When I decided to capture the essence of amazing mothers in the title “super mom,” it was initially an ode to the physicality of our existence. We give birth, cook meals, kiss boo boos, acquire degrees, obtain promotions, while simultaneously being fiercely stylish and poised. Through this experience, I have learned that being a mother – a super mom – is a journey defined by the non-physical and intangible strengths. We are courageous in spirit and profound in heart.
Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams is a super mom with infinite intangibles. She is the sage, the griot, the mentor, the sister, the friend, the teacher, the preacher, and the essence of woman. To be in her presence is a welcoming encounter not overshadowed by her laundry list of accomplishments. It is so fitting that she entitles her most recent novel after an iconic flower from the coffee family, usually found in subtropical places such as Africa.
Black Gardenias is a veritable title for a collection of stories and poems capturing the experiences of a black woman’s heart. The heart, like the flower, is delicately defined and nurtured by the catalysts in its environment. As women, we seek nurturing and tenderness from an unpredictable society and must constantly learn to repair and heal ourselves. The collection of poems, stories and sayings is an ode to that healing capturing the essence of women’s voices from different cultures, genres, and ideologies.
There is the uncomplicated alliterative prose of Sunday Morning Rain, which recounts childhood memories of preparing for church. There is also the intricate revelation in My Grandmother Never Ate Grits, which speaks of a grandmother devoid of slave lineage whose life experiences parallel the slave grandmother. Both possessing the power, in spite of their circumstances, to impart strength, wisdom, and faith upon their grandchildren.
Dr. Ellis-Williams is a daughter of Jamaica and a sister of the world. With a strong upbringing and close family ties, she has given much of her existence to understanding and studying issues of race, social justice, women’s, and civil rights. As such, the Cornell graduate serves as Director of the Lee Hagan Africana Studies Center and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University. She has cultivated her footprint in Egypt, Ghana, and London, as well as in the pages of various published works.
As a wife and mother of two, Dr. Ellis-Williams’ rich background is but a portion of her prowess. To meet her is a different story. You won’t hear about all of her life’s accomplishments and accolades. You won’t hear that she was an esteemed W.E.B. DuBois Scholars presenter. You won’t hear that she was the first woman licensed as a Minister by the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church in its 41-year history. You may hear, however, about her two beautiful sons and their enriching life experiences. You may hear about her husband, a former civil rights activist, with an equally compelling resume. You may hear of her brother, an amazing artist in Harlem.
She is humble, but proud. Her pride doesn’t rest in the “things” of today, but in a past girded with rich and supple history, as though it were a gardenia itself.
Learn more about Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams.
[all photos courtesy of Antoinette Ellis-Williams and Junius Williams]