From Monica Chandler, Customer Service Representative at the Contract Desk 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As an elementary school student, Monica Chandler’s field trip to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN left her with mixed emotions: sadness, anger, and a fascination with the way Dr. King’s voice commanded people to listen to him. More than anything, it inspired her to keep learning about civil rights history. It’s an education that started before that trip, at home, with parents who wanted Monica and her brother, Jesse, to know their heritage.

As bi-racial children in the 1970’s, Monica and Jesse found few kids in their school who looked like them.

                Monica and Jesse

The siblings helped each other navigate friendships and questions like, “Where do I fit in?” and “Who are my people?”.  At the same time, they witnessed people’s behavior toward their parents’ interracial marriage and them as the children of that union.

“My mom (Patricia Hodge) gave up a lot,” said Monica. “She was called names but always stood up for me, my brother, and Dad.”

               Patricia Hodge

Patricia’s sacrifices included strained relationships with parents and siblings who didn’t approve of her marriage.

Monica’s dad, Jasper Hodge, who served in the U.S. Army and worked for the Postal Service and Missouri Portland, was the band leader for the J. Hodge Combo. In retirement, he drove a taxi.

“He lived through the Civil Rights Movement and told my brother and me many stories,” said Monica.

                            Jasper Hodge

Jasper talked to them about things he knew of firsthand: segregated schools, water fountains labeled “colored”, hotels he was not allowed to stay in, and lynchings. Patricia, who was white, made a point to learn, and in turn, teach them about Black heritage. “She stood for love and no discrimination,” said Monica. “She saw love in different ways and in different colors. In our neighborhood, she loved all the kids”. The one family member standing by Patricia all those years was her sister, Linda, who was a second mother to Monica and Jesse.

Those family bonds and experiences and the characteristics of Dr. King are at the core of Monica’s efforts to continue their example.  “We just love,” she said about her family, citing Dr. King’s nonviolent work to bring equality and acceptance for people, regardless of their race, religion or economic status. That approach is what makes her smile when Hispanic customers at PPS gravitate to her desk because they see her light brown skin and hope she speaks Spanish. While she doesn’t speak Spanish, she is learning Mexican culture from her niece and nephew who are originally from Mexico.

Each year, Monica reads a book about Black history each week during February. When she was a child, Black history was not a part of the school curriculum but took place in voluntary after school activities. While that is changing, her dream is that one day the history taught in schools is complete enough that Black History Month won’t be needed. “It shouldn’t be just one month,” she said. “We must teach the youth about our history and the importance of unity and community so the next generation can learn from the past. Black history means saluting African Americans’ countless contributions to science, business, medicine, space, math, sports, and more while supporting future history makers making change for tomorrow.”

 Monica has worked at Paducah Power System for nearly eleven years.