I’m part Cherokee, and then part Sioux, but I’m from Oklahoma. The other side of my family is from Nebraska. Somehow, they migrated to Mississippi, I don’t know if it was through trade or a hunting excursion.
It’s important to know the truth about your heritage. My grandfather, he bought his house in 1951. The exclusion on his deed said that no one of color could purchase that house. Granted, he had cash, and cash was king. He was able to get around that exclusion, but the fact that that exclusion was there in 1951 is wrong.
Everybody thinks that it was just so long ago, but it wasn’t that long ago. What Cece went through, what I’ve been through, our family histories – we’re grounded in the truth. We really understand what it is, what’s right, what’s wrong, where things need to be changed. That’s always a constant dialogue between us.
My mom was born in Minnesota. She was adopted into a German-American family, so we grew up with a lot of German culture. My dad is from Nigeria, and he came here for school. My step-dad is from Kenya.
My step-dad, when my mom married him, hadn’t been here for a full year, so he constantly brings up stories. I was eight and helping him learn the money, what the pennies were versus nickels and how much they were worth. I have a younger brother, his son, who’s seven. He constantly says, “Cece taught me the dollar.” I think it was a huge culture shock for him. There was a lot of culture shock because of Blacks in America. The media would show African-Americans as thugs or gangsters. He had a lot of confusion around that, about where that stemmed from, and why that was. He didn’t expect to be viewed as a thug or a gangster.
It was an uphill battle being a black man. On top of it, he has his thick accent. He’s essentially a self-taught mechanic. He literally took an engine apart and taught himself about the car by putting it back together and making it run again. When he came here, getting a job working for named auto shops, there was a lot of judgment that he wasn’t expecting. He now owns his own shop. He didn’t want to work for other auto shops because they would screw over customers. He wanted to have his own place, be legit. He knew he could have faith in his knowledge, his skill, and his ability.
It’s important to realize what you’re heritage is. I think we should all take a step back and say, “Now, what’s really going on in our country?” We need to face what we’ve gone through head on, and not just say, “The history is the history, the past is the past.” In order to get somewhere, you have to understand where you come from and why you’re going where you’re going.