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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks


The hostess looked down at the schematic diagram of the restaurant, and then she looked up and scanned the room. “I can go ahead and seat you now if you’ll follow me,” she said and led the way to a table.

We had a reservation for 6:45, but due to some changes and the fact that we were already hungry, we decided to test our luck and see if we could be seated earlier, and happily, it all worked out perfectly.

We were disrupting the system and asking for a favor, and it all worked out; we had a seat at the table. The irony of this will be clear in a minute. All of this occurred at a restaurant in Rock Hill, SC, called Kounter.

The food was magnificent. Everyone in our party got something different, and we all swooned as if we had each ordered THE best thing on the menu. It was an amazing experience!

The dining room was crisp and sharp, with clean lines. Modern and yet welcoming. But there, in pride of place, stood The Counter. It was the original counter, where in 1961 when the establishment was McCrory’s lunch counter, the Friendship Nine sat down and asked to be served. Instead, they were arrested and sent to jail simply for the color of their skin.

In a wide, bright corridor running the length of the restaurant is a museum-quality timeline of the events that took place back in 1961. It told how those young men chose to spend 30 days in jail working on the chain gang instead of paying the $100 fine in order to make their point.

It was humbling to have such a wonderful dining experience and have it juxtaposed with a memorial to the courage and dedication of the 9 men who were refused service, and who stood up and fought against injustice.

All of it brought to mind a quote by Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American Congresswoman in America, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

I love that image of making your own place instead of waiting for what others are willing to give. It calls forth the mindset to not just accept things as they are but rather to fight for justice and equality, and to be courageous and tenacious in that fight.

In an era where it appears progress in the areas of justice and equality seems to be making a U-turn, I was humbled to be at a place where history occurred, where bravery went to a deeper level, revealing a passion and conviction that is astounding.

One of the last items in the timeline was a recent photo of a few of the Friendship Nine sitting at the counter that had started it all. Only this time they were being honored as the heroes they are.

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