In today’s entry of “The Flowering Vine,” “Mother,” who was both my and Ron’s Grandmother talks about natural healing as well as barriers to healthcare and education for ‘Colored’ people in the Jim Crow South. She also discusses a bit more about her own education.
For those of you who are interested, I included a link in today’s story to a book about Mother’s school, Ballard Normal, in Macon, GA.
It is important to note that students at ‘Ballard’ were being groomed to pursue careers in education as opposed to more traditional vocations.
It should also be noted that “Mother,” whose name was Annie Maude, lived to be 100 years old.
She passed away in the Spring of 2012.
By the way, although “Mother” was highly educated and very well read, she typically used an informal conversational style in the vernacular of that timeframe–especially when speaking with close family and friends (which all of you are!)
Much of Mother’s recollections for today’s story are set in Alabama during the early to late 1920’s.
Get out that book and come go with me and Elvy down to the patch!
You hear me?
I ain’t gon’tell you no mo.’
Now listen here, when we get out there, I want you to watch how me and Elvy go through them bushes.
Watch what we pick!
One day you gon’ need them same plants to make your teas and rubs for when you get married and your chillun’ get sick and thang.
We ain’t always gon’ be ‘roun’ to do it for ya.
You gon’ have to learn for ya self now!
Chile, I wasn’t thinkin’ ‘bout goin’ out in no woods lookin’ for nothin’!
I wasn’t hardly thinkin’ ‘bout that!
But you know that didn’t stop Mama from makin’ me go with her and Aunt Elvy to hunt for herbs.
As I got older, I wish I hadda paid more attention to what they was doin’ because Mama and Aunt Elvy-nem knew how to find all kind of plants, roots and herbs to make teas, tonics and tinctures.
They could cure just about any sickness under creation!
Lemme tell ya, one time I got so sick from throwin’ up I started havin’ what they call a ‘bilious attack!’
You know that’s when you go to dry-heavin’ ‘cause ain’ nothin’ left on your stomach but yellow bile.
Chile, Aunt Elvy fixed me some tea made out of somethin’ she got out them woods…
Lawd have mercy!
I don’t know what it was but after I drank it I soon got alright.
Folks have said that Mama-nem knew how to do root work too….but I ain’t never seen ’em do it.
All I know about is the cures they had for regular ailments.
I ain’t never seen ‘em do no Hoodoo!
Hmmm….Gwin, I say, I ain’t never seen ‘em do Hoodoo but that don’t mean they ain’t never done it!
I learned long time ago to never say ‘never.’
I’m tellin’ you chile!
But you know what? They say Ma Hallie could lay her hands on folks and heal an injury …say she didn’t use nothin’ but her hands!
You reckon folks thought that was Hoodoo?
Back then, we had to work with what we had ‘cause Colored people couldn’t just run to no medical doctors or psychiatrists or nothin’like that.
You know them White doctor’s wouldn’t take no Colored patients-even if they did have the money to pay ’em.
It was just a shame!
I’ve known folks to bleed to death ’cause no White Doctor would help ’em!
Anyway, Mama-nem wanted me to learn ‘bout them herbs but nooooo, at that time, I was more interested in gettin’ my lesson.
See, you gotta remember back then a lot of folks didn’t go to school so they couldn’t read too well.
And if they was able to go to school they usually didn’t go no farther than the elementary grades.
I’m talking’ ‘bout white folks too now!
And even then people usually had to quit so they could work and help take care of the family.
Chile, times was hard for everybody!
Children these days ain’t got no idea how hard it used to be to get an education.
Some of ‘em take it for granted.
Honey, in my day, it was near’ bout impossible for folks to go past the 8th grade.
I just thank the Lord that I had a chance to go a little higher than that.
You see, after I finished 8th grade over here, Mama-nem used what little money they had to send me to school over in Georgia.
While I was there I completed both the 9th and the 10th grade!
I was on a path to become a teacher!
But not too long after I started the 11th grade, Ma Hallie called me back home ‘cause Mama had done got bad off.
Of course I had to help take care of her so I never did get to go back to school.
Hmm hmm hmm!
But you know The Lord knew what he was doin’ ‘cause if I had stayed over in Macon, I might not have ever met and married Leroy and none of y’all woulda been born!
Shole wouldn’t have been!
Gwin, look at me! I been doin’ all the talkin!’
“That’s alright Grandma, I love hearing those old stories!”
Humph, when I was your age I used to like to listen to the ‘old folks’ tell stories too.
American author, educator, and clergyman, Henry van Dyke once said, “Genius is talent set on fire by courage”. As written, the quote renders a unique definition of genius. The commutative of the quote could be rendered, “Courage, sets talent on fire, to form genius”. The lady in the picture is NOT, of course, Charlie Brown, but her name IS Charlie. She is Charlie Will Thornton: a profile in courage; a talented educator; a fiery Civil Rights Activist, and therefore, by van Dyke’s definition, a GENIUS. She is a local hero in Randolph County.
For many years following the Civil War, Southern government “officials” were relentless in their plot to deny African Americans the right to vote. They diabolically, designed and developed, “tactics” which prohibited and precluded African Americans from voting. One of these “tactics” was to remove registered, African American voters’ names from the roll of registered voters. Other tactics included, but were not limited to; terroristic violence and economic intimidation, literacy tests, poll taxes, permanent disenfranchisement upon conviction for certain crimes, creation of super-majoritarian districting schemes, ‘grandfather clauses,’ and ‘white primaries’. “In 1956, only 25 percent of all black adults in the South were registered to vote; a number which stood in stark contrast to the 65 percent of all white adults who were registered. In 1960, only 9.1 percent of the voting age blacks in Montgomery County, Alabama, were registered, in contrast to 46.1 percent of the voting age whites. In two other Alabama counties, populated predominantly by blacks, none were registered” (Randall Kennedy).
It was in the hellish heat of the brutally boiling climate of the 1955 South that “officials” removed the names of registered African American voters from the electoral rolls (list of voters), of Randolph County. This type of tactic was nothing new in the South, however, this time, the act would not go uncontested. The African American leaders of Randolph, began a petition for the purpose of garnering enough names of disenfranchised African Americans, to meet the minimal standard required for a class action lawsuit against the County. According to laws of that time, the magic number of “class members” usually required to enjoin this type of legal action was 22 or more. The final number of members who signed the petition in Randolph County was “22”, the “magic number”.
To proceed with the class action lawsuit, one member of the “class” had to be designated the “lead plaintiff”. This person would represent the entire class and, as a matter of fact, all of the disenfranchised African American voters in the County. This courageous person was, Ms. Charlie Will Thornton. She was chosen because she worked outside of the County and thereby, falsely believed, to be beyond the “reach” of the long, gnarled, and crooked arm, of the Randolph County officials. She, however, was not. Although the plaintiffs won the case, Ms. Thornton lost her job and was “black-balled” by all of the surrounding counties’ Boards of Education. She was forced to work, housekeeping, janitorial and other menial labor positions before returning to her true passion, teaching, several years later.
The other 21 members of the “class” were extremely courageous, in their own right, for their names were public and easily within the sweeping grasp of the “long arm” of prejudice, inequality and injustice. Among these names were: Eugene Carter, Sr. (husband of Aunt Vulla the Comet’s sister); Eugene Carter, Jr. (son of Aunt Vulla and the Comet’s nephew); Jule Wynn, (frequent visitor and friend of Charlie Brown), Leroy Lightner, (fellow Church member and Deacon of Charlie Brown; AND last but not least, number 10 on the list of “the Magic 22”, GOOD OLE CHARLIE BROWN. In the case of these 22 people, COURAGE IGNITED TALENT, RESULTING IN TRUE GEEENIUS!
Join us next week for THE CONCLUSION of “GRANDDADDY WAS A GEEENIUS!”
This post is a continuation of the “My Jams” Series. If you haven’t already, please check out “My Jams” posts for 1966-1971
There’s a whole lot of ruckus going on today. Mama is gathering things and Daddy is going back and forth between the house and the carport.
The TV is on and Trooper Terry, the weatherman/kid’s TV show host, is talking about how hot it’s going to be today. To prove his point, he asks his animated friend, Freddie, to elaborate. Suddenly, as if by magic, a very sweaty Freddie appears at the bottom of the screen and immediately begins to melt into a puddle of liquid.
Need I say more?
I hear Daddy say, “Bay, did you get everything?”
Mama says, “Yeah, I put all the clothes in the suitcases—you can go ‘head and put ‘em in the trunk.”
Shortly thereafter, Mom leads me to the car. Although I am a bit bleary-eyed, I ask, “Where we goin?”
Daddy says, “We going to see Grandma and Granddaddy.”
I ask, “Are we gone see RonnieEricLeshiaandLenel? Sorry folks, I tended to singsong my big cousins’ names. Mama smiles and shakes her head to express the affirmative.
Now that I know that, I’m good!
Needless to say, just before we leave, mama pops her 1971 “various artists” 8-track into the tape player. Then she gives daddy a moon pie and a cold drink. Remember, it behooved us to pack our own snacks in order to keep from having to make too many stops in rural Georgia towns. I’ll let you ponder our reasons for keeping those stops to a minimum.
Anyway, after taking a big bite of moon pie, Daddy looked at me and said, “Bay, go to sleep.” We’ll be in Eufaula ‘bout dinnertime.”
Mama asks, “Georgia time or Alabama time?” He says, “Alabama time.”
Side note: In cities that border Georgia and Alabama, there is no such thing as Eastern or Central time; it is either Georgia or Alabama time 🙂
Phenix City, Alabama is a different story altogether. I’ll tell you about that some other time.
At any rate, as I start the process of getting settled, I hear Al Green croon, “I’m so tired of being alone…” I look over at mama, and for the first time, I notice that her stomach is getting bigger 😉
And with that, we rode out! Right into the summer of 1972!
Yes sir, you know what time it is! Greetings and welcome to 1972! Are you good? I hope so! Please believe that as long as I got my Mama and Daddy everything is copasthetic!
Anyway, let’s do this!
My Jams ‘72
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
You might as well know upfront that you will see Mr. Green’s name on this list again!
Y’all, I love me some President Obama, but he needs to leave this song alone and stay in his political lane!
“I’m so in love with you, whatever you want to do is alright with me.”
Baby I wish I had some extra keys on my keyboard so I could accurately demonstrate the way in which Al styles this verse.
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
I’m not gonna lie; this song scared the wits out of me when I was little. Even as a young’un, I knew that there was something spooky going on here- hell I didn’t even need to know what the word “superstition” meant to know that it wasn’t good.
No matter, I still love it!
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
What did I tell you! I told you that you would see this name again! HA!
Goose bumps, goose bumps, goose bumps! The horns, the organ, the guitar, THE VOICE!
Aw sh!t now!
“I don’t want to waste my time/ if you want to be a friend of mine/I want to hold you tight, love you right/Put good feelin’s in your night”
What Al does to the word “night” at the end of that lyric… I JUST CAN’T!!!!!!!!!!!
“I’m Still In Love With You” by Al Green
Yeah, I can see right now that you don’t believe fat meat is greasy! There are no words!
“I Wanna Be Where You Are” by Michael Jackson
“Could it be I stayed away too long!”
I can barely contain myself! At this point, I don’t know if I can finish this damn thang!
“Ask Me What You Want” by Millie Jackson
If you don’t know who Millie Jackson is then somebody needs to freeze your assets and take your freaking soul sista/brotha card!
Mama’nem (Translation: Mama and them) use to bump the hell out of this 45!
Yessuh…Millie can blow! She is something of a home girl for me; straight outta Thomson, GA.
I think I read somewhere that Millie might not have liked this song that much. To me it doesn’t matter if she liked it or not; hell we couldn’t tell.
A great singer can belt out the dictionary!
“…and I’ll try my best to get it, get it, get it, get it!”
“Harry Hippie” by Bobby Womack
This is a beautiful, but sobering, song.
I heard that “Harry Hippie” was really meant to be more of a folk or country type tune. Clearly, Bobby must have said, “To hell with that!”
Mama used to play this one when she was getting ready to run everybody’s behind out of the house party.
Time to clean up! As they say, “You ain’t gotta go home but you gotta get the hell out of here!”
“Work to Do” by The Isley Brothers
After you finish reading this blog, I want you to go listen closely to that damn piano on this jam!
NO! I simply CANNOT!!!!!
“…I gotta make it for you, I gotta make it for me!” Ron! Ron! Ron! Ohhhh Ron!
If you dig that piano, you might want to go check out their song “Brown-eyed Girl.” No worries, it is not a remake of the pop song. It is something altogether else baby! If you do, let me know what you think.
Well it looks like my work here is just about done! Farewell 1972!