Mourning a Child's Choice

In this excerpt from "Family Affair: What It Means to Be African-American Today," Rochelle Riley explains the lesson she learned when her daughter decided to drop out of college.


The idea for Family Affair: What it Means to be African American Today is one that I’ve been considering for years. The fundamental question of identity has always been a compelling issue for African Americans, so I wanted to create a project that provided a neutral environment for “us” to examine the grand contradictions, marginalization and grotesque lies that have been used to define who we are.

My primary goal for this project is to stimulate dialogue that will lead African Americans to construct healthy environments for our lives, families and communities.  The various voices featured throughout Family Affair reflect a variety of opinions, attitudes and beliefs that represent the foundational themes in the black community. Their stories will spark a revival that creates honest reflection about where we’ve been, who we are and where we’re going as a people. Think of it as a declaration of our humanity and also as an expression of the strength and resiliency of African-American people.  

Family Affair represents a 21st century idea that everyone can embrace. It addresses questions that every American—black, white, red, yellow and brown—have had to deal with at one time in their life’s journey.  The problem of race in America—and for that matter throughout the world—has always been about identity, and the value of that identity within our larger society. I sincerely hope that Family Affair breaks through issues to reveal the commonality that we all share. As cliché as it sounds, we are all God’s children, and despite our differences, it’s time that we accept that we are equal.

I invite you to read an excerpt taken from this book and become a part of the conversation.

—Gil L. Robertson IV

Chapter 14: Mourning a Child’s Choice

The “five stages of grief” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote of in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, were reactions to death—someone else’s, or one’s own. But Kubler-Ross’s process also applies to other kinds of tragedy. I went through each of these stages after being greeted with the news that my eighteen-year-old daughter had decided, after her freshman year, to drop out of college.