My mom arrived in Boston as a teenager with her straight hair down to her ankles. She was told almost immediately to cut it if she wanted to fit in. Her family name had already been cut a couple of generations before, so now she was a Silver in a town she was learning to make her own. Not having finished high school there wasn’t much she could do, so she got married to a man was part Native American and part African American. She waited tables for all those who stared and queried her as to where she’d cone from and if she and her people had suffered. Every day was the same but she carried on as she knew there had to be something better.
My father was a burden and did not carry his own wait. He sat proudly each night as my mother dragged herself up the stairs after being on her feet all day and night. His drinking put the knife in the coffin of their dead relationship.
I was only three when the man I began to call dad walked into my life and saved us. Off to Brookline we went. Perry street opened its arms wide to the Native American woman with her four mixed children not of this marriage. My new dad was Polish, and remains a proud hard working man. St. Paul’s Church became our second home. Every and any important moment all started there.
Each neighbor stood wondering but never asking still welcoming us anyway. One big happy family we all became.
Years later after the addition of a sister from mom’s marriage to dad and the departure of the sister who came years after our arrival and abruptly left when she felt replaced. We have all grown up, scattered about with only myself staying in Brookline. Now just a block away from the house I grew up in to a man who’s parents would never have accepted me as a daughter-in-law.
As I set up and rearranged our new home with five of my six children, I happened upon a book that was a gift to my husbands father as he retired from his job. This book was a copy of the original collection of town meeting minutes and ordinances for the town from the early days.
In this book it spoke of how blacks were “niggers” and Native Americans were “Indians” and that neither were allowed to reside or enter into Brookline unless accompanied by their “owner”. My stomach sank and I wanted to run to the bathroom and vomit. How was I to live in a house that belonged to a man who was proud to receive this book? I pulled myself together realizing that, that man was no longer living and his way of thinking was clearly not that of his son who I am proud to have married.
This made me want to do something someday to ensure that the people in this town would respect and understand the struggle of the Native American people as well as anyone else that might not have been or still may not be accepted in this town I call home.
My second oldest daughter spearheaded the movement to have the Native American Indian Chief’s head removed from the parquet floors at the high school. She was met with death threats and numerous posts ands notes hate. This of course set her back academically but she moved on graduating from Lesley with all honors. She herself started as a camp counselor and ended up as co-Director for a Native American camp run by NIAP funded by Harvard University.
Despite my mother’s unwillingness to talk about our heritage, I’ve always been proud to embrace all parts of who I am and have told my children they should do the same.
Proud To Be…©
By Felina Silver Robinson