The last time I saw Patricia and her twin brother Mark was when they graduated 8th grade. I was their history teacher and theater director (they starred in our rendition of a Midsummer’s Night Dream) and when she reached out to invite me to capture her family I was so excited to see them again. Teaching was so dear to me and I learned so much from my students so anytime I can catch up with them is a blessing.
Patricia is now a board member of AIDS Foundation of Chicago Associate Board and an educator herself. She is also the mother of twin boys and wanted to capture their family in this season. They only have 3 birthdays in their family, 2 sets of twins and her mother and grandmother share a birthday. When I first arrived and asked her about her life now and as she shared her accomplishments she paused and said “I don’t give myself enough credit.” It was a moment. How many of us women can say this is true of us as well? We focus on the failures or shortcomings and not the overcoming. Patricia- you are a beautiful and accomplished woman and I am so glad we celebrated you and your family with a lifestyle session.
Patricia shared, “I want to remember the joyfulness of my boys & how free they are. They are so confident & sure. I want to capture this moment so that I can always remind them who they are. They are wonderfully made.”
They are indeed.
We captured her family at their home on the Southside of Chicago that has been in their family for over 50 years. Patricia told me that her grandmother’s house will always feel like home.
Her grandmother Juanita graciously welcomed me to her home and shared stories of her life. She was born and raised in Mississippi and lived near Old Miss University. Her family watched students walk to class but because of racist laws and segregation her family was banned from studying there, “we were not allowed to study and could only work as cooks,” she said. Her son in law was one of the first 3 students to integrate the university. “They were all put in one dormitory with armed guards to protect them” she shared. Her grandchildren studied at the university years later and her roots and now came together across decades and hard fought battles. Some of her family came to Chicago as part of the Great Migration in the 1930’s and has remained here but with deep ties to Mississippi as they still have many family members there. She has seen so much change and also sees so much work still to be done in racial justice. I cannot help but sense the deep beauty, courage, history and legacy that lives in her.
Back in the days when I was Mark & Patricia’s history teacher I was the one giving the homework but this day I furiously scribbled down names of people, places, and events they were sharing that Grandma Juanita insisted I look up later. They shared that their family name Brayboy originates in a town called Mound Bayou in the Mississippi Delta. They educated me, it was a town founded in 1877 by former enslaved people and became a place of Black power and wealth. It was created to be a self reliant and autonomous Black community and there were dozens of Black owned businesses; cotton gins, mills, and a bank. “The town also became known as a haven from the virulent racism of the Jim Crow South” (NPR. Here’s What’s Become Of A Historic All-Black Town In The Mississippi Delta) (learn more here)” Booker T. Washington spoke of Mound Bayou as a model of “thrift and self-government.” They have family members that were subjects of a historical research project on the community. Mrs Juanita’s father’s family were born as enslaved people and after his freedom they moved to Oxford, Mississippi.
The family pride and sense of identity in having roots in this community runs deep in this family. They know who they are and remind each other. As a self proclaimed history nerd I was so grateful they shared so much about their family’s history and I also acknowledge the privilege to stand in the space of listening and learning.
Thank you Brayboy family. Blessings to you.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.