A VOICE FOR JUSTICE

Story of Margo Norman
Artist: Michael Jacobson 
Writer: Sara Bruckmeier
Original completed 2007
 
Link to Autobiography
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Margo Norman was born on a farm in Boydsville, Missouri on April 28, 1923. She describes her parents, George Samuel and Mary Belle Tolson-Emerson, as “strict and loving.” She says, “I call them share-croppers. I never heard them called that, but they were farmers, and someone always came and took a share of their crops, so....”

 

Margo  remembers  the first time she tooI‹ a  stand against  racism. “During high school, I worked as a baby sitter for white families. After I graduated, Mrs. M, the mother-in-law of one of my employers, invited me to  come visit. I had always loved the lady — so I went. But when I reached her house, I decided, ’I‘m not going in your back door any more. From now on, Back Door Is Out! ’ So, I walked around to the front of the house, up the steps, and on to the front door. Mrs. M seemed surprised when she opened the door, but she invited me in. We had a good time talking in the dining room until she looked out the window and saw the doctor, a white man, coming up the steps. She asked me if I would please go to the Kitchen. Well, I went to her kitchen and sat for a while. Then I thought, 'This isn‘t right. This is stupid.’ I got up and left. Mrs. M called me later and said, 'Oh Margo, why did you go?’ I said, 'I got tired of waiting in your kitchen, Mrs M.”’

 

Years  later, as the head of the Carver School PTA  in Fulton, Missouri, Margo  refused to sign a bond issue to build more schools unless at least one black teacher was hired. Her campaign was successful, but Margo decided she had had enough. It  was time to leave Fulton, Missouri, or “Foolstown, Misery,” as she calls it. IN 1g61, she bought a one-way train ticket to the Bay Area. She didn’t know anyone here, but a cab driver had told her that since she was going to California, this would be the place.

 

Living in California during the ’6o‘s, Margo continued to speak out against discrimination. She wrote a play called “The Courtyard” which was performed at the old Black Repertory Theater located on Alcatraz  Avenue.  She says, “That was during the revolutionary years of fighting for desegregation. The play portrayed the characters as dogs, cats, and rats. Out of all of the plays that Nora Vaughn presented that year, the NAACP chose my play for their children to see.” In 1967 she and her creative partner founded “The Bayviewer Magazine”, a monthly magazine celebrating the social and political interests of the black population of the Bay Area. Margo recalls, “Our office was my living room and kitchen. We started the magazine  with twenty seven dollars and fifty cents and were in business for seven and one half years.”

 

Today, in 2007, Margo is 83 years old and a cancer survivor. She continues to advocate for justice, with special  focus  on providing  low-income  housing, helping the homeless, and serving the senior community.  During her 8 years service as a Commissioner  on Aging, she successfully campaigned  for  mailboxes at Harriet  Tubman  Terrace  and the Over-6o Clinic, and six new bus shelters at locations near senior centers. Her pet project is a fund called “Homes for the Homeless”, which she started with one hundred dollars of personal savings. She has produced several books of poetry and prose including My Lord, My God, The Beginning, Laffin at Livin, and teaching for 21OO AD. While reflecting on her life, Margo said she is happy she bought that one-way ticket to California. As she told her son Lothario in a homemade birthday card celebrating his life, “It  was a long, tumultuous road for us, my son, BUT WE MADE IT!!!! ”