For black history month, I tried to check out The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson in the beginning of February. The audio, ebook, and physical books were all taken and on about 10+ holds. I added my name hoping I would luck out. By February 12th, I was notified by Arlington library a physical copy was available for me. On a beautiful morning, my son and I went down to Quincy park to play, swing, and romp around. Walking back home, I walked by the library and grabbed my reserved copy. After dinner and putting the baby to bed, I emerged myself in this book. It’s thick and rich with stories of love, tragedy, injustice, heartache, and historical milestones throughout The Greatest American Migration story.
The southern, black drawl and raw narratives of three economical and demographically different people, all black and in various parts of the south. From Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. Ida Mae, George, and Robert are from three different decades but weaved throughout the book. These real-life narratives draw you in and it pains your heart, yearning for resolve. Written by Isabel Wilkerson, the daughter of a migrant woman, powerfully describes and wordsmiths the lives of these three migrants, unrelated, but with the same heartbeats and pleas for freedom and respect from humanity. From the 1915’s to 2000, hitting on many facets of history: economic, education, social, hypersegragation, and population. Ida Mae, a sharecropper’s wife, George, a citrus picker and later train porter, and Robert, a doctor and surgeon. All hard workers who did their best to live under abuse, insults, and indictments. Isabel does an amazing job describing the daily horrors and experiences all three humans endured but could never grow numb too. It seemed many black slaves or black people grew accustomed to the abuse and learned to live with it. These individuals all tried to fall into place and live normal lives but when face to face with major life hardships, each of them have distinct moments where they decided they would not take it anymore. Thus spurred the desire and decision to leave.
Leaving the south was a huge risk, not only economically and socially, but life and death. As more and more people migrated, white crop owners and or business men tried to control and stop the process of the black exodus. It became a dangerous endeavor, where these men and woman had to hide it from most everyone they knew up to the planned date of retreat. Sometimes they had to hide themselves in crates or even coffins, using careful planned escape routes and vehicle changes, even more so plotted and protected the the secret service of the president. It seemed almost impossible to escape without getting caught, with the extra-padded policing and security on the borders and in train stations, but these courageous and motivated souls were able to pull off genius and inventive escapes.
To not merely regurgitate the entire book, I encourage one to go read it! It is well worth the investment or hunting it down through your nearest library. For me, what stuck out the most was the bravery from the men and women who originally started the migration process. Those who decided that it was enough. The drive, the motivation, the unwillingness to keep suffering. There was this instinct, not only for survival, but to thrive. In contrast, it also pained me to read how some would not leave. The south possessed them. Yes, it was their homeland, but there wasn’t much that was homey about it. Besides the food and the weather, not much seemed enjoyable or comfortable. Fear is a liar!!! The dreamers, the parents, the hopefuls, they wouldn’t allow that fear to peg them down. They chose to overcome the fear of failure, the scares of the unknown, and the trepidation of getting caught. The outcome was worth the risk of leaving what was familiar for what would be challenging but not miserable and humiliating. Yes, there was a new weather, culture, economics, job-stress, and many other environmental and social issues, but there was no longer the extreme oppression, control, suffocation, dehumanization, and bullying.
I want to possess that daring and unique courage, to leap towards what would be the betterment of myself or my family, whatever the cost. I hope and pray I could have the audacity to move or act no matter what people or authorities may say, and run to what is necessary for healing and freedom. May I be ready to stand up for what is right, good, and true despite the opposition.