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  • Writer's pictureThe Magnolia Literacy Project

Lana Brown "Digging into My Roots"

Updated: May 24, 2022

Magnolia Literacy Project Spotlight: Lana Brown Series

In “Digging into My Roots”, poet, Lana Brown, creates a picture of the depth, range, and boldness of her ancestry.

Brown is a graduate of Alcorn State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Communications; a Master of Arts in Secondary English Education; and a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education with a Concentration in Reading and Gifted Education. She also holds a Specialist in Education degree in Psychometry from Jackson State University. An instructor in gifted education with the Natchez Adams School District, Brown was selected by the Mississippi Department of Education to be a member of the ELA/Literacy High Quality Instructional Materials (HQIM) Review Team in the fall of 2020.

"Digging into My Roots"

I’m from the bypass on Canal and Mama Weezie’s homemade soap, Wrigley’s chewing gum, and long tedious walks to town.

From Mama’s constant fussing telling us to pick up our feet, get a move on, and act like we had some life in us.

I’m from the peaceful serenity of Wilderness Road, a small wooden shack nestled behind big oak trees and briar patches.

I’m from Mama Tootsie’s spoken words of life long ago and Aunt Rosalie’s sweet potato pone.

From Granddaddy’s early morning walks and “talks” with his pigs and chickens.

I’m from Granddaddy’s thousands of moles that littered his face and his proud cheekbones that gave away his Cherokee heritage.

From bike rides to Calway’s riding shotgun behind Johnny or Lorne and dogs chasing us nipping at our heels.

I’m from chats in the woods about the future while sharing stage planks, honey buns, and rum caramel now-and-laters with Buck.

I’m from the close knit community of Providence Road and the church resting catty cornered in the curb.

I’m from the plump figs that hung temptingly from Mrs. Bell’s fig trees and the spanking with three green switches when I helped myself to them without permission.

I’m from Mrs. Edna’s scary front porch ghost stories and the singing of “Sweet Chariot” as Zelda and I watched the sun dip its head behind the clouds.

I’m from the rusty barbed wire fences that my brothers and sister climbed to steal apples and pears only to be chased by a pack of angry guard dogs.

I’m from blackberry patches, sprawling pecan trees, clucking hens, and crowing roosters.

I’m from long thick vines that carried me across a deep, dark creek and muscadines that stung my lips and made weary tree limbs hang.

I’m from homemade remedies of cod liver oil, castor oil, black draught, and Epsom salt that I had to be threatened to consume.

I’m from roly-polys that roll up into a perfect ball when you poke them and lightning bugs that illuminate the evening landscape.

I’m from chirping crickets, croaking bullfrogs, and cocker doodling roosters that interrupt your early morning slumber.

I’m from singing choirs, screaming preachers, and holy ghost filled Baptist churches.

I’m from wheel barrel rides, recycled bicycles, sling shots, bows and arrows, and home made go carts.

I’m from tree houses, washing machines that wring, box fans, clothes lines, and record players playing songs by the Jackson 5, James Brown, the Commodores, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and the Isley Brothers.

I’m from the “hustle,” the “bump,” the “rock,” the “robot,” and the “moonwalk.”

I’m from “I have a Dream.”

From believing in accomplishing my dreams

by any means necessary.

I’m from taunts like “I fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

I’m from Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and President John F. Kennedy.

I’m from segregation, picket signs, boycotts, lynchings,

and sit-ins.

I’m from a quiet country evening being rudely interrupted by a car full of angry white teenagers screaming “we hate n-words” and flinging coke bottles from the window carelessly at small children.

I’m from those hysterical hate crime incidents that terrorized my sisters and brothers yet at the same time drew us closer

and made us our brother’s keepers.

I’m from Madear’s constant reminders:

“Don’t sass me.”

“Yo daddy a low down dirty snake in the grass.”

“He don’t ever do anything without a reason behind it.”

“A hard head makes a soft behind.”

“Because I said so.”

I’m from sleeping three deep in a stocking cap and a bible under my pillow because my sister has rattled me and told me that the devil would ride my back that night.

I’m from France, Pineville Louisiana, Fayette, Brookhaven, Chicago, Florida, Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, and Texas to name a few places where my roots have spread.

I’m from the Morrisons, Bradleys, Donnans, Johnsons, and Maziques.

And yes, I’m from the loins of alcoholics, drug addicts, swindlers, rogues, drop-outs, con artists, and womanizers.

I’m from the congestive heart failure that snatched my daddy away.

I’m from the crippling arthritis that deformed Mama Tootsie and left her bedridden.

I’m from the breast cancer that consumed my Aunt Pearl and left me distraught and lost.

I’m from the weeping willows, the resilient magnolia tree, the muddy clay banks, and the dark, long, winding Mississippi River.

I am from a family of survivors, innovators, inventors, teachers, preachers, warriors, soldiers, creators, and mentors.

Most importantly, I am from a family of God-fearing servants that values life and liberty above all.


“We are born in a certain time and a certain place,

and like vintage wines, we retain the flavor of our origins.”

- Carl Jung -


The Magnolia Literacy Project’s

initiative to showcase the writing and art

of Mississippians.

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Beautiful..... and familiar to so many.

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