An old friend thanks Hal Sieber

by Joanne Fogle Franco

My name is Joanne (Fogle) Franco. I was born in Greensboro in 1956 as the fifth of six children. During our pre-school years, my parents protected us and I would even go so far as to say they sheltered us from all issues of racism. My parents were living examples of what true belief in God’s love means. They never made racial distinctions. They loved everyone and they taught us to love everyone.

Of course, when I began school in the early 1960s, I witnessed prejudice and racism firsthand. The schools were being integrated by way of mandatory busing and it didn’t take long to find out that not everyone had been raised with the same type of love we were. Fortunately, my foundation was set and in spite of any racial tensions or outbursts, I always smiled and exhibited a pleasant demeanor toward everyone I came into contact with. This loving demeanor that had been ingrained in me actually shielded and protected me. It seemed to grasp the consciousness of those who were receptive to it, and those who were not receptive did me no harm. This is why I believe I was destined to meet Hal Sieber. At first, I thought that Hal Sieber’s demeanor reflected my own, but in fact, his demeanor was so much more.

I was recruited to work with Hal Sieber when he was conducting public relations workshops while working for the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce in the early 1970s. By then I was in junior high school. I always made friends with anyone who was willing to befriend me, but I avoided any racial conflicts by avoiding anyone who seemed hostile. I had managed to do well in school and when I was asked to participate in what I called “human relations workshops.” I jumped at the chance. Hal Sieber conducted these workshops and from our first few encounters, he gave me hope. Hal made me realize that it’s not okay to simply survive. It is my responsibility to help change the world. Hal had connections in the segregated African-American and white communities in Greensboro and he was determined to have them meet.

He embarked on this mission by bringing people from white communities and African-American communities together in workshops where we performed exercises that promoted interracial communication and developed an atmosphere of trust. I was so happy to be a part of Hal’s workshops and he has had a permanent affect on me and my behavior.

Now, instead of avoiding people who seem to hold onto racial prejudice, I feel it is my duty to educate them through human interaction. I shower them with kindness. I approach people who were not raised to love everyone and I strike up conversations about families, hobbies, work and life in general. I remove racial bias with human interaction. I’ve learned that you cannot expect people to change and open their hearts if you don’t integrate yourself into their lives. Integration is the best educator of all. My foundation of love was instilled by my parents, but my knowledge that it is our duty to integrate and alleviate racial bias through human interaction was instilled by Hal Sieber.

Thank you Hal.