Author and cousin of Rosa Parks to read and sign her new book — podcast

by Mick Rhodes | [email protected]

Angela Sadler Williamson, cousin of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, will read and sign copies of her new children’s book, My Life With Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins ​​from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, February 26 at Claremont’s Folk Music Center. The event is free and open to the public.

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

Williamson’s goal in My Life with Rosie: a Bond Between Cousins, was to show school-aged children how the little NAACP secretary was more than the woman who refused to give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Washington. Alabama, December 1, 1955, an action considered the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in the United States.

In fact, Parks founded the Montgomery branch of the NAACP’s Youth Council in the early 1940s, and later served as secretary of the pioneering civil rights group’s Alabama State Conference, where some of his work consisted of interviewing victims of discrimination and witnesses of lynchings. All this before her famous turn as “first lady of civil rights”.

Williamson, a Fontana resident who grew up in Diamond Bar, is an author, associate professor at Rio Hondo College, PBS television host, speaker and director of the award-winning 2017 documentary film, My Life With Rosie.

The documentary gene came when she was in her 40s and had just earned her doctorate in human services from Capella University in Minnesota. After listening to stories and interviews with her aunt, Carolyn Williamson Green, and Green’s three sisters and brother about Parks and her life as an activist, she began to realize there was a whole part of her story that she hadn’t learned in school, and not just as a child, but also in college.

While promoting the documentary, Williamson traveled deep into rural America.

“I’ve been to small towns in Georgia…that I don’t even know if I could have ever gone to in the 50s and 60s, for people who want that message,” Williamson said.

She had shown part of the film to a group of second graders and realized that they were hungry for information about Parks. Work on the children’s book began soon after.

His work promoting both the documentary film and the book made him realize that Americans’ perception of race, and how close we have come to a “post-racist” country since 1955, varies widely. The Trump years, with their corresponding rise in hate crimes, the rise of the white power movement, and the mainstreaming of racist ideology into mainstream politics and media, also served as a wake-up call.

“There has been progress, but it’s progress that should have happened decades ago,” Williamson said. “And they happen rather slowly. So there is still work to be done, certainly. People are realizing that yes, there is progress, but progress is not for the majority of people who are still trying to get by.

Unsurprisingly, Williamson rejects the perception, widely held in Republican-controlled southern states, that by teaching a more nuanced view of the role institutional racism has played in US history – the so-called criticism of race – academics somehow subvert the country’s past.

“We don’t let people tell their truth,” she said. “So when teachers try to speak their truth to say, ‘Okay, that’s what your history books said; that’s what’s happening,” I think when we limit that, people won’t have those authentic conversations.

Williamson said the conversations need to come from higher levels of government, our education system and at home.

“These educators need to be supported. And they have to come from us in the media, which some of us are starting to do, but we need more voices there, because that’s the only way people are going to start listening.

“Progress is change, and change scares people. But we’re not going to make progress if we don’t make changes.

Having candid conversations about race is a tough exercise in 2022 in America. In some ways, things are more polarized than ever, Williamson said.

“I think it’s so important to start listening to a lot of those voices from the past, because they’ve spent time instilling in others. Finding that common ground is so much harder now than it was when I started specializing in this dynamic professional field of media. It’s so different now. I think a lot more of us need to come together to show that we can have these conversations and not polarize a whole group of people. To be honest, the only way I can do it is one step at a time.

This polarization was on full display when large parts of the country erupted in protest in May 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, Williamson said.

“And, come on America: it’s 2022. We should have solved this problem of racism by now, because we have to think about future generations.”

But with professors facing losing their tenure for teaching about race on college campuses, is there really a way to “fix” racism in America?

“I think we can have a post-racist society, but we have to do the work now,” Williamson said. “There have to be more people on board.”

It’s obvious that Williamson has a really powerful optimism streak. She acknowledges that the general state of race relations is rocky, but still hopes that young Americans — who are politically and socially more liberal than their parents — can transcend the current crisis and help create a mainstream culture where racism is finally in control. recoil. .

“That’s one of the reasons I was thinking, if we can [help educate] these kids so young, because they don’t have the heart for it,” she said. “It’s something that can be learned.”

Since the publication in 2020 of My Life with Rosie: A Connection Between Cousins, she has received dozens of photos of families of all races and cultures holding the book and singing its praises. It was comforting.

“If a little book can do that, imagine if more people joined me and helped me spread that message,” Williamson said. “We could start building a post-racist society now with our children.”

“So when they get to the point where they’re in college or hiring people, they won’t see the color of the person’s skin. They won’t see the gender or the disability of a person. “What they’re going to see is that person’s heart and what they bring to the table. I strongly believe we can do that.”

Angela Williamson will be signing copies of her new children’s book, My Life With Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, February 26 at the Folk Music Center, 220 N. Yale Ave., Claremont. More information at https://www.folkmusiccenter.com.

Lola R. McClure