Earlier this month I went to the PA Conference for Women. There were over 7,000 women in attendance, making the Convention Center feel like an overcrowded beehive with everything abuzz and moving. But when keynote speaker Glenda Hatchett took the stage the room got silent; everyone’s attention shifted towards the woman holding the mic. I was a good distance away from Hatchett and couldn’t really see her without looking at the TV screens to the left and right of the stage. However, I could feel her presence radiating off the stage with the unbound freedom of someone comfortable in their own skin.
Her southern voice filled up the room. It was fiery, powerful and engaging as she shared with us two moments in her life that profoundly impacted her. The first was when she almost quit law school, when she almost gave up. She went to her Aunt’s house seeking guidance and support. After her Aunt patiently listened she asked, “Do you really want to be a lawyer?”
“Babbbbbby, if it were easy then everyone else would be a lawyer.”
Then Hatchett went on tell another story about when she was a little girl. She told it something like this: “When I was a little girl, I hated first grade. Do you hear me? I hated first grade. Both my parents were teachers and I already knew how to read and write. In class, we were learning things like ‘see spot run’ and ‘see spot sit’. I was way pass that, Spot bored me. The teacher promised we’d get books but they never came until months later. When they finally did arrive Mrs. Johnson passed each of us a book and asked we take turns reading aloud. When it was my turn to read the page in my book was missing, it was torn out. Mrs. Johnson skipped over me. Now, that might not sound like a big deal to you, but as a little first grader it was a BIG deal. I had waited months for my chance to read aloud.
After class I went to Mrs. Johnson.
“I need a new book.”
Mrs. Johnson looked at my book and said,
“No you don’t.
“Yes I do Ma’am because there is a missing page in mine.”
“I’m sorry but colored people don’t get new books.”
I couldn’t believe Mrs. Johnson said that to me. I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I was in first grade and I still believed my father could fix everything. So I thought to myself why am I wasting my time talking to this woman, I am going home to tell my father, he’ll fix this.
I went home to my dad and told him what happened. I’ll never forget what he did. See in his wisdom and age he knew that he couldn’t fix the world; that he couldn’t change Mrs. Johnson’s mind but he could fix my reaction to it.
“Baby, go get your canyons and a blank piece of paper.”
I came back with the requested supplies.
“Now, I want you to sit down and write your own story. You hear me? You write your own story.”
Words of Wisdom,
A Warrior Princess
PS. ALL above quotes are taken from memory.