Virgie Johnson, my grandmother, is the mentor who had the greatest influence on my life. When she was in her 40s, the prime of her life, she took in and raised my seven brothers, sister and me. While it was a sacrifice for her to raise her nine grandchildren, she never complained. Instead, she worked hard to provide for all of us.
She’d be up every morning at 5 a.m. to get us ready for school, and then worked all day as a cook at the Boys and Girls Club. In the afternoon, she’d come home from work to be with us after school, cook dinner and clean the house. She never rested so that her grandchildren would be raised in a loving, stable home.
My grandmother taught me to give to others. She told me to find the time to make someone’s life better and help those who had less than I did. Despite her own poverty, my grandmother helped other people in our community. She was also a spiritual woman and made sure all nine of us went to church every Sunday. She encouraged our talents by forming a family singing group that performed for years.
Growing up, I was inspired by her advice: “It doesn’t matter that you’re a woman, and a Black woman, you’re strong and you will find a way to make your dreams come true.”
Her encouragement was the guiding light in my life. My grandmother was a beautiful person who taught me that anything in life is possible with enough love, determination, hard work and caring for others.
Vednita Carter is the founder and executive director of Breaking Free, an organization that educates and provides services to women and girls who have been victims of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking and need assistance escaping the violence in their lives. www.breakingfree.net