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Friday, February 08, 2008

I Do Know What to Write

By Jill Earl

I’ve been watching the local public TV station’s offerings for Black History Month. I eagerly watch, hoping to add to the always-growing list of books, articles and other media I want to read to acquire more knowledge about my heritage.

In between programs, the “I don’t know what to write!” whine came out of my mouth. Never mind that I’d recently read a couple of articles on the subject, or that I pondered writing about family. The whine-fest was about to be on, until I revisited an experience from my days as an adult student at college that made Black History Month more alive for me.

While visiting my mother, we watched a documentary on the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Panther Movement was mentioned. At one point, Mom sat back, a faraway look in her eyes.

“Remember those meetings we went to?”

“What meetings?” Then I realized what she said and gave her my full attention. “What meetings, Mom?”

“The Panther meetings! What else?”

“You--were a Panther?” She nodded and I struggled to grasp her words. Dusty memories floated into my mind, including one where I saw the meeting location she referred to, on the corner of a now boarded-up block in the city.

My mother turned 79 at the end of last month. She lives with me, unable to live alone. The journey has been hard for us both but I’m thankful that she’s reasonably healthy. Her memory is another story, gaps becoming more frequent. And painful.

But she’s seen and lived so much. Time to get to recording her experiences while she remembers, especially the Panther ones.

Because I do know what to write.

Jill Earl

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