I interviewed an African American woman named Emily, a few days ago, for a book I’m writing. I’m in the research stage. The location of the book is Louisiana and takes place in 1940 through 1965. I can’t say too much about it because often a book starts out one way and ends up being completely different.
Miss Emily is in her eighties and has lived an amazing life; she grew up in Florida with her parents. In the 1960s she left her home and traveled to Tennessee where she went to a Black Presbyterian College and received her degree. After college she traveled to Chicago for her first job as a teacher. She survived one frigid winter in Chicago before she left for a warmer position in Los Angeles.
It’s funny how big and small the world is, in Los Angeles Miss Emily taught at Russell Elementary, a school that the kids that lived next door to me went to. She never taught at the school I attended. I would meet Miss Emily decades later through her daughter who I met at work. I invited her daughter to my church’s Women’s Conference and Miss Emily attended the conference.
Miss Emily left home to pursue her education and while at college she boycotted and marched for civil rights. She did this far away from home and family. Can you imagine being a young woman away from home for the first time, travelling in the South during such a tumultuous time? When I asked her how she did what she did, her answer proved how much we have lost with integration.
Miss Emily answered, “Wherever you go find the church. Christian people will take you into their homes and take care of you.”
As a child I remember my parents opening up their home to family and friends to stay until they could find a job and a place of their own. That is what a lot of Black people did in that time. We were a community that looked out for each other, we were connected by a common struggle. Our communities are not bound together as they once were. We struggle to make it in this world individually instead of collectively as we once did.
Miss Emily gave me valuable insight into what life was like when she was growing up. She made me want to be stronger, more courageous and dream bigger.
Thank you, Miss Emily, for answering my call even though it was your nap time, you are an inspiration.
I hope to convey the sense of community that we once had in the book that I’m working on. If I can achieve that feeling, it will be something to be proud of. I’m excited and looking forward to talking to more people, gaining more insight into the way of life that Miss Emily, my parents, and your parents may have lived.