LEE ANNE LELAND

 CHARLESTON

LEE ANNE : “ This is my hometown. This is where I grew up. I played right here as a child. I used to watch the black nannies bring their charges down and, at this time, this was the only time they were allowed on the battery, it was as nannies. I was born in 1952, growing up here in the 60’s…I never really had a conversation with a black person until college except when passing on the street, saying hello or something, ..which you really weren’t supposed to do.

 

I don’t know how I escaped acting on the racism that most of my friends fell into, to the same degree, I really don’t, because I was surrounded by it.

I wasn’t perfect. I was in the car with some high school friends driving around the city, this was probably back 1967 and there was a young black boy probably fourteen or fifteen riding his bike south of Broad. One of my friends reached into the glove box pulled out a pistol and shot out the tire of the bicycle he was riding. I was the only one who looked back to see what had happened to him. The rest were just laughing and I didn’t say a word because I was scared to, I already didn’t fit in.

I worked construction for most of my life as a carpenter and working construction in the south you run into some of the most racist, misogynistic people you can imagine. Some of the comments I heard were horrible. Some of them directed at girls who were as young as fourteen years old! Once again I kind of did nothing about it. I was silent.

Transilient: Do you feel like that’s the reason you’re so active, these days? Reparations for where you were silent in the past?

I really wasn’t going to be active, then I became co-facilitator of a support group in the area and we worked with a local youth group. After a meeting, there was a post on Facebook that one of the youth, this twelve-year-old, I had worked with had picked a name. And he went to school the next day and talked to the principal. You can imagine how that went but within two days all his teachers had to call him by his chosen name. I would never have had that courage at that age.

That hit me. I could point to someone and say I had made a difference in a person’s life for the better and it changed me it made me realize that I had to speak out. I couldn’t sit by and be passive. It's like Eldridge Cleaver said, “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” So…I’ve gotten a little bit vocal. It's incredible how busy I have become! ”