By Erica Haynes-Ferguson

“Good, better, best never let it rest until the good becomes better and the better becomes best” these are words of wisdom that has been passed down through many generations. My great-grandmother shared this saying with my mother when she was younger, and then it got passed down to my sister and me when we were little.

The person I had the pleasure of interviewing was my mother Sade Victorian (August 1978). She was born in Tacoma, Washington where she has lived her whole life. When she was 19-years-old she gave birth to her oldest daughter Keyaira and when she was 21 she had me. When my mom was in her teenage years both of her parents passed away. My great-grandmother has looked after her ever since.

My great-grandmother, Dr. Annie Lee Richardson (March 131918), affectionately known as Little Mama, Nana, or Mother Richardson to her family and church was born in Port Hudson, Louisiana. My great-grandmother raised her 11 siblings after her mother Lizzie Lou Curtis passed away during childbirth. During her childhood, she lived on a plantation and raised animals like cows, chicken, mules, and hogs. She also tended to the fields where they grew corn, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, cabbage, collard green and many other items. She had to cook for her siblings growing up and this is where her first love of cooking began.

The smell that my mother most associates with her grandma is the smell of all the food that my Nana prepared for the holidays. My mom said that she could smell her grandmother’s food from outside of the house. She made everything under the sun “green, beans, potatoes, tomatoes” my mother laughs as she referred to the Shirley Caesar song “You Name It.” My mom remembers the taste of her grandma’s lemon cake and pound cake, which she made from scratch. On my great grandmothers 100th birthday she passed down her famous lemon cake recipe to her second oldest great-granddaughter (which is me!!!)

One word that comes to my mother’s mind when she thinks of her grandma is ‘knowledge’. “She has seen the world through so many lenses. She went from having no rights as a black person, no women’s rights, she lived through the Civil Rights movement, she marched on Washington to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hell she even saw our first black president. There is nothing that she hasn’t lived through. She has seen more than most people can say they have seen in their lifetime.” You can receive a whole history lesson if you have a conversation with her for twenty minutes. One thing that my mother truly values about her grandmother still being alive is that her grandma is here to teach the younger generation about the “old school” in the absence of her mother.

My great-grandmother is far from your traditional idea of a grandma. She dresses “sharp” as my Nana would say with her little high-pitched voice. Don’t let the beauty fool you though she will tell you about yourself, pray for you, and give you advice in one conversation, and you better get your act right or she will come back and say, “Now honey I told you hard heads make soft behinds.” Traditional could never be a word to describe my grandma. Have you ever seen a woman in her 90’s still driving? Well up until three years ago my grandma was still driving her car. My mother said, “It was so hilarious, yet so cute seeing my grandma drive her Cadillac with a phone book on her seat so she could see.”

My mom loves still being able to have her grandma here. “My grandma told us the doctor said she would only live 6 months after her birth, but now he’s dead and she is still alive. Throughout the past couple of years, Nana would be in the hospital, but God still wanted her here with us. Despite all the doctors visits my grandmother doesn’t use a cane, walker, or anything.” My mother says with tears in her eyes. Despite everything, my Nana always has a smile on her face, and if you ask her how she is doing she would say “I’m blessed and highly favored. Thank you, Jesus!”

My grandma is the definition of black excellence. I will cherish her memories forever!