Helen’s legacy, The Power of Love

Helen, my other mother, 1957

1957 in the American South

Real power is usually unspectacular, a simple setting aside of fear that allows the free flow of love. But it changes everything.” 

As a child growing up in the fifties and sixties in segregated North Carolina, I saw my own reality with fresh eyes of innocence. My father was a white doctor in a small rural town. His office had a ‘colored’ waiting room, and I hung out at the office nearly everyday as a little girl. At home my parents employed a woman named Helen Graham, to care for me, and my three siblings, and to help my mother at home.

The primary feminine voice of my childhood was this black woman however, whose wise laugh I remember in my bones, and whose serenity and warmth helped me survive the wintry years later. It has taken me until now to understand my strong attachment to the African American culture, and why I still feel such a calling to build bridges between us.

As a child, I felt the differences. But I knew the love.

A recent piece by Martha Beck in “O” mentioned South Africa’s culture, and it helped me understand my own feelings.

“Those who mistake violence for power are often surprised by this: Apartheid’s architects in South Africa didn’t think twice about all the black women who were paid meager wages to “mind” white babies. They didn’t realize that these women would do something revolutionary, choosing to see the infants of their oppressors not through the eyes of fear, as future enemies, but through the eyes of love, simply as babies.”

“For many white South Africans who were raised by black ‘mothers,’ there was no way on earth that apartheid could seem right to us. These women became heroes by insisting that love prevail…choosing love over fear in any situation whatsoever.”

Love over fear. It still feels like the essence of things. Thank you, Helen.

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I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in Arts & Culture, beauty, Gullah, religion, South Carolina History, spirituality, women
3 comments on “Helen’s legacy, The Power of Love
  1. pinkney says:

    Similar, but not the same experience. I remember our Helen as having real power over me. I was scared of black women for years growing up.

  2. jfunderburk says:

    Thanks for the post, it was moving. – From the RaceCity.us news team! Mooresville NC News

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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