Edith Bush is not your average octogenarian.
Within five minutes of meeting her, it is clear her mind is as sharp as ever. The years of hard work that have turned her hair gray seem to only have invigorated her passion. She has no trouble confidently walking around a park in the Florida heat.
But Bush’s strength is more than just physical. There is a quiet determination about her which is more than the result of age.
Born in 1932 in Andalusia, Ala., Bush has spent most of her life facing segregation and discrimination.
“There is an expectation where African-Americans have to be overly prepared, overly qualified,” Bush said. “Whereas whites don’t necessarily have to measure up to the same standard.”
Bush was inspired by her activist father, Willie Coleman, who dedicated himself to making life better for the African-American community in the South. Even today, she is proud to talk about his accomplishments as a president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“There is a community center named after him in Andalusia now,” Bush said. “I think that is where I got my activism from.”
Today, Bush serves as the executive president for the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee, an organization which she founded. The group is dedicated to volunteer work in the community and other projects aimed at promoting harmony, such as a memorial on Flagler Drive commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It excites us when we can provide opportunities for persons to see the legacy of others,” Bush said.
A determined spirit is not the only thing Bush has retained from her youth. Bush credits growing up in a Christian family with giving her a foundation to love all people. In fact, Bush ends the recording on her voicemail with, “I love you and God loves you too.”
“You can rely on the church when people let you down, when friends let you down, when there is a racial situation that you aren’t satisfied with,” Bush said. “You get on you knees and you pray.”
To Bush, faith in the church and spreading the hope of King’s vision of a more equal tomorrow go hand in hand.
“That’s what motivates me, to see these children be able to develop into leaders and to be able to come back and give back to the community,” Bush said.
And even after witnessing over eight decades of change, Bush is not ready to stop any time soon.
“It’s still segregated now,” Bush said, “And we still have a long way to go in correcting some things.”
Bush intends to do her share towards that cause for as long as possible, pointing to the past as a tool for improving the future.
“Our mission is to continue the legacy of King,” Bush said. “And to teach the children what it’s all about so that they won’t forget.”
By Ashley Allen