Picture of the month

Picture of the month
Life is circular

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Patricia Stephens Due freedom in the family



I came across Patricia Stephens Due, long time civil rights activist and author of Freedom in the family at a festival in Tallahassee, Fl in June of 2007.
Her life as a civil rights activist is documented in the book freedom in the family which she wrote with one of her daughters. I learned in her lifetime she has received many honors including Florida A&M's first freedom award. I found myself pulled into her words as I sat in the audience and listened to her sixty seven year old voice still very strong rich and deep told this story.
She has worn shades since 1960 when the police threw tear gassed into a crowd she had gathered with.As she says she wrote the book because "I had a story I wanted to be told." What really influenced her was the fact many people thought her recollections were fabricated. "They told me tear gas being thrown didn't happen"..."I knew then it was critical to document what I knew."...
There were incidents in the coming to market process with her book worth sharing.
She stated writing is a business and we must treat it as such.Noting one editor wanted her to pen historical fiction. "I wanted all the stories of the foot soldiers to be true." Over the years Ms Due hasn't forgotten much either and if something was not clearly recalled she could turn to her journal as she says "I write things down.This was just the way I was, if I had a good day or a bad day".She was also shocked to discover after looking at her book tour schedule places like Houston's Shrine of black Madonna had been left off the list.In fact there was no consideration for black stores at all.She insisted that there be a stop in her hometown small market of Tallahassee,Florida though. She mentioned even the cover jacket was misleading."The picture shows all women but there were a few young men too..We had no control over what the jacket would be.She concluded that portion of her talk by saying "There were things I would have preferred not to put in the book".Although she was comfortable with what ended up in the final version, saying she was glad to leave a few things off because it would intrude on others privacy
making the statement "I didn't put everything in the book."
She went on to ask the audience "how much do you know about your family",and Talked about the importance of documenting our history. The meaning of which starts at home and getting our kids to develop reading skills for life long enjoyment.
"If we have not provide a place for our young people in our community we have failed".
On black bookstores struggling and closing she recalled that E Lynn Harris had said the Internet would pose a problem for independent black bookstores."We need to support our black bookstores." and "Even in the worst of times we buy books".
She also spoke about this being the best of times for black authors "who are now seeing more shelf space" and the worst of time as a good deal of the shelves is being "narrowed to street literature". Making the analogy to "violent rap taking over mainstream black music." She went on to say " I think about the 50's and 60's
it was okay to be lynched.So "who are we,If we condone violence by letting our children read it. We still set the example our children are not in charge by the books that we want them to read".
The crowd clapped with approval as the subject matter of these new gangsta books are becoming increasingly controversial.The session neared a close and she left us with some parting words "Stories live forever,story tellers don't".

1 comment:

Teacher gardener said...

I have just finished reading this book. I can't think of a more important book I've read in years. The documentation is remarkable and reinforces its truth. The sacrifices made by this family and many others moved me to tears several times.