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Capital Alumna Reflects on Race Through an Extraordinary Friendship

When Jennifer (Jennie) Stoner ’70 graduated from Capital with a degree in Music Education, she had no idea where life was going to take her. As she reflected on her life, career, and friendship with Rosemary through her book, A Chocolate Spirit, Stoner realized that while she may have had a background in education, it was really her community who taught her the most important life lessons.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten. In my day, there weren’t as many opportunities for women. My parents said to me, ‘I think you’re going to be a music teacher,’” said Stoner. “I had a wonderful experience at Capital. I was only a couple of hours from my hometown, but I didn’t go home that often. I got involved in activities on campus, including a sorority. The people I met became friends that I knew for a long time. We were close.”

After a career in a number of different schools and other education-based settings, Stoner shifted focus out of necessity and became the director of an adult daycare. That decision proved to be transformative for Stoner and her future.

“Rosemary came to work at the daycare, and that’s how we met. I had just gotten a divorce. She said, ‘Let’s go have some fun.’ So, we went partying and did all those fun things people do when they’re newly divorced,” said Stoner.

As the two women developed a strong friendship, Rosemary also started mentoring Stoner.

“One day, we were going shopping on the West Side of Chicago. We crossed the border from Oak Park to Chicago, and I locked the doors. She asked why I did that, and I said that I wanted us to be safe. She said, ‘When we were in Oak Park, you didn’t worry about us being safe. It wasn’t until we crossed the border that you were concerned.’ That was our first confrontation,” said Stoner.

Stoner refers to Rosemary, a Chicago-born Black woman, as her sister and cherishes the time they spent together. Rosemary passed away in November 2020.

“Rosemary had amazing patience. Other people sometimes say it’s not my responsibility to educate white people, and that’s true. We don’t really have the right to ask to be taught about our biases, and yet, I don’t think I would have ever learned as much as I did if it wasn’t for Rosemary,” said Stoner. “We truly did believe that God brought us together.”

In A Chocolate Spirit, Stoner reflects on her time with Rosemary and how she navigated confronting her own bias.

“I grew up in a household where my parents were caring people, but they had very racist views. It contributed to who I am. It’s important to reflect on your own life and tell your own story,” said Stoner. “I really wanted the opportunity to focus on the lessons I learned along the way. I hope readers can honestly think about their own story and ask themselves if their actions truly reflect their values.”

For more information about Jennie Stoner and A Chocolate Spirit, visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B1CRSDYC/ref=sw_img_1?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1