The book, Notion Of Family touched and engaged me deeply in so many ways.
I grew up in the Black working class communities of South and West Philadelphia. Like Latoya Ruby Frazier I was raised by multiple generations of women. From a very early age I lived in the country in New Jersey with a great-grandmother, Cora Sparks who was a midwife. My mother was only 15 when she had her first child, my sister and 17 when I was born. Eventually I was brought to Philadelphia and lived for some years with a “grandmother” we called “mom”, really my great aunt, Adel Chandler, who had taken my mother in when her own mother lost custody of her children due to neglect. Grandparents, great aunts and uncles have often been life savers for young children, offering a level of support and stability that is difficult or impossible for a teenage parent to provide.
Mom Adel did that for me, she had migrated north from Florida to Philadelphia, part of the Great Migration, and came to own and operate a 24 hour soul food restaurant in the heart of the South Philadelphia Black community. It was she who worked endless hours, employed and fed people in her restaurant and supported the civil rights movement. She brought that spirit of climbing and aspiration of millions of African Americans leaving the south to build a better life.
The relationship between Latoya Ruby Frazier and her mother so beautifully captured in the book made me think especially of my own mother who grew up poor under the most abusive conditions and died in 2012 of metastatic uterine cancer that had spread throughout her body.
It was my mother who pushed me to work hard and it was because of the determination and discipline she and Mom Adel inspired in me that I became a doctor and community organizer.
Photographs in the Notion of Family, such as the photos: page 94, 97 and 106, 110, 111 expose in a very intimate way how the environment of Braddock manifest on the human body, the author’s own and that of members of her family and community.
I practice medicine in the Harlem community where I am very close to the community and to my patients.
The book speaks of how important Braddock Hospital was in the lives of the people of Braddock, and tells the story of the demise of this hospital, the only medical facility in Braddock. The people of the town fought, but the local political process did not respond to allow the hospital to be saved.
As a doctor and independent I felt proud of how the people of Braddock stood together and strongly protested the closing of their hospital.
Ordinary people though poor and abused are leading and fighting.
I believe hospitals and medical professionals can build partnerships in independent efforts to create innovative programs that help empower communities.
This I dedicate to my mother and all who stand in the rubble and fight.
Politics for the People Conference Call
With LaToya Ruby Frazier
Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST
C ALL IN NUMBER