Well before Loving, Judge Marylin Atkins, who is multi-racial and raised by African American parents, married a White Roman Catholic priest. They had two daughters, Elizabeth Ann Atkins and Catherine Marie Atkins Greenspan. Both look white and identify as multi-racial and Black.
Mother and daughters joined Intercultural Spark to talk about what it means to defy society’s desire to confine them with labels. They also talked about their books–an autobiography for Marylin, young adult fiction with a multi-racial protagonist for Catherine. Elizabeth’s books include fiction and works on spirituality and women’s empowerment for Elizabeth.
- Judge Marylin Atkins, born to an Italian mom and a dad who was African American, was rejected by her Italian family and put into foster care. She was adopted by an African American family and raised culturally Black.
- She married a White, former Roman Catholic priest and they had two daughters, who look White and identify as bi-racial.
- The sisters created Two Sisters Writing and Publishing to publish the stories of voices heard less often. The started with their mom’s book, written at their urging, The Triumph of Rosemary. Catherine has written the Veronica Series of young adult fiction–somewhat autobiographical story of a pesky little sister who is bi-racial and coming of age. Elizabeth has written three novels (on co-authored with Billy Dee Williams!) and other pieces on spirituality. Together they pull together anthologies by authors who are Black, Indigenous, Older adults (and, don’t tell mom–they even have a series of erotica).
- Mom, or “Cap” as her family calls her (from Captain Steuben on The Love Boat) faced discrimination from White people for appearing Black. But also from Black people, for being fair skinned. Her daughters also navigated society’s judgements, influencing if, when, or how they would share their cultural identities depending on who they were with, or at times if they even felt in danger.
- As one person said in the comments: “That warrior woman spirit in Judge Atkins is reflected so beautifully in her two brilliant daughters.”
- Have things changed, since the girls were growing up? Says Elizabeth, “As long as mothers of black sons have to worry every time their child leaves the house, we don’t have equity.”
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