SHIRLEY HARRIS-SLAUGHTER, AUTHOR
Shirley Harris-Slaughter is a Michigan native. She is a community activist having been a school board trustee in the Oak Park School District and mentored four freshmen girls in the Winning Futures Program. Shirley loves trains, vintage clothes, and old buildings with historic significance. So it was a natural that she would write about growing up in historic Royal Oak Twp. and keep alive a catholic community that was about to lose its history and identity. It seems that everything she loved closed down and she was not about to let any of it be forgotten. Shirley joined Rave Reviews Book Club because she recognized the need to support fellow authors in order to move forward in her own endeavors. She already had a thriving relationship with like twitter followers that lead her here. “We all had the same goals so it was a natural fit.”
The continuing saga of this story is played out in an excerpt presented here…
With the help of our godmother, Martha Palms-Williams, my severely
retarded brother, Rudolph James, was baptized a year before the rest of the
family and placed in an institution in Lapeer, Michigan. When they took him
away, he turned around and reached out his hands for Mother. It was so
amazing that he knew that he was leaving her. He knew who she was in spite
of his handicap. It was also a sad thing to see, and I cried so hard for him and
my mother that day. Yet I was relieved. It had been very stressful on the family.
Because he was so handicapped, we could not lead a normal family life.
We never saw him again. I do not recall him getting baptized before the rest
of the family, but there it was in the records. I can certainly see the urgency of
it, looking back. We got help for him only after coming to Our Lady of Victory
and meeting those wonderful, Christian people.
Years later, Mother received a letter from the State of Michigan informing
her that Rudy had been dropped during the birthing process, and that was the
cause of his retardation. Apparently, there had been an investigation. Mother
could have filed a lawsuit, but her faith in God would not allow it. The faith
came from her association with Our Lady of Victory. This church profoundly
influenced her, and it helped her through this stressful period in our lives. As I
sit here at my computer writing about this incident, I am emotionally distraught. It still hurts after all these years, and I still feel the guilt of leaving him in that institution, even though I had nothing to do with any of it…
This excerpt is something that played out in my mind for many years. It was something I planned never to talk about. But when my editor told me that I needed to tell my story, since I’m the author, this became part of it along with other incidences that were buried deep within; things that I was too ashamed to discuss let alone put in a book. Like the time my brother and I were put back a grade just to get into a Catholic School for the first time in our lives. Talk about humiliation; I would not speak of this for many years because I was too ashamed. I get butterflies in my stomach every time I think about it. Our parents were willing to sacrifice a lot to give us a good education, even sacrificing us if that’s what it took to get it. They weren’t trying to hurt us – they were just that desperate to do whatever it took to give us a good start in life.
Question: Did you ever feel desperate enough to do whatever it took to reach your goal – trying to control something you had no control over?
Book title: Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community. RRBC Seal of Excellence
Genre: Biography; Narrative History