Why I Speak
I wasn't supposed to be born. At least that's my mother's story. I was born in the 1960s at home as the seventeenth child of poor black farmers in North Alabama. My father worked as a sharecropper for various farmers and my mother worked as a maid for white households. I quickly learned to pick cotton and do other farm labor as needed to help feed the family.
I was raised during the height of the Civil Rights movement and experienced the sting of racism and "separate-but-unequal" practices firsthand. When my parents went to a local restaurant to get hamburgers, we could not go in through the front door. Instead, we went around back, stood next to the trash cans, and ordered. Because of segregation and Jim Crow laws, I internalized the despair I saw around me and thought of myself as "poor black trash" incapable of doing anything great. Therefore, from a young age, I suffered from an extreme speech impediment of stuttering and low self-esteem.
Teenage - Young Adult
In the early 1970s, all the blacks in my neighborhood were bused to an all-white school in Athens, Alabama as a result of the Federal mandate to integrate schools. There was resistance, fights, and threats but that bitter-sweet experience produced many more friends than enemies. Those racial experiences also serve as the foundation of my passion to promote racial healing.
When I saw the death of George Floyd in the media, I cried. But those tears were not just for him, they were for the many years of pain in my past. I had failed to come to terms about some racial hurts that happened to me. I thought I had overcome the anger, hurt, and unforgiveness. But I discovered I was wrong. In order to find peace, I had to perform a much needed self-evaluation. I did that and finally found inner racial peace.
Why I Speak
I speak passionately on racial issues because I want everyone I encounter to find that same inner racial peace--free from the conflict, anger, and fighting that is often played out in the media. Race does not have to be contentious. I am convinced we humans can live together on this earth, be different, yet respect each other enough to co-exist in harmony. Racial healing is my mission.