Who is Navigating Your Life?

An author once said, “If you are a writer, write.” I feel that statement is directed specifically at me, I know I am a writer, but you know with work, family, church and getting a pedicure…you get my drift. The excuses could go on for days! Now that I am on vacation for two weeks, (Yay!)  I get to write, and I am going to get one more addition to my blog completed.

I started this entry about “who is navigating your life” back in May when I traveled to Indianapolis with my daughter and son to attend the wedding of a close family friend.  During our visit we were blessed to discover our friend, Richard Cassell had rented a car. Richard was gracious enough to transport us around for the weekend, sparing us from taxis and endless Uber rides. As our personal driver, Richard made only one request, that someone else navigate our path to each destination. We considered that to be quite fair, and my son, Jerrell agreed to be “the navigator”.

By definition, a navigator is one who charts or decides the course or route of some form of transportation. A good navigator will get you to your destination safely, and hopefully on time.  As Richard drove through the city of Indianapolis, unknown territory to us all, Jerrell gave him turn by turn directions.  Interestingly enough, Richard followed each and every instruction.  That may not seem like a big deal to you, but we had not spent time with Richard in well over ten years. Still, he believed that each turn that Jerrell gave him would get us closer to our destination. How could he be so sure that Jerrell was giving him the correct directions? Simple, he TRUSTED him! Why would he trust Jerrell? He knew about Jerrell’s character and he knew his family.  He knew that information coming from Jerrell was trustworthy and would lead him in the right direction.  Jerrell is known for being intelligent, wise and truthful, so his directions would not lead us astray (although we did go down one street that reminded Richard of an episode of 48 Hours).

This wonderful journey around Indianapolis was filled with laughter, stories and a couple of “Uh my bad, I should have told you sooner that your turn was coming.” We did not get lost in Indianapolis because we had a good driver and more importantly, a trustworthy navigator.  It made me think about who is navigating my life, and who I listen to for direction. I listen to my husband and close family, I listen to my pastor and to my dear friends. Most importantly, I listen to God! His word and His holy spirit directs me daily, and so far He has not put me on a wrong or dangerous path. I make sure that I check in with “my navigator” to make sure I don’t veer onto a path that is not safe, or a path He does not intend me to go on.  In these days and times we are living in, it is easy to get fiercely independent, and never go to God at all for proper navigation. We may even start to like the road we are on, when actually it may NOT be leading toward the destiny God has for us.

Who do you trust to navigate your life? Do you trust God to get you to your destination? Do you trust him to help you stay on course to achieve your goals rather than making wrong turns that land you in areas of desolation? God, by his nature is a trustworthy navigator. His word tells us in Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct (navigate) your path”.  If we trust the Lord and ask Him how to navigate each situation in our lives, He will get us to our destination.  We can be assured our outcome will be positive. We are further instructed not to lean (count on, depend on) our own understanding.  This is a warning against always doing what we want to do. We are supposed to ask for His help. He is our ultimate navigator.  When we trust God as our navigator we usually see the fruits of this decision. Our lives are generally happy and positive because we walk in the freedom of knowing we belong to God, and He is with us on this path.  People are naturally drawn to us as the light of God’s love shines in everything we do. Conversely, when we are without God’s navigation the opposite is true. By choosing to listen to negative people and thoughts, our outlook on life becomes more negative and our lives become sad and depressing, not at all a reflection of who God really is.  When we are on a path that God navigates, we can truly “represent” the love of God.   John 13:35, reads in part, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Whenever my uncle Bob would get lost going somewhere, he would say “this is where it gets a little fuzzy”.  If you were lucky enough to be with him, you would ride around for a while, wondering how long you would be lost.  The good news is, we don’t have to be lost like uncle Bob. When our way seems to get “a little fuzzy’, we simply need to get back on track with the great navigator of our lives, God.  He is there for us at any time for trustworthy direction and guidance. Psalm 119:105 sums it up best, “let his word be a lamp to your feet and a guide to your path.”  Amen!

Thoughts to ponder on “Who is Navigating your Life”:

1. Spend some time thinking about when you got off track with your life.  Did you ask for God’s help?  How did things turn out for you?

2.  What are some things you trust God to help you navigate? What things do you have a hard time letting him navigate? Pray and ask Him to help you release those things to Him.

3. Start today by trusting more of your life to the great navigator and see the difference it can make.

Have a peaceful journey!

 

Remembering Fannie Mae 3/5/1927 – 12/16/1987

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The (Good) Doctor Is In

There is a beautiful song by Kirk Franklin called “My Life is in Your Hands”.  The song speaks of our lives being in God’s hands, and while I know this is true, sometimes our lives are in our doctor’s hands.  I owe my health and happiness to God, my commitment to exercise, and to a good doctor, Constance Wang.  I really trust her. When I have an appointment with her, I am confident she will take the time to answer all my questions and concerns, and there will be some laughter in between.  She is not going to rush me out of the room to get to her next patient.  She reminds me of my favorite television doctor growing up, Marcus Welby, M.D.!  Dr. Welby was kind and caring, and he always got the diagnosis right! I know the show was far from reality, but I loved Dr. Welby.  Like Dr. Welby, Dr. Wang cares about each and every one of her patients. Everyone I know who is a patient of Dr. Wang, feels like they are her favorite. Ha, that’s a laugh, how can they be? Everyone knows I am her favorite! My husband, Gregory is second, my best friend Anita is third, and her husband Pervis, brings up the rear as fourth favorite. LOL!  Anita and Pervis have their appointments with Dr. Wang together. How fun is that? It is a wonder they ever get to the health stuff when there is so much fun to be had. Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Wang does not waste time. She is all business when it comes to health, but she knows how to examine you, find out who got on your nerves today at work, and tell you “your weight is creeping up again” all simultaneously.  Every patient feels Dr. Wang’s love and concern for their well-being. Dr. Wang is a GOOD doctor!

In March of 2013 I had a stroke. Unfortunately, Dr. Wang was out of town at the time and I saw another doctor, who misdiagnosed me and sent me home the first day. Excuse me, I digress, this article is about GOOD doctors! When Dr. Wang returned and found out I was in the hospital, she immediately came to see me.  She stayed and talked my family, soothing them during a very scary time in my life. She allowed my children to ask questions and she gave them honest answers.  I am so grateful for her knowledge, care and concern for me. To this day, I refuse to see another doctor for my appointments.  If Dr.Wang is out of the office, I will wait until she returns.  I don’t care if the late, great Dr. Marcus Welby makes a special appearance, I only want to see Dr. Wang.  I don’t care if she is out of the office for two weeks or two months, I will wait, thank you very much! I have told Dr. Wang she can never retire, because Anita and I will find her, and make her take care of us. Dr. Wang thinks we are crazy! We are, crazy about her! We love you, Dr. Wang!

Click here for a photo and more information on where to find Dr. Wang (just don’t take my appointment slot):

http://www.swedish.org/physicians/w/wang-constance

I believe everyone deserves to have a doctor they can trust with their life.  Everyone needs a “Dr. Wang” in their family. When I was little, it was Dr. Blanche Lavizzo. If there are any folks out there who remember Dr. Blanche Lavizzo, let me know by sending me a comment.  When I got married, Dr. Anita Johnson-Connell was my “Good” doctor.  Even today, she remains a trusted friend to my family.  Dr. Connell had this beautiful wall of photos of all the babies she delivered.  It was such a comforting sight to see whenever I went for an office visit.  Now mind you, Dr. Connell is an ob-gyn, so it was not all fun going to see her. But she was the best in her profession, and she took time to learn about her patients and their families during exams. More importantly, you knew she would get your full health history. You could rest assured that Dr. Connell  would conduct all the necessary exams to ensure you were receiving the best quality care.

Read more about Dr. Connell by clicking on the link below:

http://www.washington.edu/omad/2010/04/04/the-power-of-giving-back-alumni-spotlight-dr-anita-johnson-connell/

Another “Good doctor” is Dr. Alvin Thompson, who provided care for me during my twenties and early thirties.  He taught me that eating smaller portions is healthier. He once said to me, “your mother was overweight, my mother was overweight”. At first I was upset, I wasn’t cool letting nobody talk about my mama! But he talked about his own mama too, so I guess it was okay. LOL!  He went on to say “you don’t need a bowl of ice cream, you can have a tablespoon” and  “you don’t need a piece of pie, you just need a sliver”.  A sliver?! He never tasted my sweet potato pie!  Oh Dr. Thompson, if it were THAT easy!

My children were cared for by awesome doctors as well, Dr. Brent Oldham and later Dr. Kathleen Graunke.  We loved Dr. Oldham, who was never without his trusty clogs. His exam/appointment times with Kaila and Jerrell, were spent updating information in their health charts, as well as finding out about how the family was doing.  I remember once after Jerrell was born, he hesitated to prescribe Levsin drops for his colic. He said, “We try not to prescribe this often. We really only prescribe it when the colic is really disrupting the family”. I tried not to roll my eyes, and said, “I’m not getting any sleep, my husband is not getting any sleep. I’d say we are being disrupted.”  He gave us the prescription, and although we only used it a few times before Jerrell’s colic ended, I was sure happy to have those magical drops.

It would not be fair if I didn’t mention my favorite dentist, Dr. Michael B. Washington. He is the GOAT (greatest of all time), at least when it comes to dental health care. He provided quality care to ALL of his patients, but I thought that he treated my family extra special, since he knew and was fond of my aunt, Hellyne  Summerrise. My bestie, Anita, is a lifelong member of his fan club.  Her mother, Nannie, used to make cakes and pies for Dr. Washington.  Anita was “hot as fish grease” when he retired. Oh well, we had some real good years with him. We still trade Dr. Washington stories to this day! Dr. Washington was the “MSN.com” of the community before the internet days.  If you did not have the local FACTS newspaper handy, you could get the lowdown from Dr. Washington.  Dr. Washington had a great sense of humor, something every good doctor should have.  He was soooo funny, and he would make you laugh at the craziest times (like when your mouth was held open by a rubber dam). He had a comment for EVERYTHING.  When he saw my son Jerrell for the first time, he said he should have been named “‘Shawn Gregory Davis”, after me and my husband.  When you visited Dr. Washington, you were treated like a good friend, not just a patient. Nice! Dr. Washington has passed the reins to his daughter, Dr. Kelley Washington-Hooe, who is doing a great job. His wife, Mrs. Washington, could also be found in the office, handling administrative matters and connecting with patients as well.  Last but certainly not least, we cannot forget Tandy, receptionist extraordinaire. If it were not for her loving relationships with hundreds of families, we would not have the after hours connection to get emergency appointments for our loved ones.  Thank you Tandy!

Click here to read an article about Dr. Kelley:

http://seattlemedium.com/dr-kelley-washington-hooe-dds

Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We were discussing the importance of having a good doctor, and he told me his doctor had just retired.  My friend exclaimed, “he didn’t check with me first!” My friend was very pleased with this doctor and the medical care he received, and he was not happy about having to find a new one.  It is important to note that this was a very unique perspective, as it came from an African-American male. He was serious about his health and medical care. This was refreshing to hear first hand. More African-American males need to realize the importance of good health/medical care. They are the ones who seem to shun going to the doctor the most.  They must not let fear, lack of health care insurance or apathy keep them from taking their health more seriously.  All of us can do better at encouraging those in our sphere of influence to get check ups regularly and to seek medical care when something is not right in their body.  We have to regularly screen for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.

In praise of good doctors, I must mention my obsession with Disney’s Doc McStuffins, a cute African American doctor to stuffed animals and toys.  I fell in love with her after my dear friend, Roshawna, bought me a talking Doc McStuffins doll when I had a stroke. When you squeeze her hand she tells you excitedly, “Time for your check-up.”  My adult son gets a kick out of imitating her (smile).   A good doctor will tell you when its “Time for your check-up”.  They will send you reminders and sometimes even annoy you with their persistence.  That is just one thing a good doctor does. What else should you look for in a good doctor?  I am going to give you my short list, but I would love for you to send me your comments on what you think makes a good doctor.

Characteristics/qualities of a good doctor:

  1. They are kind, caring and honest.
  2. They take their time during appointments, they don’t rush you out of the office.
  3. They are knowledgeable about more than just medicine.
  4. They take time to learn about you and your immediate family.
  5. They have studied your health history, and know the facts about you.
  6. They will test you whenever it is necessary, and order follow-up tests as required.
  7. They know when immediate tests are necessary.
  8. They give you options.
  9. They give you good referrals for services they do not provide.
  10. They or their nurse will return your call the same day if you have an emergency.
  11. They will fit you into their schedule, if it is necessary.
  12. You can trust them with your life.
  13. They will see others in your immediate family, when possible.
  14. They visit you in the hospital (Thank you Dr. Wang).
  15. They are culturally competent.
  16. They do not patronize you.
  17. They do not act as if they know your body better than you (regardless of their degrees).
  18. They have a sense of humor.

A good doctor is hard to find, but it is worth the search to find one that you can trust your life with. If you have a good doctor, you are truly blessed! If you are still searching, I encourage you to use this list as a starting point. Take good care of yourself, you are special!

Let’s Hear It for New York!

Wow! New York is all its cracked up to be! At least from the perspective of a woman born and raised in Seattle, WA. When Alicia Keys sang “concrete jungle that dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t  do”, she wasn’t lying! Yeah! Let’s hear it for New York! I want to begin this post by thanking my wonderful son, Jerrell, who paid for my ticket to New York, my “play daughter” Alison Gazarek (and Mo, her cat), for welcoming me and opening her home to me during my stay, and my New York road dog, Sandra Killett who showed me as much of New York as she possibly could in two days!!

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Me and my friend Sandra in Times Square! I was like a kid in a candy store!

So my trip (March 10th-15th) started with a few songs to get me in the mood, a little Sinatra “Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I’ll make a brand new start of it New York, New York”. Then Empire State of Mind, it’s a real jam, but I can’t keep up with Jay-Z. The only thing I seem to remember is “3 card Marley” and “but I ain’t a crip tho”.  Oh well, I was still rocking to the beat.

Then I played a live version of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, and I gotta tell you, that song is THE ONE. Now don’t tell me I am going to lose my Sista card! I am not throwing any shade to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys! I am a mature woman, and I like the slow, classy sound of Billy Joel as he sings about New York. He is giving you the Grayline tour, while Jay-Z is giving the Hop On Hop Off tour.

Check out Billy Joel’s live version here:

Now groove to the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys Empire State of Mind here:

So now after grooving to the sounds of native New Yorkers, I am ready to go to “the city that never sleeps.” The TSA line at SeaTac was outrageously long and it took me about fifty minutes to get through security. I am sure some folks missed their flights and there were many unhappy travelers. It was truly a nightmare, but thankfully I got through security and to the gate just as boarding began. My flight to New York started off bumpy. Not cool! My seat mate assured me it was fine, and that it had been very windy in the area prior to our takeoff.  She told me, “if you need to grab onto me, feel free”. How sweet!  Nancy and Maureen were taking a girls trip to Paris, so New York was just a five hour layover for them. They were great seatmates.  As the plane made its descent into New York all you could see for miles on end was a sea of brown buildings. I think I had visions of seeing a gorgeous view of the Statue of liberty as we landed, but that was not my reality this time.

JFK airport was huge and I am certain I walked at least two miles before I finally made it to the baggage claim. The airport just went on and on. Luckily, my luggage was right on the gurney as soon as I arrived at my claim check. The timing was great. I now had to face my biggest fear, hailing a taxi.  I had read one article that said “everyone is waiting for a taxi at JFK airport!”  I calmly headed to the taxi waiting area just across the street. A pleasant young man greeted me and asked where I was going. He told me the next taxi coming along would be mine. Bam! Total waiting time…4.5 seconds. I was feeling real good now! On the way to my hotel I spoke briefly to my taxi cab driver, who was from Haiti. He was a quiet, friendly man. We reached my hotel in Manhattan in about 50 minutes. Total cost 70.00.  I was in New York!!

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I am clearly pleased with my room at the Iroquois Hotel in Manhattan. Just a few blocks from all the excitement of Times Square. This is the perfect boutique hotel (small and classy) for a first trip to New York.  It was neat & cozy, the bathroom was lovely, and I had a fire escape outside my window, so I felt like I was in an episode of Law & Order. I was greeted in Times Square by “the Pope” at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, so of course I had the blessing of having a fabulous time in New York City (smile).

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Me and Sandra with Pope Francis, Madame Tussaud’s NYC

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

This place is rocking at all hours of the day and night. There is just no shortage of things to do and see (and eat). No wonder it’s called “The city that never sleeps”.  The next several photos include Times Square at night, Rockefeller Center, New York subway (and subway benches), Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge (with a glimpse of Lady Liberty),  and the 911 Memorial site and reflecting pool.  You might get lucky and catch a jazz band playing in the subway or get a chance to hear a talented or starving spoken word artist perform right next to you while riding the subway.  Expect the unexpected, and don’t be scared! During one subway ride a young man near me exclaimed, “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, no need to be afraid (uh okay), I am going to perform a piece for you…” I smiled as the young man eloquently delivered a nicely arranged spoken word piece.  Of course, everyone expects a monetary show of your appreciation for their talent. Even in Times Square, there are no shortage of characters dressed up willing to take pictures with you for any donation. Take your chances when handing out cash, but be careful. Like my husband always says, “keep your head on a swivel”!

Times Square at night!

Times Square at night!

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

 

Top of the Rock (see the Empire State Building in the background)

Top of the Rock (see the Empire State Building in the background)

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Getting ready to take the New York subway!

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Central Park on a beautiful day.

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Shawnie in Central Park

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Heading to Brooklyn (look at that sky!)

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Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

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A glimpse of the Statue of Liberty! That is as close as I got!

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In front of The Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem (Shout out to Marcus Samuelson, owner & my favorite chef on “Chopped”, the reality t.v. show)

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Me and Alison after seeing The Color Purple on Broadway! It was a fabulous night! If you don’t know who Cynthia Erivo is, google this beautiful, powerful sister with a voice. She was AMAZING in the lead role as Celie.  Jennifer Hudson was wonderful as Shug. Peep this you-tube:

 

 

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Standing in front of the ad for “Hamilton” on Broadway

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One of the reflecting pools at the 911 Memorial Site

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

This is Mo, Alison's cute, but naughty cat. He tried to use my new luggage for a scratching post!

This is Mo, Alison’s cute, but naughty cat. He tried to use my new luggage for a scratching post!

There is so much to do and see in New York, but as an African American I really felt love for Harlem.  Our history is alive in Harlem and it evoked a great sense of pride being there.   I was able to visit the famous Apollo Theater, The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem Hospital (where Malcolm X was taken the night he was assassinated),  New York Amsterdam News (one of New York’s largest and most influential Black-owned and operated business institutions), the statue of Adam Clayton Powell (he represented Harlem in Congress from 1945 -1970), and the Red Rooster restaurant, owned by “Chopped” reality television chef Marcus Samuelson. We were lucky enough to get a table for three for dinner on a Friday night, and this is THE restaurant folks are talking about in Harlem! Remember, “the Pope” had blessed me to have a good time.

The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Statue in Harlem

The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Statue in Harlem

Rubbing a replica of the good luck stump at The Apollo Theater.

Rubbing a replica of the good luck stump at The Apollo Theater.

Amsterdam News

Amsterdam News

 

Schomberg Center

Schomberg Center

 

Schomberg Center honoring American Negro Theatre

Schomberg Center honoring American Negro Theatre

Another highlight was visiting the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan. This was a place that brought tears to my eyes. You cannot experience this place without feeling deep emotion for what our ancestors went through.  I can still feel the emotion as I write about this experience.

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

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“In 1991 during construction of a General Services Administration office building in Lower Manhattan, graves were discovered 24 feet below ground, and when those remains led to the discovery of hundreds of other bodies in the same area, and when it was determined that these were black New Yorkers interred in what a 1755 map calls the “Negros Burial Ground,” the earth seemed to shake from more than the machinery. The evidence created a conceptual quake, transforming how New York history is understood and how black New Yorkers connect to their past. This discovery offered the first large scale traces of black American experience in this region. In all 419 bodies were discovered – giving a clue to how many others still lie under the foundations of Lower Manhattan. (Estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 20,000).”  Edward Rothstein, New York Times, February 25, 2010

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

You might be wondering ” but what about the food?” There is no shortage of food and great places to eat.  That was not my priority, however! There is fabulous pizza everywhere, hot dogs on every corner, Sylvia’s in Harlem, Peaches in Brooklyn (wonderful food and atmosphere) and Dallas BBQ in Times Square.  One of the best things I ate in New York, hands down, was fresh roasted toffee nuts, which were about two dollars. Delicious!! I had pizza twice, and here is a pic of my selections:

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With Alison my last night in New York, Columbus Circle Plaza

With Alison my last night in New York, Columbus Circle Plaza

There you have it! A sweet trip to New York City that I will never forget!  On my last day, I was brave enough to catch the subway (alone) to Times Square. You should have seen me counting EVERY stop and marking it off my notes. On my last night, I met Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF at The Shops at Columbus Circle. When I stopped her and said, “Aren’t you Oprah’s best friend,” she smiled and said, “You have a really good eye.”  Alison immediately started texting her friends, while I excitedly explained how my husband Gregory always says I can “will people into my presence”.  As I close this post, my mind wanders back to Billy Joel’s song New York State of Mind. What is a “New York State of Mind?’ Is it the charge of electricity you get walking through Times Square? Yes! Is it the feeling that you really can find something to do at any time of the day or night? Yes! Is it the fashion, the shopping, the neon lights, the department stores on steroids? Yes! Is it the emotional rollercoaster of seeing the revitalized One World Trade Center and the 911 Memorial? Yes. Is it the pride you feel in Harlem at the Apollo or the spell you fall under when you see a Broadway play? Yes. A New York State of Mind is all that and so much more, and I hope to experience it again real soon.

 

Tribute to Jeanette Davis, A Praying Mother

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I met her in 1981, when my husband and I were dating. She was a very pretty woman, with lots of class and style.  She was very kind, but there was a seriousness about her that let me know she did not stand for any foolishness. Of course, this mother of the man I loved, would have to love God.  And the very weekend I met her, we worshipped the Lord together, at her home church “Hamilton United Methodist Church” in Los Angeles.  This was to be a weekend of firsts.  It was also my first meeting with my wonderful father-in-law, Jerry Davis, my sister-in-law, Ronda Davis-Benware and my two brothers-in-law Jerry Jr. and Dannye. What an absolute blessing, to meet who would be my future family of in-laws, and have them embrace me (without Gregory being present).  God is good!

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Jeanette Hattie Davis, will celebrate her eightieth birthday on November 14, 2015.  Over the years she has transformed from mother-in-law to simply “mom” or “mama” to me now.  She has known and loved me for over thirty-four years. She was there to ease the sadness when my mother passed in 1987. She has been an inspiration to her family and an example of a godly wife and mother.  She has taught me so much about the fact that although you cannot always control the decisions your  children will make, you can always PRAY.  She has prayed for all of her children and her grandchildren.  She has prayed for our marriages, our spouses, our jobs, our children. She has prayed during our happy times and also when our hopes have been dashed.  She believed that God would take care of us. Well guess what, He has! We are not perfect, but thanks to our mother’s prayers, we are strong and resilient. We can look back and say, “Thank you Lord, for our praying mother”. The gospel singer Mandisa has a song titled “He is With You.”  One verse states, “He is with you when your kids are grown, when there’s too much space and you feel alone, and you’re worried if you got it right or wrong.”  You got it right, Jeanette!  You did it right, Jeanette.  The Lord is pleased with you and the sacrifices you made for your family.  You’re living has not been in vain.

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I want to share a story of how my relationship with my mother and sister-in-law took an unexpected turn, over twenty years ago.  Our love for each other grew even stronger through an unlikely yet delightful experience at a restaurant in California.  We had been out shopping and decided to stop for a meal.  We each had our own entrée and were trying to decide on a dessert to share.  We settled on an ice cream dish that we thought would be something light, yet would satisfy all of our sweet tooths.  When the waiter arrived with our dessert, he was very dramatic as he put the dish down in front of us as if he were serving the Queen of England! We had asked for three spoons, but as we stared in disbelief at the tiny, and I mean TINY, dish of ice cream before us, we began to laugh hysterically.  Before us was a grand serving of about 1 tablespoon of ice cream, with pretty little garnishes strewn around it. What in the world were we going to do with three spoons, when there was hardly enough dessert for one person?  One by one, we lost control, our shrieks of laughter ringing throughout the restaurant. The tears were falling from each of our faces as we tried to regain our dignity and composure.  When one of us would finally get herself under control, another would burst into laughter and tears.  I don’t even remember if we finished the ice cream!  Oh, and the waiter, he was looking at us as if we had lost our minds. How dare we laugh at this beautiful dessert he had just served!  I have not seen mom laugh that hard before or since, and it will always be one of my favorite memories of us together.

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Jeanette Davis is what the bible calls a Proverbs 31 woman.  Her husband praises her, and her children call her blessed!  Her husband Jerry and our dad, was a truly wonderful man.  We all dearly miss his presence in our lives. Mom has shown us that through the pain of loss, faith in God helps you persevere. Her strength has been amazing!  After dad’s death, she and a group of other widows formed a support group called WOWW, which stands for World of Wonderful Widows.  They support each other, travel together, pray for each other, and enjoy the life of abundance they have in God.  At eighty years old, mama is still one of the most active members of her church. She still drives better than most people I know, except when she runs over the curb when making turns (her son taught her that).  She loves African-American history, and she stays current on all things that affect our community. She has also taught her children and grandchildren to love our history. Our mama even claims President Obama as her adopted son!  She is still a grand diva of fashion, and if you go out with her, you better bring your A-game, because she is going to be “FITTED” (Jerrell’s word)!  She is also an awesome cook and baker. Her children and grandchildren always head for the kitchen when they arrive for a visit, hoping to find a tasty treat that she has made.  When a large box arrives every December, my husband gets excited because he knows it contains her famous fruitcake.  Mom is always looking for little ways that she can make life better for her family and friends.  When you call and ask her how she is doing, she always says “I am doing pretty good, thank the Lord”, always remembering to give Him thanks. 

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I asked her children and grandchildren for words they would use to describe her.  Their responses were:

“Kindhearted, lover of the Lord, classy and tidy” (Gregory)

“Resilient, artistic, faithful, stylish” (Kaila)

“Gentle and kindhearted” (Jerrell)

“Loving” (Ronda)

“Understanding” (Danyelle)

“Very busy,  very loving, always believing in her faith, and always believing in keeping the family together.” (J.D)

“Politely generous, cognitively well endowed” (Dannye)

“Beautiful and caring, the “root” to our family” (Dana)

Like the Proverbs 31 woman, Jeanette is a woman who fears the Lord, and she is to be praised. We truly honor her for all that her hands have done!

Happy Birthday Mom, and may God continue to bless you! You are a gift to our family and to the world.  We look forward to many more years of loving you and spending time in your presence.  We thank God for our praying mother!

From Compton to South Seattle to the White House and back to South Seattle: My Brother’s Keeper

by Gregory DavisGD in DC.jpeg

My skepticism

I was invited to attend the White House My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Summit as a community representative by the City of Seattle. A prestigious opportunity for sure; my mother, wife and co-workers were excited, I suppose that’s all that matters really, in fact I was the one filled with skepticism. So the first question I wrote down, dead set on getting an answer to at 8:32 a.m. EST, was “What is it about this initiative that would make folk want to join in?” The fact is I belong to some fairly progressive circles and we contend the federal government has not been very good to our people. Well, hearing from Eric Holder and Valarie Jarrett didn’t generate the answer to my question. Panel after panel including the likes of philanthropists (one of whom threw $13 million into the pool) didn’t answer my question.

Presentations by White House staff talking about how to message your initiative didn’t answer my question. Presentation after presentation by local practitioners didn’t answer my question. Least you believe I wasn’t paying attention and just taking up space the remarks by Policylink’s Founder and Executive Director Angela Blackwell were very inspiring and thought provoking. She called for a fundamental shift in the way we talk about improving outcomes for boys and young men of color, highlighting our shared responsibility in focusing the conversation on how this population can achieve their real-life aspirations.

With this I agree, and submit to you one of our greatest challenges in this endeavor is overcoming the denigration of each other. We have to, when speaking and interacting with each other, use language that will sustain relationships now and into the future. Turns out I did not get the definitive answer to my top of the morning question until the very last minute I was there, 6.58 pm EST. At the closing reception, trying to find who to make conversation with (you know how that goes at affairs like this) I walked up to a lady from Orlando who happened to be standing by herself and mentioned my predicament. This is what she said, “MBK represents a next level, it will expand your platform, it will elevate your program to a national scale”. That my friends was the nugget I was looking for.

Describe Initiative

Let me stop here and describe what MBK is. It’s a five year $200 million plus public private partnership initiative intended to create better futures for African American males and other young people of color. There are six milestones President Obama wants to see the needle moved on 1. Entering school ready to learn, 2. Reading at grade level by third grade, 3. Graduating from high school ready for college and career, 4. Completing post-secondary education or training, 5. Successfully entering the workforce and 6. Reducing violence and providing a second chance. It started in September 2014 following the Trayvon Martin killing and that crazy verdict.

It compelled President Obama to issue a challenge to cities, towns, counties and tribes across the country to implement a coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategy that includes these six milestones. He’s made it clear It is not a grand new federal program, but he does recognize his convening power and he wants to give young people a sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. Seattle signed on and as a MBK community has accepted the call to action indicating its commitment to enacting sustainable change in our community in the milestones, cited above with a specific focus on #5 and #6. The fact is, according to this family engagement practitioner, if all youth and young adult serving programs currently operating in South Seattle, the Central Area and West Seattle were inputted into a three dimensional matrix each MBK milestone would be addressed. How well they are doing against those milestones is another question that we absolutely must answer. Is there a ray of hope that these programs, their leaders and families can see the MBK opportunity as theirs and begin working together on it? How about this… lets work to get city resources focused on this.

The horizon

So here I am having returned to Seattle amid all the hoopla , having represented all of you, my dad (the late Jerry Davis), my heroes (Ralph Bunche, Malcolm X, John McKnight, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Imhotep), my family (Shawn-married to for 30+ years, Kaila 28 and Jerrell 22) , and this city and guess what happened?

The Mayor of Seattle (Ed Murray) asked the CEO of Casey Family Programs (Dr. William Bell), where I work, if he would allow me to facilitate a planning committee process with the task of organizing a Youth Opportunity Summit (April 11), in the name of My Brother’s Keeper. Er uh….what do you think I said? First I called on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then I said I’ll do it”. Actually I didn’t have a choice …my life is not my own. However my yes was buttressed by the fact that I knew Seattle had just signed on to Cities United (reducing Black Male homicide, http://www.citiesunited.org) and has also been named to the 2015 cohort of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (a federal initiative that seeks to more effectively prevent youth and gang violence). Not only that I know that Seattle Public Schools has formed an African American Male Scholar Think Tank and that King County is getting ready to publish its Youth Action Plan. I also know that Rainier Beach is getting ready to launch an array of crime preventing interventions through it’s Beautiful Safe Place for Youth initiative funded by a Department of Justice Byrne grant. http://www.safeplaceforyouth.weebly.com.

There’s talk of a Southeast Opportunity Center, there’s a new Human Services Department Director (Catherine Lester), the Black Lives Matter movement is creatively moving forward, the No New Jim Crow folk are getting their legs under them, the national ASCAC and Arts School Network conferences are being held in Seattle this year. There are probably other things you know about that can be added to the mix. Dare I say…the Lord is moving, or the stars are aligning? Or do we risk missing the most important moment, this community building practitioner has seen since 1997, 18 years ago when Mayor Rice implemented neighborhood planning. I would venture a guess that it achieved maybe half of its potential for our neighborhood.

At any rate the Youth Opportunities Summit is April 11th. Are you invited? Yes. Who is the target for the Summit? You know who the target is. I’ll go a step further and say if you and your sphere of influence don’t see yourself as a part of this…shame on you. We need people young and old, we need the leading practitioners from all sectors – juvenile justice, education, child welfare, law enforcement, media, business, health, technology, clergy etc… etc…, etc… to rally now, being our best selves and bringing our best thinking. Joe Echevarria co-chair with Magic on the MBK National Convening Council says there is a near-perfect match between the skills most prized in these above fields and those we so often hear boys and young men of color needing to develop in order to succeed. We have an unparalleled opportunity, the window is open for only so long, (Obama leaves office in less the 18 months).

Parting shots

So while you may not be, in the name of our young people, interested in next level stuff, or expanding your platform, or elevating your program to a national scale or connecting your story to a presidential initiative or helping create an infrastructure of support – you can still keep your eyes open and watch a movement take us closer to where we need to be than one has in a long time. I’m Gregory Davis hit me at http://www.rbcoalition.org to lend a hand, finger, or fingernail. We will take whatever you have to offer.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

The lyrics to a song by Rev. Clay Evans and the AARC Mass Choir state, “As I look back over my life, and I think things over, I can truly say that I’ve been blessed, I’ve got a testimony!” AMEN! God is, has been, and will always be GOOD! Looking back on 2014 reminds me of God’s faithfulness and goodness to me and my family.  The bible says “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change, like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)  I am so glad that God is not like us! He is not good to you today, then angry and distant tomorrow.  I love that about God.  I can depend on Him, even when I have not given Him my best. The good and perfect gifts that we get from God are not material, but eternal.  These gifts don’t wear out, go out of style, or ever need their battery charged.

In 2015 we should set our focus on God’s good and perfect gifts: life, salvation, forgiveness, grace and mercy.  We should also seek to share those good and perfect gifts with others in 2015. We have to spend more of our time showing concern for those who have lost their way, and let them know there is a God who loves and cares for them.  We have to be more bold in sharing a word that will encourage someone and not break them down.  We have to be quick to offer grace in more situations.  I know it is hard, especially when we have been hurt, but God requires it of us.  It is important how we treat people and that we show the love of Jesus Christ to all.

Let us take a moment to thank God for his gifts to us in 2014 and most of all, for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).  Here is a very short and simple activity for you and your loved ones to complete.  Write down three things that God did for you, or brought you through in 2014.  Here is my top three:

1.  My husband and I celebrated thirty years of marriage.

2.  My son graduated from Seattle Pacific University, and survived a tragic campus shooting (Rest in Paradise, Paul Lee).

3.  I stayed healthy and kept my weight down by consistently walking several times a week and reducing my food intake.

Now its your turn! What three things occurred in 2014 that you are most thankful/grateful for.  Write them down and then thank God OUT LOUD for bringing you through.  If you want to take it a step further, tell someone about your top three and explain how you knew God was with you during that time.

So, it is with thanksgiving that we look forward to greater blessings and the new things God will do in 2015.  In return, what have you promised to do for Him? What will you do to make life better for yourself and others.  Do you need to lose weight, exercise, read your bible, stop smoking, stop spending excessively, reduce your time on social media, pray more often?  Whatever it is, I challenge you NOT to make a resolution, JUST DO IT! You CAN do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13).  Just take small steps. Don’t forget to pray and ask God to help you!  Then, when you have made some progress towards your goal, tell someone about it, and tell them HOW you did it.  I know they will be encouraged by your testimony.  I wanted to get this post published by New Years Day, and even though it is now 11:12 p.m., I can say I DID IT!  It feels good!  May God bless you in all your endeavors for 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Freedom from Domestic Violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  This important subject  will always be near to my heart.  I was employed for fifteen years as a domestic violence victim advocate in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.   From 1992 to 2007 I helped countless women and men navigate their way through the court system.  Some of them needed and desired my  help, while some declined my assistance.  The problem of domestic violence continues to plague the lives of millions of women, and it is still one of the top reasons women miss work.  There is more information and resources available than ever before, but yet domestic violence persists,  along with the attitude that somehow the victim has to take some fault for her abuse.   On December 1, 2012 a beautiful young mother named Kasandra Perkins was murdered by her NFL player boyfriend, who later killed himself,  leaving their infant daughter an orphan.  Although we heard very little about it nationally and it seemed to be swiftly swept under the rug, I wrote the following piece in tribute to Kasandra Perkins and the countless other victims of domestic violence who are easily forgotten by society:

 

“I’m Tired”  by Shawn Richard-Davis

I’m tired. Tired of the toll that violence is taking on our community.  Kasandra Perkins lay dead this weekend, a tragic victim of multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by her NFL player boyfriend Jovan Belcher.  The same weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs went ahead with their scheduled football game (what a surprise). Did we actually think the deaths of two black people would be reason enough to postpone America’s dearly loved “Football”?  Please!  Our community is losing the fight against domestic violence.  Yet we continue to hide the fact that it is going on daily in the lives of our families and friends.  When Kasandra was killed, some of the first comments were, “They seemed happy “and “They were a normal couple”.   When will we stop the denial?  No normal person shoots a person they love multiple times and then kills himself.  It is not normal, and you can believe there were signs leading up to this tragedy.  Kasandra’s death in fact makes Mr. Belcher a murderer.  He committed the ultimate act of control in killing her.  In domestic violence relationships, a perpetrator will often state, “If I can’t have you, no one will.” In this case, Jovan Belcher decided when both he and Kasandra would die.  Kasandra had no choice or control in this matter.  There was no love shown in this act of violence.  There was no love shown in leaving a three month old baby motherless and fatherless. If we don’t wake up as a community and face the fact that domestic violence is a real problem for us, we are going to lose many more Kasandras.  Who is going to tell Kasandra’s daughter the truth when she is old enough to understand? Will they ever?  Will they tell her that her father was so angry that he took a gun and killed her mother, then went and killed himself?  Or will it be sweetened with, “Baby, your daddy loved you so much… but he was hurting, so he took your mama with him.  He didn’t mean it.” We must stop making excuses for the violence perpetrated by our men and sometimes, women.  We can no longer take the stance of “we understand it” just because we feel like life is so much harder for us due to racism, poverty, and lack of access to education and jobs.   We must stop lying to ourselves and others.  We have to demand an end to domestic violence in our community.  We have to stand up for the victims, and demand the perpetrators get help . By any means necessary. As a domestic violence victim advocate for fifteen years, I got so tired of the excuses, the lies and the denial: “He said he won’t do it again”. “He said he is going to get help”. “The children were asleep, they didn’t hear anything”. “I started it”. “We both hit each other”. “It’s not that bad”. “He’s a good father”. “He’s only like that when he drinks/does drugs”. “I don’t want a no contact order”. “I won’t testify against him”. “We’re going to go to counseling together”. “We’re going to talk to our pastor”. Stop it! Just stop it.  Call it what it is and cry out loud, “Somebody help me please!”  There are places to get help.  There are people waiting to offer assistance.  Please ask for it.

I have included a few websites where you can get help if you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence.

Northwest Family Life:   http://northwestfamilylife.org/domestic-violence/

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence http://wscadv2.org/

New Beginnings  http://newbegin.org/get-help

An Everlasting Love – Thirty Year Tribute

 

Shawn & Gregory Davis July 14, 1984

Shawn & Gregory Davis
July 14, 1984

 

On July 14, 1984 I  married Gregory Davis, the love of  my life.  On Monday, July 14, 2014 we will celebrate our 30th anniversary.  I love him more today than ever.  I thank God for the gift he has been in my life.  The lyrics to a song by Teddy Pendergrass says “it’s so good loving somebody, when somebody loves you back, and that’s a fact.” It goes on to state, “not 70/30 not 60/40, talkin’ bout a 50/50 LOVE.”  Yeah, that’s what Gregory and I have! We have had a wonderful, loving, faith-centered marriage that produced two beautiful children, Kaila, 28 and Jerrell, 21.  Our marriage has been shaped by the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22, 23).  These fruits of the spirit kept us treating each other right, treating our children right, and treating others right for thirty years. The love witnessed by our children has shaped them into loving and caring adults.  Our home was and still is a household of peace, and that is a major blessing.

In the movie Jerry McGuire, the leading man told the woman he loved, “you complete me”.   I must say it sounded romantic, but two people in love should be complete already.  Gregory and I were confident, strong, and complete by ourselves, but when we got together something special happened. We made each other even better .  We have supported each other in our aspirations and goals.  Gregory has been my biggest supporter in both happy and difficult times.  Over the years we suffered many losses in our immediate family, most notably my mother in 1987 and his father in 2002.  Gregory was a strong tower for me and our family during those times of great loss.  Gregory has been a husband who puts his family first without exceptions.  He is very committed to his faith, family, work, and community.  Even though he spends many hours volunteering his time in the community, when I need him, he is always there.  He was a rock last year when I suffered a stroke.   As soon as we were told the diagnosis, he took my phone, made all the important calls, and immediately began a care plan to take care of me and nurse me back to health.

Gregory has provided  our children a blueprint of a good husband and father.  I can proudly say that we were present in our children’s lives TOGETHER.  We parented together, and we spent a lot of time  loving them and making sure they received a good education.  They are now adults who are smart,  thoughtful, kind, and a blessing to their community.  Kaila has graduated from college and is married to a wonderful man, Ken Nsimbi.  I pray for them to have the happiness and longevity in marriage that we have had.   Jerrell recently graduated from college with a sociology degree (and a minor in business),  and we are so proud of him.  These two have been our joy  and brought us so many reasons to laugh, grow and celebrate through the years. One thing that was a turning point in our parent partnering, happened several years ago.  It was a Sunday evening, if I recall correctly, and I was washing and folding clothes.  Gregory asked Kaila and Jerrell to assist me with this chore, and it was never the same again.  I never felt burdened by laundry duty because everyone was doing it together on Sunday night! But it just took daddy telling them to help out with their clothes, and they did it from then on.  Thank you, Gregory, for the little things you did to make life easier at home.

Our faith in Jesus Christ was and is at the center of our marriage.  As committed Christians, on Sunday mornings we worshipped together as a family.   Gregory and I were baptized together in Medgar Evers pool on the campus of Garfield High School.  That spiritual act that we shared was the beginning of a life committed to growing in our Christian faith together and raising our children in the fear and admonition of God.  We have been abundantly blessed in return. I am looking forward to what the next thirty years will bring.  My prayer for us is to keep serving the Lord together, loving and supporting each other, enjoying the world together, and seeing our children transform the world we live in.  I pray the Lord will satisfy us with long life (Psalm 91:16).  I love you Gregory!

We want to thank each person who was a part of  our wedding thirty years ago, wherever you are, we are grateful for the support you provided to us. To our family, friends and  community, thank you for your love, prayers and support of our marriage and our family.  We love you! We need each other to survive!  Your prayers and encouragement have strengthened us as a couple. May God richly bless you all!

Lastly, the music of our love! We have enjoyed so much music over the years.  We are thankful that the Lord gave us the gift of hearing, because our relationship has been enhanced by the sound of beautiful love songs during these thirty years.  Check out our list and see if any of your favorites appear.

30 Love Songs

1. Love Ballad  L.T.D.

2. When Somebody Loves You Back – Teddy Pendergrass

3. Never Too Much – Luther Vandross

4. Living for the Love of You – The Isley  Brothers

5. Joy and Pain –  Frankie Beverly & Maze

6. Devotion – Earth, Wind & Fire

7. Ribbon in the Sky – Stevie Wonder

8. You Give Good Love – Whitney Houston

9. For You – Kenny Lattimore

10. Our Love – Natalie Cole

11. Smile – Rene and Angela

12. Distant Lover – Marvin Gaye

13. Fallin’ – Alicia Keyes

14. Weak – SWV

15. Spend My Life With You – Eric Benet and Tamia

16. TeachMe – Musiq Soulchild

17. Wildflower – New Birth

18. I Hope That We Can Be Together Soon – Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

19. Love Won’t Let Me Wait – Major Harris

20. You Make Me Feel Brand New – The Stylistics

21. Spell – Blue Magic

22. What You Gonna Do With My Lovin’ – Stephanie Mills

23. Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson

24. You Are My Starship – Norman Connors feat. Michael Henderson

25. You Know How to Love Me – Phyllis Hyman

26. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green

27. In The Rain – Dramatics

28.  If This World Were Mine – Cheryl Lynn and Luther Vandross

29.  Vision of Love – Mariah Carey

30. So High – John Legend

 

 

 

 

A Mother’s Day Tribute

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  The woman you see pictured here is Frances Mae Simmons, affectionately and lovingly known to most people as Fannie Mae or Aunt Fannie. To me, she was just “Mom”.  The woman who raised me, loved me and was my biggest cheerleader for twenty six years.  Sure, it hurts to write this tribute, but as the tears stream down my face, I persist.  You see, even though my mother died when I was only twenty six years old (I am now fifty two), her loving personality settled nicely into my being.  She is the core of who I am today.  She was a person who cared so much for others needs, that she often overlooked her own.  That is who she was.  I did not have to look far for examples on how to raise my two children, who are now adults. The love that my mother gave me, I passed on to my children.  I did whatever was in my power to make sure they were happy, healthy, children and that they were fully supported in all they aspired to do in life.  My mother was a funny lady! Boy, did she like to laugh and have a good time.  She once told me as a little man crossed the street, “there’s your last chance”. We laughed! My sister Lori, has my mother’s sense of humor, and always keeps the family in stitches.  I miss Mom’s smile and her beautiful dimples (when I look at my sister Fai I can see them again).  When my son was just a baby, Fai spotted a little dimple in his cheek.  Mom had put her mark on him, and it was beautiful!

I want to thank you mom. Your twenty six years of love has sustained me. I am proud to be able say, “I am a good mother”, and mean it.  You taught me everything I needed to know about being a good mother while you were here. These tears, they keep falling, but I persist in writing this tribute…because you were the ultimate mother.  A mother who had so little financially, but yet you were a millionaire in the category of support, love and kindness towards me and others.  When I was in high school, my typing teacher gave me an unfair grade.  You see, a white girl received the same score as I did on a test, and our teacher, Ms. Calder, gave her an “A”.  She gave me an “A-“.  I knew it was wrong, so I did the only thing I knew to do. I told Mom.  She came up to the school and met with the school administrator. Ultimately, rather than give me the “A” grade, she lowered the white girl’s grade to an “A-“.  At least now, we both had the same grade.  That was mom, always on the frontline for me.  You didn’t mess with her “baby”.  She had to come to see my psychology professor in college for the same reason, and unfair grade.  My mama did not play!  She once told a public school secretary, “let me speak to someone more important than you” when advocating to get my school records updated.  She was the ultimate strong, supportive mother.  My mother was very smooth when she advocated for me too…no cursing, no yelling…she just told the Truth. I try to follow her example when I have to stand up for what is right. Tell the truth.

My mom gave me one of the highest compliments I ever received.  I was getting dressed to go out, and I asked her how I looked.  She told me that it didn’t matter what I had on, because I “would look good in a burlap bag”.  Say what! No one could ever tell me that I was not beautiful, my mother made it clear that I was  when she made that statement.  I would grow up feeling beautiful and knowing that I was beautiful, because the woman who meant the world to me said so.  She created a level of self esteem that no one could mess with.  It made me aware of how much we need to tell the young women of this generation how beautiful they are!

My mother was the kind of mother that we could sure use more of today.  A mother who gives good love, a mother who is supportive and caring, a mother who is kind and generous, and a mother who advocates for her children.  I thank the Lord for the precious gift of having Fannie Mae as my mother. Mom, thank you for loving me the way you did.  I will continue spreading your love, and try to always be the best mother I can be.  I owe it all to you. I love you!

The following link is to “A Song For Mama” which I dedicate to my mom.

Enjoy!

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