Pictured is the author at 15 years old with her Mammie. Courtesy photo.


As far as I know, I’ve never experienced the brunt of racism as a child and as an adult, the few incidents have been relatively benign, yet I do know that fact makes my story an unlikely and lucky one.

But this isn’t about me, this is about my great grandmother Mamie, who would be 114 years old if alive today. She was a strong beautiful African American & Native Indian woman born on a Cherokee reservation in the South. She shared many stories with me about the hardships for blacks and browns including the simple ones like her not being able to walk on the same side of the street or drink out of the same water fountain as whites. Her fears of the unfair treatment for our family and the families of other blacks, was often reflected in her almost daily mantra: “Did anybody die today? Did anybody go to jail?”

With these comments, she was referencing the classified conversation that the black community has shared for centuries regarding bias and brutality toward blacks. She along with the famous Fred Sandford of the old TV show, Sandford and Son would acknowledge the roots of America’s soil growing from legal slavery to unjust freedom. When I would hear her seemingly daily mantra: “Did anybody die today? Did anybody go to jail?”, I didn’t totally get it because it wasn’t reflective of the wealthy lifestyle which I was afforded to grow up in, with accepting white neighborhoods, schools and friends. However, to reiterate, I am very clear that my circumstances were not only very unlikely, they were very lucky.

For the vast majority of black families, my great grandmother’s daily mantra was a mantra of the life they had to accept and for many, it still is.

This past few weeks I along with most of the country has been shaken by grief, fear and bewilderment over the stark societal revelations. And what has kept me strong amidst it all, is that I know that if my great grandmother Mamie were alive today she would valiantly digest the pain, but she would also express her prideful astonishment for the recent developments of justice being served and supported by millions of people around the world. As a result, I am comforted amidst the turmoil as I feel her smiling down and saying,” “Wow, I wish I could have lived long enough to be there to see this”. At this watershed moment, the legacy of her trauma can begin to heal through me.

As a child, she would hug me and chuckle at my childish wisdom when I would tell her, “Grandma Mamie, people don’t see color, because we are all God’s children and you have to know that the world is kind”. May we all take this time to reflect on how we can be extra kind regardless of skin color. Because we are all God’s children and God knows that’s the only way that we can have peace on earth.

Rana Kirkland

15 year resident of Santa Monica