One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was being raised by Grandma Iola. She was a living testament, I had a front row seat to history that our textbooks merely glossed over. Mother Iola within the comunity, Ms. Iola Mainor around town. Always introduced as Mrs. Iola Beamon Mainor, always followed by kind words about her late great husband, or any of her children or grandchildren anyone would know. She didn’t just know everyone. She understood what she needed to know about people. One of many points of wisdom she passed on to me. Especially about race and class through the Southern perspective.
Anyone who thinks Blacks have it worse now than ever before, should have met Mother Mainor. She doesnt have to say a word. Just take a look at her weary-but-capable hands. Back when racism, violent racism, was legal. Before civil rights was even a buzzword. She and Grandfather Chancey Sr saw the worst in American society, but found strength in Jesus Christ to be the good the world around ger lacked, and shared that strength within her family and community. They imposed that sense of dignity and hope like tattoos onto the next generations. We were all taught that victimization of any kind is unacceptable. Be twice as smart, work twice as hard.
“I am NOT a slave. YOU are not a slave. Your life is YOUR choice!”
The day Grandma told me that as she wiped the tears from my face, was the day i let go of my self-imposed shackles.
I am not a slave. I am not a victim. Neither are you. No matter how often we get treated like one, portrayed like one. We are stronger than we know. My obstacles in life will always challenge me, but never more than i intend to challenge them forward.
I can’t even imagine enduring the hardships of my grandparents’ life. I am most thankful that I don’t have to, because people like them bore that yoke, and moved us forward. Because of that, I feel obligated to bear that yoke even further, so the next generation won’t have to. And yet, I am proud to see my next generation doing the same. Jazmen & TyLinne are young, but they are moving in the right direction. In their own time, their humble beginnings, their trials and tribulations, their setbacks and accomplishments will inspire their next generations. And I see the same with the rest of my kinfolk. Nothing makes me feel prouder than witnessing a legacy of progress.
Thank you, Grandma, for passing a torch that’s worth burning forever. We all hope to make you as proud of us, as we are of you.