Black Angry Women

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Black Dues and Hunger in America

Knowledge of the past can help us to avoid repeating the mistakes as we move forward.

It seems that life has always been about ‘purpose’ for me.  I have tried to be responsible and loyal while allowing myself the freedom to make mistakes.  While I was but a young child, my father told me that ‘it is better to do something than to walk away and later wish you had done something’.  That is one of the mantras in my arsenal.

While working with the Citizens Advocate Center in DC, I found myself in need of a secretary.   There were deadlines to meet and the Hunger In America report, which I was charged with coordinating, was a project of immense importance.  I quickly put the ‘word’ out that the Center was hiring.

After interviewing several Black prospective applicants, I went back into my office to make that all-important decision as to who I would hire.  While mulling over my choices, a rather shy looking young Black woman entered our offices.  I was summoned to the greeting area to meet and possibly interview the young woman for the secretarial position.  Although the lady had arrived late for her interview, I chose to hear her story.

The sister was in her twenties and she had dropped out of high school as a tenth grader.  She expressed that she did NOT know how to type, etc.  In fact, she was convinced that she would not be hired for the job because of her lack of secretarial skills and more.  As tears began to fill her eyes, she fidgeted with her clothes and nervously told me that she knew she should not have showed up for the interview and she apologized for taking up my time.

I quickly handed the young sister a box of Kleenex and got her a soft drink and told her that I had ‘all the time in the world to hear her story’.  After getting as much information as I could from the young woman, I told her that she was hired.  I expressed that her job as my secretary would be to ‘return to school’.  I expressed that she would learn how to file, how to type, English and more while working as my secretary.  As she continued to cry, I told her that she could start that same day or the next day – it was up to her!  And, as a welcome to the job, I handed her money from my purse.

The Executive Director of the Citizens Advocate Center was Edgar S. Cahn – a Jewish attorney.  Attorney Cahn was not initially pleased with my hire, however, after I explained my ‘reasons’, he quickly jumped on board to help.

The young woman I hired was in search of her ‘family’.   Her nine brothers and sisters — all children — had been removed from her care years prior by social workers who discovered the circumstance of their living conditions.  The young woman’s parents were both deceased and the woman had biological children of her own to support.  The woman feared that even her own biological children would be taken away by social workers because the place they were staying in was uninhabitable.

Quickly, I began making phone calls and sending out ‘feelers’ in an attempt to locate the young woman’s siblings.  Attorneys handled the legal turf as Black community activists and others stepped in with support and more.  Within a matter of weeks, we had the entire ‘clan’ together and we secured a large home in Northwest DC for the young woman and her ‘family’.  We furnished the place (two refrigerators were donated) and went shopping for clothing, groceries, and other items needed for their ‘home’.  Our ‘no-walls’ support for the family continued….

Later, I hired another employee for the Center and that sister assisted in putting together a thorough ‘first-ever’ report on Hunger In America.  To her surprise, I made a conscious decision to credit her on the final report.

BlackParentSpeaks contends that God provides us with countless opportunities to ‘do the right thing’ and to pay our dues.  In the Movement, some of us would sometimes quip that we were ‘over’paying our dues and paying the dues for all of us.  And, yes, I do know that there is an African proverb that states ‘behind jest is sometimes seriousness….’

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