Mrs. Flowers was a frequent visitor to Mrs. Henderson’s store. She noticed the silent child and decided to help her realize that the human voice is an instrument to used. Maya spent her afternoons with Mrs. Flowers. This was during the time in her young life when she would not talk to anyone but her brother, Bailey, for over a year, this silence occurred after she had been raped by her mother’s friend. Because of this, Mr. Freeman was found murdered supposedly by her uncles and this contributed to her year of silence among other things.
“For nearly a year I sopped around the house, the store, the school, and the church, like an old biscuit, dirty and inedible. Then I met, or rather got to know the lady who threw me my first life line.” (Caged Bird p. 77)
“Your mother says you read a lot. Every chance you get. That’s good, but not good enough. Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” (Caged Bird p. 82)
Maya describes her Grandmother with this visual description.
“People spoke of Momma as a good looking woman and some, who remember her youth, said she used to be right pretty. I only saw her power and strength. She was taller than anyone in my personal world, and her hands were so large they could span my head from ear to ear. Her voice was soft only because she choose to keep it so. Each Sunday, after she had taken her seat, it was then the minister would announce, “We will now be led in a hymn by Sister Henderson.” (Caged Bird p. 38)
Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Comer
James Comer describes his parents as loving, caring people. Although his father was a quiet man, he showed his love in his daily actions. His mother was the forceful one who demanded that her children be treated fairly in their growing years in East Chicago, and to be exposed to culture. This strong family support system allowed Jim Comer and his brothers and sister to flourish.
“Mom and dad had this notion that there were fine things in life that kids should experience—educational places and activities, successful people going places and achieving great things. They felt that would cause us to strive to do the same. We had to have this cultural enrichment . . . but piano lessons, ugh!
At first I enjoyed the piano. I got one gold star after another for my performance. But I was young, eight years old. By the time I was ten I hated that damn
that I was supposed to keep up with—tick-tock, tick-tock.” (Comer p. 131)
Religion: Maggie’s American Dream
This incidence takes place at Sunday Church Services, Jim and his brothers and sister were seating in the second row behind his father who was sitting with the other deacons. His mother was sitting across from her children to keep a watchful eye on her brood.
“One day after service we got called on the carpet for giggling while the elderly ladies on the Mother’s bench were singing. In self-defense I argued that we didn’t mean any harm, but those old ladies couldn’t sing, “Why do you allow them to sing?”
Mom said, “You ought to show more respect. Some of those ladies were born in slavery!”
“Slavery? What’s that?” I asked hesitantly.
“All of our people. You had to be strong to make it. That’s why we’re such strong people now.”
I didn’t ask any more questions. I was stunned. After that, not only did I give those ladies respect, I looked at them in awe. I didn’t know how they survived something like that. (Comer p. 116)
Religion: Caged Bird
This episode takes place while Maya and her brother are attending church services on a hot muggy Sunday afternoon. They sat on the front bench which was quite uncomfortable to listen to the day’s sermon.
“On my way into church, I saw Sister Monroe . . . she opened her mouth to return a neighborly greeting. She lived in the country and couldn’t get to church every Sunday, so she made up for her absences by shouting so hard . . . that she shook the whole church. As soon as she took her seat, all the ushers would move to her side of the church because it took three women and sometimes a man or two to hold her.
Once when she hadn’t been to church for a few months (she had taken off to have a child), she got the spirit and started shouting, throwing her arms around and jerking her body, so that the ushers went over to hold her down, but she tore herself away from them and ran up to the pulpit. She stood in front of the alter,
shaking like a freshly
. She screamed at Reverend Taylor, “Preach it. I say preach it.” Naturally he kept preaching . . . then she screamed, “I said preach it” and stepped up on the alter. The Reverend kept on throwing out phrases like home-run balls and Sister Monroe made a quick break and grasped for him. For just a second, everything and everyone in the church except Reverend Taylor and Sister Monroe hung
I have to say this for our minister, he never stopped giving us the lesson. The usher board made its way to the pulpit . . . truth to tell, they fairly ran to the minister’s aid. Then two of the deacons joined the ladies in white on the pulpit. Each time the deacons and sisters pried Sister Monroe loose from the preacher he took another deep breath and kept on preaching and Sister Monroe grabbed him in another place, and more firmly. Reverend Taylor was helping his rescuers as much as possible by jumping around when he got the chance.
I’ll never know what might have happened, because magically the pandemonium spread. The spirit infused Deacon Jackson and Sister Willson, chairman of usher board, at the same time Deacon Jackson, a tall, thin, quiet man who was also a part-time Sunday school teacher,
scream like a falling tree
, leaned back on the thin air and punched Reverend Taylor on the arm. It must have hurt . . . it caught Reverend unawares. There was a moment’s break in the rolling sounds and Reverend Taylor jerked around surprised, and hauled off and punched Deacon Jackson. In the same second Sister Willson caught his tie, looped it over her fist a few times, and pressed down on him. There wasn’t time to laugh or cry before all three of them were down on the floor behind the alter. Their legs spiked out like kindling wood.
Sister Willson, who had been the cause of all the excitement walked off the dias, cool and spent, and
raised her flinty voice
in the hymn, “I came to Jesus as I was, worried, wound, and sad, I found Him in a resting place and He has made me glad.”
The minister took advantage of already being on the floor and asked
if the church would kneel with him to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. He said we had been visited with a mighty spirit, and let the church say Amen.” (Caged Bird pp. 32-34)