Gumbo for the Soul

Liberating Memoirs and Stories to Inspire Females of Color

Edited by:
Donna Y. Ford, Vanderbilt University
Joy Lawson Davis, Virginia Union University
Michelle Trotman Scott, University of West Georgia
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Teachers College, Columbia University

A volume in the series: Contemporary Perspectives on Multicultural Gifted Education. Editor(s): Donna Y. Ford, Ohio State University. Malik S. Henfield, Loyola University Chicago.

Published 2016

Rejection. Loss. Confusion. Pain. Our past and our future are intertwined. Each distinct memory becomes one life. What once hurt, eventually heals, and the lesson (or lessons) to be learned becomes one with our soul and our spirit. Our experiences provide strength instead of destruction. Our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers -- all women of power who came before us -- were great descendants of the coastal lands of West Africa. They arrived in strange lands with their Gumbo - -their memories, rhythms, ingenuity, creativity, strength, and compassion. Their lived stories and conversation were recipes mixed with unique combinations of ingredients, dropped into the cast iron pot -- stirred, dropped in, seasoned, dropped in, stirred again, and again, and again, until done. This Gumbo is savory like the soul, carefully prepared, recipes rich with what our foremothers brought with them from their homeland. They brought the best of what they had to offer.

Gumbo or Gombo is a Bantu word meaning ‘okra’. Okra is a rich vegetable that serves as the base (or gravy) for a delicately prepared stew. (Today’s Gumbo cooks use a ‘roux’ as the base- see the recipe on page 3). Gumbo’s West African origins have been modified over the past two centuries by people of varied ancestry: Native American, German, Spanish, and French (Moss, 2014). It is essential to understand the manner in which Gumbo is prepared: each ingredient must be placed into the stew at its specified time so that it can cook in and savor its own flavor. When completed, Gumbo is usually served over grits or rice.

Gumbo has become a cornerstone of life in African-descended communities across the south and southwest spanning from South Carolina to Louisiana and Texas. Gumbo is a treasure… a reminder of the greatness that lived in the village in a time of strength and abundance…a reminder of the resilience and richness of our people over generations.

This book -- a collection of memoirs written by Women of Color is shared to inspire and motivate readers. The authors of these precious, soulful stories are from across the globe and represent various backgrounds and professions. What these women have in common, though, is their drive to tell their story. Stories of pain, discovery, strength, and stories of beginnings. Many of the experiences, as difficult as they may have been, made the women who they are today. Telling these stories to a new generation will empower and encourage them in their experiences no matter how troubling or challenging (Harris, 2015). These stories, like our foremothers offering their Gumbo, present the best these women have to offer. These authors want the world to know that deep inside of each of us is a rich, vibrant, purposeful beginning. As our lives develop and we are “stirred and stirred again”, like Gumbo, our experiences begin to shape who we are and who we become. When the stirring is complete, a comforting meal -- one that says no matter what has gone into the dish, it’s going to be amazingly magnificent!!

The authors hope these stories will inspire and motivate girls and Women of Color to trust their experiences -- whether good or bad -- to help them become. Our becoming means that after all that life has thrown our way, we are strong, purposeful, and powerful people who are a great treasure to a world that sometimes rejects and ignores our existence. Embedded in this book are stories of abuse and triumph, sadness and victory, disappointment and resilience, discovery and victory.

We are very proud to be the keepers of these rich recipes. They represent the first in what we hope will become a collection or series of inspirational memoirs that will be shared to help others live out their destiny and become the women they were born to be.

Introduction. At Risk...And at Promise Too! Sheree Nicole Alexander. Pushing Past Trauma, Natoshia Whaley Anderson. At Your Best, You Are Love, Melanie Askew. Sweetest Candy—Education and the Love of Teachers! Margaret Barrow. The Seven-Mile Divide: From Intellectually Gifted to Remedial, Margarita Bianco. Against the Grain, Rhonesha L. Blache. I Am a Composite of All My Experiences, Dionne Blue. Sancocho: How Mamí’s Stories Fed My Curiosity and Continue to Sustain Me, Mildred Boveda. From Homeless to Hopeful: Overcoming Tragedy to Persevere, Mercedes Cannon. Racism and Giftedness: A Double Whammy, Marissa L. Campbell. Forging Ahead in the Midst of Challenges, Disha Lynch Charles. I Needed My Mother and My Daughter Needs Me: (Biggest Fan! First Defender! Best Advocate!), Johnita Collins. Making Beauty from Ashes: On Learning to Forgive and Love, Kimberly Phillips Dabney. Surviving, Thriving, and Rising Above, Joy Lawson Davis. Forgiveness: The Unexpected Gift of Fatherlessness, Crystal A. DeGregory. Finding My Academic Self: Snapshot of a Bigger Picture, Isi Ero-Tolliver. Beyond Zip Codes and Genetic Codes: Black and Poor and Gifted, Too! Donna Y. Ford. Despite the Score: Removing Barriers From Access to Gifted Education, LaTonya Frazier. Free to Fly, Jessica A. Fripp. “Can’t” is a Four-Letter Word and Life Rolls Along, Vernessa T. Gipson and Brianna T. Morgan. I Read to Live, Kristy Girardeau. The Day I Found Pain, Derria L. Ford Glover. The Difference between Giving Up and Moving On, Jamye Hardy. Never Put Rocks on an Eagle’s Back, Breshawn N. Harris. Bendable, Yet Unbreakable, Tiffany Hollis. Being Called a Nigger: Reflections as a Student and in Teacher Preparation, Amina Humphrey. Like a Leaf in the Wind: Growing up Gifted in Turkey Without Privileges and Capital, Zeynep Isik-Ercan. To Thine Own Self Be True: Stand Tall, LaShonda M. Jackson-Dean. Fighting the Good Fight as an Afr-Rican Leader, Patricia Jahaly. People Come into Our Lives for a Season, Donna M. Johnson. From “Smarty Pants” to Scholar: A Personal Journey of Self-Acceptance, Jennifer M. Johnson. From Heartache to Head Up, Charemi A. Jones. Passion and Purpose through Pain and Dysfunction, SaDohl Goldsmith Jones. My Life Began to Bloom at Forty, Tammy D. Lane. The Perils of Being Too Young to be Grown, Tonya Leslie. Push Back and Stay in the Game: Life Goes on After Mistakes, April J. Lisbon. Learning to Love Myself after Sexual Abuse, Arleezah Marrah. I’m not an “Oreo.”I’m focused! Renae D. Mayes. The Dark Side of Giftedness: A Hidden Curriculum of Rejection, Heather Cherie Moore. The Greatest Gift of Love, Shondrika Moss-Bouldin. Fear is Not an Option, Barbara Mullen. The Garrison Finish: Learning to Live on Purpose, Not Just on Time, Janice Nix-Victorian. I Am Not Alone: Overcoming Abuse and Rejection, Quinita Ogletree. Adversity is Knocking... Let Success Answer It, Charissa M. Owens. A Family and a Dream: A Journey from South Central to Life Beyond, Alexis Riley. Beyond Overcoming: Living Out God’s Plan, Cynthia Rivers. The Other “Big C”, Kelly A. Rodgers. My Journey from the South Bronx to the Academy, Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz. Why Not You? My Story of Inspiration and Determination, Chinequa Shelander. A Journey into Racial Identity: A Black Woman and White Socialisation, Victoria Showunmi. No Safe Space, Aisha K. Staggers. Being Above Average: Hearing, Accepting, and Believing, Michelle Trotman Scott. School Changed My Life, Desireé Vega. I Am Because of Her, Nicole McZeal Walters. Move Over World... Here I Am, Tuwana Wingfield. From Special Ed to Higher Ed: A Black Girl’s Journey in Discovering Her Giftedness, Jemimah L. Young.