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Bedford Hills Locals Remembers Segregation, Values MLK

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — Local resident Kathy Storfer needs no history book to explain racial segregation. Although her experiences with it were only for a brief part of her life, Storfer said she remembers it vividly.

Growing up in the south nearly 50 years ago as a “military child,” as she puts it, Storfer moved constantly. While law integrated each military base, the outskirts of each were not always up to par. Thinking of her family’s homes in Jacksonville, Florida and Aiken County, South Carolina, bring back intense memories of a world filled with hate and lack of understanding.

“I remember all of it – that hatred in your face every day. It wasn’t directed at me but to have an environment of open hatred, segregation, of open revile, hating the other on a constant basis,” Storfer said. “And it’s always there. It was always there.”

Storfer is a librarian at the Bedford Hills Free Library and has lived in Bedford Hills for more than 20 years. The visions still implanted in her mind from her childhood serve as a reminder of how lucky we are to have even the smallest of luxuries, she said.

“People who fight for our country, who were welcomed to go in places all over, come here and weren’t allowed to sit at a table with their friends. And people forget that,” she said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day allows Storfer to have the rest of the country join her in appreciating the work King did to help America reach where it is today, remembering that the day is so much more than just a day off from work or school.

“The day is to embrace the ideal of being judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, or the faith we choose to worship, or the country we originally hailed from, or even our height and weight,” she said, corresponding with King’s famous words. "No one is expendable. No human being is expendable. And that is valuable.”

Storfer said she uses her job at the library to help people of all ages embrace the African-American culture through reading.  Two book suggestions for children related to the remembrance of civil rights are “Jazz” by Walter Dean Myers and “Ellington Was Not a Street” by Ntozake Shange.

For adults, Storfer suggests a newer book written by Harry Belafonte called “My Song,” which talks about the protagonist’s large involvement with the civil rights movement, along with his friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. The book is about more than just celebrating King, which is the only way Storfer said she knows how to value his day.

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