By now many of you know me pretty well but for those who don’t my name is Shirley Harris-Slaughter and my twitter handle is @sharrislaughter. I was born in the great state of Michigan and raised in the Charter Township of Royal Oak. I spent most of my time dreaming of the day when I could get out and start my life elsewhere. Then I discovered we were a historical community founded by a runaway slave on the “underground railroad.” I began to appreciate my roots. I discovered all this history way before ever thinking about writing.
My mother was a gifted poet and writer of children’s stories. She also was a great speaker. So, what in the world could I contribute to this family? My parents were activists in the community, and I watched them not realizing they were shaping me. I became a community activist and developed an appreciation for historical places and buildings which led me to try and save our local train station. I researched and wrote The Implementation of the Most Comprehensive Approach to Restoring the Michigan Central Depot. This brought lots of attention and publicity to this neglected historical site. I don’t know why it’s taking me so long to get a copyright but it’s on my to-do list.
All of this led me to try and capture the history of our Catholic Community. So, I wrote about my experience growing up in this environment. I titled the book, Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community. The title stuck although my intention was to change it. This book had been gathering steam in my head for a long time before I actually set down to write. Our history was gone because the church had merged, and the school was razed after sitting empty for years and becoming an eyesore.
I was invited to speak about this to the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society affiliated with the Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collections. Mark Bowden tagged the genre a Narrative History. You see, geneology is normally written in a timeline order. I was surprised that they found me and asked me to speak before their group. They never had history told in narrative format before and certainly not this topic. I presented a powerpoint presentation. I was paid a speaker’s fee and was able to autograph and sell books after the presentation. It was a humbling experience. The attention and respect they lavished on me … just like a celebrity!
And now the church that I had known most of my life is closing its physical doors and moving over to a little chapel inside our sister parish, St. Scholastica. We get to keep the deacon and our weekly priest. We get to retain our name. I guess that’s supposed to make us happy. This was a wealthy parish mind you. Over the years enrollment started dwindling with the closing of the school and people passing away. Despite that we still managed to reach our fundraising goal of approximately $150,000.00, in 2013 but it wasn’t enough. The Archdiocese of Detroit has a lousy policy that’s not conducive to nurturing and growing our little community. With a different set of rules, we could have stayed open and thrived. You must own something in order to do that. Catholics don’t own their churches. And so, in my opinion, this will continue to happen.
The merged Presentation-Our Lady of Victory is closing its physical doors on February 22, 2014. It is another experiment I’m afraid. The first experiment came when they merged Our Lady of Victory with Presentation Church. It didn’t go very smoothly. It was a sad turn of events.
The saga will go on and on. I appreciate being able to share this story with you. I hope you get as much out of this book as I got out of researching and writing it. It has been quite a journey and the knowledge acquired while doing this very worthwhile project is priceless. You can get the complete story from the book. The history is who I am.
I am my mother’s daughter!
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Mama could tell a joke. Next thing you know, you are rolling on the floor from one of them. She loved to play the lottery and religiously purchased tickets every chance she got. If you fail to buy her tickets when she asks you, she will tell you that was the winning number … “If you had done what I asked, I would have won.” It was classic!
She was just as passionate about her faith and could quote passages from the bible all day long, which she did. She was a good mother and made huge sacrifices for her children.
She was the woman who wanted to be an actress but never got the chance. She was the woman who worked at a naval air base in Alameda County, California, screwing rivets in wings of airplanes. They were called “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II.
And now, Slaughter has written a memoir about her mother, Joyce Winifred Harris-Burkes: How I Remember My Mama. It talks about memories regarding her life, and her works. The theme is about how the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Slaughter is an activist just like her mother.
To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’stour pageon the 4WillsPublishing site. If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please clickHERE. Thanks for supporting this author and her work!
“Elizabeth and Scarlett are young, attractive and independent women who buy a B&B in Blue Harbor Maine with romantic ideas about the quaint town and being in business for themselves. Instead, they walk into a decades-old nest of violence and prejudice, where dead bodies pile up day after day and a curse hangs over Blue Harbor like a guillotine. An epidemic of mistrust infects the townspeople as they worry who or what the killers are and who will be the next victim of The Curse. Events stymie even the police who are ready to assess blame on the two women, without any substantive evidence. Romantic entanglements complicate every aspect of a mystery that grows deeper moment by moment. Navigating the labyrinth of characters, clues, suspicions, frights and paranormal happenings keeps you turning the pages. Leist has created a breezy cozy mystery, a clean read that is suitable for teens and adults alike. Her writing is descriptive without weighing down the plot, and she keeps up the energy and momentum throughout. A good fun read that is very well written.”
This is day 30, the last day of the blogging challenge. It has ruled my life for the past month, and I will feel lost without it. The challenge achieved its purpose: to bring back my love for writing. I haven’t written poetry or my book for the past year and needed an outlet to inspire me. Writing every day for thirty days has shown me that I can do it. And I will do it.
In my blog posts, I returned to events I remember most fondly.
Vacations with my daughters in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Vacation in Jamaica with my oldest daughter and son-in-law.
Vacation with my younger daughter and son-in-law in the Dominican Republic.
Visiting with family.
Happy days when Nounous was healthy.
People I loved and lost.
People I will never forget.
People I respect and have come to love, including the Rave Reviews Book Club members. They have become family to me, reading and responding to my long-winded posts.
Thank you, my new family, for participating in the RRBC Blogging Challenge, and a big thanks to Nonnie Jules for organizing this fantastic event.
Please wash away my sorrow and pain. Let it flow down the streets with the rain, Dissolved in torrents of despair and sadness, Joining others on their way past the madness.
The ocean may take it far away, To places we cannot even say, Where no one recognizes its sting Or knows the infliction it can bring.
Let the rain grow harder with its might, Becoming hail on this fateful night. I want to be free of all traces Of unwanted feelings and faces.
My body grows cold from the rain. I stand clean and free from the pain. Shivers create a path down my spine As I wait in the dark woods of pine. I hold my head high to the wet spray. It becomes a mist of blue and gray. The faucet has beenturned off for the night, Leaving me feeling clean and all right.
MURDERS AND LOVERS
I don’t need to fight the snowdrifts.
I’ll stay inside with the misfits.
The ones who prefer books
that grab you with their hooks.
The fire is getting low
as the strong winds begin to blow.
I snuggle farther beneath the covers
as I read about murders and lovers.
A rare commodity is solitude.
It can be easily misunderstood.
To be all alone with no one else around.
You can do this in the air or on the ground.
You can sail off in the blue sea,
Or hop on a plane without me.
We can all use some time alone
Without T.V. or telephone.
Time to think about your goal.
You will come back feeling whole.
A Darkness To My Soul
The black abyss grabs hold,
Taking me to its soul.
Reflections of hell and beyond,
Pushing me deep and far.
Away from the light of day,
I have no need to pray.
Take me to the bottom,
Where no human has tread.
Away from humanity and light,
I have made my dark bed.
CLOSER TO THE BLUE
Puffy clouds appear far and few
In the aqua sky, so brand new.
I sink deeper into the white sand,
My heart beats like a marching band.
If I close my eyes tight,
will I see paradise this night?
It takes me back to the time
When everything had been fine.
Fantasy, I beseech thee.
Return me so I can roam free.
Take me back to the shore.
Where I’d been happy before.
SING ME A SONG
Sing me a song.
Write a melody
Of times gone by
And moments lost in time.
Stroke the keys.
Massage the ivories.
Raise your voice high
So I can hear your words.
Words of hope and loss.
Sing them loud and clear.
Stories of faraway places
And times that are gone.
I close my eyes.
I can hear your words.
I see your fingersas they
Glide across the keys.
The words take flight.
They reverberate through time.
They leave your lips
And land on mine.
A sweet melody
To soothe my advancing years.
A pretty song
To fill my empty heart.
Look to the glowing skies,
Magic before my eyes.
Snow flutters to the ground
Without even a sound.
Masking the dirt with white,
So pretty and so bright.
I hope it can remain this way,
A blanket for one more day.
Thank you for joining me as I shared a sample of my poetry. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed composing them.
I’m returning to my childhood and seeing what my tired brain can remember. It won’t give me the teachers’ names from grade school since I have always been lousy with names, but I remember the names of my classmates.
I spent kindergarten one block from my house at the local public school, which is now called P.S. 209 Margaret Mead School. I played paddle ball in the schoolyard when I was older, but the courts are gone, replaced by fake grass and running paths. My memories include the smell of Elmer’s Glue, construction paper, and the sound of kids’ voices echoing in the long hallways. Happy memories twirl around in my brain. I see flashes of my mother walking me to school, and it might have been possible that she saw enough at that age to accompany me.
For first grade, my parents sent me to Yeshiva of Brooklyn. A depressing school consisting of two houses linked by a courtyard on Ocean Parkway. We played on the strip of land between the busy street of cars and the sidewalk of houses.
Ocean Parkway was where I rode my bike when I was older. Getting back to first grade, I hated the school. They taught us English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. The teachers and students were much more religious than my family, and I felt like an outsider. I refused to learn Hebrew and Yiddish, and my parents and the school assumed I had a learning disability. It was a preview of how stubborn I can be if something goes against what I want or what is right. One teacher was so mean to me that I had nightmares of her wig getting caught on the hook above the blackboard, like a fish caught by a hook. My parents removed me from this hellhole, and I was sent to Yeshivah Ohel Moshe.
I found this picture on Google, and Ohel Moshe hasn’t changed.
I see a traffic light has been installed. A good idea since I had to run across the busy street to catch the public bus. Did I mention I had to take two buses each way for 6 days a week? We had Sunday school. I waited forever for the buses in the rain and snow, and the commute took over an hour. We had school buses through 4th grade and then public transportation. I was proud of my bus pass. Yes, I’m one of those parents who told their children about their long trek when they complained about walking a few blocks to school.
“Yeshiva Ohel Moshe is a Bensonhurst-based, Orthodox elementary school that was opened in 1927. Under the leadership of the late Rabbi Eliyahu Machlis, Yeshivah Ohel Moshe was known for its “Open Door” policy when accepting students and congregants alike.” Wikipedia
I guess its open-door policy allowed me to attend. As soon as I switched schools, I did well and was at the top of my class, where I competed with the cute boy I liked. Our classes were small; we had 12 gives and close to 20 boys. The size fluctuated each year. We gained students after a public school strike, and many kids stayed after the strike finished. The school was religious but more lenient than the other school.
There was little bullying, except for one boy who looked dirty all the time, so people called him Shmutz, which means dirt in Yiddish. I refused to bully anyone and stood up to anyone poking fun at someone. I refused to call him Shmutz, even to my friends, until he got angry one day when I tagged him out in punch ball, ramming me into the fence. My finger got big and swollen. When I found out it was broken, Shmutz got in trouble. He never apologized but gave me ‘dirty’ looks, deserving the nickname.
My high school years were spent at Yeshivah University H.S. for Girls. I didn’t want to attend a girls’ school, but Yeshiva of Flatbush was too expensive, even though I got in. I met the snobby girls who later moved to Long Island and didn’t bother to acknowledge me. Not all the girls thought the world revolved around them, and I made good friends.
Do I see any of these friends? No. It wasn’t easy going to Yeshivah with all the restrictions, and I was happy to graduate and begin my life. I attended Boston University for a year, then switched to New York University, where I graduated. Later, I received an M.B.A. in Finance from Baruch College. I didn’t enjoy learning until my college years. I’ve always loved reading, but college opened new doors for me.
New York University is a quaint college in a bustling city. I had to commute by train, but it was worth the trip.
Windsor Castle is an authentic castle snuggled next to a quaint village where you can stop for a drink and shop. Yay!
I loved the turrets. All the castle needed was a moat, but I didn’t see one. Wait. Is that a moat?
I loved the grounds. I was searching for any jousting, but there was only one tent.
I was excited to see the inside.
The rooms were as large and ornate as Buckingham Palace. The one that stuck in my memory was the enormous dining room. I couldn’t find my picture, so I found one online that shows the over-the-top furnishings.
Look at the colorful village nestled outside the castle walls, with seats. I could spend my day watching people instead of trudging through the old rooms.
A spot of tea for anyone? I had coffee since I’m too American.
Thank you for following along on my European vacation. I’ve visited one city in one country and hope to see many more.
A trip to England isn’t complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace. The train stop was on the opposite side of a vast park we had to cross to reach the palace. The path took us through a lot of greenery and many tourists taking pictures. Finally, we reached the palace gates.
The inside was magnificent, each room ornately furnished. The tour guide handed us headphones for the walking tour, and we put them on. Once we heard Prince Charles’ monotonous voice, I roamed the rooms with my daughter, leaving my husband and the headphones behind.
Most rooms were gloomy, and we were eager to see the grounds.
We followed the others from one overfurnished room to the next. Roped off and behind the glass were memorabilia of the monarchy.
Endless objects and clothing from the past. I’d never make a good historian.
Then we were allowed on the grounds the royal family used when they were in residence. The grass was roped off, and we were confined to the path; no wandering around for us.
Kensington Palace had better grounds to roam. However, I wasn’t impressed with the building’s small dark rooms. The Palace I liked the best was Windsor Castle, and we’ll visit it in my next article.
Kensington’s grounds were much more cheerful than the inside.
There was a maze outside, but we (or I) were too tired.
I’ve read travel brochures, but none tell you if a place is boring or worth the trouble. Since I’m adept at complaining wherever I go, I wonder if there’s a need for a ‘Is It Worth the Effort’ brochure? I would place Kensington Palace in the not worth it category.
Since I had so much fun at London Tower (do I detect a drop of sarcasm?), I thought I’d continue my London adventure. A trip to Harrods, London’s famous department store, is worthwhile. We took the Underground. If anyone mistakenly believes New York subways have the most aggressive people, I’m sorry to say London’s Underground passengers will push you over and stomp on you. With my swollen legs, I prayed each time to reach my destination in one piece. I did much better on the buses.
My daughter is the happiest while shopping.
We had a great day shopping.
Our next fun shopping trip was to Covent Garden.
I love quaint places and shopping. With two daughters, the highlight of our trips always centered around shopping. Life wasn’t complete until I bought a handbag on a trip, and I scored a Burberry bag in London.
We adored the crafts market and even found a kosher falafel place. Kosher food was harder to find in London than I expected. One neighborhood had a variety of places, but there were few kosher restaurants outside this area. To locate the kosher takeout in the food court of a department store, we asked many employees who had never heard of it. Finally, one store employee heard of the vendor and told us where to find it. We almost didn’t have food for the Sabbath.
We found the cutest pastry shop in Covent Garden, hidden behind a door, where everything was small, like in Alice in Wonderland.
I lost weight on this vacation with all the walking we were doing and the lack of kosher food. Now I know why some friends stick kosher salamis and peanut butter into their checked luggage. I didn’t want to walk around London smelling like salami and peanut butter. Next time, I will plan better for a vacation abroad. My husband suggested Venice, but after researching the food options, I knew I needed more time to prepare for that trip since even the milk and bread in Venice have lard and must be kosher. Packing a bag and going anywhere without worrying about food would be nice.