How It All Started
On December 27, 2014, I posted my first essay after setting up this site [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2014/12/27/christmas-past-the-toys-i-played-with-and-how-they-shaped-me/]. In my second post [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2015/01/01/ringing-in-the-new-year-2015/], I explained my vision, which is summarized in my tagline:
Black Lives Matter. The Black Experience Is the Human Experience.
After a lifetime of having to prove this truth in my daily life as a Black woman from Baltimore, I sought to tell some of the stories of my life as a way of teaching this truth. At the time, I was simply answering the call from then-President Barack Obama to have a conversation about Race.
This conversation remains critical for me, personally, and for our life as a nation, as evidenced by the following recent incidence of being called out by bigots just for being Black: https://www.facebook.com/TheYoungTurks/videos/1163751837126460/UzpfSTEwMDAwMDQ4Mzk3NDQzOToyOTI3NjI3NzYzOTI5OTk0/. The Young Turks break this problem down brilliantly! And yet, sadly, it will not save me from having to share my own stories.
Over the last 4 years, baltimoreblackwoman has delved into issues large and small: the ups and downs of life in Baltimore from a native-born Black woman’s perspective, including racial, social, political, spiritual, health, and justice issues, many illustrated with original or family photographs; as well as videos of original and cover songs, poetry, book reviews, and Black History Month features.
In short, I have been on a journey of self-discovery, writing about any topic that interests me. This year, I even retooled two of these writings into an Op-Ed and a letter to the Editor in The Baltimore Sun, and I have written two articles for SLANTRESS Magazine, a quarterly publication created and run by Deborah Buynum Billips, a childhood friend of mine.
Beginnings and Endings
This past year, it’s been poetry that has taken me farther than I could imagine! In October, I gave my first public poetry reading, and in less than 2 weeks, I’ll be giving another reading; this time, on a call-in radio program, Quintessential Poetry (details are posted separately on the Blog).
This past year was also one of deep personal loss. After being my mother’s caretaker for 5 years, I was suddenly relieved of duty when, on May 30, Mom passed away after a sudden and brief illness. Our relationship was the subject of quite a few of my essays and poems. Still, I was surprised to find that she had collected printouts of many of my posts, keeping them in a folder labeled “Jackie’s Writings.” I can honestly say that Mom’s spirit has remained with me and keeps me going. Other losses, of family members, friends, and neighbors, have also weighed on me.
But the most important lesson I’ve learned from these losses is that I must keep going, no matter what. We only get one life on this Earth, and our job is to live it to the best of our abilities, talents, gifts, dreams, and imagination. That means reaching out to other people, taking chances, and getting involved in the world around us.
I am blessed to be part of two communities that have molded my life: West Baltimore, where I was born, and Northeast Baltimore, where I grew up. And thanks to this blog, I’m now involved in both, by becoming active in community associations in Reservoir Hill (In, For, Of, Inc. or IFO) and Lauraville (Lauraville Improvement Association). On the surface, these are very different communities, with different kinds of populations, concerns, problems, and challenges. But as I’ve gotten more involved, I’ve found that we all have the same basic needs: decent homes and schools, safety, opportunity, and relationships that are rooted in and that advance these common needs. Over the years, I have written a number of essays about my experiences in these two communities. I expect to write more stories about them in the coming year.
A Retrospective of Popular and Favorite Posts
To close out this 4th Anniversary, here’s a retrospective of popular (to readers) and favorite (of mine) posts!
The #1 most popular, sought-after post is the Black History feature, Did You Know that Dwight Eisenhower and Other Famous People Were Black? [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2015/02/24/black-history-feature-of-the-day-did-you-know-that-dwight-eisenhower-and-some-other-famous-people-were-black/]. While I appreciate people’s curiosity and interest in this topic—since my own curiosity drove me to post it in the first place, I’ve moved on! However, the questions it raises about our identity as Black people are, for many of us, an essential phase of our internal development.
The #2 most popular post—at least according to Facebook and YouTube views—was the video of the poem/song The Children’s March [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2018/03/31/the-childrens-march-song-video/] timed to coincide with The March for Our Lives. It garnered 1,000 likes on Facebook, alone!
The #3 most popular post was the article, The Real Story of the 900 Block of Payson Street [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2018/11/10/the-real-story-of-the-900-block-of-payson-street/], a memoir of my early life in this now-forlorn block in West Baltimore, where I spent much of my early childhood.
The most controversial posts, two sets of Reviews, speak to the differences in perspectives within the Black community, which seem to be as much generational as they are a simple difference of opinion.
The first reviews were of actress Ethel Waters’ work in the films Cabin in the Sky [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2015/01/11/a-look-back-at-cabin-in-the-sky/] and The Member of the Wedding [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2015/02/26/black-history-feature-of-the-day-celebrating-actress-ethel-waters-and-actor-david-oyelowo/]. At least one reader of the Cabin in the Sky piece called me naïve, but my perspectives of these films came from having seen them, first, as a child of the 1950s and last as a senior citizen of the 21st Century.
The second pair of reviews was of the books To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman [https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2015/08/21/atticus-finch-is-not-a-racist-but-hes-not-the-true-hero-of-the-story-either/ and https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/2017/09/14/bookmovie-review-to-kill-a-mockingbird-and-go-set-a-watchman-revisited/], the only published novels by Southern author Harper Lee. As with my other Reviews, my perspective was meant to be from a broader historical view as much as from my own realm of experience.
Looking Forward to 2019
Change is ever-present, not confined to a specific time of year or stage in life. Now that I am no longer a parental caregiver, I need to figure out how to live on my own terms and to face known and unknown new challenges ahead. One of the known challenges will be transforming my home into a nest of comfort and the place where creativity springs. Equally important is maintaining the funds and other resources necessary to achieve my goals and dreams. This will probably require seeking part-time work, which is never easy but seems especially daunting in this era of uncertainty engendered by our malfunctioning government, economy, and other systems.
But let me repeat this mantra: We only get one life on this Earth, and our job is to live it to the best of our abilities, talents, gifts, dreams, and imagination. That means reaching out to other people, taking chances, and getting involved in the world around us.
As I anticipate the start of a New Year, I hope that my writing will continue to inform, enlighten, and entertain you, the Reader, as you go about your lives in your own communities, in Baltimore and beyond.
I wish us all A Happy New Year.