"Granny, I have a project for school!"
This was the best time of year for me. Bringing home a project assignment was almost as exciting as seeing my grandmother put garlic bread in the oven. I'd bring the project to the kitchen table, she'd put on her reading glasses, and we would get to brainstorming. Her ideas were faster than mine and after reading a sentence, she probably had five creative ideas already forming. My favorite project was the one that we collaborated on when I was in 1st grade at Kettering Elementary School in Long Beach, California. Our job was to create a book project on my favorite animal! What many people don't know about my grandmother is that she's an artist. She stayed up late at night drawing the most beautiful baby lion that I have ever seen. It was so beautiful that it made it into our yearbook!
I remember morning cartoons while my granny cooked breakfast, Jerry Springer as she prepared lunch, and Wendy Williams saying "how you doin'" every night as my granny relaxed after dinner. I also knew about a secret stash of little debbie snacks that she kept in the closet away from my brother and I. Moonpies were her snack of choice and, as a result, they were also mine. This paragraph is dedicated to food because my grandmother provided me with all of the nutrients that I needed as a growing child. She kept me plump and fed at all times. To this day, I have not tasted better spaghetti than what my granny whip-up and am convinced that she could win a southern edition of Master Chef!
Granny was my best friend. Nowadays my grandmother calls me and says "get your knowledge because it is the one thing that they cannot take away from you. You won't have to end up like me." But what she doesn't know is that she is exactly the person that I want to be like. And without the sacrifices she has made, I would not be able to be where I am today. She has endured way more than I can even begin to imagine. I attribute everything I have to the strength that she possesses and how hard she worked to live against the racism, sexism, and explicit laws that aimed to limit Black livelihood and upward mobility.
My grandmother grew up in the Jim Crow South. To be specific, she grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She doesn't talk about it much but I know it was hard. Yesterday, I tried to ask her about how it was growing up in Jacksonville and all she said was "It was rough but I made the best with the cards that were dealt." At times we'd get deep in discussion and she would tell me about how difficult it was for her to get a job, the many times employers would tell her "we don't hire Blacks", and the unruly White military men in her small town that would wreak havoc when she was a teenager. Throughout her life, she worked hard.
Granny, you've taught me more than any teacher. You've passed on immense wisdom and, because of the path you cleared, I walk unscathed. I can never repay you for that. There aren't enough riches in the world to repay you for what you endured as a Black woman growing up during that time period. And I tell you this over the phone every week but I want you to know how serious I am. I walk in your strength, resilience, and power every day! You planted the seeds and I still feel the impact of your nurturing.