The Lunchroom Ladies

The other day as I was browsing through Facebook, I came across a yearbook photo that flooded my mind with memories and my heart with emotion. The 1965 yearbook had a photo of the ladies who worked in the school lunchroom. That was what we referred to it back then... not "cafeteria" but "lunchroom." It was a poignant moment for a few different reasons...

First of all, the faces were familiar. I knew all the ladies. One in particular caught my eye. It was the face of my mother. I knew she was once a lunchroom lady. But, I could not remember dates, years, images. Over time, they had all faded into the hidden wrinkles of memories once lived. As I stared at the photo, I felt joy, sadness, pride, frustration, comfort, and pain. All these contradictions racing through me at once. I didn't fully digest it at first. But, it was after a comment written on the post by another of my family members who also saw it that I began understanding the mixed signals that scurried through my mind's eye as I studied the photograph.

The lunchroom ladies stood their stoically, in uniform, with their supervisor. All of them were named in the caption... but only one of them was given the respect of a title -- the supervisor, who was white. But it was 1965 in rural deep south America when times were different and inequality was tolerated as a way of life in order to survive. There they were, 4 women standing together all with the same goal -- to feed a tasty, hot, nutritious meal to hundreds of junior high and high school students that day. But, only one of the four gained enough "respect" to be given the title of "Mrs." The pain, frustration, and sadness became apparent to me now... our African American mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, and neighbors were not honored with the titles they not only deserved but earned with the same amount of earnest hard work put in each day as their white supervisor. They were only acknowledged by their birth names, first and last, with no thought given to why the supervisor was given her "title" of Mrs. and they were not.

Yes, 1965 was a different time. It was a time worthy of remembrance because it was a part of our history that we celebrate with the pride of knowing that these ladies... the lunchroom ladies... sacrificed, endured, overlooked, and kept moving forward in spite of. Period. We love you ladies. I love you mother. You are an example, a role model of perseverance in the face of adversity. You did what you did so we can do what we do... we celebrate you and we THANK YOU! (note: Mrs. Annie L. Davis, aka "Ann Davis" was my mother)

Photograph: 4 ladies working in school lunchroom

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