By Sean Mason
Leaving your childhood home is hard for most people, but for Ernest Siders it was the easiest decision of his life.
Siders, 73, lived in Charleston, South Carolina until he turned 18.
“I couldn’t wait to get out. There weren’t any colleges that I could go to in Charleston. They wouldn’t take anybody if they were black,” Siders said.
The only college that Siders would have been accepted to was a military school.
“I wasn’t going to go to that school. I didn’t want to join the military,” Siders said.
Siders moved to New York City to pursue a college degree at Pace University. He said he was drawn to New York because his older sister had moved there a few years earlier.
“When I would talk to my sister, she would tell me about how different New York was from home,” Siders said.
Siders said there were more opportunities in the North. Unlike Charleston, New York wasn’t segregated in 1973.
“Seeing Time Square for the first time was amazing. I could eat in the same restaurants, go in the same bathrooms, and use the same entrances as white people,” said Siders.
While at Pace University, Siders worked at Manufactures Hanover Trust Company on Wall Street.
“I was nervous at first. It was predominantly white people. But to my surprise, they were so friendly,” Siders said.
Siders was a member of a Baptist church in New York and he met his lifelong friends through the church.
“I still talk to so many people I met from the church. They made my transition to New York even better than it already was,” Siders said.
Siders also met his wife through the church. She was a member of a nearby Baptist church that routinely congregated with his church, Siders said.
After nine months of dating they got married, Siders said.
Siders graduated Pace University in 1969 and moved to the Boston area in 1973 to pursue an MBA at Suffolk University.
Siders has three children and two grandchildren. He and his wife live in Holliston, Massachusetts about 33 miles from the Messiah Baptist Church.
“We make the hour commute every week because of how friendly the community is here. We love it,” said Siders.
Siders said he doesn’t visit the South that often.
“I only go back if I have to. I still see racism down there, like it was when I was growing up. It’s just in different ways now,” Siders said.
Today, the racism isn’t as apparent as it was when he was growing up, but it still exists, Siders said.
Siders doesn’t like to stop in Charleston or other states when he is traveling to Florida. He said the presence of racism that still exists in the South keeps him away.
“I just don’t like to go back there. I grew up there and I know how much better life was in the North,” Siders said.