A MATRIARCH of the projects has passed.
What do I define as a matriarch of the projects? Let's see...
Dare I say, one of the most influential people in my life lived the entirety of hers in the projects (aka public housing).
Though most of the world measures success in dollars and cents, there are many oft forgotten and written-off people among us that use entirely different measurements of success. Different sets of hopes, dreams... stability found in simplicity, and an impact that is immeasurable. This is 100% true about this beautiful human, the matriarch of the projects in which I grew up. Her recent passing has caused me to pause and reflect on just how much she meant to me.
She was a mother not just to her own but to all of us in that few blocks of red brick, low rent housing for the poor. She was more than a mother. She was an encourager, a coach, a ref, an enforcer, a diffuser, an authority figure, a listening ear, a MATRIARCH...
I remember the park in front of one of the projects that she and her family lived at for some time. She became the de facto gatekeeper of that park -- If you needed a bat and a ball, a kick ball or football you could essentially "check out" anything you needed at her place. It’s where we played, where we organized our own games, learned to work together, play together and grow together.
On rainy days or late weekend nights there was always game night -- Monopoly, spades, checkers, Taboo -- every game you can imagine she had and we all played. She provided a safe place for us to ignore the trappings of our surroundings. No drinking and smoking there as kids; Only respect for your elders and each other. If you needed to fight it out you could do so in the front yard in front of us all, one on one, no ganging up. There were so many unspoken life lessons being taught.
As much as the world leads us to believe success for kids in the project is getting out (not denying this), our projects needed her. The neighborhood needed her. I needed her.
I remember one of the last times I went back to visit, I hadn’t talked to her in several years. When I got there she said "Jeremy, I’ve been all over the world." Inside I was thinking "really, how?" And she said "...through you." She pointed me to a board where she had printed out pictures directly from my Facebook posts of various countries and various places I had visited. She told me to keep travelling the world because everywhere I went, everywhere I visited, she got to experience as well. In that moment I again realized why our community so badly needed her, why my family needed her, why I needed her…
Fifty-plus years of raising up a neighborhood where many like myself are, are now able to make an impact outside of public housing while she was making hers from within.
I love you so much. I salute you. I thank you again.