My grandparents, Bob and Georgia Crawford from Pine Apple, in Wilcox County, Alabama, were civil rights activists. They used their home as a safe house where many civil rights activists lived and ate well, worked on voting rights and many other projects. My Great Uncle Clinton Bradley, we called him Uncle Buck, was physically disabled, but he worked a full-time job, had a garden and owned his own home.
I can’t remember ever being insensitive or disrespectful to others based on race, gender, religion, sexual preference, age, disabilities, social-economic status or identity. I was raised to respect all people. We all want to be seen, valued, loved, live a decent life and have the very best for our families.
The question I have pondered is why do many of us have biases against others? I believe that what God has for me is for me, and it’s my responsibility to help and support others. What I have found is that many people fear others, and they become bias. Equity, diversity and inclusion must take center stage in all aspects of life.
Maria Gitin, a native of Northern California, is a civil rights veteran, speaker and author of This Bright Light of Ours: Stories From the Voting Rights Fight. At 19, Gitin, a Jewish woman, raised funds to attend training and work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on voting rights in Wilcox County. While on assignment, she met my grandparents through her boyfriend at the time, Luke Block, who is also a civil rights veteran. She spent many times at my grandparents’ home. Maria, Luke and I connected several years ago when I found out she was writing a memoir, which included my grandparent’s story in the movement, among others. We proudly call her our sister.
Prior to retirement, Gitin was a professional fundraising and diversity trainer for twenty-eight years. As a national speaker, Gitin continues to share her story and the stories of the brave freedom fighters she featured in her book. She also speaks out against bias and injustices of any kind, and she calls for everyone to do the same. I love her for her authentic and bold spirit. She knows that we all play an important role in doing what’s right and making sure that all people get a fair chance at living a fulfilled and just life.
My grandparents left me with a strong sense of fighting for what’s right, and my sisters and I are working hard every day to live their legacy for the next generation of our family.
We must have unity and be bridge builders. I am so grateful that I learned early on from my dear grandparents and from my parents, Bob and Jessie Crawford, that there’s strength in diversity. My life has been richer for it.
Let’s respect each other. It’s not difficult. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t let fear keep you from embracing what makes us powerful as a people. Our differences are an amazing gift to the world.
Joy Washington is the Associate Director of the University of South Alabama’s (USA) Office of Marketing and Communications, and past president of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, Mobile Chapter. Joy was recently honored at USA’s Black History Program during the inaugural “Black Girls Rock” event.