Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


My parents and grandparents have left shoes that cannot be filled. The loss is too great for one person to conceal, it will take all of their children to cover it.

My oldest brother Rickey gave each of his sisters a bracelet and told us that our mother was getting too old. He wanted one of us to keep her traditions alive, he wanted one of us to keep our family together. Rickey and my mother both are gone and unfortunately neither of his sisters were able to keep our family connected as we once were. I have two sisters and one brother left, we were once three girls and three boys. We were once a mother, father and six kids.

I wonder sometimes how disappointed and sad my parents would feel if they saw their children now.

What has happened to my family is not uncommon. Once that person or persons that held the family together passes, family unity dies with them.

If you are the elder in your family keep trying to be as good as the one before you. If the one before you dropped the mantel, pick it up for the generation that needs someone to create family traditions.

We must tell our unique family history to the children so that they will know the people that made them possible. They will know that they too can overcome anything that is placed in their way.

When they hear about the grandmother that wrote books, or the great-grandfather that left his southern hometown and migrated to Los Angeles for a freedom that was not available to him back home. They will know that they too can dream, and create a world that they want to live in. They will also learn how important family is for our survival, individually and collectively.

What will freedom look like when we free our minds? What will it look like when we stop thinking, moving, and hating like them?

This is a strange time that we find ourselves in. After two years of holding our breath hoping for a cure or for the virus to simply disappear, we are in a peculiar place. I feel hopeless as I watch our black youth languish. There are so many jobs going unfilled, and that would be okay if our youth were electing to further their education. But I see so many young people smoking their lives away, not going to school or working. So many are slipping through the system headed for incarceration, poverty, and/or an early death. How can we save the young people that were meant to fulfil the promise of a well-lived life? A life lived free…free from racism, self-hatred, colorism, limitations, fear, lack…

In the 1960s and 70s the youth were the hope for a better future for all of us. The Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice, and songs like, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud, were played often. The lyrics soaked into my skin making me proud to be black, making me believe that I was young and gifted. What songs do our youth hear now? Where is there beacon of hope? What are we collectively telling the youth of today?

There are many young black people that have themselves together, but I’m speaking on the ones that society has cast aside. We cannot afford to let them be consigned to a life that will continue the generational curses that was birth in the institution of slavery. To do so will only harm us all.

I wish we could establish free cultural centers where our youth are required to attend on Saturday mornings to learn our history. All of our history, which includes African history. The history of the slave trade and Africa’s participation in it.

We need to free our minds of all the things that racism planted. We need to know all the valuable things that we contributed to the world. We need to let them know that they came from greatness and that they are valuable. We need to let the youth know that we expect more from them because they are the legacy. Our ancestors survived so that we could be free, so giving up on life cannot be an option.

Although I may feel hopeless at times I’m never without hope. We are a strong people, and we have survived horrific things. If we studied our history, we would see that since emancipation this country has had its knee on our necks trying to end our lives. We as a people cannot participate in the ending of our own lives. Knowledge is indeed power.

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The saying to Let Sleeping Dogs Lie means to ignore a problem because trying to deal with it could cause an even more difficult situation. Every family has its secrets. Some of the secrets are open ones that everyone knows except the person that it affects. You have probably heard your grandmother or mother say Momma’s baby Daddy’s maybe and knew which child in the family that comment was directed at.

I was watching a paternity show where a 25-year-old woman wanted to know if the man she always thought of as her dad was indeed her father. The man she called dad was now saying that he wasn’t her dad. He now claims that he always knew he wasn’t her father. If he knew when that baby was born that it wasn’t his, or he questioned it; why didn’t he say it then? Why would he allow grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a sibling to grow up to believe that they were related? The young lady had a stepmother that was in her life from day one, and later a sister that grew up with her. The man had claimed an outside kid that wasn’t his, and his wife accepted the child. Twenty-five years later it is determined that the child is not her husband’s, and the sisters have no blood ties.

My question to you is, “Would it have been better to let sleeping dogs lie?” Why would a man bring a child he knew was not his to his wife. I don’t believe he would. At some point he believed that the child could have been his. Maybe as the child got older and didn’t look like anyone in his family or something happened to make him question her paternity. He said he claimed her because he didn’t want the child living in the streets like her mother. I don’t believe he would risk breaking up his marriage to be a good Samaritan to a random pregnant woman on the street.

Twenty-five years later what difference did it make if she was not his daughter? If he loved that child and watched her grow up to be a young woman, why deny her now? My thought is he was never a father to her because if he were, he would have wanted to protect her from the ugly truth.

At the end of the show, it was determined that he was not the father. As the young woman wept, he told her that her real father was his uncle and that he was dead.

They say that the truth will set you free, but in this case, perhaps it would have been better to let sleeping dogs lie.

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