Monday, August 22, 2005

Women We Love: My Mother

I know it's cliche for my mother to be the first woman recognized in this series, but what you may see as cliche, I see as pure fact. So here it goes...

My mother was born in Jackson, MS in the late 1940s. The youngest child of four, her early formative years were spent living in Jackson and in rural Learned, MS, where my great grandparents had a thriving farm. When my mother was young, her only brother, Selvin, drowned. Later, I was named after Uncle Selvin, thus my middle name. I never thought of the impact that the death of a sibling would have on anyone, let alone my mother. If we are fortunate, we don't have to deal with that kind of thing until later in life. But my mother dealt with it in her youth. I didn't think of its full impact until I read a poem that she wrote about him. Oh yes, my mother is a naturally talented and gifted writer as well...


Sixteeen years old
and drowned
just when he began
to wear his pants low
showing his bvd'.
drowned in the midst of
learning lyrics to
"Short Fat Fanny"
awkwardly attempting the
latest dance steps
on mama's front porch
a tall, lean body
silouetted in the moonlight
practicing perfect hoops
just after
meeting Debra,
an angel
come down from
Chicago to visit
kin folks
Debra whom he said
"looked like
an angel, baby!"
To know he knew
the love of a young girl
just before being
an angel came
for him
in some consolation.

- Hazel Lou

Deep wasn't it? That's my mother. After being a member of the National Honor Society, and graduating as the Valedictorian of Holy Ghost High School in Jackson, she enrolled at Jackson State College (later University). While at Jackson State, she was a cheerleader, pledged as a member of the Gamma Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and travelled on domestic exchange to take courses at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and SUNY Binghamton. After her graduation from Jackson State, she taught classes there in her field, English. She used to tell me stories about teaching members of the football team, and how they wanted to do well, but would give her a hard time. After she left Jackson State, she pursued her graduate studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. While she was pursuing her Masters degree there, she met an undergrad named Joseph Carlos. Later, they began dating, and in 1970, on this date, they were married in Jackson, Mississippi's Northside Baptist Church.

When they first got married, they both taught at a junior college in Mississippi. In 1973, her husband started medical school at Michigan State University. In September of 1974, she gave birth to her first child, Joseph Selvin, a 9 pound 5 ounce, bouncing, brown bundle of joy. During Joseph's early years, she taught in Lansing and Grand Rapids, MI until 1977 when her husband graduated from medical school, and began his residency in Dallas, TX at Parkland Hospital. I can remember that ride from Michigan like yesterday. I remember being in our Volkswagen Beetle, for hours. Longer than I'd ever been in a car in my life. My mother had sandwiches for days it seemed like, and when we got to Dallas, I remember eating in a cafe' called JoJo's. We had a two bedroom apartment at Northall Manor in North Dallas. At the time, my mother was pregnant with my brother, and in February of 1978, a few days after the Cowboys had won their second Super Bowl, Jordan Edward was born in the world at 7:47pm weighing in at 10 pounds 2 oz.

When I was growing up, my mother made our apartment in North Dallas so warm, it seemed like the biggest place I'd ever seen. It's hard to describe it, but everything we wanted or needed we definitely had, and my mother and father saw to it. My mother took a position teaching English at nearby Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch, TX. I went to the child development center, as did my brother. Shortly after my year there, I tested for and was accepted at The Greenhill School, where I began pre-Kindergarten. I don't quite know how my mother and father afforded the tuition on a resident's salary and a college teacher's salary but they did.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Women We Love

Esquire, the arbiter of all things great, does an annual theme issue called, 'Women We Love...' Over the next several weeks, 18 to be exact, I will do that here. On each Monday, starting with Monday, August 22nd, I will do a piece on a woman that I love/respect/admire. In many cases it will be a woman that I've never met, but in some cases, it won't be. I think you get the general idea. Each piece, thoughtful and poignant, will be accompanied by a picture of said lady. So, sit back, relax and learn.

I'm Joe, and that's how I see it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

5 Years Ago

In the summer of 2000, I was living on campus at Morehouse. Since I was a member of the SGA, my summer plans consisted of living at Morehouse, working on campus, and planning the eventual homecoming. That summer I didn't have a job, so income was sparse and money was sporadically in my pocket. But, I did have my friends.

That summer I hung out with Tash, Seth, Raj, Corey, JC, and the great Jamal Dedeaux. Tash was at Morehouse working on the yearbook for the class of 2000. Seth was in Atlanta, waiting to hear a response from the Peace Corps and working at the college with the National Youth Sports Program. Raj was taking summer school classes. Corey was the homecoming director and seriously bogged down with that. Jamal was the coolest cat I knew, and he was working furiously to edit his first feature film, 'Life's Suite.'

We called it the 'Can I Live? Winning Summer.' Seth and I came up with the name after we realized that time and time again, our way of life was being threatened by the pressures of maturity and responsibility. So, the question always beared asking, 'can I live?'

The summer started like this...
Morehouse graduation was in May, and slowly the fellas left to go on to medical school or law school or Wall St. Memorial Day weekend, I hung out at Mikal and Lenny's. Mikal bought a case of Ice House 22's. Thomas 'TJ' Jones was there, so was Okera. It was a great, great time. We ate, drank, were merry, and it seemed all so fun. We all went to Buckhead where we met up with other Class of 2000 people and did bar crawls all night, back when you could do that with relative ease in Buckhead. Then Mikal left for medical school in Jersey. Lenny left for dental school at Howard. Okera left for medical school at Michigan, and TJ left for medical school in Galveston.

JC was on Capitol Hill for the month of June working for Earl Hilliard (D-AL).

Seth and I started hanging out everyday. Tash started hanging out with us, as did Big Dave Smith and Raj. I tried to put all of their names down on the official SGA summer list so that we could all eat freely in the cafeteria, but that was halted after a week. For my efforts, I did receive a tongue lashing from Dean Phifer.

Every Thursday night we would go to a Buckhead bar called 'Bell Bottoms.' The reason being because on Thursday nights, from 9-10 BB had free drinks and free admission. So for some guys who were broke and couldn't afford drinks, going to BB was a perfect situation, because we could go there for free, drink for free, hang out, and it didn't cost us anything. They even had free food there!

One weekend Seth wanted to go to the movies, so we went to our friend Johnny's house, had a few drinks and headed to the most expensive theater in town, the Tara. At the Tara we saw the film 'Gleam.' A horrible film, but a great deal of fun to be in the theater with Seth, Johnny, Corey, Tash, and Jamal.

There are dozens of stories from that summer from the drinking games and contests to the full contact Trivial Pursuit games, to the times we just turned off the tv and started actually talking about life, and started to become men.

Thanks fellas for the memories and good times.