Ayanna Najuma: Drugstore sit-in helped shape a young life

Ayanna Najuma talks about taking steps to improve your community: Service and love contribute to a better life.
BY AYANNA NAJUMA, For The Oklahoman Published: January 20, 2014
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“From whom much is given, much is required.” I heard it time and again as a young child in the civil-rights movement. I did not grow up in an affluent family, wealthy with money, but one that provided an abundance of insight about life and what is important in making a contribution to the world.

My mother always said that the first five years of a child's life were the most important. For me, those years truly were the foundation of my life experience and who I am today. I was taught about the concept of integrity, the importance of forgiveness and the ability to show love for others — not only those that we consider “family,” but the human race — and most of all, I was given the tools needed to be of service to the planet.

I shared these concepts with students at Casady School last week and reminded them of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobile rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.”

I reminded them of the opportunities that they have been given and their responsibility to give back to society. Most of all, I told them of this year's theme for my column — “It's not about me!”

Part of history

I have been blessed. At age 7, I was given the opportunity to be a part of something that eventually became a part of history. I was one of the original sit-inners in Oklahoma City in 1958, one of 12 kids who walked into Katz Drug Store and politely asked to be served. I experienced things as a child that even adults found shocking and unacceptable.

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