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Commentary: What legacy will you leave?

Commentary: What legacy will you leave?
November 01
11:50 2018

By Mica James

A couple months ago, I received a call from Mrs. Sarah Alston inviting me to join her at The Winston-Salem Legacy Awards.  I am not sure if you know her, but one should not say no when she (or her husband) calls.

Before ending the call, she specified, “Oh, and it’s formal,” in a tone that let me know to begin locating something to wear because she expected me to follow the specifications.

Mrs. Alston has always been very clear about her expectations.  She taught me English during the summer prior to 7th grade at the Virginia Newell Math and Reading Camp.  I felt similar disdain with my mother then, as my son feels with me now about signing him up for programs.  It was called Summer Vacation for a reason, yet I had to study pre-algebra with Mr. Johnny Sigers and complete a reading project for Mrs. Alston, who did not know I despised reading. 

Her expectations were that the project be completed in excellence prior to the camp’s dismissal, and even my 12- year-old mind understood that although this did not count for a grade that would show on my report card, I had better complete the project for this lady. 

At the camp’s closing program, Mrs. Alston said a few words to my mother about me that have stayed with me to this day.  She told her, “She is the epitome of a strong black woman.”  I was surprised, because for starters I did not know what epitome meant (I told you I didn’t like to read) and also because she said something about me when I did not think she knew my name.

We reconnected over 20 years later when a “God Wink” allowed my son (and me) to form a bond with her husband, Nigel.  I was able to see her in a different light.  Retired from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system after 30 years of service, we communicated as women versus teacher to student.  However, she still meant business and she still expected her expectations to be met, i.e. my son knows to have an answer for her when she asks him about girls.

Saturday, Oct. 27, The Legacy Foundation for Women, recognized Mrs. Alston and six other women for their achievements as outstanding women of color.  The event was breathtaking.  Prior to entering the room, we were greeted by vendors who were all women of color.  African drummers played invigorating beats as we found our way to our seats and an all-woman band kept us entertained between award presentations.  I had not heard of the philanthropic organization prior to receiving my invitation, but I am all ears now and encourage you to become connected.

Mrs. Alston was not able to join us, but her presence was felt.  A former student presented the award, another former student was in the audience and I was asked and honored to accept her award.  I told the Alstons I would have said a few words on her behalf, but I did not want to stand long because I didn’t have my good girdle on.  If I am honest, only Sarah Alston can speak for Sarah Alston.

The overwhelming feeling I have from the event reminds me that where there is power, there is ALWAYS a woman. We are demanding seats at every table, taking charge and making things happen.  The seven honorees are examples of how great women of color are as leaders and voting helps allow women of color to continue to lead.  A question was asked at the event that I think applies to all of us, “What legacy will you leave?”

Micha James is a health care advocate and a proud WSSU alum.  James can be reached via michalavae@nullgmail.com

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