Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Publisher: Berkley

Published: April 12, 2022

ASIN: B0998ZCQTK

Pages: 367

I have little time to read for leisure, so it excited me to squeeze in this gem.

Civil Townsend was a nurse at the Family Planning Clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1973. Erica (thirteen) and India (eleven) were assigned to her case. As their nurse, Civil is to administer the Depo-Provera birth control shots.

This shocks Civil as the girls are still very young, have never been sexually active, and little India is not only mute but has yet to start her cycle. 

The Williams sisters are being raised by their father and grandmother, both illiterate, their mom having passed on. Their living conditions in rural Alabama are not fit for any human to live.

Take My Hand is a powerful historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Eugenics Movement that led to the involuntary sterilization of Black women in the twentieth century. This sterilization continued in many states until as late as the 1970s.

Eugenics, from the Greek word eugenes, was a term coined by Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin. It was a racist scientific idea that only those “well-born” or with “good” genes should be allowed to reproduce. This was a fancy way of controlling the Black population, which meant that at the center of eugenicists’ agenda were Black women.

“We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children.” 

Barbara Harris, Founder of Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK),
C. 1990

Although Erica and India are fictional characters, they represent the many actual women who experienced this form of lynching. In August 1964, the North Carolina Eugenics Board met to decide if a 20-year-old Black woman should be sterilized. 

She was a single mother with one child who lived at the segregated O’Berry Center for African American adults with intellectual disabilities in Goldsboro. According to the North Carolina Eugenics Board, the woman (whose name was redacted from the records) was said to exhibit “aggressive behavior and sexual promiscuity.” She had been orphaned as a child and had a limited education. The board determined she was not capable of rehabilitation.

Take My Hand also mentions The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972) and the Roe vs. Wade decision (‘73). You can tell by how Valdez brings it out that she fully intends to educate her readers on these events. As the characters are learning, so are we. 

The story opens in 2016 and is told from the perspective of an elderly Civil traveling back to Alabama to visit an adult but sick India. The story goes back and forth between 1973 and 2016.

This is a book about racism, sexism, classism, poverty, and white privilege.

But it is also a story of strength.

Although heartbreaking, I find the book well-written and historically accurate.

Ratings

Plot Movement / Strength: 5/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Do Black Lives Really Matter

blackprolife28Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in America. It has killed more black lives than AIDS, Cancer, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and even the entire Vietnam war. Planned Parenthood clinics loiter the black community. They are on every corner of many High Schools and College campuses but no one speaks out about this. Alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse and molestation plague the black community but no one speaks out about this. 70% of African American women are single and 42% have never married. This means that 70% of African American women are left alone and unprotected and 70% of black children grow up without fathers. Contrary to popular belief, father’s provide more to the household than just money. They provide not just financial stability, but protection, leadership, and guidance for our children. In fact, the state of the black man and woman relationship is worse today than it was over 50 years ago (and even during slavery. We were more communal as a people during slavery than we are today). In the 1960s, 40% of Blacks had their own businesses and 87% of black families were two-parent. Today, less than 7% of blacks own their own business and only 25% of black families are two-parent. But, no one talks about this. However, African Americans have been told over and over again what the problems are so this post is really not about that. This is not just about Slavery, Jim Crow, and Discrimination. This is about the revolution of self.

The African American community is in a state of spiritual crisis. We continue, as a community of people to fight for change in our community. We continue to vote in an attempt to change our political clout. We continue to march, to speak and to debate about the many changes that are necessary in this world; from education to discrimination, and from discrimination to gender equality. But while we seek to change everything around us, we have yet sought to change ourselves. We know what our problems are, but what we need at this point are solutions. Solutions that are deeper than government funded organizations, of protest marches and ballot boxes. You see a people cannot change anything around them if they cannot change first what is inside of them no matter what color they are. For, in the words of the African Proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you”. You see freedom is deeper than social-economics. Freedom is spiritual and spiritual freedom begins inside of the individual. To change the way that we live, we must first change the way that we think. Otherwise, if we continue to depend on outside sources to change our current conditions we will be marching for the next 50 years, while our sons blood cries out to us from the ground.

Movie Night Friday – MAAFA 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America

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Welcome back to another segment of Movie Night Friday, where I discuss some of my favorite movies (now coming to you bi-weekly) and why I love them.

 

Maafa21MAAFA is a Swahili term which means “tragedy or disaster” and is used to describe the centuries of global oppression of blacks during slavery, both before and after emancipation. While the number “21” refers to the continual oppression of blacks in the 21st century (though beginning in the 19th), which the film says is the disproportionately high rate of abortion among African Americans.

 

 

storyimage_maafa3Released on June 15, 2009, this is a movie that I have grown out of a bit, but that remains a great research piece far as black history goes. My most favorite reason for watching it (on occasion, though still one of my favs) is for its history on Planned Parenthood, Abortion, and the medical experimentation of blacks in general. The film highlights figures that indicate that abortion is the primary source of black depopulation, ranking higher than AIDS and Cancer combined. It discusses some of Planned Parenthood’s origins (formerly known as “The Negro Project” and “The American Birth Control League”), attributing to it a “150-year-old goal of exterminating the black population.” It traces Planned Parenthood’s roots back to Margaret Sanger, and further to include many famous birth control advocates, as racist eugenicists.

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It is also interesting that I often get this film and Harriet Washington’s “Medical Apartheid” mixed up. This movie reminds me so much of a film version of this book that I first titled this post “Medical Apartheid” before I noticed I was not recommending a book but a movie! I would highly suggest reading Washington’s book alongside this movie. Not only does it provide more information, but gives greater detail into the meaning and origin of Eugenics and how it became what we know today as the most common forms of Birth Control and also abortion. In short, the book compliments the movie very well.

Trailer:

You can watch MAAFA for free at its official website here.

You can also find it here on Documentary Addict. (that or just YouTube it)