To the native ancestors of this land we call home, I thank you for being devoted stewards of the crops, honoring the elements, and trusting solely on The Great Spirit to keep it plentiful and the harvest nurturing. To the several generations that came before me, I owe a debt of gratitude for your foresight, intuition, visions, desires and your perseverance to strive for something more, some place different and a future that was more liberating, loving and just... thank you so much for fighting and pressing on.
To my great grandparents on both sides, Silas and Dora Telfor, Omer and Edna Burns Beaird, you all literally shaped who I am today (my complexion, height, eyes, faith, voice and desire to serve in community), the family stories and survival tales where folks underestimated you constantly...well done thy good and faithful servants. To my maternal grandparents, you all gifted me a mother that is like none other. Julie Ann is bolder than most, stronger than the average, more spiteful than anyone and loves without limits in a way that exceeds what is imaginable. My mom has taught me more about love, loss and hurt in her absence than I learned from the countless folks who I’ve had the pleasure of sitting with and being trained by. My mom is the definition of a walking miracle and she renews my faith each day; because she has, I can.
My grandparents on my father's side are Willie and Gladys Layne, and though Glady, (known as Nanny to us all) was the matriarch and single parent to her offspring for most of their lives, she carried the duties over to the next two generations which included me...and I am so blessed and thankful for that truth. Nanny was (and is) the most influential teacher I’ve ever had, from cooking, sewing, praying, swaying, worship, side-eye stares and sacrificial giving, to loving any and every person that came across her path...because the bible told her so. My father Frederick Layne (Nanny’s youngest son) was born into this modeling and also adopted an esteemed work ethic that I know is embedded deeply into my make-up. I don't even think my siblings or cousins have what I inherited from Nanny and Dad, it's a rare gift that shows up in all facets of my life, some might even call it a curse at times, yet I am still learning how to yield it and still feel so very thankful for this particular gift.
This gift of hard work and sacrificial giving shows up in my work, at church, with friends and community partners, in all walks of life with my family, neighbors, students and staff from years past and especially in my closest relationships. There is a spirit that says to give of myself lovingly and in ways that others have given to me. To teach and to tell, to love and laugh, to share because I care, to do because I can, and to show up for others during their times of need. These are usually easy and effortless tasks, opportunities and positions that I know God has purposely placed me in and during this holiday season, I am truly trusting and thanking God for all the ways I have been shaped and molded to be exactly who I am. Happy Holidays everyone and Happy Season of Gratitude.