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Haints in the Closet (July/Aug 2011)

Evelyn Patricia TerryBy Evelyn Patricia Terry

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "The Very Nice Lady," This 1983,portrait of her mother was done by Evelyn Patricia Terry after several three to four hour sittings. ("The Very Nice Lady," 26" x 30," Pastel, 1983).

An enigmatic presence in my life, my mother, Jessie Mae Terry, made her transition on April 9, 2011 at age 96. Longing for the mom prototype—June Cleaver in the TV program Leave it to Beaver—I released her. Over the years I had many questions, which Mom long ago avoided answering. Often, she responded to my inquiries by covering her ears, humming loudly to drown me out, or retreating behind closed doors. Then there was that closet. Though she allowed me to reorganize other storage areas in her home, the bedroom closet was off limits. "Wait until I am dead," she adamantly said. At the time I attached little significance to her attitude. Finally, I know "what" Mom needed to stay in the closet during her lifetime.
Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, her family moved to Charleston, Missouri. There, in her early 20s, she graduated from Lincoln High School, after it was finally built. Hardworking and resolute, she made her way to Milwaukee, married, and started a family. My unanswered questions started when I was about seven. Walking home from school, two "friends," upset that I was chosen to erase the board, began stepping on my heels and taunting "teacher's pet." Although timid, I believed I would be "whipped" if I went running home defeated. Remembering Mom's advice to "scratch out an attacker's eyes" to limit their vision, I turned around and began scratching my offender's eyes out. Surprised, the bully retreated. Later when the terribly injured child and her mother visited our home, my mother denied providing that instruction. My "June Cleaver" dreams vanished, leaving instead "our relationship"– one that I constantly sought to improve.

Then there was the question of "will the real father please stand up?" Believing that Rochester and Jessie Terry could not possibly be my parents, I continually searched for my true identity whenever left home alone. One day, as a teenager named Evelyn Patricia Terry, I discovered my original birth certificate with an "Evelyn McMath" and my mother's maiden name, "Jessie McMath." When I confronted her, Mom gave me a photograph of Eric Knight, aka Evelyn Prescott, explaining him as my father from the Island of Barbados. Subsequently, Rochester Terry adopted me before they later divorced. I wondered about Knight, but never pursued it.

Evelyn Patricia Terry is a full-time professional visual artist based in Milwaukee. She earned BA and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has artwork in over 400 public and private collections. She is available to jury exhibitions, serve as guest curator, present lectures, host workshops, and exhibit theme-based artwork. To learn more visit www.evelynpatriciaterry.com. Subscribe to BLACK WOMEN 50+ MAGAZINE to read the full story.

Sharon Wilson 2010 Innovation Prize Winner (November/December 2010)

Subscribe to BLACK WOMEN 50+ MAGAZINE to read the full story.WinnerSharon Adams was honored - for her work in founding the WALNUT WAY CONSERVATION CORPORATION - and awarded the 2010 Social Innovation Prize in Wisconsin. Because of her leadership, the area around 16th and North Avenue has been transformed from one of crime, prostitution and decay to a model neighborhood that has attracted national attention. WALNUT WAY serves more than 1,000 people by facilitating rehab of old houses, building new homes, converting a drug house into the Walnut Way Neighborhood Center, cultivating public gardens and establishing a nursery of trees.

Adams received $5,000. This award also allows the winner to designate an organization of her choice to receive an additional $5,000. The Social Innovation luncheon ceremony held at The Pilot House, Pier Wisconsin marks. This is the second annual presentation honoring the creative vision and committed service of Fred Lindner and those that follow his example. It is given to an exceptional individual 50+ who defies expectations by channeling their creativity and talent to address critical social problems.

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Administration (WHEDA) has designated the entire area of the Walnut Way community as part of its Lindsay Heights initiative, which connects home buyers with new modular homes that fit with the neighborhood that are built by specially registered contractors at affordable prices. Special grants of up to $10,000 are available to make the homes more affordable to low and moderate income buyers.

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