Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Living Proof

“Everything you say to me. And everything you do. You can't deny the truth. Cause I am the living proof.”- Mary J. Blige

It’s been a few weeks since the movie The Help came out.  Most of the hoopla over how the movie took black women back millions of years has subsided.  No one is talking anymore of how it was too kind of its portrayal of Mississippi during the time period of the 1950s and the 1960s.  All of this probably has to do with the fact that most Americans have short attention spans and earthquakes and hurricanes were thrown in over the past week for good measure.

However, as someone who normally remains quiet on a lot of this issues because I don’t think like many of my peers or I can find a way to see other perspectives, I decided to use this as an opportunity to have a discussion with one of my favorite people in the world, my grandmother.

See, my grandmother was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, and, for that reason, she was very familiar with Mississippi affairs during that time.  She just didn’t have the luxury of worrying about it.  She was too busy working.

My grandmother was raised on a farm where her father was one of many sharecroppers.  They picked potatoes, peas, cotton, all sorts of things.  Instead of finishing the 10th grade of school, she went to the fields to work and help the family.  And not only did she help hers, she helped other families, including poor white families. 

Back in those days, she recalls the members of poor white families who lived nearby coming to her house, knocking on her door and asking for the excess crop.  Since it was going to go bad anyway, her father always responded positively.  And that was pretty much her only recollection of dealing with white people in Mississippi.  She said they were always nice and she, along with her brothers and sisters, often played with the white children.

To my grandmother, race and Civil Rights were often issues that the  “city folk” in Jackson and the other “big” MS cities concerned themselves with.  It took her moving to Detroit to finally encounter racism in-person.

Now I know that many people do have stories like this, but this is the story of my grandmother.  And it offered a different perspective which is why I am not a fan of people always acting like everything regarding race was a collective experience.  Luckily, since the movie was about the 50s and 60s, many survivors of that time are still around. And we should take advantage of their presence and seek them out for their various perspectives.  I’m sure no two stories will be exactly alike.

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