malo Because Illy bther-a strong black man in his own light-
often marked his worth to
as a LIIher and as a man in the
larger society with the number of hours he put in at work
ing to create some sClnblance of lower middle-class
[or his Lunily), hornie was a real ghost throughout much of Illy
youth. Not that
begflldged his ahsenee.
he was hustling the only way he knew how amI the only way he
could with a tenth-grade education. What it meant was that my
mother was tlIe most imposing Jlgure in my hfe, courtesy of her
constant presence in my daily life and her lorcelul personality.
Thus from a young age
on SOllie level, viewed life through
the eyes of this black woman who chased bourgeois dreams,
agonized over the utter inability of my fatber to ever find value
in those dreams, and
tbought that it was important that
she be heard. Was my mother a feminist? The thought never
occurred to me, even now
being the most
imposing 4'11" black woman I had ever confl-onted was a crite-
have to say she was.
mother went to work
when I began grade school, purposely taking a job as
a school lunch helper (she only had two years of college at the
time) so that she could be home when I got home tram school.
On those days when she couldn't pick me up from school, I was
picked up by "Ms.
a lovely, gracious, and stylish older
black woman, who owncd the beauty shop next door to the
lived in. And there
sat in her beauty
shop at least once a week eavesdropping on the hves, loves,
dreams, I,mrs of black women of evelY hue, shape, class, hair
texture, and ofcourse soaking up all the love and affection that
a room full of black