This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of MassMutual. All opinions are 100% mine.
I am excited to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month by sharing my very own #JourneyOfYou story of how my family’s history led me to become the person I am today and empowered me to create a legacy for tomorrow.
When my partner and I started having children, holidays for me differed from the ones I was accustomed to as a child. To me, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners consisted of seven to eight people, but my boys would have it differently; their memories full of packed homes, with no less than 20 people and sports on TV from the time of their arrival until it was time to go home. Having to introduce myself to a bunch of people and make rounds around my in-law’s place, gave me anxiety. I missed the intimacy of gatherings from my childhood.
I should have known storytelling was embedded as a gift and would forever be a part of my life sitting at dinner tables as a child. The women in my family shared experiences about almost anything; overheard hair salon convos and side chats on New York City subways, life up north and the real ‘A’ – Alabama. Soul food is what bound us together – collard greens and ham hocks, oversaturated with margarine-type cornbread, and stories to keep in our pockets and share with our own offspring to last a lifetime.
I knew what the air in Harlem smelled like before my existence was even a thought, and I tasted the food in Tuscaloosa without ever traveling to the South. Every story that left their mouths, deposited its self into my soul and those words played an integral part in my growth as a writer without me (or them) ever realizing it. The depth of the conversations I wasn’t supposed to hear, their personal accounts that invoked an emotion out of me I was certain I wasn’t supposed to feel as a child – it laid the foundation to right now.
“Our stories are, really, all we have,” my grandmother says and sometimes, those words follow me around like a haunting spirit, especially when I’m in no mood to write. I have to tell them for her, a woman who didn’t have the opportunity or platform we’re afforded today, for her mother who struggled with alcoholism and her mother, a former slave that held on to and wore one dress. I come from a family of women known to be outspoken and bold – the root of my wicked tongue and the source of my unapologetic behavior. Women who couldn’t keep quiet, were sentenced to silence, and fought for freedom. When I write, I write for them.
I write for that little girl that still dwells in me; the one that sits in the corners of bookstores next to her mother who tells her about Friedrich Nietzsche and Toni Morrison novels. The love of literature was birthed from being exposed to different styles of writing, and dreaming of finding my name on a book somewhere between the G’s and I’s. My mother always emphasized the importance of leaving behind something because “for too long Black people had nothing.” When I write, I’m attempting to leave something behind, for my kids and their kids. The history lies in the pen, on the pages, on the blogs, in us.
This Black History Month, I reflect on my evolution as a woman, more so, a Black woman who writes, thinking a lot about the legacy those before me left (or will leave) behind. I’m fortunate to own a space where I can have my voice heard and where I can retell the stories that didn’t leave the confines of my Granny’s dining room.
I’m glad MassMutual is giving others the opportunity to share their own stories during Black History Month and is helping families in Building a Financial Legacy. MassMutual continues to aid those in protecting their loved ones that matter most. Follow along and share your own story in the comments section below or over at MassMutual on Facebook / MassMutual on Twitter using #JourneyOfYou.