By Nigel Peace-Branch
One African American who has made more of an impact on my life than any other is my late grandfather Devlaming Atwood Peace Sr. My maternal grandfather passed on November 3rd of 2019 at the age of 80 and in these subsequent months my life has changed dramatically. I can say without a doubt that his death has been the greatest hardship I have ever endured. He was my pastor, my teacher, and my guide at times; And although people say this is a relationship that parental authority should avoid having with their children, he was my friend. His influence on my upbringing and on the man, I aspire to be is constantly helping me to make better, smarter decisions in my day to day life.
I remember being younger and my Grandad seemed to be so busy and yet still always around. He almost never missed an event in the lives of myself and my two brothers in all the time I knew him. Even sometimes making his way out to events or other things that my childhood friends were involved in. He wanted us to know he supported us and supported all of our dreams no matter what it was we said we wanted to do. But he also made sure to remind us of the work it would take to achieve those dreams. He would help us in any way he possibly could, but it would take our own work for us to be successful. Today I definitely think that.
A lot of times people look at me and immediately think “silver spoon light-skinned kid”, knowing nothing about me at all. They assume my life has been peachy from birth and I never wanted for anything. As people, and more importantly as Black people, we want so badly for our children to have better lives than we do. We would never want them to have to go through any of the same struggles we did whether it be financially or societally, which is why it confuses me so badly to see black people respond adversely when another Black man or woman achieves that thing we all want. Everything I have today comes from the work my Grandparents have been doing for their entire lives. From my Grandmother working as a maid in the houses of more fortunate people and picking cotton as a sharecropper, to my Grandfather working day and night on houses and learning as much as he could so he wouldn’t have to pay anyone to do things like fix his car or his plumbing. What I have is the product of just a few determined Black people wanting more for their children like we all do. Black people frequently talk down to and about each other for having things, and if we’re ever going to rise together as a people, then we’re gonna have to realize that this is one of the things we do that causes us to hold ourselves back. I think learning how to support and be happy for each other when some of us begin to draw nearer to the goal should be near the top of our list of things to do better as a people.
The concept of hard work has been fresh in my mind since my Grandad has been gone, simply because he was one of the hardest workers I had ever seen in my short life. He always made sure that we were taken care of no matter what. Even now we say he is still taking care of us, and in many ways he is. Hearing stories about his life from Uncles and Aunts to just people he helped during his life always makes me feel two things. One being that it feels great to know how serious he was about his family being taken care of, and the other being that I have to figure out how to work as hard as he did. One summer he took me and my older brother out for a few days to help him paint a house he was selling. It was a nice little job for two kids to learn how to work. I never realized how much I had actually learned just from painting part of a wall with my brother, and almost getting fired because we were playing around with the paint.
Finally, I think the most important thing my Grandfather taught me was forgiveness. During the grieving process in the days following his passing, we came to more and more knowledge than we had ever had access to of the wrongs that were done to my Grandfather in the years leading up to his death. As the Pastor of our church, so much had happened to him at the hands of people my parents had trusted enough to help raise my brothers and I, and it was extremely hard to find out even more of how much evil some of those people had in their hearts. These things we continued to learn started to change me on the inside and turn me into a person who was unfamiliar to me, but necessary to my new agenda, which was taking vengeance for my own. I was fully prepared to remind all these people of who they had betrayed, and make them feel just as terrible as I felt having to grieve someone so close to me. I knew I was as wrong as I could possibly be, but at the time I didn’t care, until I was reminded of the miraculous way Grandad forgave these people. It was not at all easy, but he did it without any malice in his heart and without any grudges held against them. I knew it would not be easy for me either but I had to try harder to forgive than I ever had before. The pain inside was worse than any personal wrong ever done against me, simply knowing that my kind old Grandad was treated so poorly by people he had done nothing but help. But through God and determination I was able to throw away all the things that if they would have stayed in my heart, they would have eventually eaten me alive. And today I’m able to smile because of that forgiveness.
In conclusion, I don’t have much to say other than that my Grandfather is still teaching me things even in death. A long time ago he told me to read the book of Proverbs, he said it was a good book for a young man to learn from. I have not done it quite yet but I’m sure that when I do I will find something I need. He was very much a teacher to me in more ways than one. He taught me hard work first and foremost. The way he provided for us taught me things about our people, and in his peaceful death he taught me some of the greatest forgiveness I’ve ever seen. I hyphenated my name to Peace-Branch, and got a tattoo of a Peace symbol in his favorite color to honor him. And I plan on letting the rest of my life be an example of the things