Booker T. Washington quote: “The education…

Booker T. Washington portrait

“The education that I received at Hampton out of the text-books was but a small part of what I learned there. One of the things that impressed itself upon me deeply, the second year, was the unselfishness of the teachers. It was hard for me to understand how any individuals could bring themselves to the point where they could be so happy working for others. Before the end of the year, I think I began learning that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. This lesson I have tried to carry with me ever since.”

– Booker T. Washington

“Booker T. Washington quote: ‘The education…” sources: Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery: An Autobiography. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1901 / Portrait taken circa 1905 – Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer. Booker T. Washington, half-length portrait, seated. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010645746/>. / Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of American Sculptor Vinnie Ream Hoxie

Portrait of Vinnie Ream Hoxie

Portrait of Vinnie Ream Hoxie, an American sculptor, best known for her sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln. The statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on January 25th, 1871, when Vinnie was just twenty-three years old.

“Portrait of American Sculptor Vinnie Ream Hoxie” sources: Vinnie Ream at work upon her Lincoln bust which rests upon the stand she used in the White House while President Lincoln posed for her. [Between 1865 and 1870, printed later] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2002712184/>. / Wikimedia Commons

Frida Kahlo quote from letter to Georgia O’Keefe

Frida Kahlo portrait

“I’ll be in Detroit two more weeks. I would like to tell you every thing that happened to me since the last time we saw each other, but most of them are sad and you mustn’t know sad things now. After all I shouldn’t complain because I have been happy in many ways though. Diego is good to me, and you can’t imagine how happy he has been working on the frescoes here. I have been painting a little too and that helped. I thought of you a lot and never forget your wonderful hands and the color of your eyes. I will see you soon. I am sure that in New York I will be much happier. If you are still in the hospital when I come back I will bring you flowers.”

– Frida Kahlo

“Frida Kahlo quote from letter to Georgia O’Keefe” sources: Frida Kahlo portrait taken in 1932 by by Guillermo Kahlo – Wikimedia Commons / Frida Kahlo Wikiquote

Portrait of a woman, Brazil, 1880.

Portrait of a woman, Brazil, 1880.

Portrait photograph of a woman in Bahia, Brazil. Taken in 1880.

“Portrait of a woman, Brazil, 1880.” source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Portrait of a woman, Bahia, Brazil” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1880. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-3c7c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Anna Julia Cooper: Educator and equality advocate

Anna Julia Cooper portrait

Anna Julia Cooper was an example for all and a teacher to many.

Born enslaved in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1858, she started school at the age of nine. Nearly sixty years later, Anna received her Ph.D. in history at the age of sixty-six in 1924.

Throughout the years in between and many after her Ph.D., Anna dedicated herself to helping others thrive. She taught in schools, worked as a principal, and after her Ph.D. as a university president.

Anna was also a staunch advocate for civil rights and women’s rights, writing and giving speeches. In one speech, Anna said, “A nation’s greatness is not dependent upon the things it make and uses. Things without thots [sic] are mere vulgarities. America can boast her expanse of territory, her gilded domes, her paving stones of silver dollars; but the question of deepest moment in this nation today is its span of the circle of brotherhood, the moral stature of its men and its women, the elevation at which it receives its ‘vision’ into the firmament of eternal truth.”

Anna passed away at the age of 105 in 1964.

“Anna Julia Cooper: Educator and equality advocate” sources: Portrait taken circa 1902 – C.M. Bell, photographer. Mrs. A.J. Cooper. [between February and December 1903] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2016702852/>. / Giles, Mark S. “Special Focus: Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, 1858-1964: Teacher, Scholar, and Timeless Womanist.” The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 75, no. 4, Journal of Negro Education, 2006, pp. 621–34, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034662 / The Ethics of the Negro Question Speech by Anna Julia Cooper September 5, 1902 / Anna Cooper Wikipedia

Love, Life and Bubbe Wisdom

It was Hollywood’s glamor time, and Liza Mendel was Hollywood’s glamor woman. Tall, poised, with a radiating smile, people stopped and stared when she walked into a room. Some mustered the courage to talk with her, which could be done in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Yiddish. “Bubbe, which is Yiddish for grandmother, only spoke Yiddish, and I wanted to spend time with her. So I learned,” she would say when people asked how she knew the language. 

Liza loved telling Bubbe stories. Her favorite was from the time Bubbe nearly killed a man. It was the early 1900s, and Bubbe refused to leave Russia during waves of pogroms when Jewish people were being attacked. In her fifties then and widowed, she carried a pistol for protection. And once, when a man tried to attack her, she pulled out the pistol and started shooting, hitting him twice. Even the anti-Semitic police officers laughed at him. “You’re lucky she wasn’t ten years younger,” they said. They gave Bubbe her gun back at the police station and let her go. She simply nodded back.

Bubbe was finally convinced to leave Russia and move in with her daughter and son-in-law, Liza’s parents, shortly after turning sixty. Bubbe loved her daughter but hated their home. Liza’s parents were Bolshevik exiles in Paris, and Communist literature littered the house. The books and scraps of paper with political thoughts were everywhere. “Enough writing, get a job!” Bubbe would yell at her son-in-law. “You have a child to support.”

The Mendel household could have easily been mistaken for a pub. Glasses of beer competed with the books for space while cigarette smoke clouded all the rooms. And through all hours of the day and night, men and women from different walks of life argued politics. “Azohen vey,” Bubbe would mutter while watching the arguments. Often, she would take Liza out of the home to walk the city, introducing her to the arts, which Bubbe loved. For Liza, it was the films that captured her heart. And in a home of constant commotion, performing gave her a way to stand out. “I’m going to be an actress,” she told everyone. 

Her first performance came at seventeen as an extra in a film directed by a house guest of her parents. More roles as an extra followed, then some speaking ones, and she had a lead role within the year. The papers declared Liza Mendel a star after the film premiere. 

After more leading roles with much fanfare, Liza moved to Los Angeles for a starring role in a U.S. film. Bubbe came with her. Liza adjusted to a new life with much hard work and focus, diligently figuring out her new world. And as in Europe, her leading lady roles brought fame. But with celebrity came gossip, focused primarily on love and family. The world expected marriage for Liza. And twice she would oblige. Marrying an actor, then a businessman. Neither of whom loved her. They loved being with her, bragging as though a trophy had been won. Bubbe labeled both “schmucks” well before the marriages. 

Divorce two took place shortly after Liza turned twenty-seven in 1934. A friend threw Liza a small party her first night single. To the gathering came a woman new to town. Her name was Ella. Ella was originally from the South, but grew up in Boston. She was tall, walked proud, spoke confidently, yet was shy and introverted. Ella had come to Los Angeles for sunshine and school, studying for her Ph.D. to become a biologist. 

That night, Ella and Liza spoke for hours. They shared stories of life through the sunset and dawn, parting ways only because work called. They agreed to meet for dinner that night, which went just like the night prior. 

For months they secretly met. No one could know. Finally, Liza went to Bubbe.

“Bubbe, I’m in love with Ella.”

“I know,” Bubbe replied.

“How?”

“The way you look at each other. How you talk to each other. I’ve never seen you like that with anyone.”

“You’re not disappointed?”

“After the first two schmucks, I’m relieved. She’s a good woman. But are you ready for what’s to come?”

“I don’t know. I want to be. But we can’t be public. My career will end. We could even go to jail. I don’t know what to do.”

“What matters are not your accomplishments, but how you live. Honor yourself by choosing what matters, and you’ll figure out how.” 

That night as Ella and Liza drank tea and sat on the couch, Liza said, “I don’t know how or where we can be together. But I know what matters most to me is being with you. Let’s figure out how.”

Note: “Love, Life and Bubbe Wisdom” is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.

Charles Young: Short Story Biography

Charles Young portrait

Born to enslaved parents in 1864, Charles Young grew up in Ripley, Ohio, where the family moved after his father was discharged from the 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment post Civil War.

With much emphasis placed on education in the Young household, Charles excelled in his studies. Often studying with his mother at home, Charles graduated atop his high school class. Then he became a teacher at a local school.

A few years later, with encouragement from his father, Charles took the entrance exam for West Point. He scored second highest in his district, receiving admission after the top candidate chose not to enroll.

At West Point, Charles experienced much racism and often felt lonely. But he persevered through the challenges and received help from some students along the way, graduating in 1887.

After graduating, Charles would serve in the military, teach at a university, and act as superintendent of multiple national parks. He passed away in 1921.

“Charles Young: Short Story Biography” sources: Portrait of Cadet Charles Young by Pach Brothers, NY – Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center Wilberforce, Ohio / Colonel Charles Young – National Park Service / Wikipedia

Yellow Roses for a Lotus Flower

Shattered nerves and alcohol. That’s what became life for Wilbur Jones, a man once known for his wide smile and many friendships. Back in those brighter days, he dreamt of becoming a physician like pop, who young Wilbur wanted to make proud. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wilbur left UCLA to enlist in the Army, following in the footsteps of many family members past.

Wilbur felt proud of becoming a soldier; the country and world needed his service. Fears of going to war he kept inside, focusing on doing right. But war is war. Many battles and many deaths took a toll; the horrors he harbored. But it was the day he walked into Dachau, a concentration camp, to liberate the people there that broke him. He saw what he would never speak of again.

Wilbur returned home a spiritless man. Gone were the joyful sparkles in his youthful eyes. Friends became former friends. Pop paid his son’s expenses and came over every weekend, calling him throughout the week. “It’ll get better,” pop would say. Often they sat in silence with a beer in hand, the moments passing by.

Wilbur walked into the bar already a few drinks in, sitting down on a stool at the far end of the counter. The bartenders knew him. He didn’t cause trouble, never a mean drunk. And they knew his pain. His drink was always the same, whiskey neat. For him, they kept a special bottle of their best, though diluted some with water. It was a little care they could show him.

Most people kept their distance, but a man no one knew walked in on this night. He wasn’t a regular, someone new in this part of town. Sitting down in the only empty counter chair, the one to the left of Wilbur, he ordered a glass of red wine and looked at his bar neighbor. The scar on Wilbur’s forehead caught his attention. It was unique, a remnant of a childhood injury. He had only ever seen one man with such a scar.

“Wilbur?” the man asked.

Wilbur turned his head and immediately recognized the man. “Pasha!”

The two jumped out of their seats and hugged a long warm embrace. For Pasha, the dirty clothes, foul breathe, the emptiness in Wilbur’s eyes shocked him, as did the unusually worn-out face of someone not even thirty years old. For Wilbur, it was just the opposite. He could smell the fine cologne and appreciated the expensive tailored suit on Pasha.

They talked all night. The bar stayed open for them even when closing time came. No one had seen Wilbur laugh in years.

Wilbur learned that Pasha was now Paul. After being liberated from Dachau, he spent some years in Europe before making his way to the U.S. A physician before the war, he became one again after immigrating. Now he was married with two young kids, a new home in the small Jewish community on the other side of town. A patient home visit brought him to Wilbur’s neighborhood and the bar for the first time.

Wilbur didn’t have much to say about life, nor did he have to. Pasha understood. He had seen others go down the same path. “Wilbur, will you come work with me? I remember at Dachau you told me that you were studying to become a physician before the war. Let’s make that dream happen.”

“I don’t think I have it in me, Pasha. Look at me.”

“Remember how you met me at Dachau? You have lost your why, I can see it, like looking in a mirror. I know you can find it.”

Pasha put his hand out. With Pasha’s suit jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up, Wilbur could see the numbers on Pasha’s wrist. Wilbur had longed to forget Dachau. But he knew that Pasha had lived it. In their short time together during the liberation, a friendship sparked. Wilbur trusted Pasha. He put his hand out and clasped Pashas. “Ok.”

Note: “Yellow Roses for a Lotus Flower” is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.