Tuesday, March 01, 2011
I have written about lots of things over the last 5 years (Anniversary of TAOF was in January!), but I rarely credit the reason I'm able to live with the perspective I have. The truth is that I am an example of education applied - not only my education, but those before me. Thank God for our forefathers and mothers who paved the way for us to pontificate and theorize at length about life and the world in an environment where we can share with others, debate, and not be harmed for our opinions or faiths. Generally, I can be grateful to countless millions who made this possible. Specifically, I can thank my parents.
Black History month is officially over, but as I wrote in an earlier post, it kind of never stops. That picture that you see above is for an exhibit at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, Tennessee honoring African-Americans of history, and that woman in the judge robe is none other than my mother - Veronica Coleman-Davis. Yup . . . my mom - black history.
My mother has led an exceptional life - the daughter of an insurance pioneer who spent her childhood having access to opportunities most minorities could not - traveling Europe, living in Ghana, and attending boarding school. She attended Howard University in the 1960's where she met my father, and after settling down in Memphis as he prepared to begin dental practice, she realized she was living in a part of the world she hadn't seen - the Deep South - where institutionalized racism and discrimination were impossible to ignore.
Upon learning that there were no African American public defenders in Memphis (and few women), my mother - with two children, a 3-year and a 1-year old (Funkyman!) - decided to attend law school. The rest is history:
1975 - First full-time African-American woman Public Defender in Memphis
1977 - Founder of first all-female law firm in Tennessee
1980 - First African-American woman assistant DA in Tennessee
1985 - Counsel to the President of Memphis State University
1988 - Senior Attorney for Federal Express Corporation
1990 - First African-American woman Juvenile Court judge in Tennessee
1993 - First African-American US Attorney for Tennessee, (Janet Reno Attorney General, Clinton administration)
2001 - Founder and CEO of The NILE (National Institute for Law and Equity)
As you can imagine, my mother is a hard-worker. She would have to be in the field she not only survived but in many ways, conquered. When I was a kid, I would visit my mother at the court house when she worked in the District Attorney's office as a prosecutor. The bailiffs and cops called her "The Terminator". When she served as a Juvenile Court referee, you would not want to be a deadbeat dad and walk into her court over unpaid child support. You just might find yourself in jail.
Did I mention my mother is a 2nd degree black belt in karate?
You might think growing up with a tough mom was different. It wasn't - it was BIZARRE! I used to like to tease my mom and say, "Dag mom, leave something for someone else to achieve" - or even worse - "Mom, could you please get back in the kitchen and do some dishes or something. I'm tired of all of this equality!" Then she would just drop me to the floor with a swipe-kick and remind me who was in charge. "Yes mom, I'll do the dishes. Dag!"
But seriously, what big shoes to fill. My mother exudes excellence. My mother commands something that every man wishes he could - respect. I could never imagine someone disrespecting my mother, and even if someone did, I couldn't imagine them living to tell about it.
She has and continues to be an example for young people everywhere that doors can be opened, and sometimes even knocked down - education is power. Being the first of anything is significant, but it's even more important that there be countless to follow.
Yes, my mother has been the first of many things for many people. For me, she's my only.
So proud of you, mommy.
P.S. - The Pink Palace Museum exhibit featuring my mother can be seen in part by clicking here. Look in the upper right hand corner for a picture of a newspaper clip - you'll see a young Funkyman standing behind his mom!