ftentimes when African-Americans are tracing their family history, we find that it can be difficult or next to impossible to fully discover our family’s lineage. Without knowing from where we came, we can't possibly have a chance of moving forward.
To fill that missing piece within her own family, native Detroiter Sheila McCauley Keys took it upon herself to document her family's history and memories of her aunt, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, for her two sons and four grandkids — and for a reading audience.
"One of the motivating forces for me was to keep her legacy alive and keep her memory alive for them, because they did not have a chance to meet her," McCauley Keys tells BLAC. "It was a way for our family to grieve her loss and share the memory of her life with the public."
McCauley Keys was in fourth grade when she saw a picture of her Aunt Rosa in a history book. The other students in the class didn't believe her when she pointed it out. It wasn’t until high school when she realized the true impact that her aunt had made.
Aside from being an iconic figure in the civil rights movement, McCauley Keys says her aunt was a gentle and wise soul that taught the next generation to use their voice and position to stand up against injustices and inhumane treatment. In Our Auntie Rosa, McCauley Keys co-writes alongside Metro Detroit writer Eddie B. Allen, Jr. to capture some of these intimate family moments she and her relatives fondly remember.
"I want the readers to know what a wonderful experience it was living and growing up around Rosa Parks," Keys says. "Our aunt was very soft-spoken but stern. When she said something, she meant what she said and did not raise her voice. She was just a wonderful present and still is."
McCauley Keys says she is currently working on a second book that delves further into her family's history, name and lineage, projected to be completed by 2017.