Screen Junkies

To all the Black women I've ever needed, in my life and throughout history

May 04, 2018 10:59 am

April is Black Women’s History Month.

I didn’t like vegetables — at least I didn’t think so. The way my grandmother fused together lima beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and other ingredients to make her special version of succotash was so magical that it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized my favorite childhood dish was a vegetable stew. Everything my grandmother did was magical to me. The way she fell asleep sitting up on the corner of her bed, her face perched in her hands with her jet black hair perfectly folded into pink foam rollers. The way her voice could deliver church hymns that rang throughout the entire house and even outside.

The stories of her life before I knew her — growing up in a small Mississippi town in the segregated South, being a teenager who cared for the children of a white family — were the most intriguing I’d ever heard. She was magical, but she was also a mystery. Every March when we celebrated her birthday, my sisters and I would sing. “How old are you? How old are you?” “I’m sweet 16!” my grandmother would squeal, and my sisters and I would giggle like it was a new joke. But upon her death, her birth certificate revealed that she was younger than we’d thought. We knew she ran away from that small town in Mississippi to the South Side of Chicago, where we called home, but we didn’t know much more than that — she didn’t’ tell us. What she did tell us was that you should always wash your feet before you get in the bed. She taught us how to bake and to cook. She taught us the value of working hard, saving money, and still finding time to take care of yourself.

When my grandmother died, I saw my mother’s heart break for the first time. In that moment, I realized that my mother needed her too — maybe more than I did. A few years before, we had left Chicago and moved to a small college town so my mother could pursue a college degree. My sisters and I, all teenagers, knew that my mother was working hard not only to provide for herself and her children, but for my grandmother so she could have the life she deserved. It was an almost impossible goal — to give someone the world — but it never stopped my mother from trying.

Getty Images / Caiaimage/Robert Daly

In that small town, I was the only Black girl in my school class — except for one other student. She didn’t stare with confusion at the box braids I always pulled into a high ponytail on top of my head. She didn’t scoff at the AAVE I used so casually in conversation. I was not an alien to her. I was not an “other.” We became best friends and she became a safe space. I learned from her as she swit

In that small town, I was the only Black girl in my school class — except for one other student. She didn’t stare with confusion at the box braids I always pulled into a high ponytail on top of my head. She didn’t scoff at the AAVE I used so casually in conversation. I was not an alien to her. I was not an “other.” We became best friends and she became a safe space. I learned from her as she swit

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