Karen Gridiron

Karen Gridiron

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit as a panelist to share my advice on how we can positively influence and prepare future generations with respect to systemic racism.

In the process of reviewing the questions that were going to be asked of me, I realized that MY VOICE MATTERS! In this day and time of social media, social connectivity of varying avenues, we all have a voice. However, we need to realize that our voice influences others. If you choose to be silent, then you are a part of the problem.

As a descendant of Rosewood, which was a racially motivated massacre of Black people in 1923, it wasn’t until I was grown with children before I knew about this historical event! My father chose to keep this harsh reality from me, in order to show me a civil life of peace here on the Central Coast. He only wanted to me to know of equality and brotherhood without any racial undertones. Well, that was in the late 60s to the late 70s and I was surrounded by a well-rounded, cohesive family, growing up on a military base and with a socialite, protective Dad!

As I moved from this safety net and into another safety net of other awesome military bases, the protection was the same. It was not until the unrest with the Rodney King police beating and the movie “Boyz in the Hood” in 1991, did my awareness of racism begin. I viewed it as tragic news, but it still was over an hour away from where I lived. But, for the first time, it scared me. It was too close for comfort. And then in 1997, the movie “Rosewood” came out! It was a tough dose of reality as I sat and watched MY history on the big screen and cried with the thought of my grandmother, pregnant with my Dad, running to safety for her life and her unborn baby. They were saved for a purpose! My Dad was saved for a purpose! His heart was HUGE. He knew everybody. He helped EVERYBODY! It did not matter what color they were! And it was not until years later that I understood what he was trying to do for me. He was trying to teach me that people are people, no matter their skin color. We should treat others with kindness, dignity and respect. Just like we want others to treat us, with equal value. People of color aren’t asking for more, just to be treated equal.

The voice that we each have is priceless! You may think that your voice does not count. You may think that what you think is not important. I am here to tell you, IT IS! Speak up for the countless others that are still finding their voice. Speak up for your children and grandchildren that have no idea what their history is. Speak up for anyone that does not have the courage to stand … yet. Always know this, YOU have a voice, and it is your responsibility as a person of color, to use it. Someone died for you and the privileges that you have. At least speak up, with respect and kindness, to be a leader of your communities for the next generation to have an example of how it should be done. Without being rude, without systemic racism towards anyone, without any ulterior motives, other than sharing your truth and helping others to understand that we are people that just want to be respected and heard. MY VOICE IS IMPORTANT AND SO IS YOURS!

Karen Gridiron is a Central Coast native and has been a resident of Santa Maria for the past 18 years. She is a mother, grandmother, the Director of Sales at the Radisson Hotel and she also enjoys being a consultant for Paparazzi Accessories.

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