To say I grew up in the country is an understatement. Hide-and-seek in hay bales, barefoot running up and down the dirt road, feeding slop to hogs that would be slaughtered. Yep. All of of that. I can’t say that I appreciated it all–especially by the time I was a teenager and later a country girl trying to function in an urban world–but I owe much of my love of nature, of simplicity, and of community to my upbringing.
While I was home, I visited my two great aunts, both of whom are 80+.
“Shanté, are you married yet?” said one.
“No ma’am. I am not in a rush,” I said.
“No need to be. You don’t need no husband. You doing alright just by yourself!” said the other.
“Yeah you ain’t got no worries. You get a husband, they worry you!”
We laughed, and I smiled at the thought that my feminist leanings started here.
We talked about family members (how is so and so?), and my travels, (“you’ve seen the world, haven’t you?”). They told me some stories about the past, and we mused about what we could use in the present. One thing that stood out to me that resonates with my academic research and personal interests was how they talked about community, integration, and race relations. The school district tried to force black students to leave their high school to integrate the white school, but they stood their ground.
“[My cousin} told me that one day he met a white man up the road and the white man said, ‘if they do this integration, these streets will run with blood, and [my cousin] said, ‘one thing about it, they won’t know if it’s black blood or white blood.'”
Talking to my great aunts inspired me. Clearly, I come from a line of fighters. of feminists. of caretakers. My great aunts have lived through many transitions in their personal lives and our national history. Their minds are still sharp….and one of them still drives! They have fed me, corrected (aka punished) me, and have been part of the “village” that undergirds my success. I left home feeling proud to be part of their lineage; to be doing many things they have never done but are happy I have experienced.
Sometimes the best way to start a New Year is to sit at the feet of those who came before us. I’m looking forward to spending more time talking with my aunts this year. Can’t wait to learn more about their lives and our national history from their perspectives!