Living Black in America

AAUW Members and Guests Engage in Lively Discussion . . .

. . . And Gain Insight About Living Black in America

by Kathy Garfinkle

Over 40 men and women attended the dynamic One Book, One Community Read program on February 29th at the Fremont Main Library. There was energy and anticipation as everyone began to settle in for an open discussion on Living Black in America and the book Disgruntled by Asali Solomon. Kris Sandoe began with a brief history of the remarkable eight-year history of OBOCR. Fremont Branch has gone National this year with ¡Adelante! This program features a new book each month for reading and discussion. Margery Leonard introduced Sylvia Ginwright and Zakiya Khalfani, our two eloquent speakers that shared their personal experiences of Growing Up Black in America.

Sylvia Ginwright is a member of the Hayward/Castro Valley Branch and is a retired principal. Sylvia shared many poignant experiences from Growing Up Black in the South Side of Chicago. She took us back to1940 when a young mother was giving birth to her third child in an old Chevy that was pulled to the side of an icy road. An officer came by, knocked on the window, and demanded to know what was going on. She responded that the officer better help them because the baby was coming now. That baby that was born on November 30, 1940 was Sylvia Ginwright. When Sylvia first encountered White Only/Colored Only drinking fountains, she snuck over to the White Only fountain and took a drink. She was stunned to hear, “Get that nigger out of here!” When Sylvia’s mother died at age 47, she went to live with her aunt and uncle. She learned many lessons from these experiences such as be kinder, be open, and be more caring.

Zakiya Khalfani was born in Southern California in 1962. She is a member of the Fremont Branch. Zakiya began by telling the audience that she was not raised black. She was raised to be whatever she aspired to. Zakiya wanted to be the first black president but that honor is already taken. She is very proud to be black thanks to the upbringing of her wise mother. Zakiya also shared some painful moments of discrimination. When she participated in a panel project in Oakland dressed in a designer suit, someone questioned why a black woman would have such an elegant suit! While attending an event she was told, “no niggers were allowed.” She responded that she would let them know if she saw one. She relates that it is hard to be judged by what you look like. When asked about interracial dating and marriage Zakiya said that she felt you should choose whatever color or shape brings you happiness. Zakiya has agreed to be our treasurer for Local Scholarships as her way of giving back to her community.

The enthusiastic audience participated in lively discussions at the conclusion of each presentation. RoseMarie Everett shared her experiences as the only white teacher in a Catholic school in Southern California. Mary Lynn Pelican told of a time when she mistakenly entered a Colored Only bathroom and was given many strange stares. We are thankful to Sylvia and Zakiya for giving us a new perspective on Living Black in America.

One Book, One Community Read committee with speakers Sylvia Ginwright and Zakiya Khalfani