Had a spirited reading and signing of “Strivers and Other Stories” in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia at the Lucy C. Laney Museum of Black History on Sunday, February 19, 2017. The museum, I noted to the audience, is in a downtown neighborhood that conjures many memories from my formative years: Waiting for my sister’s piano practice to end at Mrs.Tutt’s house on the same block; walking the nearby streets as a teenager while attending a summer program at MCG; times spent at Tabernacle Baptist Church; hanging out at my mother’s office at A. R. Johnson High School, story time at the Wallace Branch Library; sneaking to hear what the rival Laney High band was going to do in their next show.
Also, I was born, like most Augusta babies in those days, in the old University Hospital that was just up the street. As my mother used to remind me, I was the first and only of her seven children to be birthed in the integrated Barrett Wing of the hospital, while my 6 siblings were born in the “colored” Lamar Wing. So I always felt growing up that my birth was something of a social experiment. And when I did something bad or was acting up, I could see in my mother’s questioning eyes her wondering if integration was a social experiment gone wrong!
Several of the stories in the collection, including “Some Get Back”, “Cotton Compress” and “Strivers” are implicitly are set in the neighborhoods near the museum, the core of the old Black community in the city. So it was definitely special to read words from the book in that setting.