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‘Why I Stand’: Local activists contribute personal experiences with discrimination to anthology

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Aug 31, 2020

Teresa Holmes

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As this summer’s surge in Black Lives Matter movement activity has begun to peter out, local activists have banded together with activists across the continent to compile an anthology on their related personal experiences.

Teresa Holmes, of Shepherdstown, came up with the Boots on the Ground Against Racism Project idea, after noticing how many people were trying to use their voices to raise awareness about social injustice on social media this summer.

“Initialy I wanted to do a book on my own [on racism and social inequality], but then I had the thought occur to me. As I looked on social media, I saw all of these people who were trying to use their voices to make change, like I am. I decided we could use their voices to promote change,” Teresa said, mentioning a total of 18 activists contributed to the anthology.

The book’s contributors have all had dealt with their experiences with racism and social inequality in different ways. For many of them, writing about those scarring experiences has helped them heal.

“It’s been painful for some, because many of them suppressed it — they buried it. When they started writing their story, the pain surfaced for them,” Teresa said. “Several of them expressed to me, ‘It is hard.’ My advice to them is always to walk away from it for a minute, but then go back to it.”

According to Teresa, work on the anthology, “Why I Stand: Soul-Stirring Stories,” began in July, and will conclude this month. It will be available for pre-order at an in-person book launch at Morgan’s Grove Park on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m.

“What I strive to do with this book, is to provoke people to think about what is happening, to initiate the kind of conversations that people are afraid to get involved in,” Teresa said, mentioning she has experienced racism, as a black woman, throughout her life. “We can’t change people — only people can choose to do that — but this is our way of helping people gain a social understanding and see things through our eyes and our hearts.”

Although this is the fourth anthology Teresa has contributed to and directed, she has found the contributors to this anthology to be more motivated than with her previous ones.

“This is the first one that the writers have been so passionate about what they’re doing,” Teresa said. “One hundred percent of the people who started the project are ending the project! Even our two college students!”

One of those college students is her niece, University of Mary Washington freshman Faith Holmes. According to Faith, her anthology contribution was informed by her experience interning last summer at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, leading a Black Lives Matter protest this summer and founding the first Black Student Union at her high school, Albemarle High School, in Charlottesville, Va.

“I hope that people learn that everyone is different and everyone has their own reasons for their decision to stand for justice, equality, equity, all of that,” Faith said. “That’s the main point I want people to understand.”

Shepherd University junior Mahayana Garcia also contributed to the project, and will join Teresa and Faith in speaking at the book launch. However, Garcia’s anthology contribution discusses a different aspect of social inequality.

“My chapter is about my experiences with being discriminated against, due to having learning disabilities,” Garcia said, mentioning she is a member of SU’s Black Student Union. “I wanted to get involved in this project because I am passionate about social justice and equality. I believe that we all have an important role on this planet, to help and guide each other.”

To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/standupagainstinjustices/.