Mrs. Marjorie Day also known as ‘Sweetie Pie’
By Dr. James Key
Each year during Black History Month, the country focuses largely on the great African-American leaders of the past. However, thousands of lesser-known African-Americans deserve recognition, too.
Who are they? People like my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Day, who we affectionately call ‘Sweetie Pie.’ At age 97, she still has a little pep in her step.
Sweetie Pie represents a generation of African-Americans whose names can’t be found in any almanac, but these senior saints helped many blacks achieve success.
Not long ago, I had an enlightening conversation with my grandmother and was shocked to hear her say that she felt she hadn’t accomplished much in her lifetime.
Could these words be coming from a woman who raised six children and provided day care and after-care for her many grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighborhood kids? Could these words be coming from a woman who was a foster parent to many children who came from abusive families?
She made sure they did well in school and attended church every Sunday. Because these children made a pit stop at Sweetie Pie’s house, they were able to regroup and get a new lease on life. Sweetie Pie gave these children warm food, clean clothes, old-fashioned values – and love.
Today, while many black children are being raised in a positive environment, too many others are not. Far too many will never spend time at a house like Sweetie Pie’s and thus will continue to travel life’s roads with no sense of self and purpose.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, each day in America four black youngsters are killed by firearms, 607 black babies are born into poverty, 936 black high school students drop out, 1,296 black children are arrested and 312 black babies are born to teen mothers.
I reminded Sweetie Pie that her work as a foster parent, day-care provider, mother and grandmother has given joy to countless young people. I told her that many of the kids she cared for have gone on to live productive lives. Her children and grandchildren have graduated from universities across the country.
Her response: “Yes, I guess I’ve done a few things right, but the plight of our black youth still troubles my soul. I wish I could have done more.”
As we celebrate the accomplishments of prominent African-Americans, we must not forget the Sweetie Pies, too. We need to let them know that they are appreciated and loved. They continue to be the backbone of the African-American community.
Let us pick up where they left off by striving to do more for those who can’t do for themselves. After all, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
Dr. James Key is an Army chaplain (Major), columnist and author of
‘Touch and Go: From the streets of South Central Los Angeles to the War in Iraq.’