Callie Bradford

Seeing Our World Through Rose Colored Glasses, A Message For Mom

Our Mom as a baby. Drew Mississippi

Today we celebrate the birthday of our dear mother Rose. She is as beautiful as her name and as imperfect as all parents are across the globe. However, in spite of all their imperfections we love them anyway.

 

 

I recently decided to look deeper into who I am besides being Rose and Frank’s daughter. I wanted to know like so many others, where do I come from, really. Where did this legacy all begin? Not in Chicago where I was born. Not in Ruleville where she was born. Through my own journey of self discovery I have come to learn a great deal about myself and the real true gift I have coming from the womb of such a goddess that goes by the name of Rose. Our mother grew up in the Jim Crow South, in a small town called Drew Mississippi. That much I knew about her but I had no idea till recently the atrocities she may have seen and endured growing up in the racist, segregated south. She never spoke about Jim Crow or the difficulties. She only painted a picture perfect scene of a small house with a wrap around porch that opened up to her bedroom located on the land of which her grandfather was a sharecropper. Her face beamed as she reminisced about being a cheerleader, football games and getting good grades in school. She talked about school dances and hanging her underwear out to dry on the line (she still believes in hang drying her what- not’s to this day). She talked about working the fields with her grandmother and grandfather. The only glimpse I got from her about how hard working the fields may have been was from a big scar she still wears on her leg to this day. “I fell down on some glass in the cotton field she said”. She spoke with a sense of pride about her uncle who owned a barbershop, her aunt that gave her bedroom furniture and the great food that was cooked by her grandmother. She talked about school fights, none of which she was ever in, jealous classmates and boys who liked her and her sister-cousin. She never talked about life in in Sunflower County as I imagined life in Mississippi in the 40’s and 50’s. She didn’t speak of growing up in the same county that 14-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and murdered till the other day. We were discussing her upcoming 50 year high-school reunion in Tunica MS and she started to really open up for the first time without being prompted. We unexpectedly started to discuss the grocery stores in Sunflower County that were owned by the Bryant and the Manning families.  She goes “but we stopped going when that boy got killed”. Wait, “what boy”? I asked. You know Emmett Till. I was silent at first and shocked to say the least. After all these years learning about the Jim Crow South, Civil Rights, deaths of notable Nubian figures and Emmett Till to name a few, I never knew how close my mom was to all of it. I began to ask other questions and will write about my new obsession to uncover my family historical mysteries on a different occasion. Nonetheless, until the other day she never uttered a word about what she may have seen, heard or endured. She never spoke of Drew being the worst city for a black person to grow up in because you were scared and threatened, raped, beaten, robbed, hung or killed at the hands of white mobs for no reason at all. She never told us that Drew was the sole city in the south that had the most plantations and cotton gins than any other post civil war town in the south. She didn’t tell us the story of Joe Pullen, who was dragged through the streets of Drew and then killed for attempting to get a fair wage for his work. She didn’t tell us that we were related by marriage to Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights activist who herself had picked cotton at the age of 6 years old in Drew Mississippi. She didn’t speak of growing up poor in economically depressed part of Mississippi where whites ruled the local economy with an iron fist and threats of death.

Excerpt from PBS article. Sunflower County was “the worst county in the worst state” concerning racial discrimination. In 1960 approximately two-thirds of the population in Sunflower County was black, and the average income of African Americans in Sunflower County was lower than the federal poverty line.

So why is this a tribute to our mother we call Rose? Because now that I am old enough to ask questions and understand that even though she tried to paint a picture perfect childhood, we now know just from the mere fact of where she grew up, that her life was far from perfect. But yet she managed to rise about it and leave the South for Chicago to be the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. She wasn’t the perfect mother by any means but she did the best she could with what she had which wasn’t much. So now I write this to let her know that I love her even more than I did the day before and again not because she was the perfect mother but because of what she endured. She became a mother who instilled in us the importance of getting an education.  Perhaps she experienced a type of PTSD, which made her completely deny what growing up in Drew was really like. Side note…after our conversation ended the other day about Emmett Till, she called me back right away and in a almost whispered tone said “don’t speak of it what I just told you,  you never know whose listening”. Words probably uttered by all black families back then to keep their children safe. That last part spoke volumes to me about what is going on inside.  Although she is always positive, carries with her a warm smile and is almost 70 years of age, she is still affected in ways that we may never understand. Perhaps her seeing life through rose colored glasses was her coping mechanism and a means to shield us from the dirty, evil that went on so we could navigate our way through this world without being tainted and bitter. I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that this lady I call mom and moms like her all around the world, no matter what they may have done or not done to us or no matter how much we may say they in some way ruined our lives because of the choices they made. They still deserve to be honored, respected, loved and cared for. If you have beef with your mother or even your father because of what they “did to you” (LOL), try walking a mile in their shoes, talk to them and understand the details of their lives that you have no clue about before you make it a point to talk about what a horrible mother or father they were. Ask questions, learn what you don’t know and have some empathy. Take pride in knowing that through it all you made it! In the case of my sisters and me we made it through all of life’s up and downs from childhood to adulthood. I’m sure any complaints we have are a far cry from what our mother may have endured as a child and all through life without any complaint at all. She still walks with dignity and loves life in spite of it all. She never taught us to hate but to love no matter what race or religious affiliation. She is the vessel from whence we ALL came and that point alone deserves acknowledgement and reverence. If it weren’t for her there would be no US! I love you to life Rose and will always look at you with a sense of pride and admiration for who you are, imperfect but a survivor and I’m more than proud to call you mom! Happy Earth Day!!!!

Sisters Candace,Tera, Me and Sheila Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Mom and favorite sister cousin

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