Cheryl Wills Discusses Genealogy and Black History at Harlem Liberation School

Poster of "Die Free" -Cheryl Wills book on grandfather

Good evening, my readers. On this last Monday in March, I attended an event sponsored by the Harlem Liberation School. For those who may not have heard of them, the Harlem Liberation School is a group that has been hosting a number of events at Raw Space. It is coordinated by Agyei Tyehimba.  Tonight, they hosted NY1 anchor Cheryl Wills to speak on empowering Black women.

Wills is the author of two books: Die Free- A Heroic Family Tale and The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills. “Die Free” is about her grandfather who fought in the Civil War. The second book is a children’s book that addresses the same subject matter, but for the youth in a different fashion.  In the presentation, Wills referred to the documents she found while researching her family history. Her desire to know the meaning of last name is part of the motivation. Cheryl discussed the importance of knowing who you are to move more effectively through all of your endeavors.

An accomplished journalist, Cheryl has also done much to reach the youth of NYC. In hearing her discuss presentations about her book to children in different schools across New York City, it’s apparent that to Cheryl it’s about teaching the next generation. Our history has to be made real, and like Cheryl said in her talk, it is not a mere footnote. It’s not about the typical approach to history where we encourage children to memorize names, facts and dates, but looking at how learning about your family’s past can bolster your self definition. Which will in turn, result in some cases a change in how you carry yourself. Especially in an environment where the hostility is very much there. There is some value in that approach.

Connecting the past to the present, Cheryl noted that we were called names then and are still being called names now. “Do you believe the names that they are calling you?” , posed rhetorically to a crowded room. On a windy Monday evening in Harlem, Cheryl Wills came out to teach and inspire us to delve into genealogy to unearth our greatness.

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