Excerpts from My Negro, Colored, African American, Black Family History
This month, my writing is to acknowledge some of the people in my life whose images and messages represent the legacy builders that groomed, enlightened, empowered, and educated me throughout my life. These dear souls, whether living or dead, were and continue to be my personal icons, leaders, mentors, coaches, teachers, family members and family friends who embodied, “I’m black, and I’m proud.” I salute them. I stand on their shoulders. I continue to want to, “do them proud.”
“There is only one thing I dread; not to be worthy of the life, the suffering of black people, made possible for me.” – Dr. James H. Cone
My grandmother was a phenomenal woman. She was brilliant, beautiful and a stickler for proper grammar. After marrying and raising seven children, she enrolled at Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing in New Jersey. She was 47, the oldest registered student and the only black. She made the one-hour drive to school in Camden every Sunday evening, because she had to stay on campus during the week. She would return Friday evening so she could be home for the weekend. She was 50 when she graduated in 1974, at the top of her class, with honors.
I adored my grandmother. She wasn’t always easy to be with; still, she intrigued me. For her to have achieved all that she did, given all she had to overcome, it was a testament to her unbreakable spirit and her sheer will to be more, have more, and do more in her life and for her family. In spite of losing her mother at nine, and despite being left with a verbally and physically abusive father, she persevered.
When my grandmother told me I could achieve anything, I believed her. When she would say to me, “You are smart,” I believed her. When she told me to quit my job so I didn’t miss a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a USO Tour that would land me in Europe and find me performing on aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, I wrote one of the best resignation letters ever! Nana said, “If they don’t give you the time off, give them their job back.” She told me, “You don’t want to be 70 years old wondering what might have happened if…” That fearlessness has supported me through many an adventure.
At the start of my doctoral program, my cohort members and I were reminded that we had signed up for three years that would require a level of commitment and dedication that would challenge us beyond anything we might imagine. Many were scared immediately, and several did not complete the program. I thought about Nana. If she could make it through being the only black student in a three-year program, live on campus, spend all that time away from her husband and children, I could do this. I heard Nana say, “I know you can do this.” And once again, I believed her.
Dr. Lisa Summerour is a leadership and life coach who helps individuals focus on empowerment through accountability and self-awareness. She is an author, speaker, darn good seamstress, and pretty good with DIY projects around the home. She enjoys traveling, writing and spending time with her family. Dr. Summerour has a BA in Sociology from Thomas Edison State University; a Masters in Management from Wesleyan University; a Masters in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and a Doctorate in Education with a focus on Ethical Leadership from Olivet Nazarene University.