Mother was a true community activist

When I was younger, people always said to me, “You look and sound just like your mother.” Although I did not mind sounding like her, I couldn’t imagine being compared to her physically. I thought of my mother as the beauty queen, sorority type. I was not that type.

My mother never participated in protest marches, never painted a picket sign and didn’t own a dashiki. Even if she had wanted to wear an afro, her long wavy black hair would have resisted. She never spouted revolutionary rhetoric not did she throw her fist in the air and yell defiantly, ‘Power to the People.’

I and my sister, on the other hand, did all of those things.

We rejected the quiet, society lady image. I wanted to be the social activist, the community organizer, the voice of the people. And I wanted to look the part. Defying the fact that my hair did not want to cooperate, I used lots of foam rollers and a bonnet style hair dryer to produce the perfect big fluffy bush.

Upon reflection, I realize that the style of my hair, my collection of protest signs and my participation in protest rallies was not all there was to community activism. It encompasses far more than overt signs associated with movement politics. In fact, effective community activists are not required to don the outward attire of the day, nor spout the latest political rhetoric to coincide with today’s hottest political issues. What is required is to have a heart for the people. The kind of heart my mother had.

When we lived in Sumter, after my daddy died, we attended Emmanuel United Methodist Church. It was, and still is, a beautiful edifice with stained glassed windows. Years ago, the members of Emmanuel included the elite of Sumter’s black community. But the church was in the heart of South Sumter where many people in the immediate vicinity of the church were physically hungry.

My mother held a leadership role in Emmanuel, and she and others wanted to establish a soup kitchen. But some in the congregation said, ‘‘We don’t want those kinds of people in our church.”

Nevertheless, that soup kitchen was established. And I recently found out that my mother was among those who provided the seed money to establish it. That soup kitchen is still operating today.

As Mother’s Day approaches and memories of my Mother flood my thoughts, I am reminded that having a heart for the community and serving with integrity matter far more than the outward trappings of community activism.

I realize now that it was my Mother who was the true community activist.

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