SEDRO-WOOLLEY — When she first campaigned for a seat on the Sedro-Woolley City Council in 2013, Germaine Kornegay and a voter had an interaction that she hasn’t forgotten.
She remembers knocking on the door of a house and the man who answered telling her he would never vote for her.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll never vote for you because you’re black,’” Kornegay recalled. “I was thinking, ‘I have to win this election now. I have to show him that I can do it, and that black people can do good things.’ I used it for motivation.”
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kornegay recounted her story Monday to residents of Country Meadow Village in Sedro-Woolley to reflect on the impact of the Civil Rights leader.
“She’s got a really great story that not a lot of us have,” Country Meadow Village Program Director David Bricka said. “If she were around 50 years ago, she would have been marching side-by-side with Dr. King.”
In November 2013, Kornegay became the first African American elected to the Sedro-Woolley City Council.
Now in her second term, Kornegay last week was appointed by her fellow council members to be the city’s mayor pro-tem.
Some of the residents of Country Meadow Village shared their own stories about King and the impact he had on their lives.
In the 1950s, David Bricka’s mother Joan Bricka and about 20 other women withdrew as pledges from a Cortland State University sorority because the sorority would not allow a black woman to pledge.
“We moved out of that house,” Joan Bricka told Kornegay. “I’ve always felt strong about it.”
Growing up in the south, Beverly Lade, 79, said she couldn’t believe some of the stories of violence against African Americans during that era.
Lade could sum up what King meant to her in one word: Freedom.
“You can’t imagine people having to go through that,” she said. “I wasn’t raised to be prejudiced.”
Kornegay was young when King was killed, she said, but his death inspired her mother to be an advocate, which is where Kornegay picked up her own desire to stand up for causes in which she believes.
Kornegay has spoken at Country Meadow Village on Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year since she was elected, David Bricka said.
“We learn and grow by listening to each other’s story,” he said.
Kornegay’s story, he said, is important.
“No one really understands what it’s like to be a person of color unless you’re a person of color,” she said.
Until recently, Kornegay said she felt that society had become more tolerant since King’s assassination.
But there is still work to be done.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re taking some steps back,” she said. “We have to make that up and go forward.”