Resilience – Family Stories Passed Down

I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.

Maya Angelou

A couple of years ago, I was told stories by my mother and father around Christmas. I would like to share the stories told to me during this time that embody the strength and resilience that created me.

My great Grandmother’s sister worked down south as a school teacher. She was light-skinned and could pass as white. Across the street from the school, there was a hat shop. At this hat shop, only white customers were able to try on hats and choose to purchase one or not. The black customers had to buy hats that they tried on or touched. My great Grandmother’s sister would try on as many hats in that shop as she could since she was able to pass as white.

My Grandmother’s father was a light-skinned man with light-colored eyes, and he could pass as being white. He worked as a painter at a hotel. One day, he walked into the hotel with the “colored” maids. His boss noticed and asked him, “Why did you walk in with the colored women?” My great-great-grandfather responded, “Well, they play cards with my wife.” Astonished, the manager replied, “Your wife? You mean to tell me you’re colored!?” He replied, “Yes, sir.” Then, the manager whispered, “Look, I like you. You’re good at your job, but don’t tell anyone you’re colored, or we will have to fire you.”

I feel it is my responsibility to remember and pass on these stories so that their struggles are not pushed aside and forgotten. I hear so many people comment that the past is the past, why bring it up? Somethings we need to remember. We need to remember the struggle, the love, and the pain that got us to where we are today and why we think the way we do.

If I could talk with them today, I would say how proud I am to come from influential, resilient people. I am thankful for every time they pushed forward, how they supported themselves and their families, the pride in themselves, and how they protected one another. RESILIENCE. That’s what created me.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

Erin Morgenstern

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