Main content
Valuing and connecting with our diversity

Media Contact

Lyndsey York Henize

Tanya Walker, Public Safety Officer, Emory Long-Term Acute Care and Emory Decatur Hospital

 

Tanya Walker, member of the Emory Long-Term Acute Care (ELTAC) and Emory Decatur Hospital (EDH) security team, has been working in the system for close to two years and living in Georgia for about ten years. Tanya’s family is of French-Creole descent and has a very deep-rooted heritage. The Walker family story starts in Natchitoches, Louisiana, with Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. Metoyer was born in La Rochelle, France, and traveled to Natchitoches with a friend, Etienne Pavie, in the mid-1760s. There, they were successful opening shops that competed with other local vendors who sold alcohol and owned cabaret clubs. The two used their earnings to purchase land as well as slaves. Metoyer was a known bachelor, but fathered ten children with one woman, Marie Therese dite Coincoin, a slave he rented. Metoyer and Coincoin’s relationship ended when Metoyer married the widow of a friend. At the end of their time together, Metoyer freed Coincoin and one of the ten children he fathered. He helped his other children, who all took his name, in an unofficial capacity, but never acknowledged his paternity. Coincoin is Tanya’s great, great grandmother.

Tanya explains that early French-Creole communities made most of their living by tending to land that bordered rivers and bayous. Natchitoches, Louisiana, was the settlement point for the French-Creole community. The town was the oldest settlement included in the Louisiana Purchase. "It is no surprise that the Creole culture, with its deep-rooted and complex history, would be written about in literature," Tanya said. Tanya’s family history can be found in the New Orleans Museum of History.

When asked if she has faced any adversities because of her heritage, Tanya shares that her challenges began at birth. She describes that being born in 1960’s Louisiana meant she faced racism from those with different racial backgrounds and within her own race. "It was said that a light skin, French-Creole was only supposed to have a relationship with people of their own skin color and creed," Tanya says. "My father was a brown-skinned man with the color people of Louisiana would call ‘paper bag tan,’ and my mother was this beautiful French-Creole woman who could possibly pass for a white woman."

Tanya mentions that to this day, Louisianans believe that you can tell what a baby’s adult skin tone will be by the color of their ears. "At the age of two months, I was given to my father’s mother to raise because my ear color stated I would be too dark to have been born into the French-Creole race," Tanya explained. Tanya says she constantly asked her family about not being raised by her mother, who raised all of Tanya’s other siblings who had a lighter complexion and light-colored eyes. She shares that this was difficult because no one would believe she was related to her siblings and questioned her biological relationship with her mother. Tanya expressed, "It was tough because I was young and didn’t understand, but this is what drove me to dig deep into my heritage." Over time, Tanya was able to grow closer to her family as she got older. "I inserted myself into my family by showing up and being my loving self which no one could deny," Tanya said. 

Tanya credits her childhood experiences in the French-Creole community for inspiring her drive to be a leader and take responsibility for others. "It made me want to be in a position to influence safety and encourage leadership among all people," Tanya says. Every year, Tanya and her family partake in Mardi Gras celebrations and festivals to honor and keep her family traditions alive. Tanya’s maternal grandfather, John Metoyer Sr., was the founder of the famous and popular Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans. The club hosts the largest Mardi Grad parade at the end of the Mardi Gras season. "My maternal grandmother made the first costumes which were made of grass skirts," Tanya shared with pride.