Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Momma, Where Are You From?

In honor of February's Black History Month, I want to share Momma, Where Are You From? by Marie Bradby. The story is told as a mother's reply to her daughter's question about her childhood and is written in gorgeous, poetic, visual detail. "To get to where Momma comes from you have to travel through the roads of memory."

"I'm from Monday mornings washing loads of clothes in the wringing washer, " Momma begins. She recalls the cries of the fishermen selling croakers, the tunes of Ellington and Basie, and the bus that carried her older brothers and sisters way across town past school, after school, after school until it stopped at the school where all the students were brown- some light, some dark, and some in between.

This mother's story reminded me of Hampton Roads, Virginia, where the croaker fish are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, the neighbors share green beans from their gardens and we kick the gumballs from the gumball trees on our walks to school. It turns out, the author, Marie Bradby is a graduate of Hampton University!

The local news has been celebrating the 50 year anniversary(not long ago) of the Norfolk 17. A time when, even after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, 151 transfer requests of black students to attend white schools were denied. However, the district court decided it would "grudgingly admit 17 of the 151 applicants to 6 of the city's all-white secondary schools." The schools were not happy with the decision and closed down until February 2, 1959 when the closings were ruled unconstitutional.
Chris Soentpiet has won more awards for his illustrations than any artist I know of. His watercolors are warm, glowingly gorgeous and humanly realistic. These are two of my favorite images. The little girl with the green beans reminded me of a super simple, tasty recipe that my dear friend Kim gave me. It was her Nana's who is from Portsmouth, VA:

Good Southern Green Beans
For every 1lb of green beans, (or 15.5 oz. can undrained)
add 1 tbsp. of white sugar
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. of butter
cook on low in a covered pot for 1-2 hours
check fluid regularly


  1. Thanks for weaving in the VA, civil rights history and green beans recipe. This looks like such a sweet story. And that illustrator really does have a lot of awards.

  2. It's funny how all the connections came to mind through this story as I was reading/writing. The illustrator, Chris Soentpiet has an amazing website with detailed info on each of his books, lesson plans and all. The author, Marie Bradby also has quite a few awards. They make a winning combination (:


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