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Black Matriarch



My submission to the Black Matriarch Archive @blackmatriarcharchive_ , curated by @alkebuluanm

She describes it as " a digital platform dedicated to celebrating the black women who raised and uplifted their families.


“Most of my 20+ cousins will undoubtedly all disagree, but I am very sure that I am my Grandmother’s favorite grandchild. My mother is her namesake, so I know that must count for something. Plus, I have a Mickey Mouse shaped scar on my left hand from a radiator burn when I was in her care as an infant. This must be the reason she never scolded me as much as the other kids. The closest she came to making me uncomfortable was when  she would put my head on her lap and clean my ears with a bobby pin and handkerchief. But my other cousins got the switch on the regular. When I was in college I would send her postcards and every time I traveled, I would buy a change purse for her from different cities.


I loved hanging out with my Grandma. I remember walking with her to the butcher shop and to the government rations office (aka the welfare place). They basically provide free food like cheese and peanut butter to assist living. What amazed me was how fast she walked.  Our town was so small that some days we could easily walk half the distance of town.  During a career break I traveled the world for a year. I traveled many miles with a single bag on my back. I walked through Mexico, Europe, Brazil, and West Africa until my feet were swollen and my favorite pair of Adidas fell apart.  Along the way, I could imagine her walking with me, through open air markets, across rivers, over deserts, and wading through tall grass fields.  I would always see her slightly ahead of me, walking like it was her job.


She did everything like it was her job. She is my first and primary reference for work, as a laborer and as a community member. She was a domestic worker and nanny for her entire adult life after sharecropping and working in various crop fields in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. And she is the strongest person I’ve ever witnessed. She is the reason relate to the people who clean the world. Those people who wash the white clothes of the higher classes. I found a familiar comfort in witnessing the uniformed workers in the endless airports I slept in while waiting for standby flights in liminal corners of dark terminals. She is why I never complain about work I have to do. When I’m tired, I sit down, but I never complain.


I haven’t lived in my hometown since I was 17.  In fact I’m 4255 miles on a crow’s path away in Northeast Brazil. I don’t speak to her often, but I think about her everyday.  Sometimes it feels great to know that you are someone’s favorite (type of) person.  This photo was taken after her oldest friend, Ms. Mattie baked a cake for her birthday. They had known each other for most of their lives.  My mother told me that my Ms. Mattie passed away and another friend soon after.  I brought her many change purses back from West Africa, definitely securing my place as her favorite grandson. “

 © 2020 Sed Miles

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