In my mind, there are two major atrocities at the historical roots of our nation that created legacies with which we are still dealing to this day. One was the enslavement of African peoples and, after slavery was brought to an end, the subsequent segregation and continued oppression of black people through the Jim Crow laws. The other was the displacement, genocide, and forced assimilation of the Americas’s indigenous peoples–the Native American/American Indian peoples.
A good deal of justifiable attention has been given to understanding and addressing racism directed toward black Americans. Not enough attention has been given to understanding and addressing racism directed at American Indians/Native Americans/Indigenous peoples. In order to take my own steps at correction of my own behavior, I am delighted to welcome as my guest for this episode Lena Epps Brooker. Lena is a Lumbee/High Plains (Sappony)/Cherokee who has written an important memoir of her school years during the time of Jim Crow in the South, titled Hot Dogs on the Road: An American Indian Girls’s on Growing Up Brown in a Black and Whiter World.
Lena’s immediate family was her father, Frank Howard Epps, her mother, Grace Smith Epps and her two younger brothers, Franklin and Cameron Epps. She grew up on the grounds of the Magnolia School in the Saddletree Community of Robeson County, North Carolina. Her father was the principal of the school and her mother was supervisor of Indian Schools for the Robeson County Board of Education.
In 1962, Lena was the first American Indian and person of color to graduate from Meredith College, an all-women’s Baptist college in Raleigh, North Carolina. Of the things Lena has done in her career, she was an elementary school teacher in Charlotte, served in administrative positions with NC State government, including the NC Commission of Indian Affairs, diversity and community relations director for The Women’s Center in Raleigh, and diversity management consultant for corporate headquarters of a multi-state bank in Raleigh. As a volunteer was a certified lay minister with the Western NC Conference of the United Methodist Church serving Weaverville United Methodist Church.
In her 25+ years of living in Raleigh, Lena was active in community affairs including serving on the City of Raleigh Human Relations Commission, the Raleigh-Wake County Arts Council, Triangle Native American Society, NC ACLU Board of Directors, the NC Council on the Status of Women.
Lena’s late husband of 53 years was Jim Brooker with whom she had two daughters, Lora Brooker and Lindsey Brooks.
In this episode, in giving us guidance in things we can do to help make changes, Lena especially advises reading books written by her peoples. Among those include the following:
The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians, by Adolph L. Dial and David Eliades
Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation, and The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, by Malinda Maynor Lowery
Strong Like Rhonda: Exploring Female Power in the Lumbee Tribe, and Poems and Hollers from a Candy Apple Indian, by Dana Lowery Ramseur
Upon Her Shoulders: Southeastern Native Women Share Their Stories of Justice, Spirit, and Community, by Mary Ann Jacobs, Cherry Maynor Beasley, and Ulrike Wiehaus
The intro and outro music for this episode is from a clip of a song called ‘Father Let Your Kingdom Come’ which is found on The Porter’s Gate Worship Project Work Songs album and is used by permission by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project.