#EmotionalNudity (Authentic Living)

My Untold Story: Growing Strong Women (A Family Legacy)

My Untold Story: Growing Strong Women (A Family Legacy)

My Untold Story: Growing Strong Women (A Family Legacy)

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. I would love to hear your untold stories. Share them on social media with the hashtag #MyUntold, and tag me so I’m sure to see them! Also feel free to check out the story gallery HERE!

Last week I paid my first visit to a new doctor. I recall sitting there being asked a barrage of questions by the intake nurse. Some of the questions seemed a bit out of order so I inquired about the nature of the questioning. Once the nurse explained they were part a new screening process, I quieted down and apologized for being “difficult”. The perky little nurse said “no, you’re GREAT! I love a woman with a strong personality.”

I felt a violent cringe inside my belly. The phrase “strong personality” had carried a negative connotation for me since I was a young girl. I really hated being referred to as “strong black woman”, somehow the phrase always poured off people’s lips, dripping like a disgusting goo that left a bad taste in my mouth. Blek!

Strength, poise and dignity are three things that my Mother instilled in her four girls with unyielding reinforcement. She didn’t believe in laughing at the dinner table or eating before everyone was seated and the table had been blessed. We were taught to sit with our legs crossed at the ankle and to walk with our shoulders back and heads high. My Mother insisted that we speak proper English ALL the time and that we converse in assured tones that exuded confidence. But mostly, raised us to stick steadfast to what we believed, even it it was an unpopular belief.

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As a young child all these structured rules requiring me to be “girly” yet “firm” were quite annoying, but I wouldn’t dare rebel against Mom’s wishes, so I endured them. I was a budding college student before I could appreciate how much my Mother has “refined” me into a confident young woman. I had no fear of walking across the crowded cafeteria or standing in front of a class of my piers. I had no shame about eating in front of my date or making eye contact with new acquaintances. Nope, my Mother had prepared me to tackle nearly every social situation with grace and dignity. Even to this day, I’m grateful for that.

When I was 30, Mom became suddenly ill and passed away only 3 months later after a brutal bout with her illness. I was (and still am) heartbroken for her suffering and the magnitude of my loss. About 6 months before she died, Mama and I sat and talked for several hours “woman to woman”. At one point she sincerely looked me straight in the eye and stated “I admire you more than you know!”. To this day, it’s the most knee buckling compliment that I have ever received. Especially from a woman to garnered the nick name “don’t play Daisy” around our neighborhood.

So many people work their whole lives to try and make their parents proud and here I was being sitting there listening to my Mother confirming that I had done just that! That day with my Mother is one of my most cherished for many reasons. You see, in addition to her proclaimed admiration, Mom also reminded me that I had come from “good stock”. That was her way of telling me that I came from a lineage of strong women who never apologized for their greatness.

You see my great Grandmother Iola James graduated from Tuskeegee Institute during what was popularly referred to as the “turn of the century” (that’s somewhere between 1899 and 1900). Big Mama (as we called her) had told her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren many stories about roaming the Alabama campus of the one of the first institutions of higher learning for African-Americans. But what she boasted most was her admiration for her favorite professor “DOCTOR Carver”, yes that would be none other than Dr. George Washington Carver. According to Wikipedia, Big Mama’s “DOCTOR Carver” was the same man who had reputedly invented bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, ink, instant coffee and over 300 other products. Ha! Go figure!

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My oldest sister went away to a college when I was 4 years old, Big Mama died that year at age 98 and she was revered as a “strong woman” and avid educator.

I suppose if one were to take a wagon ride through my family lineage, there would be an abundance of “strong women”. We are full of ideas, opinions and perspectives. You will not find a shortage of spirited debates or stern declarations. But you will also find that the women in my heritage are powerful defenders of those they love. Loyal supporters of the things they believe in. They are magnificent community builders, amazing story tellers, jubilant jokesters and sincere prayer warriors. The women in my family are birth in resilience, bred in honesty and rooted in love.

They are women like my Aunt Pearl and Aunt Daisy who each insisted that my Grandmother send one of her daughters to live with them after her husband was tragically killed and left her a single mother of 5. The women in my family are like my Aunt Laura who sent me $5 for my birthday every year for more than 30 years. Then there are my sisters Jocelyn and Zita who tirelessly care for my paralyzed Father daily despite their own health challenges. Yes, the women in my family are strong!

I think today is the day that I will no longer cringe when I am regarded as having a “strong personality”. I will no longer shoulder the resentment others harbor against me for being a pillar of morality. Today is the day that I embrace the strength that was so generously poured into my DNA.

Today is the day! Mama said I come from “good stock”. I say “the best stock”!

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. I would love to hear your untold stories. Share them on social media with the hashtag #MyUntold, and tag me so I’m sure to see them! Also feel free to check out the story gallery HERE!

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Jai Stone (Master Brand Coach)

Master Brand Coach at Jai Stone, ULTD
Jai Stone, is a business lifestyle strategist and the founder of the Emotional Nudity Lifestyle and Game ChangHER University. She is also a highly syndicated blogger who has been featured in Essence Magazine, Huffington Post and on BET. She is currently a regular contributor to Essence.com

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