A Christmas Gift of Love to All Our Wonderful Mothers

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

Since I first did this post last year my Mother, Willa Mae Williams, has seen another Christmas and is a young 95 years old. My sisters and I feel the blessing from God that she is still with us. For that reason I have decided to share these words of praise I wrote last year, not only for my Mother but also for all the mothers, who have made us a better people. So here it goes once again, my Christmas tribute from last year and still applicable in 2015.

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 75 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 young sons, one teenage daughter and a baby still at home.

Despite the tremendous hardships 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 particular 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.'”


Competing with the Yin

In Chinese philosophy, yin/yang conceptualizes the existence of the totality of nature as a whole made up of two sometime complimentary parts and sometime opposite. The philosophy dates back to the Yin Dynasty (1400-1000 B.C.). It is key to understand that yin/yang are not separate but actually are complimentary. When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created. When people see things as good, evil is created.


I don’t mean to elaborate on the philosophy behind the yin/yang but only to borrow the concept as a method to elaborate on what is happening within the African American culture. The point to be made here is that the Chinese contrasts exist within most cultures. There is the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, and the love and hate. That certainly is present today in the African American culture. A couple tragic examples are all that is necessary to demonstrate its presence.

chi-6pendleton-20130130-1The beautiful, the good and the love were personified in young Hadiya Pendleton in 2013 when she traveled with her school band to participate in many of the festivities surrounding the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. “It was the highlight of her young 15 year old life,” Senator Richard Durbin (D. Ohio) said at a hearing on gun violence in the United Senate. Hadiya was an honor student at King College Prep High School in Chicago, Illinois. She planned to travel to Europe in the spring with the school band. Her cousin described her as a “walking angel.” Hadiya was a part of the very best we have within our race to perpetuate the positive image of our culture.

Less than a month after she returned to Chicago from the celebration in the nation’s capital, this beautiful princess was gunned down at a Chicago park. She and about twelve other students had taken shelter from the rain when evil approached the crowd and opened fire, striking her in the back.  In this instance, the hate, the ugly and the evil won out over the beauty, good and love. And when Hadiya died that day a part of all of us died, including the shooter even though he may not recognize her death as his loss also.

One additional incident also substantiates the battle we confront between the good and evil within the Black culture.  This past Martin Luther King Jr., birthday celebration in San Antonio, the city sponsored one of the largest marches in the country. There had to be at least 200,000 participants from most of the communities, organizations, schools and churches not only in the city but surrounding communities, also. It was certainly a show of solidarity and love among the participants. A real sight to behold. We could see, feel and experience the beauty of that day. Other cities had similar events from church services to theatrical dramatizations of that great man’s life.  One can surmise that the Black culture was on display in its entire splendor.


However, that night after the march and on the same street about one mile from the park where the celebration was held, there was a shooting. Two young black men were killed and four others injured. A few more miles from that incident there was another shooting. Later that evening there was an additional exchange of gunfire. It was the ugliness destroying the beauty on display earlier in the day. That seems to be an unfortunate pattern that now defines the totality of the African American culture in this country.

The danger we are confronting is manifested in the yin/yang, and that is at any given point, one of the two will dominate. But there still has to be a perfect balance. In other words if yin becomes stronger, yang is weakened. In Chinese culture, yin characterizes the negative nature of things and yang the positive. Within our culture the yin seems to be gaining momentum. Much of what we read, the programs on television, and the music reflect the yin whereas we get only portions of the yang, with movies every once in a while like Selma and Twelve Years a Slave. If you happen to drive down any inner city street the music you will hear blasting out of the cars will be songs like “I’m in love with the CoCo,” obviously a song about crack cocaine. The yin is on the rise and yang is in retreat.

This past October, nearly a million Black men gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. These men represent the good of our culture and they have made a commitment to fight, with all their power and energy, the negative forces we all confront when one of our youth are murdered in gang warfare or shot and killed by America’s many different police departments. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger, the result is the same. But we need much more than a million men gathering in one place to pledge their support for change. We must all begin to act in our own way. Not all of us will take leading roles in the fight to save our culture but we all can do something, no matter how small or how large.

As we near the end of what has been a very difficult year for our race with police shootings and gang violence, we should make a pledge to carry out some act with positive implications. As the Executive Editor of Prosperity Publications, my commitment is not to publish any literature that perpetuates the negative yin, but to produce only works that accentuate the positive yang. Our initial publication for 2016 will be Black Is the Color of Love, an anthology of beautiful short stories written by some outstanding writers.  Over the year, we will release at least five works in all genres, along with the six already listed on our website (Prosperity Publications), and hopefully these books will serve as a catalyst for other publishers to do the same. In doing so, maybe we can begin a deluge of books that attempt to make sure the balance in the yin/yang leans toward the latter.