This is in three parts and will conclude on May 27, 2015
Gran was leaning over the piano looking at a crowd of people locked hand in hand in a human chain on the black and white TV. I was a little girl but I remember the image and the song that I sang over and over. “I do believe we shall overcome someday”.
My family didn’t speak about race relations but they did provide a healthy environment of respect and compassion. They instilled those values in me that I still appreciate today.
I grew up listening to the blues and jazz music of both black and white artist. Jet and Ebony magazines were lying around the house as well as the New Yorker and Life. I was raised to believe we are all created equal. I still believed that but as most of us I had some growing up to do.
According to my grandmother, who was born in 1909 and grew up in Charleston, South Carolina said she didn’t know anything about racism. She said the white kids and black kids all played together. This is the same grandmother who was the youngest of nine children. The oldest Buba John was dark and the ones in between were red bone. Except the second youngest Aunt Annie and Gran who was the darkest of the two. Gran told stories of how terrible her older sisters treated her because of her darker hue. My mother spoke of a college classmate who was so fair she could pass for white. My mother couldn’t understand why she didn’t use her skin color to her advantage. My mother was dark like my grandmother, both were beautiful women. This didn’t make them racist but it spoke of their own dislike of their own skin color.
Growing up I had fairest skin. My baby sister was darker than me. I asked my mother why I wasn’t dark like everyone else her answer was my father was white. She said it with such pride that I was disgusted. Yet she told me that his family didn’t want anything to do with us because we were black. That loss hurt growing up. I always wondered if I had cousins on my father’s side.
On my original birth certificate my father was listed white. My grandmother told me I was white because the law stated that you are what your father is. I refused to say I was white. I was not white. I was and still am black and proud. Not Afro-American, American yes, human yes but I am the darker complexion with fair color skin. I was raised in a black community and went to school with mostly black kids. It was natural that I identify with being black. Even though the dark girls disliked me because of my skin color.
I was angry and enlightened when I learned about slavery, segregation in the south and the lynching’s. Over the years I heard of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and stories of the Black Panthers. I saw the images on the TV and in magazines and the headlines on the front page of daily papers. Still racism wasn’t talked about in my family. I read the biography of Malcolm X, Soul on Ice, The Soledad Brothers even Iceberg Slim the list goes on. I wanted to know why white America hated us and at the same time learn about other black people.
I remember the bells ringing and the wailing in the streets when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I wanted to change the world and over come not someday but today. In the 1970’s I become pro black but not anti-white. How could I be anti-white? My father was Spanish with white skin.
I wanted to learn all I could learn about black people because we weren’t learning anything in school and apparently despite Black History Month our children today still aren’t learning much about black history. On the TV game show Jeopardy’s college week had a Black History category and the students avoided that topic. Only answering three questions. Maybe if Black History was incorporated in American History we might see some changes. Black kids might develop pride and aspire to be better people. White kids may learn to respect black people as human. We fear what we don’t know. There is a vast history of black people the world doesn’t know about. Maybe it’s time we start learning.
That We Will Over Come will continue tomorrow.
Voice your opinion on this I’m sure you have one. This is an open thread.