It’s been well over four decades since I left the Southern flatlands, looking for greener pastures and better days.
In a word? I knew there had to be something more in the way of livelihood for people of Color, other than what the South has always been known for; Poverty, Racism, and Cotton…maybe watermelon, but who doesn’t like watermelon?
Contrary to popular belief about Southern tradition, there is something else people in the South are known for that sort of tops everything; Southern Hospitality!
It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, if you’re a product of the South, most likely, you have a very “genteel” manner. Well, something akin to docility, shyness, and humbleness. I’d like to impart that personally, I’ve never been a ‘genteel’ sort of person.
My temper wouldn’t allow it, and I have all but vanquished the word “docile” from my vocabulary. I’m not trying to be someone’s Aunt Jemima. People living and co-existing in the South these days would probably agree they’ve come a long way since Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow were law.
I am a living, breathing 60s and 70s Revolutionary type of girl. I grew up learning about and recording the ugliness that put Mississippi on the map. I apologize for my Southern roots in that sense, as I was too young to raise my voice in protest then, so I attempt to level the playing field through my words now, by teaching tolerance, communication, and growth.
I don’t know where I got this determination and fighting spirit, maybe from the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, or perhaps it was my daddy. He never was one to start a fight, but, by God, he never turned away from one either!
My mom was from a different planet. She happily went about her business and singing gospel songs that somehow made everyone feel good. Her voice was that of an angel, but she hardly let anyone outside of her family hear it. I often lay awake in the wee hours listening to her sing as she prepared breakfast for us in the mornings.
If there is a bit of softness and (ugh!) gentleness about my character, then, I got it honestly from my mother. This was a woman who when introduced to people for the first time, always stepped forward to extend her hand in greeting with “Alberta’s my name.”
I don’t really like to admit this, after forty years and counting, but I think I’m morphing into my mother! A friend was attempting to introduce an acquaintance recently when I extended my hand and blurted “Clara Is my name.” Who does that?