Professor Sandra Hill-Williams
SOWK 505 8-18-2012
When I saw Ms. Mary Walker, the word “Old” does not even cross my mind. I was very surprised when I found out her age. It seemed strange that a woman of this age could show so much youth, little wrinkles, mobility, and did not cough every ten seconds as an indicator of good health. Identifying her as an individual in the 68 + age range seemed misleading but a glance at her salt and pepper afro provided some proof. A natural inquisitiveness in me wanted to know her secret. Luckily, I was given an assignment that appeared to be perfectly suitable to ask all the right questions-A Life Review. I had seen Ms. Walker several times in my childhood. We attended the same church, I met some of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but I knew little about her life journey. One day I asked my grandmother to mention to her that I wanted to interview her for an assignment. With the relief of not being let down, my grandmother gave me her contact number the next day. A few days later, I called her to make sure that she was still interested. With the right reply, I scheduled a day when we could meet and have breakfast. That day came on August 10, 2012 at a restaurant called International House of Pancakes (IHOP). She entered the restaurant door free of prosthetic devices- another sign of good health. A woman of African American decent who stood 5’7 wearing a slightly nervous yet cheerful expression greeted me. “It’s nice to see, Aminata. Why haven’t I seen you in church lately?” The answer to her question would result in a bunch of made up excuses. This was the perfect time to redirect and focus on the assignment that brought us together to complete “The Life Review of Ms. Mary Walker”.
Ms. Mary Walker was born on September 25, 1934 in Savannah, Georgia to Joseph and Emma Lou Simmons. She is the youngest and only girl of four children. Shortly after her parents divorced in 1942, her father moved to New York and her mother became ill. A year later, her mother passed at the age of 25. After her mother’s death, Mary and her three brothers moved to live with their grandmother who was still raising some of her aunts and uncles. At the age of 10, her grandmother passed away from the battle of tuberculosis. Due to her grandmother passing, she and her brothers were sent to live with her aunt in Tampa, Florida. She describes herself as a good child except for a few times when at some occasions of bad behavior she was punished by the whip of the belt. Being the only girl, she learned how to cook and do laundry at an early age. Traditionally, girls were made to perform household duties to prepare them for the role of wife and mother. Although literature was rarely provided, she fell in love with reading when her uncle brought home comic books. Academically, Ms.Walker excelled in school. In fact, she was scheduled to become co-valedictorian during her senior year. Sometime during her junior year, she became romantically involved with Richard Walker Jr. Shortly after high school in 1957, they married. In 1953, towards the end of her junior year in high school she became pregnant with her first son Jewell. After the birth of her son, she gave custody to an older brother so that she could return to high school to graduate with honors. A year after graduating, she gave birth to another son Rodney. Together the couple had 10 children 6 boys and 4 girls. To support her family she took jobs working as a house cleaner and cleaning businesses. After 21 years of marriage, she divorced her husband as result of an abusive relationship. Following the divorce, she attended junior college through a state grant. After her completion of her two-year degree, she enrolled at Eckerd College where she earned her bachelors’ in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in 1973. She began teaching middle school social studies in 1974. After 21 years...