Prison Radio
Terri Harper

This piece is called “Honor in Ancestry.”

We are all told to respect our elders, and if led down the path completely, we learned to hold our elders and ancestors to the highest degree in a scene. Growing up, I heard hundreds of stories while sitting in a rocking chair, some would have thought that I was spending quality time with one of my elders.

Truth be told, I was plotting on the cookie jar. Still, lessons were learned. My sense of family, understanding of struggle, and thirst for knowledge were all born in that chair. To be in the presence of one born in 1889 was unfathomable, yet there she was. To look at a beautiful, strong, sensitive person who’d worked fields overcome blindness and slurs and didn’t rest on the power of her nearly Caucasian skin complexion, and know that I was of her blood filled me with fortitude and sent me off to investigate life. Did I always follow my first instinct or completely listened to heated warnings? Absolutely not, but at least I was blessed to have received them.

Now a quarter century after she’s passed on to protect me from above, I was faced with a silly scenario, and this piece is about honoring the ancestor that started the family I belong to. On Christmas, on a visit, my father said he didn’t want one of the photos because I looked just like my great-grandmother, and it was too much of a reminder. If I didn’t know better, I would have taken offense.

Since I did, and I do, I chuckled and was tickled to know by his comment that I had it- elevated. My rise has been hard for it. And one with honesty, bluntness and control. I’m that replica of a woman who lost much, yet had and still has an abundance. I’m a copy of she who tells like it is, makes the point known, and does my part to reach back to one needing motivation.

I cannot run from the past nor do I want to. Instead, I live the best today possible, fussy, feeling my underused potential weighing me down, yet getting motion- getting in motion every day to work, educate others, share the strength of my learning through this experience of poor choices of friends, mates, places I frequented and to slash my lifestyle hell.

I watched C-SPAN, the History Channel, and Nat Geo and test my knowledge in the present and in reverse, and it keeps me open to and ready for change. That change is a journey and progress that will be real loud outside these gates but has long since been embarked upon in reality, recognizing shortcomings, wrongs, and pain to go from hurting to healing, to helping and leading. That’s honor of my ancestry.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.