Southern Fried Christian Feminism
December 11, 2013
I spent the day thinking about my grandmothers, Nana and Red, as I slowly started to realize that for the first time in my life, I am without any grandparents. I grew up with both sets of my grandparents and my maternal great grandparents. I was well into my twenties before I started to lose them, one-by-one. The first was my paternal grandfather who was hit by a speeding car as he was driving along the highway coming from the fields on his tractor. He was a good man and was known for being kind and honest. A few years later, while I was studying in Nairobi, Kenya, my maternal great grandfather maternal great grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I remember that when I received the letter telling me that he was sick, it took me an hour to get down to the city and call home to check on how he was doing. I was told that he had already gone home and that he sent his love. That night, I walked around Chemundu so that I could find a place to sit quietly in the darkness and say goodnight.
My Nana had always told me that when a person passed away, it was simply a visual representation of the ending of the sunset on this life and the beginning of the sunrise on the next. We were never to say good-bye, only goodnight, confident that we were going to meet them again at daybreak. My paternal grandmother, Red, passed away next. She had both a brain aneurism and a blood clot but I believe, after spending hours at her bedside, that she died of a broken heart. She was one of my favorites because she knew who she was and she never wavered whenever she knew she was right. I was three-months pregnant with my first child when my maternal great grandmother pass away. I was devastated as I had hoped that she would live long enough to greet and hold the fifth generation. It was only a year later when my maternal grandfather, Dee-Dee, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I rushed down to South Carolina so that I could see him before he died and so my son would have a chance to say goodnight. died next. He lived two years longer than they thought and he was in unbearable pain every single day. By the time, he reached the end we were all praying for the Lord to take him home.
It would be seven years before my maternal grandmother, Nana, would run on ahead to see how the end is going to be. She was not sick. She did not have heart problems or cancer or any type of illness, she just decided that she was tired and she was ready to go home . She simply made up her mind and stopped eating and drinking. She survived for three months before her body finally got in line with her spirit and sat down and rested.
I come from a long line of strong willed Southern Christian feminist women. They taught me, either through their words or their deeds, how to meet every challenge with dignity and with grace. I may have been the first woman in my family to get a Ph.D. but I was not the first woman to struggle and sacrifice for a goal that only I could see.
Excerpt from “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America” (Apprentice House, 2015) https://www.apprenticehouse.com/?product=letters-to-my-black-boys-raising-sons-in-a-post-racial-america