Sharing our paths to and through the course: Why are we here? What are we learning?
Nichole Fromm, a librarian and participant in the African American History Course, points to a “confluence of personal and professional” experiences that underpin her deep commitment to the challenging content of the course.
“I’ve lived in Madison for the last 20 years. I was born in Milwaukee 42 years ago. My dad was in the Army Reserve, so we moved around a bit when I was a kid. And that exposed me to lots of different types of communities.”
“There is a lot going on related to my interest in understanding about race and the history of racism in America. My interest has been increasing exponentially in the last few years. As I go back, though, I can find ways that all of my experience and interest has built on itself. So being in this Black History course is key to the development of my awareness.”
As a public librarian, social justice, access to information and literacy are at the core of Nichole’s profession. Interwoven with her life as a librarian, is her personal path, another stream that has led her to this course. In 2009, as she and her husband began to navigate the adoption system, she found herself confronted by another troubling dimension of racism.
“You get into social issues very quickly, issues of race and racism in the adoption industry and that landscape. [Those issues] were really challenging for me. That’s where it became personal. I knew that the system had racism in it, and I had no tools to navigate it without messing up in a big way.”
As Nichole has struggled to take in and make use of the striking issues of the racism she has encountered in considering cross-racial adoption, Reverend Gee’s insights into life in Madison for people of color have helped her understand why she has been so troubled. Rev. Gee’s honest descriptions of what it is like to be a black person in Madison directly address what was making Nichole so disturbed about bringing a child of color into her home in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but inviting a child of color? To come here? When I didn’t know necessarily that I had any tools (a) to be a parent and (b) to parent cross-racially? It’s no wonder I felt so unsettled and so unsure.”
“Well if this is going to be what I want to do with my life, I need to do a lot of work on myself, and not just at that level but also professionally, and look into the systemic parts.
Nichole is committed to keep growing.
Nichole found new clarity as she listened to Lilada Gee’s words (on Reverend Gee’s podcast):
“I’m tired of white people taking our children.”
“Yeah. I get it!”
She’s here “to keep growing.”
This article was authored and edited by Cecilia Ford with interview participation by Nichole Fromm.