An ad­vo­cate out­side of her race

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

Re­gard­ing the June 16 front-page ar­ti­cle “Broad ques­tions about race af­ter res­ig­na­tion”:

My mother, the late Betty Parry, was a poet and a pro­moter of African Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gentsia. She was a white, blond, wealthy Hun­gar­ian Jew from For­est Hills who, be­gin­ning in the late 1940s when she was a so­cial worker in New York, be­gan to iden­tify with black Amer­i­cans, most no­tably through the words of Langston Hughes and Paul Robe­son.

Lo­cally, my mother was on the ad­vi­sory board for the Duke Elling­ton School of the Arts, which brought her great joy, es­pe­cially when tal­ented African Amer­i­can stu­dents em­braced the literary arts. In the early 1980s, she con­cep­tu­al­ized, or­ga­nized and led the ground­break­ing pro­gram “In the Shadow of the Capi­tol: An Experiment in Col­lec­tive Mem­ory” at the Folger Shake­speare Li­brary to celebrate the African Amer­i­can in­tel­lec­tual com­mu­nity in the Dis­trict.

There was al­most nowhere she was afraid to visit to en­joy or pro­mote the arts. The rest of her fam­ily wor­ried that she was reck­less in trust­ing that she was never en­dan­gered on her for­ays into worlds far re­moved from Chevy Chase.

She did not try to ap­pear to be African Amer­i­can, but she made a con­tri­bu­tion to African Amer­i­can cul­ture. As she ex­plained in one of her po­ems, “what­ever we want we can be.”

John Parry, Sil­ver Spring

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