Darius Aidan Gray at BYU

Darius Aidan Gray at BYU July 20, 2020

A short excerpt from The Last Mile of the Way.

Aidan maintained his reveal-nothing smile as he walked home, more solitary than ever.

Before long, his grades were suffering, so when a white woman offered to study with him, he accepted and was grateful. They read together next to his balcony window, and Aidan could see a police car parked just below. When he walked the woman home, the police car followed, fifteen feet behind.

By late September, the only other African American student at Brigham Young got bitterly persuaded into leaving.

Aidan had met her before, so when he saw her on the sidewalk, it was natural to ask how she was doing.

“I’ve had it.” She told it out. A group of young men—she thought they were students coming back from tending the perfect gardens— had thrown a mess of apple cores at her, yelling “NiXXer, go home!”

“That’s all I can take,” she said.

He didn’t try to convince her otherwise, for he knew too well how it was. He doubted he could endure much more himself.

Once she was gone, only Aidan remained to represent our people at the Mormon university.

It shouldn’t have been much surprise when he got called into the Administration Office and told by a stoic dean that certain reports had come in. A particular young woman’s parents had complained, having heard tale a Negro was spending time with their daughter. The dean told him such behavior could not continue if he wanted to study at BYU anymore. The races were kept separate at this institution.

That was the last blow. It wasn’t enough for Aidan to assure the dean he meant no harm, or to explain that the young woman was one of his few friends though there was no romance involved. The whole idea of having to defend himself for being friendly was too humiliating. And he knew this was only the first accusation. Others would surely follow.

Aidan Gray left Provo on a dead run, vowing to himself that unless God told him otherwise and unmistakable, he would never return.

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