• By Paige Duggins-Clay, J.DHonoring the Arms that Lift Us – Southern Stories from Our Black Staff • February 2022 • Paige Duggins Clay

My Great Aunt Darcy passed away from COVID-19 last year. She was the matriarch of our family, the keeper of our history, the source of our deepest and most steadfast values. She was a civil rights activist and worked on the front lines of advocating for equal and integrated education in her community. A trailblazer, she was the first Black female member of her local school board. She served lovingly and faithfully as a minister’s wife. Her home – an educator’s home filled to the brim with books and knick knacks in every nook and cranny – was always open to our ragamuffin family, and the best memories of my youth were spent discovering her treasures.

She brought together our family, which had been decimated by a racist criminal justice system, a broken and inaccessible healthcare system, and crushing economic inequality. Though our family tree sprawled and twisted and grew in unexpected and unconventional ways, she loved and cherished every one of us and taught us to be proud of our heritage. Regardless of our status as a grandchild, great-niece or nephew, step-child, ex-step-child or (official or unofficial) foster child, she committed to knowing and celebrating each of our accomplishments and always made sure we knew we had a place in her home and heart.

Her legacy serves as a constant reminder of the tremendous progress we have made as a nation and as a society, as well as a clarion call that we can and must do more. She would have zero tolerance for efforts to censor or minimize in any way her history – our history. Her stories of fighting, of losing, and of occasionally winning – of getting up again and again in the face of explicit and implicit bias and discrimination – remind me that we must remain committed to the long game – and believe in the long arc bending toward Justice. I will not forget the lessons she taught me. And I will honor her and her legacy every day by working to fulfill her ideals of equal educational opportunity.

[©2022, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2022, special edition of Honoring the Arms that Lift Us – Southern Stories from Our Black Staff by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]