Fictive Kinship

Fictive Kinship: The bonding of people who demonstrate concern, affection and responsibility for one another; although they are not related biologically or through marriage.

Never would I claim to know “everything”; however, I do believe it is my responsibility to nurture and educate by sharing what I do know. Life’s experiences are necessary so that we may grasp knowledge to teach others along the way. It’s been said, “it takes a village to raise a child” or that “two heads are better than one”. Perhaps it took me a little longer than most to fully comprehend the message.

A Neighborhood Away from Reality, but so Close to Heart and Home

Drastic change occurred in my life when I moved into a new community far removed from my reality. After being laid off from a position I held for more than a decade, with a steady income that had been more than enough for my children and I to live comfortably, our lives were definitively altered. I could no longer afford to live in what was considered to be a moderately classed neighborhood. We were forced to move into a low-income housing complex that was very different than what we were accustomed to. My days were marked by sitting at my kitchen table staring out the window as I wrote in my journal. As a mother, I was concerned about what I witnessed and was overcome with a range of emotions from sadness to anger and confusion. Young men standing around with their pants sagging, smoking marijuana and wasting precious time was a constant and pervasive event. Overwhelmed with tears yet knowing the Lord was present I asked, “why did you do this to us?” Day in and day out like clockwork, it was the same pattern from usually the same group of young men. Every now and then a new one would come along and join the pack.

For nearly the first year of living there I rarely spoke to anyone, choosing to remain unconscious to the issues surrounding my family and I on a daily basis. Like most, I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t my problem. I witnessed young children no more than three to five years of age playing outside with no parent in sight. Often, I’d watch for hours waiting to see if someone, anyone, perhaps mom or dad or maybe a sitter would come looking for them, which almost never happened. Usually it would be a sibling, not much older, who came to the rescue of the unattended child. After a year of unsuccessfully searching for adequate employment and watching a landscape of deprivation, frustrated by the scenery growing more depressing, I decided to attend the college across the street from the complex.

Maternal Mentality

It wasn’t until I became part of the Umoja Saku Learning Community at the college that I began to think differently regarding my surroundings at home. To be an Umoja student was not simply about learning typical subjects like math or science. It was about learning from a holistic perspective of life focusing on culture. All my professors were of color and the materials utilized were based on lived or professional experiences and scholars of color. One of the main concepts I learned that has stayed with me is how much more can be accomplished by simply working together. The most valuable lesson for me was as an African American woman, I cannot continue to ignore the events taking place around me. As a mother who wants change, I am not only responsible for the children “I” gave birth to, also for my community as a whole. Everyone has a story that needs to be shared. We all need to be encouraged and uplifted. My Umoja family did that for me, how dare I do not do the same for another. Everyone, regardless of color wants to be loved or know that someone cares and that they matter. The Umoja experience motivated me to re-evaluate my maternal mentality. After all, I am a mother raising a teenage son in this environment trying to do my best in keeping him on the right path. If I reach out to some of those neighbors and young men by offering what I can where I see there is a need, perhaps we can work together by looking out for one another making this an enjoyable place to live.

Before this time, I’d never viewed myself as a role model because I’ve made plenty of mistakes and still do. However, after deciding to face my fears and frustrations head on, it wasn’t long before I was being recognized as a positive influence, but also very well respected. By simply having a conversation with some of these young men, learning their stories, finding out about their talents, none of us were much different than the other. Sometimes all it takes is to offer a homecooked meal when it’s evident that someone may be hungry. Perhaps that young man doesn’t have a job because no one ever took the time to not only show him how to create a resume, but never encouraged or believed in him enough to motivate him. Perhaps that young mother has her child running around with a soiled diaper because she’s been depressed, has no one to turn to and may need someone to simply “listen”. (There was a point when I took it upon myself to change a few of those diapers or convince mom it was time for potty training). I have to say it’s an amazing feeling to come from being angry and fearful to suddenly being referred to as “Ms. Tammy” or “Momma Tammy” and knowing that my efforts are recognized as well as appreciated. Somehow at some point I began to feel that as a black woman it is my duty to take advantage of opportunities to motivate and encourage our sista’s & brotha’s . Often all it takes is a compliment, letting someone know they have a beautiful smile. Maybe say a prayer with someone when they’re willing. That one caring gesture can be the difference between providing hope and preventing a tragedy from occurring.

Note: This was originally titled Black Fictive Kinship and was published with other works of mine in Our Black Mother’s: Brave, Bold & Beautiful 2015. I revised it today and made a few suitable changes. I first moved to the Vista’s as they were formally known in 2009. While I wouldn’t dare take credit for anyone’s accomplishments, I think it’s important to note that now nearly thirteen years later, many of those residents I came to know have since shown tremendous growth. I will own though that it feels great when I’m told that I’ve inspired someone and while I am humble, with my past of fear, fighting and not trusting, those same residents taught and helped me as much as they say I’ve helped them. Some I crossed paths with again during my homelessness and they love they showed got me through. Others have looked out for my son and g-son when I couldn’t. I’m sure many of you have already learned this, I’m sharing because of what I learned. This is how I know that God is always working, why we have to be kind to one another. Give unselfishly when we can because it does come back to us in various forms when least expected. Somehow along the way, the ties of unity began to unravel. It is of the utmost importance that we make an effort to strengthen that bond, even if it means doing so one sista or brotha at a time. Blessings to everyone and a Happy New Year!

Toast To a Real One!

Last Friday I found myself on the verge of a breakdown. The tears would not stop and for a moment I felt like giving up on everything I’d been working towards. I forced myself to calm down long enough to realize how blessed and fortunate I am. After all, what I viewed as a crisis was simply a lastminute email from my new employer with tax forms and other paperwork they needed within the hour. First of all, I don’t like to do things at the last minute, especially when using technology that I already struggle with. “E-sign”, really? Suddenly I became overwhelmed with anxiety. Panic set in after numerous failed attempts at trying to reach out for help. Moments before the temptation of hurling the damn computer out of the window, it struck me that the unexpected was actually yet another blessing. I hadn’t anticipated being offered the position so soon after training and becoming certified. I’m not sure if I was more upset from being forced to use the computer or not being able to find help. Either way like usual, I took my time, figured it out and got it done. Once I calmed my nerves, shortly after I found myself on the phone having a conversation with someone, I first crossed paths with nearly twenty-five years ago. It’s amazing how God is always working! Although it may be in his own time, He is still right on time. In that moment He knew exactly what I needed in hearing from not only one of my biggest supporters, but also one who’s been the most loyal.

My dearest friend, known as Damo (long “a”) and I didn’t meet on the best of terms initially. In fact, we were introduced by a mutual friend which led to an argument between Damo and I that had me certain we were about to go head-to-head in battle. A challenge that at the time, I believed I was ready for. However, I soon learned that Damo is not a man that would even raise a hand to a woman but will definitely speak his mind with authority. Unaware that he and I actually shared several mutual friends, for months after our first encounter we found ourselves constantly giving each other the side eye staying on guard when in one another’s presence. Something we both continue to laugh about now. One day a friend finally suggested we talk in an attempt to solve the silly misunderstanding as the tension was making the others we cared about extremely uncomfortable. Before long Damo and I were hanging out after work most days with our drink of choice back then, Paul Mason. We’d listen to music, talk about a variety of topics for hours sitting on the concrete steps of the apartment complex. I learned how extremely intelligent Damo is, especially after getting to know his dad who is Pops to all of us. Damo loves to read and has always been passionate about our history and culture. Most of what he shared with me went over my head at the time, yet I still listened with curiosity because somehow deep inside I knew that the knowledge he was sharing would benefit me later, as it did. I’ve learned a great deal from Damo as well as Pops through our friendship over the years, including a fabulous jerk chicken recipe. We spent so much time simply talking that some of the folks in our neighborhood often assumed we were a couple which had never crossed our minds. There was no way in hell! He and I were two very dominant personalities with a degree of stubbornness. In fact, I am the female version of him and vice versa.

We did, however, grow so close that there came a point in time, the first time I really needed him and was almost afraid to ask because although we were close, I wasn’t always sure what to expect from Damo and was a bit intimidated. Besides my brother I didn’t trust anyone with my children except Damo. Not only because he has kids of his own, but what I do know is that he is always solid and won’t sugar coat anything and is a man of his word. We shared the same moral values, especially when it comes to family. I had begun working so many hours due to a promotion and needed a sitter for my son who was also at the potty-training stage. I was a bit frantic, and Damo was the only “man” I knew to turn to. To my surprise and relief, without hesitation he gladly took on the task. A few years ago, when I was going through a rough time and came to visit me, he actually thanked me, expressing how much it meant to him that I trusted him with my son. I was in awe because it meant even more to me for him to take on the responsibility when I had no one else to depend on.

Over the years Damo has become like a brother to me, my children call him uncle. Although we don’t talk much or get to see each other often, now residing in different cities, we’ve managed to always stay connected one way or another. He’s been there for some major challenges in my life. If someone were to ask what I love most about him, aside from always being brutally honest and keepin’ it real, I’d have to say that he’s always been the life of the party. It sounds small, but the thing is, after my near break down Friday, my son and I visited Damo the next day because once again he was there to offer his professional services to help with a family conundrum. During our visit at the radio station with DJ Damo, he and I talked and as usual he always knows how to shine a light with his insight on every situation and bring out the humor. I couldn’t believe that only the day before I was ready to give up on all that I’d been working so hard for. In the moments of talking to him about what I was feeling it all seemed so silly. For one, I obviously wasn’t alone like I thought I was on Friday. Damo making me laugh non-stop by reminding me of all that I’ve overcome made me realize I was being quite foolish. It wasn’t my spirits alone he lifted, but my son as well. I hadn’t seen him really enjoy himself and having a great time laughing in a while. It had turned out to be a great day. After returning home and reflecting on the day, I couldn’t stop crying but this time they were happy, thankful tears. By simply being in the presence of loved ones and knowing that while I may not have an abundance of people in my corner to lean on, it’s ok because as long as I have the ongoing support of the few solid ones in my life, I’ll be just fine. All those years ago when I thought I wanted to bash Damo’s head in and he probably thought about body slamming me, who would’ve thought such an amazing bond would’ve developed since that moment. He may not smile much which again is why we should never judge a book by its cover, but he has more character and integrity than most and you can always count on him for a good laugh. He is loyal and I am blessed to have Damo in my life. In honor of my best friend turned brother, I love you so please help me with this “toast to a real one”!

A Mother’s Worth…

…was in a tiny bottle elegant haze of deep, deep, blue brought back from her travels to France. Young as she was, married as she was to a hard-headed, too-self assured man, mother as she was to 4 back-to-back kids, she found herself in Paris all on her own by accident and she smiled, did not apologize as she left her husband behind in the airport because he thought she had his ticket, his passport; that she would carry him the way she carried her children’s coats, wiped their butts, remembered their shoe left here and the other there, kept the dog off the couch, draped and ironed sheets, cut the crust off bread and hid vitamins in everyone’s oatmeal because it was her job to be the doer holder getter rememberer even if she was a woman on her way to Paris. She left my father there sputtering in the airport.

She smiled and waved her white-gloved hand over her shoulder, said “See you later, dear. Catch up with me when you can.” In Paris along the narrow beauty of the old within the tiny cafes and shops for two whole days she carried her own coat and ate no oatmeal. I still have that tiny blue bottle of French perfume she found on that trip, the perfume that held the scent of what a woman can find on her own by accident in Paris.

NOTE: Traci Goudine (featured above w/ me) has been an amazing mentor and motivator by encouraging me to persue my writing. She has an extensive literary resume, amongst many other talents and is highly loved and respected beyond our community. As an amazing poet, I particularly enjoy her short stories based on her family and Native background as I feel like a member of her family while anxiously listening at her readings, which is why I often refer to her as auntie Traci. I’m not sure she’s even aware of how much she has inspired me, because regardless of the topic, I think of her with every word I write and hope to make her proud. I shared one of my favorite works of Trac’s featured in Ringing In The Wild, enjoy my friends!!

UNITY

MY NEW LOGO I DESIGNED & TRADEMARKED

“Culture” can be defined as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group. My goal is to create or extend a plat- form for various cultures, be it Mental Health, LGBTQ communities, Youth/Teens, Anime, Gamers and so on, to “VOICE” their lived experiences to aid in healing/recovery during their personal journey’s, inspire hope and encouragement while establishing a support system through “unity” along the way.

….and sista’s! We can start with a simple hello when passing one another in our neighborhoods!!!

Pruned To Thrive

John 15:2 Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Daily Devotion (February 2, 2021)

As I watched a bumblebee land lightly on the Russian sage, I marveled at the bush’s lush branches exploding with color. It’s brilliant blue blossoms attracted eyes and bees alike. Yet only last fall, I’d wondered if it would ever blossom again. When my wife’s parents trimmed the periwinkle plant down to a stub, I’d assumed they’d decided to get rid of it. But now I was witnessing the radiant result of pruning that had been brutal to me.

The surprising beauty that results from harsh cuts may be one of the reasons Jesus chose pruning imagery to describe God’s work among believers. In John15, He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…. Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (vv. 1-2). Jesus’ words remind us that in good times and bad, God is always working in us toward spiritual renewal and fruitfulness (v. 5). During “pruning” seasons of suffering or emotional barrenness, we continue to stick close to Him. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (v. 4). As we continually draw spiritual nourishment fron Jesus, the resulting beauty and fruitfulness in our lives (v. 8) will show the world God’s goodness.

By Adam R. Holz

Father, help me to trust You during difficult seasons in my life, knowing that You are at work to bring beauty and change.

A Holiday Tradition

I’m not sure why; during my adulthood, I’d jump out of my Halloween costume and begin preparing for Christmas. It wasn’t until one year at ages 10 and 17 my children asked why we never celebrate Thanksgiving. I didn’t have an answer for them at that precise moment. My only thought was a memory of frustration years before in an attempt at cooking my first turkey. After thawing it for obviously not long enough, it was still frozen after retrieving it from the oven. I did learn how to prepare a delightful turkey along with all the fixings and what it really boiled down to being too much work for a single mom to celebrate both holidays. Besides, I’d always remained thankful throughout the year in recognizing our many blessings and simply hadn’t given the actual holiday much thought. It was no different than my birthday, simply another day. As it turned out, my children informed me that Thanksgiving was their favorite holiday and that year they proposed an idea to celebrate their favorite time of the year along with mine which is Christmas, by starting a new family tradition.

My children have always been much more outgoing than I was. They have always been thankful for not having to go without basic neccessities as well as a mother to look out for them unlike many of their classmates. They became motivated and wanted to do something for those who didn’t have anyone or perhaps were lonely during the season by offering them a reminder that there is always something to be thankful for. Many of their friends didn’t have a turkey on the table or gifts under the Christmas tree, while others took having a nice meal every day and a pair of new Jordans under the tree for granted. As a family we decided to give gifts to those who visited our home during the holiday seasons or those who were just a friendly face in the neighborhood. All they’re asked to do is write in a tiny book we hankg on the wall without Christmas stockings called “silent night”, what they are thankful for. In turn they choose a gift from Santa’s bag of goodies to take with them. Now these are by no means expensive or elaborate gifts, but more like tokens we’ve collected throughout the year. “Our daily Bread” is constantly sending me journals, calendars and various useful items in the mail. You’d be surprised how much “stuff” one can accumulate in eleven months. Candles, slippers that were a gift from someone else, but don’t fit, various books and giftcards to places we may not frequent and the list goes on. We wrap them all in a solid-colored paper to distinguish the difference between our family gifts, because often times a few are left over from the previous year.

Many people don’t get gifts for their birthdays or other holidays for a variety of reasons, but my children don’t like the idea of knowing someone may be left out and shouldn’t be, at least not during the magical time of Thanksgiving and Christmas so we in our own way, combined the two. The best part is not only seeing the smiles of surprise on people’s faces in awe that they were thought of, but also revisiting the tiny silent night book every year and reading what people (including our family) are thankful for. It is extremely heartwarming to witness the growth. Some have expressed to us that it wasn’t about the actual gift for them, but the gesture itself providing hope and motivating them to pay it forward in one way or another. I am thankful for such caring children because with this family tradition that has now been fourteen years for us, I too was reminded that there is in fact ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Happy Holiday Season to Everyone!!!!

My Time With You (Pt. 3)

Those of you who read my previous post Revelations of My Ancestors, were briefly introduced to my grandfather John W. Johnson, also known as “Eighty-Six” to those close to him. That post only revealed a specific chapter of his life. I’d like to now share the experience of my time spent with him as well as lessons I learned from him. As a child there were many aspects of my grandfather’s behavior or actions I didn’t understand. Until a certain age, most were only stories, rather complaints I’d overhear from my mother and her siblings. Once I was older I was able to witness some of those behavior’s first hand. I never felt my grandfather wasn’t a friendly person, but I noticed he didn’t care to be in the company of others unless he was attending church. He seemed extremely stingy when it came to food or money and always talked to me about how important it is to get an education.

Between my grandfather and his second wife after the passing of my maternal grandmother, there were roughly eleven kids living in the house with them or at least that’s how many I can account for by name at the moment. Therefore; growing up I’d hear the stories among the siblings about how my grandfather kept locks on the kitchen cabinets and the old rotary phone to stop them from running up the phone bill. He also didn’t believe in spending money on fast food. Even after fleeing the south and settling in the city, he continued to utilize the land to offset cost. He kept chickens for their eggs, planted a garden along with various fruit baring trees in his back yard. I never knew exactly where he’d get them, perhaps they roamed the neighborhood at night, but I hated when he’d ask me to take the baking pan with a cooked opossum across the street to the reverand. There were also stories of his distrust of banks and how he kept his money in an old church suit tucked away in the back of the closet. Going through his belongings after him passing, to my surprise, it was true!

By the time I reached adulthood and had learned more about not only my family history, but history as a whole, it led me to realize much of my grandfather’s behavoir was a direct result of not only his environment but also his experiences along with the struggles of his parents during the “Great Depression”. As many of you are already aware, the “Great Depression” took place between 1929-1933, which means my grandfather was eleven years old by the time it ended. Between the stock market crashing along with the overall economic downturn, I came to the conclusion that it was safe to assume his mindet and actions were a result of the challenges they faced during that time. An extremely harsh reality for poor blacks in the south with little to know education. During my time with grandaddy I learned many lessons mainly by merely observing. One was to never sit behind him with the window down while he’s driving and spittin’ tobacco out da window. The main lesson however, which he constantly expressed, was how vital it is for survival to achieve an education or in his words “stay in schoo’ so you can learn ya self sumthin’ girl”! Fishing was his absolute favorite hobby. I never cared for it much because I didn’t have the patience to sit quietly waiting for the fish to bite. What I did enjoy and still treasure today was the long talke we had during those trips and learning that he wanted me to learn from his trials and recognize the roads that were paved for my generations so that I would prosper in the future. Thanks you grandaddy for all your blood, sweat and tears. I love you!!!

My Time With You (Pt.2)

My Uncle James was a simple man. He worked hard through the week as a machinist and entertained the ladies on the weekends. Many of those weekends during my childhood, he always made sure to make time for his favorite girl, me. Even on gloomy days the sun managed to shine for me when ever we spent time together. My Uncle loved to take me to Alameda Beach (featured above). We had lots of fun together and I enjoyed every moment I spent with him growing up. By the time I was eight and moved to Sacramento, he’d visit nearly every weekend. Sometimes it was movie nights when my mom and younger brother would join in watching the newest release of the Star Wars saga. Uncle James would try to buy all my girl scout cookies thinking he was helping me out, but he and momma would bicker when she’d tell him I’m not going to learn anything if he doesn’t let me sell the cookies. I’d sit in the cornner giggling as I watched them and snacked on the cookies he purchased without her knowing. He loved taking me shopping and had a way of always making me feel like a princess. The best times were when he’d visit unexpected and greet me with not only a big hug as he lifted me up in the air, but he’d also present me with a bouquet of roses and a crisp new fifty dollar bill tucked in between the petals. Still the best part of these visits aound the time I turned 10 years old was when he’d hop out his BMW with his roller skates tied together hanging off his shoulders along with his boom box. Instantly I knew what was about to go down. Uncle James and I would spend the day roller skating through K street mall downtown with the music blaring and us doing tricks and dancing down the strip of the outside mall. Back then there was no cars or public transit access just open space for us to roam free.

By the time I turned 14, I was fed up with momma’s abuse and ran away, straight to my uncle. I’d hustled up on a greyhound ticket and as expected, he welcomed me with open arms. My uncle, still hard at work full time didn’t want to leave me alone so he appointed the neighbor who lived across the street from him and my grandfather who had become like a son to my uncle to keep an eye on me. This was the very first time I’d ever seen my uncle so serious and express any form of anger. He warned (who I have only ever referred to as my bodyguard) that he better not touch me or try anything with me. He was loyal to my uncle and never did. On my uncle’s death bed three years ago, his last words to me were him asking for the umpteenth hundred time if I ever had sex with said bodyguard. I promised him, that even as adults aside from a hug, the only time he ever touched me was to push me out the way of gun fire or shield me from any other danger. To this very day even after my uncle’s death, out of the love and respect we both have for him, sex was never an option only a lifelong friendship. During that period of time living with my uncle, there were times he’d throw me on the back of his motorcycle for a long drive, eventually teaching me how to drive it. Other evenings he prepared a nice dinner for us. Uncle James set the table with flowers and pulled my chair out for me and we’d talk, about most everything. He would warn me about how some men take advantage of girls. He made sure that I always new my worth and would always tell me how beautiful I am and to not let anyone tell me I can’t do something. He was firm in telling me that if a man wasn’t treating me like a queen, he didn’t deserve my time which was interesting because I had noticed, although he never seem to be with the same girl for long, he still treated them very well and was respectful to women in general. There were so many instances over the years when I desperately wanted to tell him about what my stepfather had been doing to me, but I was afraid for many reasons. Mostly due to fear of my mom’s threats that if I told him he was sure to kill my stepfather without hesitation. I also knew for sure that he would and I couldn’t bare my little brothers loosing their dad.

By the time I gave birth to my first child, I’d once again made my way back to my uncles and it was the bodyguard who drove me to the hospital while I was in labor. Unfortunately our bond was no longer the same. Perhaps he was disappointed with me becoming pregnant or because he was now struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction. Not long after having my daughter Uncle James moved to another state where we had other family residing and I learned he actually had a daughter of his own who was a few years younger than me. I began to wonder if that’s why he spoiled me, due to missing out with his own daughter. I never questioned my uncle’s love for me, it was always obvious. I could see it in his eyes when ever he looked at me or we talked. He was the one who always supported me in ever venture and cheered me on. It was his face I’d see in the stands when I was in the outfield catching fly balls, never my moms. I recently found his daughter and connected with her. God is good, because I found her name in an old obituary of another family member and through Facebook we were suddenly united. She had no photos of her dad, so thankfully I was able to share what I have with her. She enjoys the stories I tell about her dad, my favorite uncle. I love and miss him so much and now when I look in her eyes, they resemble so much it’s as if I’m looking into his again. With all those who have come in and out my life trying to tear me down, it is because of my time with my Uncle James that I know my worth. His love and support helped me to stand tall and walk with confidence in everything I do.

Love Never Fails

After witnessing such a beautiful moment of love and kindness this weekend; instead of my originally planned post, I decided to share a poem I came across once not realizing at the time that it was inspired by 1CORITHIANS 13:4-8.

Love is patient and kind;

love is not jealous or boastful;

it is not arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist

on it’s own way

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong;

but rejoices in the right.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things,

Love never fails…

My Time With You (Pt.1)

Born In the year 1900, my Great grandmother Effie Johnson will always be “Big Momma” to our family! In the images above she’s sitting out in the pasture reflecting after church and preparing dinner in the other with three of her sons. Although she stood just under 5ft and barely 120lbs most of her life, her name represented her character and the respect held for her as a role model in every aspect of her 100 years on earth. I miss her dearly. Lately, there hasn’t been a moment throughout my days when something occurs that makes me long for the ability to go back in time to have a conversations with a family member who have transitioned. The next few weeks I will be honoring my ancestors by sharing the lessons and beautiful memories of my precious time with them.

I was told stories of how when I first began to crawl, I had a habbit of scooting around Big Momma’s kitchen floor pulling all her pots and pans from the cabinets and she would discipline me by lightly tapping my thick ‘lil thighs with her huge wooden spoon. Probably the reason I’ve never used one of those wooden spoons myself. There were also stories of how she helped bring me into the world by aiding my mother during delivery. Big Momma was the mid-wife to many folks of color during her time. When we visited her for family reunions during my childhood, she and I would sit out in the pasture among the animals to snap peas or work in the garden. She’d share stories while I listened with anticipation. She never spoke much about the challenges she faced in her life, but mainly about the importance of family and how she enjoyed raising her children, being a wife and taking care of people whether they were kin or not. Once she reached the ’90’s (her golden years), she talked to me about how happy and thankful she was to have lead a fulfilling life recalling her numerous blessings over the years. I didn’t quite understand the part about a “fulfilling” life because she never ventured from the small town of Wilmar other than a few visits to the closest hospital which was 7 miles in the next county. There was no need for her to go into town to buy much as she utilized the land and nature to provide everything they needed.

My childhood was filled with fun memories of her as well as some lessons I learned the hard way. She’d always warn my younger brother’s and I not to go out there where the barn was. One year during our visit, I was about 10 years old and had to see what was inside that old barn, not realizing my youngest brother who was only 5 at the time, had follwed me. After my investigation and disappointment of not finding anything other than bunches of hay, my brother and I found ourselves being chased by that mean ol’ bull. His short legs wouldn’t allow him to gain any speed, so as I went to grab him, we escaped the dangers of the bull but unfortunately I didn’t escape the barbed wire fence during our get-a-way. My scared knee’s still bare a reminder of that day which my brother’s and I laugh about all the time. My fondess memory of times with Big Momma was being in the kitchen preparing suppa (she still used the big wooden spoon, but only for stirring now). She sang these old negro spirituals that were passed down to my mother who Big Momma helped raise and have always stayed with me which I’ve shared with my children and grandchildren while preparing meals during the holidays. My favorite is called “Great Change in Me”, here’s a snippet!

There is a great change in me, great change in me. I am so happy and I am so free. Since Jesus brought me out of the darkness, into this marvelous light and oh oh oh there’s a great change in me”!

I learned that these songs were Big Momma’s way of lifting not only her spirits, but also the family in times of struggle. She had spent her life as a faithful servant to the Lord and knew His devine power. This was her way of letting us know that God is always with us. I love you Big Momma! I am thankful for the time I spent with you and I pray I make you proud, for I now know that all your sacrifice and the struggles you’ve endured were so that I could be here today and continue moving forward!