“Ma, what did grandma look like?”
Whenever I asked this question as a young child, my mother paused what she was doing and thought. She closed her eyes and told me about her mom. My family does not have a single picture of my grandmother due to family tragedies, sudden and frequent moves, and other misfortunes.
We do have stories.
I’ve never seen my grandmother but I know her life story. She was raised by her grandmother, had an eighth-grade education and left her entire life in South Carolina during the Second Great Migration.
My grandfather loved her so much he joined her in post World War II Harlem. She told her children about her customs, traditions, and practices and those stories passed down to me. She got her happily ever after with her family for a moment until she passed away unexpectedly before her 34th birthday. She lives on in the stories I write and share with my friends and fellow writers.
As a Black woman, I often find that the stories of my ancestors, my people and myself are often devalued, ignored and forgotten. Despite repeated dismissals and rejections, I keep writing the stories I want to see on the bookshelves. I write stories based on the history books my mother brought home from school. I rewrite the bedtime stories I read and mythologies I studied as a college student. I write and share stories that hum with magic and speak love with my writing peers. I have to hunt the shelves, the stores and online markets to find stories that mirror my life and my community.
I want to tell the story of multicultural mermaids who bathe at the Jersey Shore and black witches with kinky curly hair who cast spells and make passionate potions.
I learned from an early age that people we love live on in the stories we tell. Love will not fade or die as long as these stories exist. I know love lives on in the stories that we write, share and explore for all people, no matter their background, heritage or history, to read.