Posts Tagged ‘African American experience’

Oh, yeah, that’s me.  During this merry month I was born.  While I do not tend to shout that information about, it does give me a unique opportunity to share images of the people who brought me into this complicated, beautiful world.  I still have this dress.  It’s a soft pink, many layered affair, with a pink silk ribbon at the neck.  Of all the outfits I must have worn as a baby, it is the only one my mother kept.  As it hung in her closet until the day she died, it now hangs in my closet on its small white hanger.  I keep contemplating getting it framed.

In this image, my mother sits with one of her sisters.  When this image was taken, I do not know.  Probably early 1950s, well before I was born.  And this is her in the 1960s, I think.

She never dressed this way around me.  I think raising four children can wear a person down.  Thank goodness, she was persistent.

Here’s my dad as a little boy during the 1930s, and then twenty years later serving in the Korean War.

I heard he could have quite the temper as a young man but I only knew of him as a gentle soul and the person who would eat anything I put into his hands, even a Milky Way candy bar where I had licked away all of the chocolate.


When I was little I asked my parents questions about the stars in the sky and never really asked about how they met.  I’ve heard rumors that my mother set sights on him before he set sights on her. He was interested in one of her sisters but somehow my mom managed to be around whenever he came visiting.  Lucky for me.

By the time I came along there were two big brothers who were kind enough to keep an eye on me and the little fellow who followed not quite two years later.

What more is there to share? Well, as an adult I am notorious for finding the bright side, and I think it is in part because I had such a bright childhood with so many good people around me helping me laugh.

I’m grateful to have these photos to share and to help me hold onto the memories.

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Recently for the first time as an adult, I saw the movie musical Showboat.  Its most famous song is “Old Man River,” sung by Paul Robeson.  If you have not heard the song as sung by him, I encourage you to listen just once.  Similarly, I encourage you to listen to Sam Cooke’s rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come.” Despite the hardships, the pain, the unbearable burdens of this life captured in these and so many other songs about the African American experience in the U.S., there is always an underlying thread of hope that one can withstand the hardship, if only to give one’s offspring a chance at a better life.

Hope is on my mind quite a bit this Sunday and not just because I’ve been listening to old songs.   I read an excellent query posed by Dave Mance III, editor of Northern Woodlands Magazine.  He asks what gives the readers of the magazine hope.  (Read more here.)  As I started to think about my answer, negro spirituals popped into my head, but so did the cover image of the book, Delia’s Tears, a book about race, science and photography in nineteenth century America.

The focus of the book is fifteen images discovered in the attic of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum in 1976.  Today, they are iconic images.  If you have ever watched a PBS program on slavery, you have probably seen the faces.  I admit I accepted the visage of these slaves without thought to who they were and where they lived.  I accepted them as representative without thinking of them as individual.  But they were individuals.  Slaves on 1850 Columbia, South Carolina plantations photographed for a revered Harvard University professor convinced that Africans were biologically inferior.  When I look into their eyes, I wonder where these individuals found hope.  I wonder where my own slave ancestors found hope as they worked in Virginia and North Carolina.

I find hope in the sunrise and sunset.  The light that leaks in through a window, that dots the midnight sky.  I know it sounds hokey but it is true.  Even if my eyes are closed, if I can feel the sun’s rays, there is something hopeful in the sensation.  And maybe that’s it, at least for me.  There’s something about simply interacting with the world — seeing the possibilities, feeling them, hearing the stories of others –that inspires a sense of one day, just maybe, that possibility might come true for me or for the ones I care about in this world.

Anyway, that’s my random musings on a sunny Sunday in Massachusetts.  Wherever you are in the world, hope you’re having a good day.


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