It was the early 1970s, and a young African-American teenager named Alonzo Lewis was living in a Brooklyn suburb.
He had just won a scholarship to Columbia University, and was about to be admitted to a school that would change his life forever.
The only other African-Americans in the house were his two best friends, and their parents were white.
Alonzos father was a former Marine, his mother a nurse.
Altonzo was raised to be a “good kid,” but he was still an outcast.
The neighborhood was black and white, but there was a white girl who lived with her parents, and she was his best friend.
Alondra Lewis, who is now 90 years old, remembers feeling “traumatized” by the racial disparity in America.
“We were taught that African- Americans and people of color were the lowest form of humanity.
We were taught to be afraid of them, and we were taught how to fear them,” Alonza Lewis said.
“I was just trying to learn to be proud of myself, and not be afraid.
The more I went through the school system, the more I saw people who were being oppressed.
The black students were not being treated equally.
They were not even treated as equals.”
Alonizos father taught him that it was okay to be racist, and to think that “black” was just another word for “African.”
He was not a racist, he was just “a white guy.”
In a world where the United States was fighting to win the Cold War against communism, Aloniza Lewis learned about racism.
She began to study the history of racism in America, and the role of racism throughout the world.
“My whole life I was taught that white people and blacks were the same,” she said.
It wasn’t until Alonzeas father taught her that she was actually part of the problem that she became interested in the world of racism.
“He taught me how to think about race in terms of oppression, and how to see things differently, and that’s how I became aware of how racism impacts people of all colors,” Alonyzo Lewis said of his father.
“What happened in America after the civil rights movement, the way it was dealt with, the fact that it impacted the rest of the world, and it impacted our lives, I was just like, wow, that’s crazy.”
Alonyzos mother knew Alonzes father would be a part of her father’s legacy.
She was his only African- American family member, and he was her best friend from high school.
“That’s how it felt,” she recalled.
“Like I was supposed to be with him.
I was his little sister, but he wasn’t my brother, so I was a little sister to him.”
When Alonzinos father came to visit, Alonyza Lewis recalled, he brought with him his father’s black friends.
“You know, there was so much pressure, but you just wanted to be there for him,” Aloniala Lewis said, remembering her daughter’s feelings of being a “little sister.”
Alonda Lewis, Alonda’s sister, said that the family was so proud of Alonzy.
“They made sure that he always felt safe.
He was a nice guy.
He never really got into trouble.
His mom taught him to never talk about race, and just kind of live life,” she explained.
“And you know, he always taught me to always be a good girl.”
The family’s first African-Latino child is now a father of three and the grandfather of four.
“It’s really hard for me to see him with other people,” Alonda said.
Alonda says her family “just kept moving forward,” even when her dad was in prison.
She said her mother was a “huge advocate” for the family and worked as a teacher in New York City.
“Her goal was always to make sure we were safe and not have our kids come into this situation,” she added.
“So I was proud of her for that.”
Alondas daughter, Alonda’s sister Alonzan, said the Lewis family has made “a tremendous impact on so many people, both young and old.”
She said that she thinks that the Lewis children are the most influential people in their lives.
“All of us are just living in an era that is a lot more accepting, and I think that Alonzi Lewis, his family, his sisters, and Alondadans are the ones that are doing the most to make that change happen,” she concluded.
“Because they’ve never been able to say no, because they’re a part, they’ve always been there.”
Alonialas story has also inspired a book that is set to be released later this month.
“The Color of Your Skin: The Story of Alondazza Lewis” by Michaela Jones,