UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Beyer!
Some years ago I read a book by Paula Giddings entitled When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. The stories I read about women who made history from Ida B. Wells to Shirley Chisholm inspired me then and inspire me still. But the book had an unexpected outcome on me. At least unexpected by me, but I suspect not by the author.
Giddings’s title made me stop and think about where and when I enter history as well. School has trained us to think of history as something made by others, but you and I make history in small and large ways every day. As a minister, I have worked with at least a hundred churches and their ministers and lay people seeking how to share their faith and resources with their communities. As part of a community organizing group, I helped address issues of inequality in the communities in which I lived and worked.
As I look back on the last year and a half, I am filled with awe and pride by the creative ways neighbors have helped one another get through the tragedy of this pandemic. These acts of kindness—both random and intentional—will be included in books written about this time. Those who acted will be cited by name just as Giddings’s book names women like Anna Julia Cooper and Mary McLeod Bethune, who chose to challenge the racism and sexism of their day.
However, there are many more who will remain unnamed but whose acts will have touched hearts and minds and spirits, enabling everyone to be encouraged during this difficult time. The smile you share with a stranger from a distance or a phone call you make to someone who is homebound create ripples of goodness that touch the universe in many pay-it-forward ways we may never know. I wonder if this isn’t why history has always had my heart.
My initial idea for this post was to share unsung Black history events that took place in June, events that aren’t getting the attention June 19th—Juneteenth—is getting. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when in Galveston Bay, Texas, the Union army announced the official end of slavery to more than two hundred and fifty thousand enslaved people. There’s a move to make Juneteenth a national holiday but is anyone commemorating June 17, 1775 when Peter Salem and Salem Poor were commended for their service at the Battle of Bunker Hill? As I made my list of such lesser-known events for this post, I realized even Peter Salem and Salem Poor had their names recorded in a place where I could find them and their deeds. Inspired by the title of Giddings’ book, I switched gears and decided to make this post a place where you and I could share when and where we enter history. That way someday someone can come across this post and read about where and when you entered history.
So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, but more importantly to be remembered for posterity, share a moment in your life when you made an impact on the history we call everyday life.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies”: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing her ties with her mother, Angela, and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, she comes back to Harlem to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston, and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
Excerpt from Haunted Serenade…
On September 15, 1963, the one-year anniversary of my aunt Diana’s death, four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama died when their church was bombed for its involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
My mother called that evening and inquired after my health and the health of my daughter Cammie—the granddaughter she vowed never to acknowledge. Fear, anger and sorrow sounded in her voice. Mine too. We mourned those girls, their families and the sister/aunt we both loved. In that spoken grief, I silently mourned what had died between my mother and me.
The following month she called again, this time inviting me to bring Cammie to dinner. Like some sulky child, I felt tempted to ask what took her so long. Instead, I swallowed my hurt and came home.
Cammie squeezed my fingers and stared at 13 141st Street with a wide-eyed wonder only six-year-olds possess.
“Wow. Grammie has a real house.”
I don’t know what excited her more: the prospect of meeting her maternal grandmother or visiting a real house. Single-family homes with front stoops, porches and backyards were things she saw only on television. We lived in a Brooklyn housing project with eight apartments to every floor and eight floors in every building.
All last night she ooo’d and ah’d over the photo of Number Thirteen my mother had sent her. Too wound up to sleep, her pudgy little body tossed and turned like a happy puppy on the double bed we shared. She shook me awake each time a new possibility occurred to her. Did her Grammie really own the whole house? Could she have a room of her own when she spent the night? Could she have a puppy there? No cats or dogs were allowed in the projects. How many staircases were inside the house? Did it have a doorbell she could ring?
The sound of her excitement cleaved my heart. She showed no signs of discontent with our life, yet the smile she wore as she slept told me my daughter had desires of which I was unaware.