River Oaks Elementary's 1st black student on facing racism: 'It's been way too long'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston woman who was the first black student at River Oaks Elementary is sharing her story and why the rallies and protests are meaningful in this time.

"I believe that (George) Floyd's murder for all the world to see was the straw that broke the camel's back," Sophronia Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois was right in the middle of last week's rally in Houston that saw 60,000 people march in downtown. She was fighting for her family and her ancestors.

"We talked with my father-in-law this past Monday and he said, 'Nothing has changed.' He's 98, that's pretty sad," Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois says she and her family have been dealing with racism for far too long. She was the first African American student at River Oaks Elementary. As a child, Bourgeois says she never saw herself any different, even though the world around her did.

"There was a newspaper clipping that said, 'Even River Oaks got one,'" Bourgeois said. "Most of the children were wonderful but the adults were racists, some of them."

Even in her neighborhood, Bourgeois told ABC13 she and her cousins were constantly harassed.

"There was a police officer who used to regularly ride through our neighborhood, and his dog, his German Shepherd dog, was called the 'N-word,'" she said. "This was in the '60s. We're still fighting the same fight."

But she says this time, it's different.

"Taking a knee wasn't good enough. MLK's peaceful protest, that was not good enough. So now, people of all colors are standing up and saying, 'This is not right,'" Bourgeois said.

While she is feeling a mix of emotions, she said she's sad about all the lives lost, but she's now feeling hopeful about the future.

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