Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


Forgiveness is a voluntary act, a choice we make. But forgiveness does not come easy, especially if the hurt came from someone you loved.

In this life people will disappoint you, some will even hurt you. The hurt that people inflict does not cut as deep as the hurt that a family member can cause. The closer the relationship correlates directly to the pain delivered. Sometimes the people we love hurt us on purpose. When that happens, it is almost impossible to understand. You ask yourself why would they do that? And, as you struggle to comprehend why, the hurt that you feel increases.

The response to the pain can be any number of responses, but usually we decide one of two things. We will try to talk it out. If an apology is offered, we will accept it. But what do you do if your family member refuses to talk it out? What do you do if that person throws you away?

When that happened to me, I went through every emotion imaginable. My response was not pretty as I sought to tell my side of the story to anyone that would listen. After the tears, anger, the character assassination and the years lost. Finally, there was nothing left to do, but sit in my pain and ask God to intervene.

God did an amazing thing. He changed my heart. Although an apology has never been offered, it was no longer required for me to forgive. I don’t know what the other person feels, I feel relieved. The burden of carrying around that hurt is gone.

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A Legacy is passed from one generation to the next. I always thought of a legacy as something of monetary value, a house, money, car, or jewelry. It was not until I got older that I thought about the personal legacy that I will leave behind. Yes, I want to leave my son and grandkids something of monetary worth, but I also want to leave them with a personal legacy.

Having worked for over 40 years I will be able to leave a monetary legacy. But, while I was working hard, I never thought about leaving something that would not fade away, be spent, or lost? How many times have you heard that someone was left a house, money, or both, and within a year or two that person had lost everything?

I want to leave something that will not fade away or be lost. I want my story to be passed on from generation to generation. I want to leave my son a lifetime of memories. I want him to know that I lived my life as well as I knew how. I want him to be proud of the woman that I was.

As young mothers we were more concerned about providing the basic things of life for our children such as food, clothing, and shelter. As we worked, cooked, cleaned, and worried how we were going to pay our bills, we also tried to teach our kids how to be good people. But few of us taught our children to save, invest or plan for retirement. How could we teach them something that we were not taught?

My son is an adult with a family of his own and now as a living legacy we talk about wealth building, and the importance of spending time with family. We also discuss the importance of having a personal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We express to each other things that are on our hearts and what we hope for each other. Having an adult relationship with my son is a trip. He teaches me more than I have ever taught him. He challenges some of my point of views, but he knows that I’m unshakeable regarding my faith in God and Jesus Christ.

Although there are things that I did not teach him as a child, we are learning things together and teaching each other now. If my son and I disagree on a subject my son will quite often dispel my argument with the statement “Come on Mom that’s not how you feel, I know you.” The phrase, I know you, use to make me angry. But now I’m glad that my son knows me. It tickles me that he thinks he knows everything about me, not just surface stuff but the deep things of me. My son will not have to question who I was when I’m gone, because he knows who I am.

So, while we strive to leave our children monetary things to build wealth, let’s not forget to teach them principles to live their lives by. Exoteric as well as practical things. Let your children know who you are, what you wanted out of this life and what you accomplished. We will leave our children a personal legacy, so if you need to apologize, explain, or correct some things do it now. Do it now while you have the chance to tell your story in your own words. Let them know all of you because you are more than their mother.

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Many of us have heard of Watch Night, but have you heard of Freedom Eve? I recently stumbled upon an article about the origin of Watch Night services in Black churches.

Watch Night or Freedom Eve began December 31, 1862, when enslaved people gathered together to wait for the new year, and for the Emancipation Proclamation to become law. That Watch Night was like no other ushering in of the another year.

Usually, the beginning of a new year was dreaded by the enslaved. It was customary for owners of the enslaved to tally their property at the end of the year. Owners often sold off the enslaved to pay off their debts. So, on New Year’s Eve the enslaved gathered to spend what could be their last night together with their loved ones.

Let’s go back to Freedom Eve and try to imagine the emotions that many of our ancestors must have felt that night. Fear would have been mixed with the excitement that they would finally be free from abuse, torture, rape, exhaustion, and hopelessness. Fear of what freedom would bring to a people that did not know the world that laid outside the plantations that they were imprisoned in. Most did not have family members that they could draw strength from. Imagine being alone in a hostile world where you could not read, write and were penniless.

The dawn of the new year found many of the enslaved in the same condition as they were the day before, except the world around them had changed. The formerly enslaved were free to exist without benefit of an education, money, or protection from the people that once owned them.

The formerly enslaved were not citizens until 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. Slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment which was ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to Slave State that participated in the rebellion. Border States that owned slaves were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was a way to shorten the war by taking the enemies resources it did not abolish slavery.

This Watch Night will find the descendants of the enslaved gathering together with loved one eager to say goodbye to 2021 and hoping that 2022 will be better. Freedom is not even a thought for most of us, because we know that we are not free. Abolishment of Slavery without reparation, and the truthful teaching of the history of the United States of America is not freedom for descendants of both the enslaved and owners of the enslaved.

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