Celebrating My Black Friends
By: Cathy B Parker
I’ve been wanting to celebrate my beautiful black friends for a while, so with this being Black History Month, it seems to be the perfect time.
Let me start by giving some background as to how I was raised. My dad was a farmer in South Georgia. We were taught to treat others with respect. Our lives were integrated with wonderful people of color, and I loved them. One of my favorites was Miss Bee who kept me in the nursery at church. I loved Miss Bee so much that I would hide in the back seat of her car after church in hopes that I could go home with her. Honestly, I don’t know if I was just oblivious or sheltered, but I didn’t understand the racial issues that were prevalent in the South.
My husband Carl and I married at 19 years of age, and I moved to Nashville, Tennessee with him as he pursued his degree at Vanderbilt on a football scholarship. The fact that we were always around other players who were black again made me very comfortable in my integrated world. It wasn’t until Carl graduated from Vanderbilt and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals that I started realizing my view of the South was different from many others.
With our move to Cincinnati, I began substitute teaching at a local high school. I was only 23 years old, so the students were very comfortable with making fun of my strong Southern accent. “Where are you from?” they would ask. When I would proudly tell them, “Georgia”, they would quickly rattle off how prejudiced I must be because I was from the South.
Their view of my home state was hard to hear, but I could only speak for myself and my personal views and experiences. I understood that they were just kids, but still, I didn’t want to be perceived as a racist just because I was from the South. I realized another thing too: there were no black children in the school! The next time that I was called prejudiced because of where I came from, I quickly responded with, “Where I am from, we (black and white) work together, attend school together, and live life together. You are the ones who are missing out.”
After living in many cities across the U.S. and having some maturity that comes with age, I have concluded that it is okay to acknowledge our differences; in fact, those differences make life more joyful. With that being said, I want to share some special qualities that my black beautiful friends possess:
They acknowledge that they don’t have to like the same things that white people like. Boo Mitchell, a longtime friend and former high school/college teammate of my husband, joked about a group of coaches asking him if he wanted to go shark fishing over summer break. He said, “That is a white man’s sport. Us black people don’t think that is fun at all!”
They are comfortable standing out. From their hairstyles to their wardrobes, I can’t even begin to compete with the uniqueness of my black friends. There have been many days when I couldn’t wait to get to the office to see what my wonderful friend Brenda would be wearing. She didn’t just dress in different outfits; she dressed in themes and always looked amazing.
I love how animated and boisterous my black friends can be. You never have to wonder if they like something; trust me, you will know. One of my favorite things is to see them worship God. They worship with all they have and with one volume (loud)!
Food is another thing that isn’t ordinary or bland if my black friends have anything to do with it. Have you ever been to one of their parties or reunions? We white people usually have one meat with several sides, but my black friends will have multiple choices of main dishes and side items. You certainly will not leave hungry. Celebrating with food leads me to my last and favorite thing about my black friends.
They think curves are attractive. Yep, if I’m feeling that I’ve put on too much weight and my hips are too big, I just ask my black friends how I look. They will tell me that I look just fine.
Bottom line, my life is so much richer because of my friends of color. Thank you for loving me and sharing life with me.