A long, long time ago, I was born in Anniston, Alabama. I was raised in a family of former sharecroppers from the deepest regions of Georgia. My mother, the oldest of ten, was uprooted by my grandfather in a move that permanently relocated the family to Anniston. Until approximately 50 years ago, my family was largely bereft of any formal education. Like her many siblings, my mother left school in the third grade and used what little she had learned along with common sense to educate her children. 

 

She, like her sisters, spent most of her life as a domestic worker in the homes of both southern and northern white families. My grandfather and his sons performed many different jobs as skilled but low paid workers. Growing up in Alabama, in the household and neighborhood where I lived, was a complex and difficult endeavor. We were poor but not destitute. We never went without food or clothing. My environment was a small community of poor black people fenced in by Jim Crow on all sides. Growing up in Alabama with such unapologetic racism and poverty would have and did destroy many Black families.

 

I, however, was lucky. I was never alone or unprotected. I managed to always be surrounded by strength and determination. My grandmother, my aunts, and later my sisters, were women of necessary, but great, strength who placed over the children in our community a protective blanket that kept most of the monsters away until we came of age and invited them in ourselves. As in many black neighborhoods, myself, my sisters and our friends were watched night and day by a community that valued us long before they could articulate their feelings.

 

I lived in the presence of great strength and fortitude. I was never without it, and even in sleep, it was always around me. These were the people that shaped my growth and built, brick by brick, the solid foundation that not only supported my journey, but insisted on it, as I walked a path looking for a life that they always taught me to believe was mine. Their spirit influenced me, molded me, and picked me up when I stumbled. Continue...