Seeing Through Prejudice

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As a culmination to their Black History Month lessons, students at Glen Cove High School welcomed musician Vinny St. Marten, who shared his unique story of being raised in the Orchard section of Glen Cove during the 1950s at the height of segregation.

After loosing his eyesight to glaucoma at the age of seven, Mr. St. Marten, who is white, befriended a young black boy named Walter, who was appointed to help him get around during the school day. The loss of his sight actually opened up his vision to the prejudice that plagued the community at the time.

“I wouldn’t give up my blindness for anything in the world,” said Mr. St. Marten, who told his story to all juniors and seniors taking Participation in Government and Economics. He shared many stories, including how he taught Walter to speak Italian and how Walter taught him to play baseball despite his loss of vision. “He showed me how to do things I never thought I could do.”

“I heard [prejudice], felt it and unfortunately was a part of it,” added Mr. St. Marten, who faced his own level of prejudice as a young blind man. He also played a video that reenacted the racial tensions he and Walter faced from others as youngsters, highlighting the perseverance Walter demonstrated. Set to his own narration and music, Mr. St. Marten’s video gave students a strong perspective of the history of segregation and its hurtful impact on not only people of color, but society as a whole.

Mr. St. Marten also served as an inspiration to students for his own personal triumph over blindness, evolving into a successful musician, first as a drummer and currently as front man for The Seeing Eye Dog Band. He also performed a song entitled “Think About It,” accompanied by band member Elysa Sunshine.

GCHS Communications Arts students recorded the lesson, which was coordinated by Assistant Principal Sheryl Goodine.