Advocate shares her experience growing up when Black people had very few rights in this country.

Published: February 12, 2019

Each day after school my two grandchildren come to my house for a couple of hours. When they come in, one of my first questions to them is, “What did you learn today?” My grandson, the "Kindergarten Comic", always tells me about a new number or letter activity his class is working on. This is followed by a new song and a summersault. My sixth-grade granddaughter shares her algebra woes, rolls her eyes upward and prances off with a “Nana, you just don’t understand” look on her face.

Last Friday the children came with my son to pick me up from our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training at Families First. They immediately turned the tables on me by asking, “What did you learn today?” I shared with them the exercises that were done and some of the conversations that we had in our small groups. I also told them that there were things about myself that I learned by talking with my co-workers. One thing I learned is that I am a very proud African American woman. I grew up in an integrated neighborhood and had friends who were of other races and ethnicities. I attended integrated schools and received a good education. I have taught in public and private schools and I have always worked in an integrated workplace. Those experiences helped me to grow into the woman I am today.

I also grew up in a time when Black people had very few rights in this country. It was a time that history has recorded law enforcement officers beating peaceful marchers with their night sticks and turning the water from fire hydrants on them at full force. It was a time when children and young adults were beaten and bullied because they wanted to attend schools and universities with persons of other races. Churches were bombed and children died in the explosions just because one person did not feel they had the right to worship freely. Men, black and white, were assassinated because they chose to stand up to the bigotry and hatred of a handful of cowardly people. The fact that I lived through that does not make me proud at all; the fact that I have overcome it gives me a great sense of pride that I am a survivor and no longer a victim.

Here at Families First, we are all about helping to turn victims into survivors. When we speak to someone on the phone or greet them in our lobby for the first time, we help that person turn their life around. No longer are they the victims of beatings, water hoses, explosions, or bullying that can come in the form of people, alcohol or other drugs. It is not an immediate turn-around; it is a process.