My birth certificate says: Female Negro Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro In Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. is planning a march on Washington, where John F. Kennedy is president. In Harlem, Malcolm X is standing on a soapbox talking about a revolution. Outside the window of University Hospital, snow is slowly falling. So much already covers this vast Ohio ground. In Montgomery, only seven years have passed since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus. I am born brown-skinned, black-haired and wide-eyed. I am born Negro here and Colored there and somewhere else, the Freedom Singers have linked arms, their protests rising into song: Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome someday. and somewhere else, James Baldwin is writing about injustice, each novel, each essay, changing the world. I do not yet know who I’ll be what I’ll say how I’ll say it . . . Not even three years have passed since a brown girl named Ruby Bridges walked into an all-white school. Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds of white people spat and called her names. She was six years old. I do not know if I’ll be strong like Ruby. I do not know what the world will look like when I am finally able to walk, speak, write . . . Another Buckeye! the nurse says to my mother. Already, I am being named for this place. Ohio. The Buckeye State. My fingers curl into fists, automatically This is the way, my mother said, of every baby’s hand. I do not know if these hands will become Malcolm’s—raised and fisted or Martin’s—open and asking or James’s—curled around a pen. I do not know if these hands will be Rosa’s or Ruby’s gently gloved and fiercely folded calmly in a lap, on a desk, around a book, ready to change the world . . .