A New Leaf for a New Year

African American Art Calendar - Walking By Faith 2015 - Black Business Women Online
African American Art Calendar – Walking By Faith 2015 – Black Business Women Online

Beginning right away in 2015, I am going to turn over a new leaf for a new year. This newness will be manifested in the form of a New Year’s Resolution. I recognize that many of you will chuckle and think that it will last, maybe, through the month of January and like most other resolutions be forgotten. And I must admit that is usually what has happened in the past. In previous years when I pledged to lose a few pounds I never did, or when I swore off ice cream or some other tempting delicacy, that always failed. But this resolution is much different; it is a commitment to dedicate more of my time and effort to teaching young Black boys, girls, and sometimes adults, the craft for writing good stories. This might be in the form of fiction or creative non-fiction.

My commitment begins in earnest on January 30, 2015 at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, in Eatonville, Florida. I, along with New York writer Petra Lewis and Chicago author Tony Lindsay, with assistance from D. L. Grant and kYmberly Keeton, will conduct a two-day writing workshop for boys and girls in grades 8 through 11. We have young writers coming from Brooklyn, Chicago, Silver Spring, Maryland, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio who will participate in this first of its kind workshop. Not only will these young folks get some of the best training in creative writing from some real professionals, they will also have the opportunity to visit the Zora Neale Hurston Museum, walk down the main street of the oldest Black incorporated city in the country, and visit with the artists who will be displaying their art work along a four block corridor of booths. The stories that they write will be edited and published in an anthology by Prosperity Publications at the end of the year.

My commitment will continue in earnest in April, when I do a brief two-hour writing seminar at the Dr. Rosie Milligan’s Black Writers on Tour in Los Angeles, California. Instead of children, however, I will be working with adults who have the creative ability, but lack the skills that come from studying the craft. Obviously in two hours I cannot conduct a comprehensive study, but can only stimulate their interest to learn the craft before they publish a book.

Throughout the summer of 2015, I will conduct a number of writing workshops with the young people here in San Antonio, Texas at the Carver Public Library.  D. L. Grant, Branch Manager at the Carver, and I are dedicated to the proposition that states: “Reach One and Teach One.” However, we plan to extend that one to twenty.

With my New Year’s Resolution still intact, it is my goal to work closely with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and conduct a writing workshop for the young in the St. Louis, Missouri area, during the organizations national convention in August.

I make these commitments because I firmly believe that our youth must begin to master the art of writing, because with writing comes reading, and with reading comes a better understanding one’s heritage; and with a better understanding of one’s heritage comes a more productive person, who will ultimately become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher and numerous other professions, instead of a victim of this system, which this past year has proven it can be very dangerous and destructive to our young.


Willie Mae Williams, at home in Bastrop, Texas.
Willie Mae Williams at home, in Bastrop, Texas. 

Willa Mae Williams just had a hip replacement on this past Monday and by Friday she was up and walking. What makes this worth writing about is that Willa Mae is 94 years old, and she has no plans of slowing down once she completes her rehabilitation.

Born in 1920 in a small southern town in Arkansas, Willa Mae was part of that great migration of Black Americans who left the South during the early part of the Twentieth Century and moved North, seeking better opportunities and escaping from the ugliest aspect of American racism. She arrived in Saginaw, Michigan in 1933 and by 1937 had married Bill Williams, who was five years older. Their union was a synthesis of the traditional southern culture with the emerging northern culture. She was 17 when she married her husband and 76 when he passed away. Willa Mae dedicated her entire life to her husband and to raising her family.

Willa Mae’s mother, Lucy Perry, at the age of 39 lost her husband to tuberculosis one month before giving birth to her youngest son. At the time she had two teenage boys, one teenage daughter and a baby still at home. Despite the tremendous hardship she confronted, Ms. Lucy raised her sons and daughter by herself. Nina Williams, Willa Mae’s mother-in-law, married George Williams in 1912 and stayed married to him until his death in 1962. She gave birth to five boys and three girls and dedicated her life to raising her family, also.

Willa Mae Williams, Lucy Perry and Nina Williams are no different than millions of beautiful Black women who, over the decades, have dedicated their lives to the family. They have been the glue that has held our culture together. These three Black women are the ones that took time to raise my brother, two sisters and me. I am sure that all my readers have similar mothers and grandmothers that assisted them in the navigation through this life. Oftentimes their biggest fears would be that their children would face a hostile environment and respond to it in a negative way. And that negativity could get them locked up or killed.

The burden of mediating with their children to keep them out of harm’s way, has weighed heavily on the Black mother from slavery to the present day. Often times slave mothers would prefer to whip their children than to have the overseer or oppressor do it. Leon Litwack in his historical work, Trouble In Mind, writes that, “During slavery parents were helpless to protect their children from a whipping and they were sometimes compelled to inflict the punishment themselves in the presence of whites to teach the disobedient child a lesson—and to avert even harsher punishment if meted out by the overseer or owner.” (Leon Litwack, Trouble In Mind, Vintage Books, New York, 1999, pg. 25)

After Emancipation, the problems increased because a generation of young Blacks born into freedom never accepted the rules of segregation and often rebelled against them. Black mothers again took on the burden of explaining to their young why they could not talk back to a white person or fight with a white boy, even if they were attacked. This often caused a great deal of conflict between the mothers and their children.

But through it all, the Black mother never lost her grace and dignity. She brought us up the rough side of the mountain and made it possible for her children to prosper and succeed in life, despite all the inequalities of this society. For that reason, I suggest that during this season of giving, we all give the greatest gift possible to our mothers, grandmothers and in some cases great grandmothers, and that is the gift of love. That would mean so much to them, who have given so much for us. Despite all the hardships, suffering and pain, if they can only hear four ingratiating words from their children, it will make all of it worth while and those words are, “I LOVE YOU, MOTHER.’”