Praying Mothers

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Ms. Walisha Hawkins, mom and parent advocate, recently celebrated the NFL drafting of her youngest son, Central High School & Louisiana State University (LSU) graduate, Frank Herron.  Ms. Hawkins daughter, Ashley Hawkins, posted on Facebook this quote about her mom after the draft:

“we ain’t always did right, but she never stopped praying...”

As I sat amongst Frank’s family and friends, me being humbled and privileged to be one in the number, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past seven or so years of friendship I’ve shared with his mom, Wanlisha.

As proud as I am of Frank, his work ethic, and his recent accomplishments, my heart beamed in honor of my friend, who as her daughter penned accurately is a “praying mother.”

As we near Mother's Day, I thought it would be beneficial to capture this moment as a source of inspiration for someone else. So many like Wanlisha, come from unfavorable conditions where it is easy to conclude that life will just never be easy  Despite that seemingly harsh and unfair reality, wholehearted and confident faith in God and the words of the bible bring the spirit that “with God, anything is possible!” I salute my friend for having this level of faith and I’ve watched her live this faith amongst her family, friends, co-workers, and children. They watched momma pray. They watched momma sacrifice. They watched momma keep doing despite of. hey watched momma praise and thank God for it all.

Wanlisha, a Chicago native, moved her family to Memphis from East St. Louis about 21 years ago. Her advocacy work came because of her growing engagement as a parent advocate of her own children first. Frank, being diagnosed with a learning disability, had to also learn how to become an advocate for himself if he would ever push through the barriers that limit students with learning disabilities and/or special needs.

She noticed early the academic struggles of Frank and stopped at nothing to ensure he would receive the best educational opportunities. It was at this point, Wanlisha begin to slowly understand the fight she would have in fighting for her children, but yet she pressed and prayed. She transferred Frank from a West Memphis school to a Memphis school when he was in the 7th grade, and from that point, Wanlisha became highly active, engaged and most importantly, something our parents something miss being-very vocal. She learned of her rights as a parent and took it from there.

Before there were advocacy groups, before the days of parent voice, Wanlisha was maneuvering through the advocacy space without technical definition and/or training. Interestingly, by the time I stepped into the wonderful world of advocacy, it was no surprise that I grabbed hold to Wanlisha and took her along with me, for she had way more insight than anyone I knew of at the time. She shared her story and she helped other parents.

Frank ended up receiving the supports he needed. He graduated from Central High School and went on to LSU and the rest is really history. Last summer, Frank finished his time at LSU completing his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and then he went on to prepare to enter the 2018 NFL draft.

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Late Saturday evening, the call came through. Frank Herron, just a black kid from Memphis, who never had it easy, but had a praying mother signed with the New England Patriots. I am excited about what’s to come out of this young man and just how his story can and will impact the lives of many-starting with the kids right here in Memphis.

And lastly, we salute my friend, colleague and sister. I want her to know that God has way more in store for her life, even beyond seeing her children live out their dreams. We applaud this mom for pressing through years of struggle to get to this place of triumph.

I am convinced that her ability to advocate helped to propel Frank’s academic success and in turn, she imparted into him the importance of advocating for self. What a gift and what a legacy that God has afforded Wanlisha the opportunity to build. We look forward to the next chapter.

To parents everywhere—please know that your prayers do not go unheard and dreams still do come true. Keep believing. Keep pressing. And keep praying. Moments like this helps to remind us that no matter what or children might endure, we have a God that’s covering us all. With that, we can rest in knowing, it’s all apart of God’s Plan. (Thanks Drake for the timely reminder) #goMemphis #Memphismade #blackkidsfromMemphisWINS #parentvoicematters #allparentsrock #aprayingmother

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere!!!