By Teresa R. Hernandez
Nonfiction: Space Between the Stars My Journey to an Open Heart
Published by: The Random House
Author: Deborah Santana
Deborah Santana’s memoir conveys a peek into the life of a biracial female who grew up in San Francisco in the 1960’s. It also highlights specific, personal first hand accounts of racial discrimination experienced by her grandparents and parents in the United States before the Civil Rights Movement. Her first novel focuses on her personal journey through life and the spiritual challenges she encountered along the way.
Her parents an outspoken Irish American woman Jo Frances married Saunder King an African American, Blues performer best known for his song “SK Blues.” In the 1940’s when Saunders and Jo Frances married, the Jim Crow laws were terrible. “When Mom and Dad married, interracial marriage was illegal in California. They drove to Seattle to marry.” Her parents were legally denied the right to marry in 1947 because they were not the same race. According to Deborah “They were vilified and hated for loving each other, yet they chose to stand in their love. I find my parents’ convictions and courage remarkable, and tell their story, with mine, as a symbol of thousands of people who are willing to fight to liberate us all.”
Deborah King Santana has a strong conviction to advocate for social justice and to fight discrimination. Her father, Saunders King had endured discrimination as a Blues performer in El Paso, Texas. “I had almost been shot in El Paso when the sheriff called me off a Greyhound bus because I wasn’t sitting in the back.” There was another time “when they stretched a rope down the center of the dance floor. It was in Tennessee. Nashville, Tennessee.” Deborah relates how her father would not allow the “Southern fools to separate whites from Negroes” in the clubs he played. “I don’t play to segregated audiences. Never have. Never will.”
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Deb-orah recalls “I ran to my room, the TV image of Dr. King lying on the ground scorched my eyes. I had never suffered the tortuous racism of the South, never had to ride in the back of the bus unless I wanted to; but I had seen sneers and stares of hatred because of our family’s mixed color.”
Her paternal grandmother, an African American who had migrated from Louisiana to California, was shot in the stomach during Sunday morning worship in Oroville, California by white ranchers. The ranchers had burned down the first church. Later they fired shotguns into the second church. Her grandmother survived. The family then moved to Oakland, California and began to construct a new church on Seventh Street “where the black community welcomed all races to worship.”
When Deborah was in the third grade at San Miguel Elementary School, a group of older girls hissed at her as she passed by they taunted and bullied Deborah by mocking her with these words: “Your mama’s as white as day and your daddy’s as black as night.” Deborah conveys the pain and fear she experienced that day on the playground. “The whole day I careened through space, unable to stop trembling, feeling as though I were spinning round and round.” She was terrified by her tormentors. “I felt like those kids were going to beat me up because of my parents’ skin color.”
Deborah Santana never forgot what those children said to her. That moment in time “tainted how I looked at the world and taught me how the world looked at me.” She reconfirms that “The violence confirmed white America’s objection to my heritage. I sought to make my biracial identity an asset to my philosophy of life, to rise above the perception that it was a negative.”
Today, Deborah Santana is vice president and COO of the New Santana Band, Inc. Deborah has owned and managed a restaurant, a corporation, and has supported non profit organizations. She is a philanthropist. Deborah is also vice president of the Milagro Foundation that annually supports a diverse population of children and youth worldwide. Deborah has been recognized by the Marin Soroptimist organization for her work with the Milagro Foundation.
Grammy winner musician, Carlos Santana and Deborah have three children: Salvador, Stella and Angelica.
Deborah Santana shares with the reader a true and honest glimpse into her life’s journey. She guides each reader to recognize how we are all spiritually related in the same human race. “I believe in the connectedness of us all with our own luminosity humming a story of truth and love in the space between the stars.” She further describes and models through both actions and words her philosophy of life: “Life is good works, art, faith and love-with people of all nations moving through the sky and clouds, drinking the nectar of God.”
I recommend her book to all who find themselves on a path toward racial and social justice. Deborah Santana has the ability to pass a spark of truth and light to other who dare lead the way. Her story, her life has inspired me to examine my own mission in life. There are so many who have come before and who will come after, that share the Martin Luther King Jr. dream. Her faith and willingness to sacrifice personal goals, ambitions and dreams to support her husband and family indicates her powerful supportive role as daughter, wife and mother. This does not however, minimize in any way her own personal contributions to humanity that stands separate and apart from her family’s legacy.
The Milagro Foundation that consumes much of Deborah Santana’s time is her gift to humanity to expand multi-cultural acceptance by building cross cultural bridges of appreciation and respect that cross color and racial boundaries through Education, Health and Performing and Visual Arts endeavors. Deborah and the Milagro Foundation are the Space Between the Stars. She has opened her heart to others so that they may shine.
Deborah Santana has discovered her author’s voice. She has crafted a powerful, beautifully written book. She candidly reveals her intimate relationship with her husband, Carlos Santana and their struggles through life as soul mates, parents and humanitarians.
Teresa R. Hernandez is a Mexican American Chicana Educator and Administrator in the Bay Area. She has an interest in nonfiction books that portray diverse, positive community leaders.