Yvonne Orr-El and Kimberley Rudd
DescriptionYvonne Orr-El (48) talks to her friend Kimberley Rudd (51) about the impact that her revolutionary parents have had on her life. She shares how she found the truth under layers of family secrets, how her activism looks, and the importance of "thriving instead of just surviving life."
Subject Log / Time Code
- Yvonne Orr-El
- Kimberley Rudd
Recording LocationChicago Cultural Center
StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
00:02 My name is Yvonne oral and I am 48 years old. I'm here on a Saturday March 10th at the Chicago Cultural Center. Here is my dearest sister friend Mentor inspirer motivational person Kimberly Rudd. Hi, I'm Kimberly Rudd. I'm 48 3 years ago and kind.
00:30 And today's date is Saturday March 10th. We're in Chicago and I'm here with the most artistic free-spirited Every Woman person. I know Yvonne or
00:46 So Yvonne, where are you born? And where did you grow up?
00:52 So I was born in Ontario Toronto Canada and I grew up in the Morgan Park area just on the other side of the seemingly break-in middle-income railroad tracks of Beverly Toronto to Morgan Park. That's interested very well. Tell us a little bit about your mom. How how are you born to a mother in Toronto? Well, my mom was raised in the Morgan Park area to Eddie Mack major Junior and queen Easter May who sometimes has been mistakenly referred to as Esther, but she was born on an Easter Sunday. So they named her Queen Easter and her and my grandfather relocated from Birmingham, Alabama right after she graduated from madam CJ Walker beauty academy and my granddad came here.
01:52 Where to start his accounting architectural business but could not get into any schools to study architect. So he became a CPA was one of the co-founders of the Markham Park Credit Union. They bought a nice modest home that he actually designed and built in Morgan Park. And so that's how my mom came to be born in Chicago me being born in Ontario is a layered story at the time. She was a high-ranking officer of the Chicago Black Panther Party and they were expecting and hearing that there was going to be a raid on the headquarters targeting a number of the high-ranking officers and she being one of them and pregnant with me at the age of 19 having graduated from high school at sixteen done with school at University of Illinois Chicago campus at 19 decided to defect to Canada so that I can be bought.
02:51 I'm safely which obviously I'm here. I was ye her and then shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, there was a raid on the Chicago Black Panther Party headquarters to which Fred Hampton senior was killed. So from there we went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because they're still was a number of warrant out for her arrest for her involvement with the Black Panther Party and I was there for about five years before she actually left to return home and her parents welcome her back into the home that they had kicked her out of for being the Revolutionary and I was there with my father Delbert or who at the time it been introduced to The Move Organization. He actually started out as a name.
03:45 Dishonorably discharged Air Force
03:50 Soldier if you will and then they actually changed it back to an honorable discharge. I had no idea about Revolution or anyting he was just pretty much a very handkerchief Guy. Mom mom put it and so she introduced him to the movement and the revolution so when he was introduced to move and Philadelphia really piqued his interest he was very much attuned to their philosophy of in today's modern terms all life matter. So I was actually home for summer visiting my mom because my father was Raising me at the time and I was 9 when there was a raid on the Move Organization in 78, so that's how I came home. Let me interrupt you to ask a question to do so was your father a member of the Black Panther Party or he met your mom after she sort of
04:43 Became more of an independent revolutionary. So my mom was very well ensconced in the Black Panther Party at the time in Chicago. Very actually good friends with Angela Davis hints mine named Bank Yvonne. I'm named after her middle name. I was actually born as Malika Yvonne and my mom decided that she wanted me to have a modicum of a chance and getting ahead and change my name from the more African oriented Malika to evine so my dad met her at a party and thought she was pretty cute. What a cute smile and came up with a very cornball way of introducing himself and she asked him. What is he doing about the Revolution and he didn't know what you was talkin about. So it was from there that even sparked his interest in doing something related to civil rights. And so that became the impetus for him becoming involved with The Move Organization.
05:45 So you were being raised by your dad in Philly and you were with him when you are 9 years old and what happened? He decided that I needed to see my mom and so I came home for the summer. I came here about the second week of June to see my mom and grandparents and meet my godparents. And you know, it was a very somber visit because my mother's father had recently passed in 76. So my dad just thought it best that I spent an entire summer with her versus just coming home for like two week periods. And when I was getting ready to go back is when my mom finally told me you're not going back. I was home school pretty much all my life until 9 and she told me I couldn't go back because that my father had been arrested and would be in jail for a very long time. So I should just kind of forget about it.
06:45 Did you learn early on why he was arrested and why he was going to be in jail, or was that kept a secret from you for a while? It was kept a secret from me by his mother as well as my mom until I came to them after having read up on it. And at that time there was no internet there wasn't Google so I contacted a number of my Conoco lights and uncles on that are considered his move brothers and sisters to see what had happened and they explained it to me. So I pretty much kind of confronted my mom and his mom to ask why they didn't tell me and they just said that I couldn't go back there and he couldn't take care of me anymore. So when I was 13, I finally convinced them to go and let me visit him in prison.
07:35 So what led to him being arrested in going to prison solely His affiliation with Move Organization. They had had a lot of conflicts with the police. They had FBI.
07:50 Surveillance, if you will at the time and just a very kind of on Vanguard way of life and way of being so they believed in communal living they believe that all life matters. I don't believe in taking a life and then they are very much what we consider to be off grid. So they believe in raising their own they don't agree with pesticides and hormonal antibiotics infused into our food. They believe in taking care of your own educating your own and self-sufficiency on your own so very much against how we today operate as a governmental system. So there was no paying of taxes they bought their home outright doing manual labor for area neighbors companies things of the like
08:41 So at this point he has been in jail for 40 years old year house, but he's going to part of your life for all 40 years. Yes very much. So and I know I know that you know, there are children out there who have parents in prison who they are expired and they don't talk about it. They they feel like it might give them.
09:08 I don't know might make them the the butt of teasing, you know, I'm talking about small children, but you your kids have always known that their grandfather is in prison, right? Yes. Well, we we think of it a little bit differently, but we definitely can identify with those that are in prison for criminal activity. So my father is one of a group of people called the move 9, so it was nine men and women that were incarcerated for 30 to 100 years for a number of offences namely one because unfortunately a police officer lost his life that day. However, that being said there were no weapons or anything found on the site, so
09:53 To be a political prisoner in today's age is a little bit different especially in this particular country. It's not something we talked about a lot outside of what happened back in the 70. So because he's been such a huge fabric of my life. And now that my mother has passed on the only parent that I have remaining. He's always been very much confused input from behind bars as to how I was raised. He likes me to say that I was raised with purpose in to be assimilated part of society. So they wanted me to be very well-rounded to know multiple languages to do research and it's just been a very enjoyable experience. I'll be at 9, you know, my favorite experience. Of course, I would want my father here in my children to know their grandfather in person and then a lot of restrictions on political prisoners namely
10:53 What we know of mumia abu-jamal who was a journalist covering that organization and then viciously maligned for being associated with the organization and hence, you know, one of our number one well-renowned persons on death row at this time. It's just hard to talk about it in years later in 85 when there was a fire bomb dropped on their headquarters with the number of people being killed including my sister baby sister. It's just been a very difficult way of being family, but we make it work.
11:31 My sister's name as we refer to it is murder Child Number 7, but her name was Shania.
11:44 So would you say that you have felt free to talk about this?
11:51 Help if a web that has always told a girl that you that's been with you or have you ever felt that you needed to be silenced about it to keep things a little closer to the vet. Especially since in the in the origins you are 9 year old who was just told you can't go back to the place. You knew was home and it took your own resourcefulness over the course of a few years to figure out what was really keeping you from going back. Well it it's it's been
12:22 A weave fabric of how do I love my father? How can I be loved by my father? When his own being my mom and his mom were very much.
12:35 Like forget about it and there's so much about me that is of him because of our DNA and because he was always such a significant part of my life that I have been the one to verbally say to you know, my mom at the time his mom anyone that will listen that I will have a relationship with my father regardless of what you're saying to me. So obviously I've had some type of issues at different points with authority because I was not allowed to write him. I was not allowed to go visit him and would do so anyway and then even with the current penal system at times they would open his mail or not deliver letters to him. He was in solitary confinement at one point for seven and a half years so I could not see him and then equally when he got out they transferred him to a prison in California, and we never knew where he got trained.
13:35 Her too. But again, my mother would not keep me abreast of different things related to move. So I had to stay very tight to my move family and Philadelphia to keep abreast of what was going on with my father. Where is he now? He is at the SEI Dallas prison in Dallas, Pennsylvania. Is he is he a federal prisoner? He is a federal prison. Are you a Maximum Security Prison ER?
14:06 Old prisoner at this point and so ironically they weren't eligible the move 9 was not eligible for parole until their 30th year and prisoner. So I believe that was 2005 and every year even inclusive of more recently. They all came up for parole. They're all instantly denied. There are supposed focus groups and community service at say they are threat to society. But with some of them being feeble two of them having died. I can't foresee how that's possible. So he hasn't had any infractions in 23 years. He has a myriad of certificates different levels of degrees business Acumen a plan upon his parole, but yet and still he got a five-year hit which means he won't be eligible for parole again for another 5 years.
15:01 So do you identify as the daughter of revolutionaries? I do you do. I think it's pretty cool and tell me more about that. Well, I think it gives me a certain cultural perspective and an in-depth upfront in your face kind of way of understanding what black nationalism Revolution actually until much more than father or reading it in a book or whatever they choose to inform us about in our schools. And then I think it also kind of broaden my perspective on how I look at Humanity in society today, you know, it's saddening, but I also know that I can make a difference and so being raised by two strong individuals that taught me and nurtured and me that I do have the ability to change the world, you know, almost kind of like one Pebble at a time. I think it just gives me a unique Outlook.
16:00 How do you how do you feel about today's Young activists? What era were talking about like the Parkland kids these 13 and 14 15 year olds were speaking up or I'm spacing on her name but the the young woman who climbed the flagpole in North Carolina to take down the Confederate flag. Like do you think to yourself I could do that too, or I would have done that or I'll let you know. Do you feel a kinship to their form of activism? I feel a kinship in knowing that because of the nature of the laws of our country that they're even allowed to express themselves. I feel like kinship and being very proud of them for going a step further and actually using their voice. I do not feel a kinship like that would have been me because again, I was raised to go along with the phrase so that I can be more informed observant and use it.
17:00 Not necessarily for gain, but to be very much aware of the nature of our country and our society and laws and how the justice system works how the legal system works how long for cement truly work so I would not have been the one to climb the flagpole to remove the Confederate flag, but I would have been the one to very much petition and pursue changing the law that allows for the Confederate flag to be up.
17:31 I think so. So you're saying your activism perhaps would not have been more visual or out there up front in your face. Your activism would be more at the systemic change the policy change level to write. So I'm more along the lines of someone at 6 to change infrastructure so that it is fair and Humane much more so than it is. I'm trying to climb a flagpole, but that's mostly just because as a child, I was pretty much a tomboy climb trees hop trees even and ended up with a very lengthy Branch through my kneecap now told me from that experience. Okay, you and climbing will not happen. So maybe if I wouldn't have Ranch to my kneecap, I probably would have been the one on flagpole but since that instance at a very young age and now won't be climbing but besides aside from the physical part of it sounds like you're saying to that you were raised your parents.
18:31 Your mom in particular maybe wanted you to be behind intellectual and behind the scene behind the scenes. He had learned early. She was up out front and she's witness would have went to Fred Hampton like he was out front and he witnessed what happened to himself and his friends and so they wanted you two to take a different route, right and that the time keep in mind. There are a lot of
18:58 Black leaders that were being killed. So if you protested voting rights if you protested civil liberties, if you protested feminism, well the lack thereof right? Then you were subject to be killed or in a quote-unquote type of accident and so because of the risk that were taken for me to be born, you know, I wasn't born in a hospital wasn't born by traditional means even down to my umbilical cord my mom chewed it off. So that is very Dynamic my mom shoot it there's nothing we were by was born on the side of a lake in the grass because she was in hiding so there no scissors. There's no tools. There's nothing it's just me and my mom and nature and however that works with babies being born and so
19:53 I never made it to a hospital, you know, they burn the edges of my umbilical cord so that it would heal properly and that's from her old school Southern mother, you know the taught her Herbal Remedies, so it was non-traditional from the outset.
20:12 And you know, I'm used to your non traditionalism. I mean it would you say that that's that has inspired your whole life that non-traditional start because you have a very non-traditional life what I found a way that it has yet. I can't say that it has because I actually during my first marriage. My husband came home one time just stupefied and asked me why I had never told him how I had been born and I told him because I didn't know and I know you know, my mom told them, you know, they were besties anyway cast some Secrets my mom kept secrets for quite a long time and even to her deathbed. So I asked her I might have been in 42 when I found out how was born for my mom. So all that time. I'm thinking, you know, I was born like the rest of you and the hospital with doctors and midwives.
21:12 I see no, maybe because of the time midwives never knowing the circumstances. And even the first time I got my passport was 2001 and I got denied my passport because my birth certificate was issued when I was 16 years old. I do recall coming home saying I went to Whitney on and they told me that I would not be able High School Whitney M young Magnet High School same school as the former First Lady Michelle Obama, but they told me that I would not be able to return to school without a birth certificate and it kind of gave me flashbacks of wanting to go to school and asking why I couldn't and she's the first of all you need to tell people you were born in Chicago and stop telling people you're born in Canada that what that's what you told me. She said what now, you're born in Chicago was just weird and you know, she said don't worry about it. I was in tears. She said you'll have your birth certificate and she gave me a piece of paper the next day.
22:12 Play and I took it to school and they said thank you. Hun. That was the last of it until I apply for a passport in 2001 and was told you no number one. Your birth certificate was issued too late. You need somebody else to confirm it and then number two is just weird that there's no other record of you, but that and so I got my social security number and my birth certificate at age 16 and did not know until my mother passed in 2014 that she created them.
22:50 I know look a lot is coming out to danker.
22:54 I Will Follow that it was legitimate, you know, and so right now I'm in the process of working with the Canadian embassy in the US Embassy so that because now my passport is about to expire and I can't get a reissued unless she completes another affidavit, but she has gone on Rio in that affidavit was when I found out everything, you know, birth circumstances her warrants the realtor association with the Chicago Black Panther Party all of that and so the simple thing would be like all just get your dad to write it since you still have her hair and I'm alive, but if you are in a federal prison, then yeah your affidavit doesn't really matter just like you can't vote. So searching for people still alive that were aware of how I was born and where I was born into certify.
23:51 Has been challenging.
23:54 And really sees this might have been avoided at that fewer Secrets been kept have had more been talked about right had I known How Deeply wounded my mom was from her experience of her civil liberties and rights being taken away and the challenges even within the Black Panther Party, then I'll probably would have had a deeper understanding of the woman that raised me at 19 was a child. I mean, you're 40 years ago. She must have been traumatic for her and she had documented. First of all, she was a Mensa member. So I do think prophetically that people that are certified Geniuses are pretty special and then also,
24:54 Have a lot going on in your mind. So it might be challenging and I think that plus her always being wary of.
25:03 Law enforcement the judicial system because of her own circumstances, but certainly also because of my father's she just held a lot of Secrets and on layering them and unveiling them from 2014 to date has just been a wonderful journey of discovery.
25:23 Change gears just a little bit. I want to ask you how have you experienced racism?
25:30 An end would you connect that if you experience racism, do you connected entirely to the background of your parents or have you experienced it separate from being the daughter of revolutionaries or mine has been separate because I started out I went to University of Chicago lab school for a. Of time and was one of
25:58 Two blacks and one African student and that particular program. It was teased daily from my teeth to my lips to my color to my hair. I used to have my lunch stolen all the time. So in today's terms I was bullied and my mom gave me a Snoopy lunch box one day and she made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cut Mickey Mouse ears, you know into it and I just thought I'm pretty special. And so this particular day I beg the same students that used to tease me still my lunch. Please just don't take my lunch, you know, not today. And so one of the young ladies basically stop not only my brand new Snoopy lunch by but you know, obviously my peanut butter and jelly sandwich got smashed and I was enraged and so that was my first real recognition that you've not only been bullied but that I've been a victim of racism so being called spook a lot.
26:57 Mom turn that into one of my nicknames to this day is spooky spots, you know when she said it was spooky spots because of my moles I have moles out of your age and you know, there's nothing spooky about it. Just trying to make light of the situation and so ultimately she pulled me out of school and I was home-schooled until Beasley academic center was built and she finally decided I can return to school then not very much one for the school environment. So that was my entree into it since then. It's been more so so I might have the same position in or not even nowhere near the same salary as a counterpart. I might have more education more experience and there are still times where I'm not invited to a meeting or I'm not told about something and then I'm written up for not attending for something that I was unaware of another instance when I was in between positions was constantly sending different thing.
27:57 And ultimately be in interview for article called whitening the resume because I got a plethora of interviews and second callbacks. Once I took out a lot of the references to the black things on my resume as in the actual University I went to which is a historically black college and university Hampton University proud to say it now and just being overlooked and not praised. I've been in Senior Team meetings where everyone is introduced but me and I'll skip over me and then I might say something about it. I've been in positions where I've been here for years and my name is misspelled or not having a name tag at all when those in positions both higher the same or lower than me. Everything is all together. I've been in situations where ironically everyone but me has
28:57 Lunch and they forgot that I was coming. So I say that's science of hitting racism, you know have nothing to do with who raised me or their circumstances season, so
29:11 If it has nothing to do, if course it has nothing to do with who raised you or their circumstances but has your reaction to that had something to do with who raised you there at their wanting you to be on the other side the systemic side the change think the changing side. Is that affected how you reacted to those?
29:34 I'm not quite sure. I'm in like a reversal situation at this particular age. So I didn't have acne. I got acne now. I know and I didn't I've never really had an anger management issue, but I do find that with our current way of being collectively I get angrier by the day that we are allowing some of the things that are happening systemically to continue to occur with the wee wee meaning Humanity people no matter their race or ethnicity and that there are some in justices and I don't even believe it or not include my father in that there are some in justices that just simply should stop being allowed to occur First Amendment rights or not, you know, it is not right that someone of a different ethnicity is beating, you know, just because they're a different ethnicity. I think hey.
30:33 Crimes are deplorable and I think they should not be allowed to occur.
30:43 Yeah, that's a lot. So have you have you found yourself being a part of what feels like the surgeon conversations about race, you know, there are lots of places that are now taking on diversity equity and inclusion in a real upfront way. I'm trying to if if not solve the problem at least addressed in the workplace or in the academic space. So have you found yourself being invited to these conversations either formally or just kind of informally we have an opportunity to hear from someone who thinks something that you think something about you or a group of people like you were you haven't had an opportunity to talk with him about to try to change their minds.
31:33 So I think that
31:36 All things happen for a reason I think all change is good and
31:42 From an informal and formal perspective. I've been invited to different types of conversations because of my father sometimes because of my mother and their organizational affiliations, but from an informal perspective, I've always been outspoken and very fervent and making sure that they know that something should not be allowed out. So I have been a part of the Catalyst to jumpstart some diversity initiatives and different organizations that I work for. I used to work for the Chicago Police Department and helped write the pilot program for what we know as our community policing program caps and was asked to come back at their 10-year anniversary to look at what's different now that it's from 7 communities 225 and how do we regroup to have law enforcement and Community working together? So that's like from a formal aspect and I
32:43 Opening up and having dialogue. I'm certified in restorative justice and appreciative inquiry and Community organizing. It is the lack of disclosure and transparency. I think that keeps us from moving forward in the manner that we should collectively
33:00 Compassionately is the lack of transparency and disclosure this washer so
33:08 It's not enough to just say, you know.
33:12 Police are brutalizing us or as African-Americans or police don't care, you know, because I know many people that I love deeply that are wonderful representatives of law enforcement. It's not enough to label and stereotype the way that we do subconsciously unconsciously or with purpose throughout the media. So for every story of a young black male being arrested or committing a crime there's equally a story of you know, young black male being successful in doing something phenomenal invention wise or academically or helping out in the community and it's just not displayed as much, you know, equitably across the board and I blame us as leaders in adults. I don't even know that everybody thinks it there a liter.
34:08 Do you think everyone is a leader I do I think everyone has it in their fearlessly and I don't think that we should look to someone to just simply be our spokesperson or I'm you know, where the black leaders now. What are they doing? What are you doing? You know, what are we doing? What am I doing? And so very conscious and cognizant and infusing even into my children that you know, you have to do for others in order to really live and Thrive and very much interested in thriving versus just simply surviving life too much at our disposal to share and discover with each other just like we're discovering today. We've been knowing each other for 30 years write something like that.
34:58 Yes. Yes. I have known you for 30 years while something like that. I don't know. It's been a long time. It's been a long time and I would say most of the time when we get together, there is there is some disclosure happening there something that is being shared. There's some transparency. That's that's taking place where we get to if not about ourselves about the rest of our sister Circle we get to learn something so in closing
35:29 Say a little bit more about the importance of sharing. We we belong to a group that has as part of its name the word sharing right, right. So in the in the spirit of encouraging people to talk and to be transparent in to disclose that see if you can on the spot as a daughter of revolutionaries come up with a nice closing comment about the importance of opening oneself up and sharing of oneself.
36:00 So for me the most difficult part of being transparent is to have courage and being vulnerable and to not feel weekend and that vulnerability hard conversations must be had they invoke feelings of hurt of disappointment of our inability to transform and create progression and create healthier stronger communities. And so I think that would be the hardest part to utilize the fear to catapult listen to these hard shared conversations to talk more especially as African-Americans about what mental health has done to our community and what we can do about it to talk more about inequities in schools and demand that our schools be different or create our own school systems so that we have equity and what
37:00 Our children are taught. There are some of us that just became woke as you say and you know the aftermath of wakanda and you know, the movie Black Panther and so, you know, very proud that I Infuse cultural aspects into my children's knowledge base so that they have a full awareness of their greatness and I don't think that enough of us are telling each other. I think you are great Kimberly and I don't think enough of us really believe inside of our souls that we are great. And I think everybody should have their own quote and Mantra that inspires them about
37:38 Thank you. Great. Queen Easter's great-granddaughter evolve fry granny and granddaughter.