My parents worked hard to give their kids a good life and education

January 27, 2024

“I was a surprise and somewhat of a miracle baby. Always an old soul—even as a little girl. My parents worked, so I had a nanny who kept me. She was close to my grandmother’s age and taught me hymns and planted seeds of wisdom and knowledge. We drank coffee and watched ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘Matlock,’ and ‘In the Heat of the Night.’ I was three when I told my nanny I wanted to go to law school.  

Mom worked in the cafeteria at Maryvale Elementary School while I was a student there. I went into the kitchen with her early each morning, like part of the staff. I learned a lot from the cafeteria women. I was reading two levels above my grade level at Maryvale, so I was put into the gifted program. I had straight-As but was an excessive talker and bugged my teachers. The principal understood and had me help her in the office to keep busy. I was the valedictorian at Maryvale, so my parents enrolled me in the magnet program at Phillips Prep. I thrived there and later became an Azalea Trail Maid and valedictorian at LeFlore Magnet High School.

I was a first-generation college graduate and kept going, earning five degrees. Graduating from law school with joint degrees in law and public administration, I learned that a career in administration was a good fit and was awarded a fellowship to pursue a PhD in Administration of Higher Education. The desire to learn and better myself comes from my parents. Both were smart and driven, but couldn’t afford college. They worked hard to give their family a good life and education. My parents were also a deacon and deaconess at church and were one of the first young Black couples to buy a house in a white neighborhood in the seventies.

My parents taught me structure. Mama would iron all my clothes for the week, laying everything on the dresser the night before. Book bag ready to go. I still iron my clothes and get ready like that. Mama also made me memorize my speeches instead of reading them. Daddy would rise every morning at 3 or 4 to prepare for his work day at Kimberly Clark paper mill. Structure and preparation are simple, but they helped my education and career. 

I was the Director of Title IX compliance and Title IX coordinator at the University of Arkansas, when my parents got sick. I returned to Mobile in 2022 to care for them, working remotely and using all of my Family Medical Leave. While Mom was in the hospital, Dad was in and out of the hospital at the same time. They didn’t get better. It came down to them or my job, so I resigned. I can get another job and rebuild my career, but I can’t get more parents. They passed away a year ago, twenty-two days apart. They were married 52 years.

I’m still in the valley, figuring out what’s next. There’s a song that says, ‘Lord, whatever you’re doing in this season, please don’t do it without me.’ I’m holding on to that and everything my parents instilled in me. I am also learning that no matter how structured and organized I am, I’m not in control and have to wait on God. Mama always told me, ‘Ask the Lord to make it plain.’ I’m asking that a lot right now.” 

 

Shanita



0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 More Southern Souls