Ash Wednesday

Today was an awesome Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In this time of introspection that Lent lends itself, I want to reflect on my Black history. Especially since this is Black History month. I am the son of John and Irene Nicely and the grandson of Jeffrey and Irene Thornton. I was born in Alexandria, VA where we lived in an old house on Payne St. At ten years old we moved to a second house on Earl St. where we lived until adulthood. My grandmother, father, and mother passed away in that house. When I look at those formative years, I remember going to school at St Joseph with my brother and sisters: Precinda, John, Jr., and Betty. We went to school no matter what. I remember during winter snowstorms wearing rubber boots over my black uniform shoes, hat with earmuffs, coat, gloves and scarf in snow up to my knees (there or about). I remember studying the Bible in school and going to Catholic mass every Monday. I remember my father fixing a breakfast of biscuits with syrup and bacon on Sundays before going to Sunday school at 9:30. After Sunday school we had 11:00 am morning Worship service. After morning Worship we would go home for Sunday dinner of fried chicken and mash potatoes and gravy. After Sunday dinner we would have to go back to church for the evening service that started at about 3:00 pm. After evening service we had BTU (Baptist Training Union) that started around 6:00 pm. We would then go home to watch a little TV before bed. We watched whatever my father wanted to watch. Hopefully, black and white westerns. I remember the school being so small that there were two grades in each classroom. I remember learning my times table and reading books everyday. I remember Sister Guadalupe, with her fine self, my fourth grade teacher. I remember at summer time my mother driving my brother, sisters, and myself to Metcalfe, MS to spend time with my grandmother. I remember using the outhouse. I remember taking a bath in the back yard in a metal tub. I remember bathing with some kind of soap that my grandmother would make. I remember when it rained we had to come in the house, turn off the TV and radio to listen to grandma tell Bible stories. When I asked my grandma why we had to turn off the TV, she said because God was working. I remember never being hungry. I remember never feeling unloved or unwanted. I remember my father a man with little education, telling me over and over how important an education was to a man. I remember my grandmother telling me that I had to be three times as good as my competition because that is what we do. I remember my first sermon. I was really bad. I remember looking at the congregation and noting in their faces that I would just shut up and sit down. I remember looking to my left and seeing my mother. She was clapping and shouting as if she was listening to Dr. King. I remember my mother telling me I can be anything I wanted to be. I thank my God for all that He placed in my life to nurture me. I thank God that He listened to the intercessory prayers of my mother and grandmother. I thank God for making me in His image! I thank God for Blessing me!