from blowing.

Back in 2006, I was asked to write a play based on the 1963 sit-in-demonstrations carried out by the Main High School students. Since I was not in Rome at the time when the sit-ins took place, I had to get all of my information from those who were present. Many people in Rome and Floyd County were shook up. Some were asking why and how could this be?

I interviewed some older Blacks as well as some younger Blacks. Many of the older Blacks feared for their children and other Black families because of the racial climate that existed in the governmental establishment of Rome/Floyd County. The atmosphere was not healthy. Sit-in-counters were the targets all over the country after the voting rights had gone through a long fight and the battle was won. Most people figured this year, 1963, was the opportune time.

For most of my content and background information, I gathered from material Rufus Turner shared from the first draft of the memoir of Rose Levin, which had not been completed at the time. Rose had compiled the jailhouse experiences written by the 62 students who were arrested. Rose moved away from Rome and never did get to know the students. She only met one of the student leaders, Lonnie Malone, years later when she returned for a family visit.

After six months of speaking to local citizens and researching, I completed the first draft of the play. Rufus and his committee were given a copy to approve. There were several titles that I suggested, but “It Had To Happen” seemed so fitting at the time. The Main High Committee accepted it and made plans for the play to be staged at City Auditorium that summer. They never questioned any aspects of it. I moved to the process of editing it and getting it ready for publication and staging.

When the sit-in-storm hit Rome, many were upset but no one was surprised that it happened. In the Rose Levin memoir were golden nuggets about the climate and conditions that existed in the Colored Community, as she referred to them at times. It was so upsetting to her that she and her husband attended meetings held by the whites to try to put in a word for the Colored people. She and her husband also attended some of the Human Relations Council meetings and remembered how frightened they were as they met in the basement of several white churches. She shared her memoir with Rufus Turner and asked him to find a way to share the contents.

Several days ago, as I was examining the theme of the play written 15 years ago, I thought about the toxic climate of today. Just as the sit-in-demonstrations had to happen, I have concluded that Donald Trump had to happen. His coming forth was inevitable. His surfacing with all of the toxicity had to be, because he is just the symptom.

There is a simmering of racial hatred in this country based on misgivings that had to burst forth. Donald Trump knew what hatred and disdain he was dealing with and had been living with for years. He knew that many people were holding that buried hatred. He decided to pull the plug and let it all pour forth. And pour forth it did.

His followers were allowing that unhealthy dislike for people who are different from them to bottle up inside. The more the country began to turn brown, many whites became concerned about their place in what they think of as their country. Many are quick to say “go back to your country,” as if whites were here before the Indians. Blacks being present had bothered them enough, but they were aware others were allowed to migrate to this country.

Trump knew that he had to call attention to those “other” immigrants. He had to close up the hole that was allowing these darker skinned people to come in unchecked, he thought. Immigrants are vetted beyond belief. Most of them have three or four skills even if they cannot speak the language. For African born, the requirements in terms of education are either a high school diploma or two years of professional experience requiring at least two years of training.

It is as if Trump placed a mirror in front of America and said show yourself real. Show the world who you truly are — and remember that you still have time to be who you want to be if you do not like what you see in the mirror.

Trump had to happen. He was inevitable. Now how will each of us deal with the results of this?

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc. and a 2020 Heart of the Community Award of Honor recipient.

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