An ode to FrootPublished 12:16pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013
By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro
Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge. I bring greetings from the final dog days of summer vacation. Two more weeks before school officially starts back!
Last week, a classmate of mine from high school passed away unexpectedly. At 47 years of age, I can honestly say I have not had to deal with this kind of news very often. Our class lost a couple of members during our years together in school, but very few since that time. We are approaching our 30th reunion next year with most of our classmates enjoying reasonably good health and quality of life.
I attended Ramsay High School in Birmingham during the years when it served as a magnet school in the city school system. Ramsay drew students from the entire Birmingham area. Ramsay remains one of the highest ranked schools in that system, even though the overall health of the system continues its decades of decline.
As far as I am concerned, I received an excellent public education there. The faculty and administration were dedicated people who were not afraid to be themselves while supporting a unified persona for the school. The majority of them led by example first and foremost. This quality was reflected in and by the student body.
One of the things I remember most was the absence of violence. Sure, we had a few fights here and there, but there was little to no violence witnessed in the entire four years I attended. Ramsay was not ruled with an iron fist, nor was it kept under constant lockdown. Certain behaviors were seldom present. I am not sure why, but I have an idea or two.
During my time at Ramsay, each incoming freshman class was established with a 50-50 black-white racial makeup. It was school board policy at that time. Again, I am not certain why, nor will I speculate on the intended effect on the student body as a whole. What I do know is that few, if any, students at Ramsay ever feared for their safety at school.
As life carried me outside the bounds of our state, I discovered that most non-Alabamians were shocked to find out I went to school with so many black people. Maybe they just assumed Birmingham was still fighting a race war. These shocked folks could not believe there wasn’t more race fueled conflict in my school.
Last week, one of the reasons for the peaceful nature of my high school experience left us. Cedric Cole, or “Froot” as he was known by all, passed away unexpectedly. I had every reason to be afraid of Froot. He was nearly 7-feet tall and very athletic. I am 5-10 and was a theater and band geek. Froot was a big black man and I was a little white man.
I was not afraid of Froot. No one was. He was an intimidating presence on the basketball court, but he left all that to the game. Everywhere else, Froot was the most kind, gentle, easy going person you could ever want to be around. Froot was smart, funny, and could dish out high school hijinks as easily as he could take them.
I did not know it at the time, but Froot helped me understand what Christian brotherhood is all about. His lesson was not spoken or forced. It was lived. It made an impression on everyone who knew him. He will be missed, but his witness continues forever. Go in peace, brother.
The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.