KANSAS CITY, Kan. — History shows the 1960s and ‘70s were tumultuous times in American history, but a metro woman wasn’t going to let inequality get in the way of achieving her goals.
Rosedale, KCK, native Deborah Allen was a teenager at then-Rosedale Junior Senior High in 1968 and aspired to be on the cheerleading team. However, she was a minority, and team selection was based on popularity.
“If we were going to change the rules and have a black cheerleader or minority cheerleader, we had to change the Pep Club rules,” Allen said.
Allen sprang into action. She and a group of friends formed a coalition of students from different backgrounds and recruited a trusted counselor to serve as an advisor, according to Allen.
“We met every morning at 7:30 on a Tuesday to change the bylaws,” she said.
The group selected captains of the football, basketball and track teams, along with teachers they thought would be fair to help during the tryouts; they also selected six outside influencers to help judge.
After a year of “political action,” Allen made the 1969 team.
“I was the first black cheerleader at Rosedale,” she said. “It was exciting and gratifying.”
Allen said it wasn’t easy, but the team and community were fairly supportive.
“We did have our problems,” Allen recalled. “I mean, it was just months after Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. Still, we worked and function as a team.”
Now 66 years old, Allen hopes her story will inspire others, especially young people, to stand up for those who are voiceless and deprived of privilege.
“We need people who will use their voices to say something,” Allen said. “We need to have more dreamers, and not only dreamers, but more people who will take time and step out and do something about the situations that are going on.”
Allen is one of dozens of community volunteers who will participate in the sixth annual Reading Inspirational Stories to Empower event next week in KCK.
The volunteers will visit more than 60 classrooms to read stories about civil rights and social justice in honor of King’s legacy.