You BETTER Vote
Okay, okay, okay! I admit it! Since George Floyd, I’ve fallen down the audio book rabbit hole. Stick with me for a minute. I’ve listened the following books, and I’ve listened to a couple more than once!
- Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan Metzel
- Let Them See You by Porter Braswell
- The Memo by Minda Harts
- How to be Anti-Racist Ibram Kendi
- Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson*
- The World According to Fannie Davis by Brigette M. Davis
- Diamond Doris by Doris Payne and Zelda Lockhart
- A Warning | Anonymous
- Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump
- White Fragility Robin Diangelo
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- So You Want to Talk About Race Ijeoma Oluo
- Currently listening to Caste by Isabel Wilkerson with One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall in que.
Yes, queens, I’ve been a listening fiend. Mind you, these are just the books that I’ve read that are about diversity and blackness. But here’s what I want you to know: Warmth of Other Suns, The World According to Fannie Davis, and and Diamond Doris changed my life.
These books explained my family to me! Perhaps, I shouldn’t admit this, but these books increased my compassion and empathy toward my family and has made me feel less like an oddball. They’ve helped me wonder less how I became who I am…while I love my family very much, I am VERY different. These books helped me see them, see us, see me. I’ve often lamented over the educational, financial, and health status of my family: how did we get sooooooooooooooooooooooo far behind? What happened to us? Mind you, I will fight you if you disrespect my family (I’m not kidding), but I needed to know what accounted for so many struggles and such small lives. By small, I mean very simple lives and lots of doing the same things day in and day out. I never understood how they weren’t climbing the walls with boredom. It seemed as if they accepted living what I thought were decidedly drab lives. Yes, the sense of family and community was strong, but I always felt as if something was missing. I always felt like their simplicity was not completely their choice, yet, I was thrown off by the fact that they did not seem to fight their stations either.
Now, enter the books: nearly every theme in my family’s history was captured in these books! I felt validated and rather emotional about the newfound commonalities I had with so many other black folks. I learned that my family isn’t unique at all!!! The World According to Fannie Davis (The Fannie Story) and Diamond Doris added to the narratives presented in Warmth of Other Suns (Warmth). Warmth was a combination of research and history intertwined with actual and personal narratives of black people who had been part of the great migration. The Fannie Story and Diamond Doris were stories about how black folks who’d participated in the great migration lived, how they ached to provide for their children and leave an inheritance.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional reaction I had to the stories AND FACTS. My people, your people, our people have gone through so much…………….so very much. Yes, we have an idea of what they went through, but the personal accounts connected the oppression to my own life. Then, the facts, actual verifiable facts about systemic oppression, broke my heart. To read how my people, your people, our people have been striving so long and so hard to be treated fairly and humanely….it explained why “grandma nem” seemed resigned. Indeed, they were exhausted. Now, I understand how they could push me to “go, go, go” in terms of college, but be reticent to support many of the risks that I’ve taken.
I never knew my family participated in the great migration of Black people from the American South to the north and west between 1916 and 1970. I’ve always just known that Aunt Such and Such lived in Cincinatti and Uncle So and So lived in Los Angeles. It never occurred to me to ask how the family got so spread out.
Thankfully, I have a great relationship with my great grandmother’s oldest living niece (I’m a little worried about her and the impact of “covid isolation” on her, but that’s a story for a different post). So, I began to ask her questions about how the family got to be so spread out because our family is pretty closeknit. She explained that some left because of the racial oppression of the south, meaning outright violence. There were others who weren’t facing direct threats, but they wanted economic opportunities. She even explained how those who left Georgia wound up in specific states: they went where other family members or people they knew had gone before so that they wouldn’t be 100% alone (NO WONDER they freaked out when I moved to Kansas and New Jersey!).
As I read these books, I began to realize that I am, you are, what Maya Angelou said, “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” When I really took in that the great migration ended in 1970, and that I was born in 1977, I felt much better about my station in life. I am exceptional, and so are you! It is in this vein that I say, “You BETTER vote!” How can you not?????? Do you know what black people have gone through to give you a voice in the political process DESPITE all that they went through? From slavery to Jim Crow to continued social and political ostracization and you dare sit at home and refuse to engage in the political process when decisions will be made by elected officials that impact your life, your opportunities, AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN? How can you live with yourself? How can you cheat your grandma and ancestors? How can you let the dream and hope of the slave turn into a full on nightmare? Go vote!