by Ron Walker
I can recall growing up and hearing the voice of Miss Mary correcting misbehaving children who lived on our block. I vividly remember my own encounter with Miss Mary. One day a group of my friends and I were having fun throwing a baseball around. My throw went awry and landed hard on Miss Mary’s porch. We are scattered without any interest in retrieving the ball.
Later on that day, there was a knock on our door. It was Miss Mary with a ball in her hand. She spoke with a distinct clarity to my mother who answered the door. Her message was definitely directed at me. “Delores, I’m too old to throw a baseball. This baseball must belong to Ronald.” I sheepishly reclaimed my baseball and apologized to Miss Mary for running away from the scene.
In retrospect, I often think about that day and about Miss Mary and especially the role that she played in the lives of the children and youth growing up on Spring Street in West Philly. Miss Mary represented so many adults who were not related biologically to the children and youth who they daily encountered.
This legion of caring, supportive adults were the people who provided that extra layer of tough love, guidance and care to the youngest members of the neighborhood village. Some were the little league coaches, some were boy scout leaders, some were babysitters, some were the barbers who cut hair and counseled at the same time. These were the Fictive Kin. Fictive Kin, may or may not have been parents themselves. It didn’t matter. They were the community sentinels who encouraged or scolded with equal passion. To a significant degree, the Fictive Kin are not as visible or vocal today as they once were. Many would say that they are a vestige of the Good Ole Days. Maybe so. However, I believe that there are still Fictive Kin who despite the advanced technological times that we live in, refuse to let the Village children go astray. They are still willing to chide and boast with pride about the young that they are determined to steer through the straits of tough challenges that daily face our children and youth.
I send thanks to the all of the Fictive Kin in our communities whose love and devotion enables our boys and young men of color to soar to success in spite of obstacles and challenges of every type. Thank you for empowering them to be the future Innovators, Creators and Game-changers that we need now more than ever. Thank you Fictive Kin for your willingness to serve. We appreciate you! Finally, I close by saying thanks to Miss Mary and all of the Fictive Kin who watched over me. I am because of you.