Mr. Powell is holding his only daughter and last child, Teola, who we called Baby Sister. Teola would eventually inherit and reside in the brownstone at 2801 Brooklyn Avenue. An entrepreneur at heart, Baby Sister created a successful home based graphic design and printing enterprise that enabled the eventual acquisition of most of the houses on the block. Next to my uncle Mr. Powell and Baby Sister is my Aunt Teola, we call her Mrs. Powell. She is the epitome of elegance and class. At the other end of the sectional divan is Aunt Della. Aunt Della was mentally ill. Some years later, I watched her spill out of a rocking chair and die in a pool of vomit. She lived on the 2nd floor with Big Mama & Dad, our grandfather, Elder Lee Nall, a retired railroad worker and now pastor of our family church, Prayer Temple Church of God In Christ. Next to Aunt Della, my mom holds my 4 month old brother, Ray. Between my mom, Maxine McFarlane, and her mom, Big Mama, sits regally bespectacled, Lizzie Harrison, Big Mama’s mother, my mother’s grandmother, and my great grandmother. Lizzie Harrison is 92 years old. She dies at 101 in 1959.
She was born a slave.
Slavery is not that far away. Think about it: A woman who was born into slavery, whose parents were considered white people’s property, touched me, loved me.
This photo reminds me that the past that she and her forbearers endured, cannot, must not be forgotten. It doesn’t go away. I stand in it, on it. It is the source of the future I am creating in this eternal moment.