When I think of my art career, I must reflect on the origins that gave impetus to my desire to become a creative person...an artist. I was born in Longview, Texas, a small East Texas town, in the era of Jim Crow and separate but equal. This was the year of 1947, when my parents were struggling mightily to make ends meet. Both my parents were under-educated, my mom having only completed the fifth grade and my dad just the sixth. Mother was barely fifteen when she and dad, twenty at the time, secretly went to Dallas and eloped. Though he was deeply in love with my mother, he said that he wanted to rescue her from an abusive family environment. Years passed and with desires to be a small farmer, they bore twelve children with the intent of having ready-made farm hands. It never worked out that way. Being the tenth child, by the time I was born that dream had subsided, except for our family having chickens, a couple of cows, some pigs and planted crops as a supplement to the meager earnings that the two of them made from their menial jobs. They were both very proud people and wanted the best for their children, though they could barely afford to feed and clothe us.
Racism was palpable in East Texas and all Colored People knew their place. It was unthinkable to ever entertain the idea of equality, as everyone knew he or she was viewed as the inferior ‘other’. My parents accepted this and conducted themselves accordingly. They had many conditional friendships with the Whites and knew the decorum very well. Ironically, many of their white friends were proud of them because they were so amenable to the social conditions of the times. Though not appearing bitter in public, my father had another face that he wore at home. His intuitive intelligence more than made up for his lack of formal education. At home he had a constant monologue going, one that spoke of God, inherent equality and the importance of overcoming poverty through education. I remember personal conversations of him speaking regretfully of never having finished high school or college. When he was thirteen, his father, then working at a sawmill, had been accidently killed when a boiler exploded. Thus, he had to withdraw from school to make money to help take care of his mom and siblings.
This story was indelible in my mind from the first time I heard it. He spoke many times of what he would have done “if”. I dedicated myself to living my life as free of “ifs” as possible. I was determined to follow my passion and do only those things free of second guessing and remorse. Though I have not been completely successful, the mindset put me on the path that I am on at present. For I see the process of creativity as the epitome of freedom and expression.
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