We Came West

We came west for a better life. When I think of people coming west, I remember the book Grapes of Wrath and concepts like Manifest Destiny. I think of the African Diaspora - of those who left by force and those who traveled by choice. I think of what it means to put all of your hopes in a little suitcase. I think of the fear, anxiety, wonder and hope that accompanies one who cannot look back and must keep moving forward. I think of an eighteen year-old girl who only had forty dollars in her pocket and a little baby riding the bus to California with eager, brown eyes and a heart full of dreams. I think of my mother.

My birthday is not only a day for me. It is a day for her. For us. It is a celebration of our emigration. Of our travels. Because of my mother, I had a chance at a better life and I will always be grateful for the wisdom she had at the tender age of eighteen. I cannot remember riding the bus because I was just a baby but I know our souls have crossed millenniums of time. She was the pillar that held me up and my husband is the blueprint of which will create a new foundation.

When I think of her gazing out of the window on the bus, I wish my baby self could shout and say, "Hey, I am with you. I love you. We are going to be okay." I want to hold her hand and not make baby sounds. I want to show her all of the books I will read, the poetry I will write, the music I will sing. I want to show her my graduations from high school and college and show her the beautiful wedding that was the best day of our lives. I want her to see my brother traveling the world, teaching in New York and see the profound influence she had on my older brothers the day we came into their lives. I want to show her the wonderful accomplishments she has done throughout her life so far, all of the people she's touched through her voice and performances and the smiles she's put on everyone's faces that know her.

Because of her, I am...period. There will never be another.


  1. oh that really touched my heart, I felt the need to call my mom and hear her voice. It's so obvious what a special bond you and your mother have.

  2. This is awesome. It is so nice that you have a great relationship with your mom and that you don't take it for granted. Lovely.

  3. Hi Shaharoh. You don't know me but I am a life-long friend of your mom's. I grew up with her in Sullivan Dr and was there by her side at age 14 trying to book gigs. I remember you when you were a baby. A beautiful little girel and now a gorgeous young woman. I wanted to comment on your blog...heartwarming! I too have a special relationship with my children so I felt every word written. Give my love to your mom and congratulations on your marriage. I wish for you all the love and success your heart desires. God bless. Sincerely LaNiesa Henderson


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