Sarah Van Horn: A grandma’s influence about race relations

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Millions of people across the world focus their attention on Black people and their stories during this mammoth fight against police brutality. Social media, television, radio and newspapers demand justice for victims like George Floyd or depict the powerful and brave protesters that swarm every community.

Yet my grandma knows nothing of this seemingly inescapable surge of activism. Anita Greene, my beautiful grandmother, suffers from dementia and is a stranger to the recent protests and rallies. When my grandma was young, she attended rallies led by Martin Luther King Jr. She made monthly donations to numerous racial organizations.

A couple of summers ago, I overheard my aunt tell my grandma that she couldn’t sustain her generous donations. But being the wonderfully stubborn woman she is, she moved money around in order to add to her decades of donations. If my grandmother had the mind she used to have, I know that she’d pour whatever money she had left into bail funds, memorial funds, and community organizations.

If she had a young body, she would walk with Black people and stand between them and the police. Part of me wishes she could see the change brewing in our nation and community, but I also dread the guilt she would feel if she knew of the recent injustices that have caused public outrage because she wouldn’t be able to help.

Still, my grandmother is the strongest person I know and I recognize that her time to fight has already passed. Her time was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Amazingly, my grandma can recount the powerful speeches that she witnessed from Black activists through her dementia.

My time is today and Black voices are more accessible now than ever before. All of us white allies can take a lesson from Anita Greene. We can listen as much as she did and fight so hard that we’re incapable of losing these historic memories. I love you endlessly, grandma, and will work tirelessly to follow your admirable example.

Sarah Van Horn