By Piper Huguley
In her autobiography Crusade for Justice, Ida B. Wells- Barnett compares herself to Joan of Arc, because she was willing to go up in flames for the right of African Americans to live in peace. My grandmother, Anna K. Comer, was the same way. As a civil rights activist, she lived her life on fire for the Lord. Her main purpose in goal in life was to use her voice, intellect and God’s word to show others how to recognize and respect the humanity of all people. I can see her now waving her arms around in the air, silver bangles clashing together, talking loudly about some aspect of “The Movement” (always capitalized). Her silver bracelets were “Movement Bracelets” and ran the length of her arms, almost like an armor that she wore, ready to fight the necessary fight for civil rights.
She fought the fight as a self-trained theologian. She liked to have things her own way, so she was always coming to a difference of opinion with various ministers and didn’t maintain a steady church home for all of her life. Instead she would have her own Bible studies in her home, explaining to all who came how the word of God illuminated and underscored the need to see all people as human beings.
She knew her ideas were so revolutionary and important, and she made sure to plant this idea into her loved ones, including me. As a pesky child, I always wanted to know why she didn’t go to get her degree to be a credentialed theologian. I understood later that, besides her strident differences of opinion with various church leaders, she was also shy. Still, that didn’t mean that she denigrated the places of higher learning she could not enter. She never discussed a credentialed education as a worthless endeavor, but pushed me to go as far as I could go in higher education. Her support was a big reason why I did just that. It was only later that I learned of her own dreams of college were thwarted. A counselor at her high school believed her to be bright enough to go to Barber-Scotia College (at that time Barber-Scotia Junior College) in North Carolina. However, her family would not send her because they feared she would “put on airs.” Instead of being bitter, she insisted on her right to live the life of the mind and taught me, her first grandchild, to life that same intellectual life. Most of my gifts from her, as I grew up, were books and she encouraged my love of reading. When the time came, she told me to write, as she did. By her example, I came to understand words as a way to light fires of understanding and connection between people.
The gift she bestowed then, was to light the fire of her love of the Lord in others, like me. Her gift to me means that I will always show my historical African American characters in positions of dignity and victory. I will strive to show them as agents of action and not defeat. My Milford College series was inspired in part by the struggles of Barber-Scotia and is about celebrating and lifting up schools like that. Her desire to go to a Historically Black College and University is a large reason why I teach at one. I understand and know that the fire she lit in me is to make sure what I produce is a reflection of God’s gifts. She willingly and completely shared her dreams with the intention to bring about the full humanity of us all. With God by my side, I will keep that flame and carry on with her project.
Piper Huguley’s newest series will be released on July 14,, 2015. A Virtuous Ruby, which is Book One of the “Migrations of the Heart” series, is available for pre-order on Amazon, Nook, itunes and Google Play.