My late great grandmother, Grandma Maude, stood over 6 feet tall. She was a strong woman and spent a lot of her early life picking cotton on plantations in the delta, between Mississippi and Arkansas. Unfortunately, I don’t know much else of her story, but I will learn it.
My great grandmother Maude raised an incredibly strong woman as well – my Grandma Noonie. Grandma Noonie raised 7 kids in McGehee, Arkansas, as a single mother, and my dad is the oldest. They grew up dirt poor – literally with dirt floors in the kitchen, in a southern town with a history of racism and a population of ~4,000 people. My Dad was the first black kid on the McGehee high school football team, and he was recruited to play football at Ole Miss – an ironically appropriate name for Mississippi’s largest state university.
Actually, Grandma Noonie was a cook for one of the Ole Miss athletic director type personnel, and she was told that if my Dad did not play football there, then she would lose her job. I can’t imagine the pressure that my dad felt by this ultimatum, not to mention, what about where he wanted to play football?
My dad was a great football player, and I know that because I see the trophies, but he doesn’t ever talk about his time at Ole Miss, or playing football in general. He did not complete his “education” at Ole Miss. Actually, I was the first person in all of my family to obtain a college degree. For many people, hearing that probably isn’t a big deal. It’s only when I think about it in the context of my family history that it means a lot to me that I accomplished that.
After a couple years of dating in secret, when my mom and dad were finally ready to tie the knot, the story goes that my [white, jewish] grandfather, who I love dearly, told my [red haired, freckled] mom, “If you decide to marry a black man, it’s going to be hard on your kids.” He wasn’t so wrong. My dad’s mom, Grandma Noonie (pictured above), who was present for what was essentially a group meeting or some form of pre-marital counseling, replied, “Trust me – I wish your daughter was black”.
It isn’t fair to state the above without providing context on my mom’s family history. The truth is, my Jewish grandparents were always fond of my father, and they respected my mom following her heart, but they were familiar with oppression after the events of WWII, where they both lost members of their nuclear and extended family due to the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany. They actually understood, and they didn’t want me, their future grandchild, to go through anything like what their family went through – systemic oppression on the grounds of race.
I could write a novel on all of this (now there’s a thought), so for the sake of readability, let’s call this “Part One”. To be continued very soon…
Extra credit: a brief history lesson
The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary socialist political organization founded by college students. The party’s core practice was its open carry armed citizens’ patrols (“copwatching”) to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city. In 1969, the party initiated social programs including free breakfast for children and community health and education clinics. In 1967, California (Ronald Regan, huge thanks to he and Nancy for all their great work /s) established strict gun laws that stripped legal ownership of firearms from Black Panther members and prevented all citizens from carrying in public. In 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the party as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”. The black panther party was the most influential black movement organization of the civil rights era, and the “strongest link between the domestic black liberation struggle and the global opponents of American imperialism.”
Isn’t it interesting the difference in perspective of when black people carry firearms to protect their second amendment right vs. when white people do the same?
Remember. A violent Malcolm X being assassinated is one thing. A peace-preaching pastor, Dr. King, initiating change through promoting non-violence and civil discourse being assassinated is another. Yet, nothing has changed. An officer had his KNEE on another human being’s KNECK for NINE MINUTES, TWO OF WHICH HE WAS LIFELESS, while feeling ZERO remorse or regard, and KNOWING (believing*) that he would be PROTECTED by his BADGE OF SERVICE. THAT IS A REOCCURRING SYMPTOM OF SYSTEMIC RACISM AND CAN BE EXTRAPOLATED TO REFLECT THE FEAR FELT BY BLACK PEOPLE IN THE PRESENCE OF POLICE. IT WAS NOT A ONE OFF. IT HAPPENS OVER, AND OVER, AND OVER AGAIN. I AM SICK OF IT. I AM DONE.
You think this video is hard to watch? The video is only forty fucking seconds long. Try watching it twelve times for NINE MINUTES.