Thursday, August 27, 2015

Having Our Say

Having Our Say

Adult biography
"The pecking order was like this: White men were the most
powerful, followed by white women. Colored people were absolutely
below them and if you think it was hard for colored men, honey,
colored women were on the bottom. Yes, Sir! Colored women took it
from angles."
Back in 1993 I heard about a book that sounded really
fascinating: Having Our Say by Sarah and Elizabeth Delaney with Amy
Hill Hearth. Then Sadie was 103 and Bessie 101. They had started out
in the horse and buggy era and gone on to witness space exploration.
As black women they had way exceeded expectations society held because
of their sex and race. Why didn't I read it? There was something
about having a very bright, active toddler and a new baby, running and
advertising a home business typing papers for UMaine students, and
running a house that had me putting all else on the back burner. I
knew someday I'd get around to it.
This year someday came. The book was as great as I'd hoped it
would be. The Delaney sisters proved to be bright, observant, and
even in posession of keen senses of humor. They discussed their lives
from their unusual childhood on the campus of the North Carolina
school where their father was vice principal and their mother was the
matron to their struggles to acquire higher education and professional
success (Sadie taught in the public school system and Bessie was a
dentist) in Harlem during its cultural renaissance.
Some things have changed from their younger years. Certainly
the parent-child relationship has. I'm sure you're familiar with
helicoptor parents and the extent to which many go to make sure their
children get into and through the best colleges. Some start this
process by killer competition to get sons and daughters into elite
nursery schools.
Well back in the day offspring were expected to take
responsibility for their lives a lot earlier. Sadie recalled,
"...Many students went on to four-year colleges from there....Now on
graduation day, Papa said to me, 'Daughter, you are college material.
You owe it to your nation, your race, and yourself to go. And if you
don't, then shame on you!" Can you imagine parents these days waiting
so long to make this announcement and then expecting a son or daughter
to earn the money and not accept a scholarship that would make him/her
"beholden" to the people who offered it?
Sadly some of the things that should have changed for the better
in all this time haven't. As Bessie described, "But Papa still
insisted that my brothers be home by dark and he taught then how to
keep out of trouble. You see, sometimes they'd lynch a colored man
who objected to being called, 'uncle,' things like that. And if a
white woman said that a colored man had looked at her in a certain
way, that was the end of him..." Well, how about the unarmed young
black people who are shot by the police who are supposed to be
protecting them? How about black school kids being much more often
singled out for remedial classes, suspended or expelled, and shunted
into the school to jail pipeline? Isn't racial violence more chilling
when committed by professionals than by ignorant mobs?
Anyway, Having Our Say, is a thought provoker and a really sweet
read. It's like chatting with two very wise women over a cup of tea.
I'd especially recommend this book for folks like me who have decided
feminist inclinations.
On a personal note, I have very fond memories of that typing
business. It was a way I could bring in money while being with my
children whom I adored. I'd make up my advertisements and post them
on campus bulletin boards. (I joke that my kids had that school
imprinted on them by going up with me so often as babies. All three
chose it.) I even had very nice pencils made up to get more
business. I did very well because I didn't just type. I helped with
spelling and grammar. I had international students who counted on me
to make their work not as stilted. (My children got many toys and
happy meals from students who wanted me to do their papers. That was
the way to get my attention). I did value added before I even heard
the expression.
A great big shout out goes out to our people who have lived long and
mindfully and have so much to share with those of us who have the good
sense to listen.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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