She was diminutive in size, extremely well read, clear in vision, committed in purpose and powerful in action, with an irritatingly wonderful voice that spoke truth, justice, faith, encouragement, loyalty, joy, support, correction and love. To the world, her name was Milele Chikasa Anana, but I simply called her Mother. :
She grew up on Black Wall Street. She was educated at an HBCU. She was a freelance writer for Essence, Ebony Jr. and The Black Scholar. She taught English at Florida A&M University. She attended the March on Washington. She worked with the NAACP to fight for better schools during the Boston bussing plight. She crashed Rosa Parks’ funeral. She talked with President Obama. She was the first Black person elected to a school board in the State of Wisconsin. She was a woman of clear vision, purpose and destiny: Tear down racism in all its forms and pave a way for those whom God has kissed their skin with a beautiful and incomparable hue. There will be few like here.
In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, the Apostle Paul wrote “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” On May 6, 2020, Milele Chikasa Anana left to go get her crown.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 was written as Paul neared the end of his earthly life, and after reflecting on the journey of his life, he writes the triumphant epitaph that reflects the eloquent calmness that can only come from walking with the Lord and believing that one has done what God has called him to do. And as he writes in the twilight of his life, he reflects back on his ministry and life with God and he is encouraged by the challenges that he faced, the victories that he won, the souls that were saved, and the lives that were changed.
And like the Apostle Paul, Mother’s last days were shaped by an eloquent calmness. She was tired of being sick. She was tired of dialysis. She was tired of cancer. And she knew it was time to go home. And once she made that decision, she was overtaken with an eloquent calmness. And she began to look back over her life. She looked at all the injustices that she had witnessed and fought against. She remembered all the challenges she had endured and all the victories our people had won. She remembered all the people she helped and all the institutions that she changed. She remembered all the joy that we brought here and that she brought us. And she remembered all the lives and accomplishments of Black people that she celebrated in her writings. And like Paul, Mother could boldly proclaim “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
To “fight a good fight” is to contend for victory. It refers to persevering amid strife, contention, temptation, and opposition. It is to make every effort to achieve the goal set before you. It is to struggle through hardships and overcome. To “finish your course” is to bring something to its destined goal. It is to fulfill a promise. To “keep the faith” is to hold onto that which you believe in. Any anyone who knew Mother knew that her life checked all three of those boxes.
There was never a doubt that Mother discovered and walked in her destiny and that she comprehended the significance of the interconnected destinies of our people. Mother always believed in that which was better for our people. She was unapologetically Black, unapologetically bold and unapologetically believed in the goodness of God and the greatness that is in our people. She was often disturbed by the negative stereotypes that other people and media outlets focused on and she felt strongly that our accomplishments needed to be celebrated. So, she never offered anything negative about us. She could always find the goodness in people. As Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings always said, Mother “reported the best of us to the rest of us.”
The night before her service, my son was trying to figure out how he could crash the service because the Coronavirus limited the number of people who could attend. He really wanted to come so that he could celebrate how much Mother had done for him and taught him. He told me a story about the Sunday he and my granddaughter, Layla, gave her a “ride” home from church and how that ride became an all-day adventure of celebrating Black businesses, being taught the importance of serving his community and how to be an entrepreneur. That was Mother. She was going to teach if you would listen.
Of the Prophet Habakkuk, Richard De Haan once wrote that “Habakkuk was not a self-centered person concerned only with the comfort and safety of himself and his family. But as a true patriot, he was deeply distressed by the conditions that plagued the people around him.” Moral and social decay, drugs, gangs, violence, crime, educational deficiencies, and too many other issues to name continue to demand our attention and Mother never stopped seeking to solve them. A freedom fighter is one engaged in a resistance movement against that which they believe to be oppressive and unjust and Mother was a Freedom Fighter whose legacy with live on forever.
And finally, if there was any doubt about who she was, we need only look at her names. She was born Betty which comes from the Hebrew name Elisheba and means “oath of God” or “God is satisfaction.” But she later changed her name to Milele which means “rare and sparkling jewel.” And it is in her names that we see who she really was. She was born to satisfy an oath to God and as she walked in her destiny, we were blessed to see the rare and sparkling jewel that she was.
Mother loved being Black and she loved Black people. And Mother’s love was real. If you ever felt that love you know what I’m talking about. Mother loved me when I was right and she loved me when I was wrong, but she never stopped loving me or standing in my corner. And for that I will always love, cherish and celebrate her. Her impact in the world can never be measured but today we try.
Live on Freedom Fighter.
Pastor Richard L. Jones, Sr.