I can't believe how many people responded to that blog, including my good friend, Jackie Victor. Those of us in Detroit may know her as the co-founder of Avalon International Breads, a small business that has had a ginormous impact on Midtown Detroit. Avalon was there in 1997, long before Midtown was cool, and many people thought Jackie had flipped her lid to locate a business there. She and Ann have shown the city what dedication, commitment and love can prove.
My biggest question has been, "Why?"
I got a hint about what makes Jackie tick after she read my blog and sent me this response. I was awed by her honesty. Here goes:
You may not be surprised, but I was on the other side of "The Help". The woman who largely raised me, Geneva Powell, was a primary force in my life from birth until 18. Although my mom was wonderful and loved me dearly, there was something missing in her raising of me...primarily confidence.
In any case, Geneva's presence was deep and powerful, protective and full of contradictions. My deep relationship with her until the day she died has informed every part of my life: from living in Detroit, to starting a business that contributes to revitalization of the city, to overcoming my own fears of the city 25 years ago and moving here from U of M, when few if any of my peers were making that move. All those choices have given me gifts I could never have imagined years ago. And so her legacy continues to feed my soul.
I also named my daughter, Rafaella Geneva (doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, I admit), in tribute to the love and truths that Geneva taught me. Rafaella means "one who heals with G-d". To me, Geneva means simply, love.
The book reminded me of the excruciating truths that I painfully know, albeit from my position of privilege: the sacrifices that Geneva made to raise me, the great indignities and humiliation she endured, even working for a "liberal, Jewish" family from the North. I could go on and on. I felt like the book could easily have been set in Bloomfield Hills in 1970.
These are painful topics, that I have broached openly only periodically. Yet I have tried to live a life that would make Geneva proud. And give back a portion of what she gave to me. An impossible task, but certainly one that could keep me moving forward for my lifetime.
Thank you for opening up the dialogue in a brave and honest way, as is your strength. I welcome any dialogue that opens our hearts and deepens our mutual understanding, albeit painful and dangerous terrain.