HOXIE, Ark. (KAIT) - It was big news back in 1955 when Hoxie School District 46 integrated, making it one of the first schools in the state to integrate, two years earlier than the Little Rock Nine.
Ethel Tompkins lived during that time frame. She faced struggles then, and she knows the struggle many are facing today.
“[The black community] have been trying for years and years to get accepted for what we are, which is human beings," Tompkins said.
Tompkins was a part of the ‘first stand’ in the state in the fight for equality. She was one of the ‘Hoxie 21’ students who were part of Hoxie High School’s first African American students. In fact, she was the first African American graduate from Hoxie High in 1961.
She says that the nation needs to understand the reason why that fight is still going on today.
“A lot of people misunderstand what ‘Black Lives Matter’ mean," Tompkins said. “It’s not that the blacks deserve the major attention, it’s that our lives are just as important as yours.”
The fight to have that message heard is happening in the country now, just as it has been for years prior. Tompkins says that if you want to make your voice heard, it must be authentic.
“It has to come from the heart,” Tompkins began. “If you are a Christian person, then you’re going to go by the Scripture. ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
Tompkins says people need to fight even harder and go back to the basics like treating others the way you would want to be treated.
“God is love,” Tompkins said. "He didn’t say love only the whites. He didn’t say love only the blacks, only the Hispanics. He loved all people, so in order for us to get together, we’re going to have to go back to the basics.”
Ethel’s message for everyone is to hit the pause button and come together. She says the nation is truly great when we are all united as one.