The four footprints in front of Woolworths

Sue Polinsky, the conference organizer of ConvergeSouth, the conference Maryam and I spoke at yesterday, gave us a tour around Greensboro, North Carolina last night. We started in front of Woolworths.

Out front are four footprints.

The significance of what four people did here on February 1, 1960 can’t be understated.

They sat at this lunchcounter.

And waited for service.

And waited. And waited. And waited.

That’s how the civil rights movement in the United States started. UPDATE: at least that’s what the plaque out front says, although other events, like Rosa Parks’ bus ride, happened earlier.

It wasn’t lost on me as we continued our tour that at one point a couple of police officers passed us. One is white. One is black. Working together.

And the evening was punctuated even further when later in the evening we met an editor of the local newspaper. He is black.

Neither of those things would have been seen here in 1960.

Four people changed the world. It’s a reminder to all of us to speak up when things just aren’t right. Or take our place at the lunch counter and wait for service.

Their footprints are cast in bronze and laid in the sidewalk in front of the store where they changed history.

I remember reading about them in school when I was a kid and I had no concept that someday I’d be visiting the store where they changed history.

Thanks to Ed Cone, Ben Hwang, and Sue Polinsky for inviting us to Greensboro and giving us a tour around town. It was a fantastic day.

On Friday we were given a key to the city. That’s the first time I’ve been honored that way. I thought they saved such things for dignitaries or really famous people. Me? I’m just a blogger. But it was a thrill and quite an honor.

After listening to Elizabeth Edwards speak (really great, non-political speech on value of communities) Maryam and I hosted a session we titled the 10 ways to a killer blog. Luckily people took notes. Here’s Daniel Conover’s Xark notes and Anton Zuiker’s notes.

Edwards was a real thrill to meet. She stayed in our session, which was most gracious, and then gave Maryam a nice interview, which I taped. After the camera was off we asked her if John was really going to run for President and she said that unless something bad happens that’s the way it’s headed.

She’s seen more than her fair share of bad, by the way (I was reading her book). She’s a breast cancer survivor and her oldest son died in a car wreck. Something about her struck me as very real and down-to-earth. Probably cause she’s weathered these tough tests.

I heard that several people decided not to come to the conference because Elizabeth was speaking. That was their loss. I don’t understand that kind of behavior. I always learn something from people who are different, or believe differently, from me. It was punctuated cause Elizabeth didn’t utter a single political word the whole conference, including in Maryam’s interview.

Anyway, thanks to Greensboro. Your hospitality got to us. Wish we didn’t have to go home so soon.


Southern Hospitality

There were no sponsors. Not many tech company CEOs. But, last night’s BBQ was absolutely wonderful — too bad Shel Israel wasn’t here, cause it laid out his new book’s theme of Global Neighborhoods absolutely wonderfully. Out on the front lawn of David Hoggard’s house, we had a BBQ party. It’s the first time I’ve had homemade banana pudding — it rocketed to the top of my favorite desert list.

And, what can I say about meeting Billy Jones? I hear he has a real treat for us at the conference today. Billy is a former trucker and a new school poet (and is a geek, had a street plane he built in Make Magazine). But meeting him you’d understand he’d be an interesting guy to hang around with, check out the video about him for more. “The driver looks like ZZTop, so it’s rock and roll all the way…” Heheh.

Maryam has all the details and all the links.

Thank you to Sue Polinsky for giving us a bed in her home. She’s a wonderful host and definitely a “tech mama.” (She’s an old-school female geek). Ben picked us up at the airport yesterday. Is a geek at Sprint here. Well, gotta go. Talk later, have a good Saturday.