On a relaxing Sunday afternoon the air is filled with the aroma of ham hocks, lima beans, and cornbread. Those wonderful scents are accompanied by classic Motown tunes from artists such as The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and The Supremes. In the middle of all of this culture and soul stood a lady by the name of Yvonne Williams. June 13th of this year will make it ten years since she passed, but the sacrifices she made during the 1990s and early 2000s keep her alive in all of us today. You can see big momma character types like Yvonne on the big screen, such as “Mother Joe” in Soul Food and “Nanny” in Lackawanna Blues. But the unique thing about our big momma is that she wasn’t big at all. She just possessed a big heart.
She stood at about five feet, three inches, had light skin, and was wrinkle-free, even at age sixty eight. Her peers describe her as a very attractive, elegant woman who was infused with charisma and the curves of a number eight. Her golden age was the 50s and 60s, when she often partied to the ballads of the Motown sound.
In no way was Yvonne perfect. Along with the partying came a lot of drinking which led to alcohol abuse. Eventually, recognizing her drinking as a problem, she slowed down tremendously. Growing up, I would only catch her with an occasional beer.
At the age of sixty, she took custody of all seven of her grandchildren and raised them in the grimy 1990s in Brooklyn. This was probably the biggest accomplishment of her whole life. She ruled the house with the most powerful entity in the world which is love. She never hit any of her grandchildren, but when she spoke we knew to listen, and no one ever dared to disrespect her.
Since Yvonne passed away, her grandchildren have been used and abused by many people, especially members of the family. But we never forget the unconditional love that we received from her, even when her seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild often drove her crazy to the point where she wanted to give up on us. Being the woman that she was, however, she knew we were naïve to the circumstances in which we lived and that we only wanted to be kids, so she never gave up on us, even thought many people have.
Yvonne always shared the tales of the old south, which were passed on to her from her mother. Her love wasn’t expressed through typical hugs and kisses. She loved us through the sacrifices she made for her grandchildren, always being there if we needed to go to her, and no matter how much her seven grandchildren drove her crazy she always had our backs. It’s a pleasure introducing you to this phenomenal woman named Yvonne Williams. Because of her I am in the position I am in today, and I am able to bless you with this piece of writing. Yvonne is proof that what you do now can impact the future.
Taquan Pugh is an inner city youth liberator, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, and yp4 alumnus.
This blog post is part of the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration. You can read more posts in the series on the Strong Families blog. Strong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.