LESLIE CRISS: Girl Scouts celebrate century of serving God, country and helping others

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“Ours is a circle of friendships united by ideals.”
– Juliette G. Low

“Right is right, even if no one else does it.”
– Juliette G. Low

“I think the most enduring lesson I was taught through my experiences of being a Girl Scout was that I was a member of a larger community. I outgrew my uniforms years ago, but the memories of visiting nursing homes or organizing Earth Day tree plantings or my summers camping with girls from all different backgrounds will stay with me always.”
– Natalie Merchant

The Girl Scouts are celebrating 100 years of being. And I feel slighted. Many, many years ago, my mama and I made the half-hour trip from Grenada to Greenwood. The purpose of our trip was to visit a department store, apparently the only one near home that carried Brownie uniforms and all the accoutrements.
I remember trying on a uniform, complete with matching brown socks, a tangerine-colored tie, a brown beanie and brown belt, and feeling proud and excited at the adventure that lay ahead.
My mom and the moms of several of my friends were the leaders of that long-ago troop.
Mom was an artist, so there were lots of creative projects on the agenda. Since I inherited none of Mom’s artistic genes, the arts and crafts part of Scouting failed to bring me joy.
Of course, I participated in the projects, but my finished work always paled when placed next to my co-Brownies’ work.
We also visited nursing homes and sang for the residents on special occasions.
My best Brownie memory is catching the train at the Grenada Depot one long-ago Saturday morning and chugging along the track with all my Brownie buddies and our leaders to Greenwood.
We had lunch at the famed Crystal Grill, walked around town for a while and then boarded the Illinois Central back to Grenada.
I spent two fun years as a Brownie before being a part of a pinning ceremony in which we all “flew up” to the next level of Scouting – I’d be a full-fledged Girl Scout. I’d trade my brown uniform for a bright green one, and the beanie would be retired for a much more stylish beret-style hat.
But it was not to be.
It was the mid-’60s, and the times, well, they were trying to change.
Perhaps the changes were coming too quickly for some. Maybe folks just didn’t understand. Either way, decisions were made in the confusion and fear that would affect many of us for years to come.
Apparently, there were young black women who, just like me, wanted to experience this thing called Scouting.
It shouldn’t have been an issue. After all, back in 1952 the Girl Scouts organization made a special effort to include all girls, regardless of race, ability, social status.
But those in charge of the Girl Scouts in my hometown all those years ago refused the call to be inclusive. They declined to dance with diversity.
Sadly, rather than allow in my Scout troop young black girls with whom I’d soon play with at recess at Lizzie Horn Elementary School, all troops were disbanded. Rather than allow us all the privilege, no one would be a Scout.
I’d have given all the Thin Mints in the world to have continued in Girl Scouting.
On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides, now known as Girl Scouts.
Thanks, Juliette Low. And happy birthday, Girls Scouts.
leslie.criss@journalinc.com