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  • Seema

fathers and grandfathers

One interviewee said to me:

I think about my father and his life. The decades of work and fighting with SNCC. Trying to interrupt racist systems, social justice work, all of the organizing, going to prison for it. And the fruits of that labor? What do these folks who have been doing the work have to show for it? He is 77 years old. He does a security job, 12-hour shifts, earning $12 an hour at age 77 because social security isn’t enough. So many folks have been living their lives actively fighting against racism. What are the fruits of that labor?

She added that her dad has written two books of short stories and poems. They've been translated into Spanish. His dream would be to tour the country with his books, being in dialogue with people, being of service to folks, learning from folks. But for now, he has to work the security job.

Another interviewee on the opposite side of the country said to me:

My mom's father was a Tuskegee Airman. Served his country and when he was discharged, no benefits, no nothing. He loved flying, he wanted to keep flying, but at the time, Black people weren't allowed to be commercial pilots. So he couldn't continue on in what he wanted to do. He had to go into construction and he did that his entire career even though he didn't really want to do it. He wanted to fly. But that was all he was afforded at the time. He passed away when he was 89. He went into the hospital for something routine, and ended up catching pneumonia and couldn't shake it because his lungs were so bad from working construction. So if he had been allowed to be a pilot, would he have lived another decade? Now, 89 is no chump change and we were were lucky to have him so long, but I think about stuff like that. Like he didn't have a pension because he worked construction. There was so much he wasn't afforded because he couldn't do what he wanted to do...and he served his country. I get angry. But getting angry only shortens my lifespan.

The first interviewee hypothesized that in a U.S. without racism, "everyone could lean into the vision they want of their lives." To get there, she added, "we need to detoxify the body of racism."

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