grew up in New Orleans, a mid-seventies child, the middle daughter of a truck driver father and a factory worker
turned beauty salon owner mother. My life was and still is full
of family. My memory is filled with large and small family gatherings
every weekend starting on Thursday and not ending until Sunday.
Last weekend was Auntie Stephanie and the children (she had 6).
This week it’s Cousin Lou and Nikki. And interweaved constantly
was Ms. Barbara, Aunt Joanie and in later years Cricket (Ms. Joyce),
my mother’s best friends.
It was this constant
family environment and loving care that allowed me to thrive as
a child and set the foundation for my life as an adult. I have fond
memories and pictures of me as the nursery school queen at five
years old; the spelling bee at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena as
a result of being one of the top spellers in my school. I remember
in the fourth grade running through the halls of Etienne de Bore
Elementary School because my friend, Ada, had her period for the
first time and in our desperation to find her help, my friends and
I were running through the halls yelling, “she’s bleeding,
she’s bleeding.” We got in trouble because it was recess
and we weren’t supposed to be in the building. But, we were
also lovingly comforted by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Frazier,
who reassured us that Ada would be OK. And then, there was the time
that my third grade boyfriend, Norbert, gave me ring as we walked
home from school. My younger sister, Akia, still teases me because
she says she saw him pick it up from the ground and give it to me.
And she still laughs when I say that she’s lying. He bought
that ring for me, that’s why I treasured it. There were also
some not so fond memories. Like, the near fatal car accident that
my mother had that prevented her from being at my sixth grade graduation
and many other events because she was afraid to drive. But, they
are tempered by my uncle Tommy stepping in to do a trial run of
my public transit bus route to my new Junior High School; and, the
thrill of doing it by myself on that first day of school.
That first day of Junior
High School marked a milestone in my life. After that, my memories
are less of my parents and extended family community and are more
about new friends and new life choices, I guess, as a result of
And, although my parents
and family seemed to have faded to the back until I graduated college,
they were always the constant. Because I knew from where I came
and I always had home to go back to, I had a covering that allowed
me to explore life knowing that I had a safety net. I had the confidence
to proudly tell my high school boyfriend that if he couldn’t
love me unless we had sex, he needed to find someone else. I didn’t
think he would do it. But, he did. I had the boldness to apply to
one of the most prestigious universities in the country in spite
of Mr. Applebee’s (my English teacher) discouragement because
certainly I couldn’t get into Notre Dame because he hadn’t
gotten in when he applied so many years before. I guess he thought
a Black girl from a New Orleans public school couldn’t possibly
get in if a private school educated White boy couldn’t. But,
I had almost an arrogance
about coming back from academic probation my sophomore year of college.
I had obviously messed up and knew that I had to buckle down to
stay the course of achieving my Notre Dame education. My academic
counselor said my performance was an “enigma,” usually
students tanked their freshman year and started to even out their
sophomore year. I had done just the opposite. When she said it I
had no idea what “enigma” meant; but, since then I have
come to embrace the word that means “something hard to explain.”
to explain” continued to define my life in and after college.
The confidence and security net were hard to see as I navigated
social and academic pressures. There seem to be a fog surrounding
my life because I didn’t have family in my daily life. Those
calls home on Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras were almost unbearable.
But, somehow I created my own little family in the cold, grey winters
of the Midwest on one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.
And, once I had the security of family again, I once again thrived.
After graduation, I tapped
back into my own family, by then including two nieces and a nephew
from my older sister, things just didn’t feel right. And a
short four years later the world wind of marriage and motherhood
all came at once (I was six months pregnant with my daughter before
our wedding). Suddenly I had a need to create the same loving and
nurturing environment for my children that I had as a child; the
same environment that had allowed me to flourish; the same safety
net it had provided me.
And, while creating that
sense of loving community for my children, I realized that I had
a need to create that same community for myself. I now know that
creating a community for my children is also creating a support
network for my self. Sharing with your friends and family allows
you to have a place to go when your husband gets on your nerves,
when your children seemed to have turned into little monsters, when
you’re not sure how to balance your personal ambitions with
that of your responsibility as a mother and wife.
After Gabbi was born,
we decided that I would stay home. But, after a short while, I realized
that I had ambition to be more than a mother. I wanted to leave
my mark on the world. I wanted to work toward something that would
touch many lives. So, began the search for work to compliment my
life and my personal mission of strengthening, celebrating and supporting
I tried my hand at marketing
consulting to small businesses, but I realized that I wanted to
do something that spoke to me as Gabbi and Jonathan’s mom,
Fritz’s wife, Barbara and Johnny’s daughter, as Staci
and Akia’s sister, as Tonya, Shanda, Tanya, Tish, Brenda,
and Felicia and my Circle of Sisters’ friend, as Kailyn, Jarrid,
Alacia’s and baby girl #4’s aunt (she’s on the
way in December), as well as daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin
and the host of other titles that I wear within my large family.
I found that work in
what I consider to be a divine series of events that have lead me
to be the Founder/Editor in Chief of Being Family Magazine,
the premiere African American parenting magazine. And, who better
for the job than me, the woman whose whole being is rooted in family?
And so, I work toward
the Spring 2006 launch, I finally get to share my testimony with
my generation as we nurture the next generation. And, with any luck
all those years in the making of me will help to make many more
strong, beautiful African American families and the stories that
come out of them.
: september 2005