My daddy was the eldest of 13 siblings born far in the backwoods of Mississippi with a hard life to navigate from his earliest days. Poor is a relative term, and his was a poverty of heart-wrenching stories of the school kids making fun of him because the soles were worn off of his shoes and his mama had taken the hem out of his blue jeans several times. Instead of an education, he was pulled out of school on hot summer days to hoe in the garden from sunrise to sundown before leaving home to join the army.
My mama had everything from a young girl’s dreams—parents who doted on her and her sisters, spoiling them with high fashion new clothes and hairstyles to boot. She loved school, especially basketball, but when her own mother was struck with lung cancer, she said goodbye to her high school dreams and chose to be her dying mother’s nurse. Later a young mother of four boys, often Mama’s eyes would drift off during a conversation with me as she still grieved, both for the loss of her mother and what would have been her senior year in high school.
I am so thankful these two were raised just a few counties apart or they would never have met, fallen in love, and become mine. Both lived into their God-given potential quite well, I might say. Daddy had a sharp mind and I can remember many evenings sitting on his lap at the kitchen table watching him scribble numbers onto his yellow legal pad. He was good at business and provided well for his family. He taught me how to play cards, ride a horse, and the value of a man’s good word. Mama was more-or-less a single parent as my daddy spent many winters in the oil fields on the slopes of Anchorage, Alaska making a way for his family back home.
I never had a daddy like the other boys of whom I was so jealous in my elementary class, not like Lance or Charles whose fathers went with them to Boy Scout Camp. My mama had to look up most of my vocabulary words in the big Webster’s dictionary we kept nearby. Nevertheless, both of my parents instilled in me the importance of education from an early age. Daddy wanted me to become a pharmacist, but Mama won and got to wear the latest hairdos which delighted her to no end. Of course, she deserved it having been my constant experiment during beauty school. Daddy came around and even built me my first beauty shop right across the road from our little stone cottage.
It was not as easy for me as it was for many of the other kids in school because, as much as my parents were well-intentioned, they lacked the tools to mold me into a well-rounded student. Today there are many more underserved students with dreams far bigger than I ever had. There are also many vehicles to help get them there such as The National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students, a new non-profit organization with which I volunteer to support parents, students, and educators, helping to empower young minds and giving all of those like my daddy, mama, and me the arsenal of tools needed to succeed.
For more information go to: www.nationalinstitutesforus.com and follow us on social media. Like Leontyne Price once sang in her timeless television commercial for the United Negro College Fund, “We’re not asking for a handout, just a hand.”
Contact David at [email protected]