Grandma India Quotes in Warriors Don’t Cry
My grandmother India always said God had pointed a finger at our family, asking for just a bit more discipline, more praying, and more hard work because he had blessed us with good health and good brains. My mother was one of the first few blacks to integrate the University of Arkansas, graduating in 1954. Three years later, when Grandma discovered I would be one of the first blacks to attend Central High School, she said the nightmare that had surrounded my birth was proof positive that destiny had assigned me a special task.
For me, Cincinnati was the promised land. After a few days there, I lost that Little Rock feeling of being choked and kept in “my place” by white people. I felt free, as though I could soar above the clouds. I was both frightened and excited when the white neighbors who lived across the street invited me for dinner. It was the first time white people had ever wanted to eat with me or talk to me about ordinary things. Over the dinner table, I found out they were people just like me. They used the same blue linen dinner napkins that Grandma India favored. They treated me like an equal, like I belonged with them.
I ran to my room and fell onto the bed, burying my face in the pillow to hide the sobs that wrenched my insides. All my disappointment over not getting into Central High and the mob chase as well as the big sudden changes in my life over the past few weeks came crashing in on me. Then I heard Grandma India padding across the room and felt the weight of her body shift the plane of the mattress as she sat down. “You had a good cry, girl?” Her voice was sympathetic but one sliver away from being angry [….] “You’ll make this your last cry. You’re a warrior on the battlefield of the Lord. God’s warriors don’t cry, ‘cause they trust that he’s always by their side. The women of this family don’t break down in the face of trouble. We act with courage, and with God’s help, we ship trouble right on out.”
“Melba likes suffering and doing without; that’s why she goes to Central. But why do I have to?” “Where did you get a notion like that about your sister?” “Clark said that’s what his folks say because Sis stays in that white school, being mistreated every day.” “Her staying there means she has made a promise that she intends to keep, because she told God she would and she doesn’t want to let herself and God down,” Mother Lois said, walking over to look Conrad in the eye. “So you must explain that to Clark the next time he inquires about your sister’s motives.”
Sweet sixteen? How could I be turning sweet sixteen in just a few days and be a student at Central High, I thought as I entered the side door of the school […]. I had relished so many dreams of how sweet my sixteenth year would be, and now it had arrived, but I was here in this place. Sixteen had always seemed the magic age that signaled the beginning of freedom, when Mama and Grandma might let loose their hold and let me go out with my friends on pre-dates. But with integration, I was nowhere near being free.
I pretended to become intensely involved in my book. I was reading about Mr. Gandhi’s prison experience and how he quieted his fears and directed his thoughts so that his enemies were never really in charge of him. All at once I was aware that one of my hecklers was coming toward me. “Niggers are stupid, they gotta study real hard, don’t they?” he said in a loud voice. “Thanks for the compliment,” I said, looking at him with the pleasantest expression I could muster so he would believe I wasn’t annoyed. “Study hard now, nigger bitch, but you gotta leave this place sometime, and then we got you.” “Thank you,” I said again, a mask of fake cheer on my face. He seemed astonished as he slowly started to back away. I felt myself smiling inside. As Grandma India said, turning the other cheek could be difficult […] it was also beginning to be a lot of fun.
Early on Wednesday morning, I built a fire in the metal trash barrel in the backyard, fueled by my school papers. Grandma said it would be healing to write and destroy all the names of people I disliked at Central High: teachers, students, anyone who I thought had wronged me […]. Grandma India stood silent by my side as I fed the flame and spoke their names and forgave them […]. Finally she said, “Later, you’ll be grateful for the courage it built inside you and for the blessing it will bring.” Grateful, I thought. Never. How could I be grateful for being at Central High? But I knew she was always right.