Art of Aging: Teaching others to rise above racism

It would be nice that if in the year 2019, the topic of race relations was confined to history books. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A Center City woman has spent her career rising above racism and in retirement, she's working to end it.

"I was born into racism 86 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida," said Delores Brisbon.

Brisbon's humble beginnings were no match for her drive or her family's will for her to succeed.

"My parents never denied racism, they just didn't let us define us," she said.

In the face of prejudice, Brisbon earned multiple degrees and honors and climbed the ranks - becoming a nurse, a nursing supervisor, and finally, COO of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

"My father said I could do anything I wanted to do. And I just need to apply myself and it has to be excellent," she said.

Never the retiring sort, Brisbon has now teamed with a friend and neighbor, Mike Pulsipher, to initiate conversations about race in America.

"He said to me, 'Help me not be a racist.'," she said.

"I think all of us have biases of some sort. What she's shown me is how she could actually turn the other cheek," said Pulsifer.

Brisbon and Pulsifer had their first gathering last week in Center City. And so, Brisbon works to bring light to the conversation about race.

"Accusing someone of being racist will never work because it's a personal attack on who they are," she said. "What I am saying is how you respond to racism depends on who you are."

At 86, Brisbon mentors a group of young men, consults on race, and she is writing her second book.

"My granddaughters in particular have made me feel I have to tell this story because other women need to know it can be done," she said.

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