By Patti Samar
I began planning this issue of Blue Water Woman a month or so into the pandemic. I decided to dedicate the issue and the stories to the women on the frontline who were facing the pandemic head-on in our community. I asked around, discovered some very good story ideas, and began the process of putting the magazine together.
Then, George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The floodgates of racial unrest, long-simmering in this country, finally bubbled and boiled over.
I knew, as I watched protests and racial equality events take place across both our nation and the world, that I needed to dedicate a story to race in this issue of Blue Water Woman. A couple of years ago, when some of the worst public examples of racism since the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 began erupting across the nation, I began making a concerted effort to feature a story about at least one woman of color in every issue of the magazine.
My philosophy has always been this: EVERY woman in our community has a story to tell. Sadly, I will never get around to telling all of them.
However, it is important to make sure the pages of this magazine reflect the community in which we live.
It has not always been easy seeking and finding those stories, and not because there are not an overwhelming number of stories to tell about women of color. Absolutely, there are. But, I found that, sadly, shamefully, in my own circle of friends and acquaintances, there are not a lot of people of color, so I am not necessarily hearing of their stories.
To learn more, I had to contact people of color I do know and explain my situation: I am interested in shining a light on the stories that need to be told.
It was, at first, awkward.
One of the first conversations I had about this was with my friend, Port Huron City Councilwoman Anita Ashford, who was so kind and so open to what I’m sure was my very awkward explanation.
You see, in my life, no one has ever talked to me about the color of skin, just like no one has ever talked to me about the color of my eyes. The color of my skin is not something that I’ve ever needed to think about when I wake up in the morning and plan my day.
Black people in America cannot say the same thing. They have to think about it. They have to talk to their children about it. And that is a damn shame.
In this issue, I share with you my conversation with Jessica Totty, a licensed practical nurse, who has, in her position at Lake Huron Medical Center, served on the front lines of the pandemic. Jessica is Mexican American and her husband, Kevin, is African American. Together, they have mixed-race (now grown) children. Jessica was kind enough to have an open conversation with me about race in our community, and what it was like for her raising children of color here.
My biggest take away from my conversation with Jessica was when she said this to me:
“I’m hoping, also, that this whole movement does not become a bucket list item,” she said. “‘I participated in a march…I’m talking to people of color now…’ and that six months from now, we are back at square one.
“I hope that this is about change, peace, and sensitivity.”
I am with Jessica, in hoping for change, peace, and sensitivity, too. I am committed to continuing to share the stories of women of color in this magazine and working for change in our community.
Please join me.