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Debbie Allen: 'Our Mom Moved Us To Mexico As Kids To Escape Segregation'
Over the last few years we’ve shared the stories of Black Americans leaving the United States for various reasons. Some left to “find themselves” others left to escape racial injustices.
In a very fun, yet refreshing Instagram live, sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad shared some of their favorite childhood memories. Among those memories was a story about their mother taking them to Mexico, to escape segregation.
It wasn’t clear how old Allen and Rashad were when they went, or even which city it was, but the story was very powerful.
“Our mother was the true renaissance woman, ahead of her time always,” Allen shared. “Sometimes that was not the best place to be in because she was progressive, and always pushing her children.”
Allen and Rashad’s mother eventually grew tired of the racial segregation happening in the United States at the time, and decided to take her children to Mexico to see “something new.”
“This is something I always say to parents, take your children with you wherever you go. No matter how difficult it is. That’s how Phylicia and I have become who we are.”
The sister’s described the experience as eye-opening, despite not knowing the language at the time. But it eventually led Rashad to study Spanish and other languages.
“Mommy always told us that we were children of the universe, and we had no boundaries,” Allen explained. “Once we got to Mexico, we were able to see it.”
The sisters truly feel that this experience shaped them to become the women they are today. And if you know like we know, both Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad are legends.
“We were someplace where being Black was beautiful long before anyone clinched and raised a fist,” Rashad recalled. “We would walk down the street and people would say “Aye negrita.” At the time we didn’t know how to take it because of our conditioning and living in segregation all of our lives. Over time, we realized it was admiration for the color of our skin and the texture of our hair. They saw it for what it is, beauty.”
Rashad goes on to explain that learning Spanish helped her to secure her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, because Bill Cosby specifically wanted a partner who was bilingual.
The sisters shared many more memories throughout the 45-minute conversation. You can view the full convo here. (Mexico conversation happens around the 12:30 mark).