There’s been a lot of discussion about slavery as a choice because of a segment of Kanye’s interview. Although I think he made an ignorant statement, this could be a transformative moment encouraging many families to do their research. I wasn’t moved by his words because I know some of my family history.
     My grandad was born in 1919 and my grandma was born in 1923 in a small town in Mississippi. I haven’t done extensive ancestral history but my grandma’s grandma was a slave named Sarah.
     If you are imagining a lineage of docile and appeasing blacks from slavery to civil rights, scratch the record. Nah
     My grandad(C.D. Crook Jr.) had to leave Mississippi during the Jim Crow era a couple times because he did something perceived as disrespectful at the time. My grandad was even sentenced to work at a cane farm, because he was accused of pushing a white man off the train. He escaped the prison with an older man and soon after served in World War 2.
    When my mom and I went to Mississippi’s Delta, she told me that my grandma’s dad (Lawerence Tucker) went to jail for defending himself against a white man. My grandparents tried to get him a lawyer but there wasn’t a lawyer who would take the case. One lawyer even said he’ll never represent a n*gg*.  My great grandfather and his wife fled the area before the court date and the sentencing.
     Two of my ancestors were fugitives. I imagine the fear that consumed them and the bravery that it took to make those choices. They stood against false accusations and systematic injustices. It made me wonder of all the incidents that may have occurred prior to them.
     Even the small choices that our ancestors made had a ripple effect. We live in a time where many people have this grandiose mindset. Fighting back for them had to be a slave revolt, jumping off a slave ship, but every small act of defiance was a brave choice.
     I challenge everybody reading this to speak to an elder in their family. Ask them of any way that a family member stood against racial discrimination before the Civil Rights Era. Record or document their response. There’s no incident to small. Post and use the hashtag. #WeChose
     I’m not ignoring the fact that experiences, media, and education has conditioned many people of color. I’m highlighting that it’s not the total picture. We have exemplified courageousness, tenacity, and ingenuity.
     Don’t dig into Kanye instead dig into your family history or American History.
Onward and Upward
Phyllis G. Williams