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'It's Hard To Have These Conversations,' A Black Mom Talks To Her Kids About Race and Civil Unrest

African American mother and three daughters smile at camera.
Cathy Carter
Lorielle Hollaway and her daughters, Nadia, Joyce and Ava.

As protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue across the country, WUSF is amplifying the voices in our community responding to the calls for change.

Lorielle Hollaway is the owner of Cultured Books in St. Petersburg, a children's bookstore that focuses on sharing positive stories of diversity. Today we hear a conversation Hollaway recently had about race and social unrest with her older daughters--Nadia, 10 and Ava, who's 8.

Hollaway: "So Nadia, you know how we went to a protest last week? How do you feel about what's going on?"

Nadia: "How I feel about protesting is they're putting their foot down and not allowing people just killing any black people anymore. They’re saying we're not going to allow this anymore."

Hollaway: "Ava, how do you feel?"

Ava: "I just think it's sad like people should just stay together like there’s no madness or nothing."

Hollaway: "Yeah, sometimes I hate to have those conversations with you, especially being so young and to speak with you about the experiences that you’ve had, whether that be on the playground, or places that we don't actually see a lot of us. So Nadia, what were some experiences that you have had that maybe you're still dealing with, or not okay with?"

Nadia:" One time, I was at church, at Bible study and my hat fell off. And this boy, he just kept stepping on my hat and stepping on it and he wouldn’t stop. And then I told my teacher, and she didn't believe me. So then my mom went to talk to the teachers and they didn't believe her either and they had a meeting, my mom and the teachers."

Hollaway: "Yeah, I remember that.  I feel like when we are in predominantly white spaces, people just need to be aware of, or understand our experiences. As black people as we enter those spaces, or even when taking care of black children, you have to be their advocate when you hear or feel like something's not right."

Nadia: "That story hurts my feelings."

A bookshelf with children's books about people of color, multiculturalism and diversity
Credit Cathy Carter
"When you do see books about children of color, you often see struggle in them. Our books have positive images and positive stories.”

Hollaway: "I'm sorry, you had to go through it, but never don't not speak up for yourself. I know that you probably have to do it more than you want to, but continue to. You know, you're only 10-years-old and you've experienced things that, you know, some white children will never understand. But you have me, you have your dad, you have your grandparents. I'm proud that you can speak up and you know, you don't automatically just say ‘that's racist’, but you speak up and say these children, they made me feel this way and this is the situation. So, Ava, do you have any questions for me?"

Ava: "Yes, what helps you when you feel really mad and frustrated? What helps you calm down, Mommy?"

Hollaway: "Well for the most part, it’s you guys. Like right now there’s so much going on with the pandemic, civil unrest and having a small business. I definitely have to unplug and just sit with y'all. But when I get frustrated, angry and mad, I try to feel all those things so I don't harbor it in my heart. It kind of centers me and helps me.”

You can find a list of recommended children's books on race, inclusion and diversity here.

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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