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What We Carry

By Joye Williams for Boston Compass (#130)

December 3, 2020

I was raised by a parent born into segregation. Who marched on Washington alongside Dr. King. Raised by someone who had actual experience of what we were able to accomplish, desegregation, the Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action. I understand the continued fight against systemic racism, and how far we’ve come, with that I carried the respect, appreciation, and strength Black people have exhibited in a history of intense, unjust adversity. I also carried with me the anger, fear, and pain of the treatment and how it is still present.

I was raised to believe the truth that I am human first. With that, I refuse to be separated as someone’s idea of anything less. I recall being raised this way both a blessing and curse. When I was younger, I didn’t notice the stares, the racial comments, or on family vacations and outings, where sometimes we would be the only black family. When I was told I couldn’t be friends with the other girls because they weren’t “used to black people”. That’s when I grew up and noticed the injustices I was still exposed to. I read up on racism. When Philando Castile was murdered, I watched the videos of police brutality against Black people, I looked upon the photo of the open casket of Emmett Till. I broke myself down with the oppression we have faced and carried with me intense anger and pain. It was suffocating and I felt limited. It felt like an ineffective way to honor what we have accomplished and contributed towards solutions.

My mother carries the experience of our history. Understanding that she is human first, although that truth did not exclude her from having to fight because she was discriminated against, she leads with the truth that she can go anywhere and be anything she wants, balancing defending herself through recognizing racism and exposing it in order to be treated with the respect she deserves.

With her lessons, I relearned how to empower myself in the face of racism, call it out, and demand respect. Racism is not normal. It is corrupt, dangerous, and illegal; expose the criminal act.

As I continue to learn our history and see how far we’ve come. I look with admiration at the Black women leaders in my community starting their own businesses and creating resources for the success of black people. I experience the representation, advocacy, alliance, and Black people winning! I see how this anger and pain can be translated into power, success, uplifting communities, support and love. When that anger, that pain wells up, the answers translate into endeavors, ideas, and making time to open up to my support circle to seek guidance and release.

The result of learning our feelings, anger, and traumas, we understand our rights, our rightful place at the head of every table. Supporting in unveiling the acknowledgement of the past, present and their effects, and redirecting the powerful energy of anger and pain to the powerful energy of ideas, courage, fight, that translates into the lasting change that is supposed to be.

—Joye Williams


Check out all the art and columns of December's Boston Compass at

This piece was made possible through the Boston Arts and Culture Covid-19 Relief Fund. Thank you for supporting our local writers and creators!


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