When I was invited to join a group of Atlanta-area influencers at an exclusive dinner to share how past experience moves and motivates us, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then I was asked to serve as the evening’s host where I would guide the conversation. My goal became to make sure the stories flowed well and that all the attendees had adequate time to share. I wasn’t sure what story I’d tell about my life. Little did I know I would end up in tears because there are some questions about my family’s history I may never get answered. This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank where African Americans share their inspiring untold stories online.
As the delicious food at Negril Village Atlanta nourished our bodies, the stories soothed our souls. We heard stories about child abuse and child abandonment. Then we were uplifted to hear about the legacy of home ownership and parents who spoke positivity into their children’s lives.
Then came the question that struck a cord with me after I heard the other attendees’ answers.
Question: If you could have dinner with anyone (African-American past or present), who would it be and why.
The answers ranged from Angela Davis to Oprah, all notable and well-known African-Americans. But for me, there will always be a person whom I yearn to meet. Maybe talking to her would put my feelings about having a dark brown complexion into perspective.
I’d like to have dinner with late great-grandmother, Mamie Robinson. I know so little about her except what my Daddy shared before he died. He remembers her as a woman who by all appearances distanced herself from darker skinned members of the family including my grandfather (her son), my Daddy (her grandson) and his siblings (my aunt and uncle).
My Daddy had a sour, resentful tone in his voice when he questioned why she moved away to another part of South Carolina to live with lighter complexioned family members, like herself. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps skin color had nothing to do with it. I’d love to sit down with my great-grandmother and get her version of the truth about skin color in our family.
For me, I remember summers as a child when I would self-limit how much time I spent outside so the sun’s rays would not darken my skin. Even more recently, when our son A.J. was an infant and had a lighter complexion than he has now, a woman at our neighborhood park asked me if he was my son. As if I appeared too dark to be his mother.
As I shared my answer at the Wells Fargo dinner, I felt the warm tears stream down my face because of the issues I’ve faced and because I’d like to know if my great grandmother would reject me too because of my dark brown skin.
These are the stories that stay with us. The stories that are too painful to share in everyday conversation, but deserve to be recognized. Watch an array of #MyUntold stories on the Wells Fargo hub.
I can’t wait to share the video that’s produced from the dinner’s conversation of #MyUntold stories. You’ll hear the tearful and triumphant stories we shared. Until them, check out the Wells Fargo YouTube channel, and please join us on March 19th for a Google Hangout to talk about untold stories and what it is like to be an African American today. It is going to be a great conversation.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Wells Fargo.
Very cool story. Thank you for sharing.
Joyce, thanks for sharing. I remember a former roommate sharing with me how she, as a child of mixed race (Black, Portuguese, European), would often be teased not only by white schoolmates in LA for being seen as black, but by black peers for being too ‘red’. She never felt accepted by any group. It was heartbreaking to hear.
I wish we didn’t have to keep discussing this in 2015, but it looms.
What a strong and truthful post! I’m sad that this is still an issue but appreciate that you had the strength to post it.
Although I am as pasty glow-in-the-dark white as it comes, my sister has a very dark complexion and dark features as well. She has grown up hearing all kinds of crazy comments, including if she was adopted. But for heaven’s sake, if you take a moment to LOOK at the two of us, you’ll see two people with similar facial features, just in varying shades. She now has a daughter with the same dark complexion, and I pray that the road has been paved better for her – but something tells me she, too, will face confused looks and have lots of ‘splainin’ to do.
I guess the skin tone is something that seriously bothers people around the freakin world. I grew up among the people with a very light skin and I was teased throughout my school years for being a few shades darker than most of my classmates. Nobody would question the color of my skin here in the States, but in Europe I would stick out anywhere I went.
It sounds like an inspiring dinner and something you would be perfect at!! I wish they held these in Canada too!
What an amazing event to get attend and to be able to share at. Its very sad this issue still happens but amazing that Wells Fargo put this on!
I am sure your great grandmother could shed light on the thoughts and feelings of the times. Sometimes I wish I could talk with members of my family who passed away before I was born. I would love to have a conversation with my Polish or German immigrant great grandparents. I would love to know why they left home for this country.
How amazing Joyce. Our unsung heroes are often connected to us and sometimes one’s we don’t even know first hand.
Congrats on being the evening’s host, I know you were fabulous! Ahhh, the dark skin / light skin issue. I really wish this was way behind us, but unfortunately it isn’t. It definitely hurts to think about it. I remember when I was younger and didn’t want to get any darker than I already was. I was always self-conscious. I’m glad that I can embrace who I am now.
I’m sure your great grandmother probably struggled with the same issues or maybe she was persuaded to believe certain things about darker skin people, especially back in those days. Of course, it doesn’t make it right if that was in fact the reason why she distanced herself from the dark skinned family members. Thank you for sharing your story and continue to embrace your skin color because it’s beautiful!