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Painting Big Mama's Porch

For Southerners the porch is more than a structured attached to a home, it is iconic and if you ask us it is a way of life.

For Southerners the porch is more than a structure attached to a home, it is iconic, and if you ask us it is a way of life. In the South, the porch is an arm of your home that extends to the outside world. The porch is where you meet neighbors, sit and eat homemade ice cream, and come outside to get some fresh air. And for black women, we can layer memories of porch life like layering a banana pudding. I know many of us have sat on the porch “a many a days” cradled between a woman we love getting our hair braided or sharing stories.

When I bought Big Mama’s House, my inner child emerged remembering the days of walking up to Big Mama’s house being frightened by her three legged cat and breathing in the harmonious aroma of fried chicken and gardenias. My heart was set on bringing those memories back to life as I restored her home. I've grown to learn on this path that dreams are sometimes deferred. The actual home is no longer there. The walls that held so many memories within them have been torn down with my heart's intention to build them up again.

There was one thing I was set on preserving when I had to face demolition- the porch. This red cement porch bears the footsteps of a woman, my great grandmother, who walked every morning to teach kindergarten children from the early 1940s until the late 70s. It gave her a resting place after working in her garden on a hot Memphis day. It was the welcome center of my family's heart as they came to visit her in her early 90s, the last decade of her life.

The porch is the last physical keepsake of Eunice Alma Harris Malone. And, I have accepted it as my obligation and responsibility to restore it in order to pay homage to the labor and service that Big Mama made in order to make her house a home.

I decided to honor Big Mama by restoring her porch as it my deep desire and prayer to have her original porch with the new build. I chose to repaint the porch a rich red because it was Big Mama's favorite color. Throughout this entire journey, symbols have led the way and guided me along.

I decided to create my own symbolism for my legacy and children to hold onto. When my grandchildren come to visit our family home and property, I want to evoke an emotion even after I have transitioned from this realm.

Red symbolizes passion, vitality, action, confidence, courage, and mostly love. As we walk onto this porch and sit on it during long and hot summer evenings, I want us to remember Big Mama and the love and passion for life and her community that she exuded every single day. It is my dream that we ignite the strong desire build dreams and live out our purpose on Davis Street.

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