For over 190 years, the people of Perry County, Alabama have been working hard. Farmers have been raising crops, teachers have been shaping lives, preachers have been saving souls and mothers and fathers have been doing their best to provide for their families… Perry County, Alabama was founded on December 13, 1819. And, since that time, it has remained an area rich in cultural traditions and the strength of its people. Unfortunately, this is a community in dire need, confronted with economic stagnation, declining population and insufficient health care and schools. This is their story.
Meet Georgia Green.
When the sun came up, Georgia smiled. She gently laid down her oversized wooden spoon, and pancake batter dripped desperately onto the cast iron fountain stove in the back of the Panama Café. Georgia wiped the side of her face with an apron and quietly thanked God for another beautiful morning.
She walked home with the moon.
For almost 30 years — every day but Sunday — Georgia Green shuffled more than six miles back and forth to work in Marion. The gravel roads between the old café and Georgia’s home are long and flat and lonely. But she’s used to long roads. She’s been traveling for quite some time.
In 2005, Mrs. Green turned 104 years old. She’s seen a lot during her life: the introduction of electricity, the automobile, the telephone, running water and the invention of television. She’s also given birth to seven children. She’s been to the funerals of five. Her beloved husband, Wentworth, passed away in 1942 and since that time, she’s been busy “just trying to treat everybody right, and I mean everybody.”
Georgia smiles. She remembers her family. She thinks about Wentworth and longs to hold him and to see his smiling face. She tries to remember his touch. Sometimes she’ll sit and daydream about her children; running and jumping and laughing in the front yard. Oh, how she loved to hear them laugh! She remembers her father and the sacrifices he made to hire a tutor so that she and her brothers and sisters could read. She laughs and shakes her head and says out loud: “The child of a negro sharecropper, reading and writing and learning to teach others… Thank you, Jesus!”
She cries, too. Not because she’s sad or in pain. She cries because she remembers. She sits and talks to God and watches the sun make its way over her trailer, across the field, behind the big oak tree, until it disappears. Some days it’s the only thing she has that lets her know she’s alive. It’s the only reminder she has that Heaven is real. It gives her something to look forward to.
Georgia makes her bed and returns to the sofa where she picks up a tattered Bible. She closes her eyes and thanks God for another beautiful morning.
More stories from “The Blackbelt” coming soon.
Part of “the blackbelt” and just 45 minutes outside of Birmingham, Perry County is the 11th poorest county in America. Helping to tell their story has been one of the most heartbreaking, encouraging, empowering and enlightening experiences of my career. To find out how you can help folks like Georgia Green, click here.