Laurice Frazier Walker, Author of Hickory Nut Blues: Granddaughter of a Sharecropper
I met Laurice at a party for my feisty 84-year-old, sexy neighbor. Don't let the age fool you — she is fabulous. Anyway, at the party, I found Laurice to be very intriguing to talk to, especially when I found out she had written a book. My spirit said, interview her. I did not hesitate to respond to the call of my spirit and ask Laurice for an interview for Living the Dream Living Larger Than Life and she accepted without any reservations.
We had a wonderful meeting; it was like two kindred souls meeting and connecting as though we had known each other for a thousand years. She was easy to be with and our conversation twisted and turned. Lautice is clearly a writer; her stories were vivid and filled with color. Laurice is a young and attractive 63 year-old woman and you would not have guessed it.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
My mother sent for me from the South to provide me with a better life. I have been in Brooklyn over 45 years. I came to Brooklyn when I was 15 years old. My mother was doing a little better here than she had done in the South. My mother's generation had answered the call for domestic work in the North. Agencies and word of mouth had called her mother to come to New York. The agency or the family would pay your fare and you would work it off. My mother was a live-in worker. I came to New York to be with my mother and even with her struggling I was still better off up North. Up here I could go to school and I loved going to school.
As a country girl coming from the South to New York it was exciting: the bright lights, and restaurants, there was diversity that I'd never known in the South. The music in NY — there was very different people from all over, Caribbean and Spanish people — and their music was different. It was wonderful; it was a different world altogether.
We moved to Bedford Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy). We had lived in Flatbush for a minute, however, we never had the closeness of Bed Stuy. That sense of community could not be found anywhere else in Brooklyn. Sitting outside on the stoop with my girlfriends all night, the Block Associations and block parties and the food. Growing up hungry in the south, I love food and will try everything everywhere I go.
The first book that I ever read was a fantasy. It was written by a young girl and she had her picture in the book and she looked like me. She was pretty and I thought if she can do it, I can. It was just a thought. I would reminisce with my cousin about our lives and I believed that my family was the poorest family in all of Alabama. That's what I believed.
It was my cousin that inspired me to write the book. It happened after the birth of my first grandchild, my daughter's first child. I was wondering how I should write. I say that it was a spirit that led me to the computer that night.
How do you write?
It's as though I am telling a story that is presented to me and I just take it down. Also the story is my story, so I just take it down; it is about what took place for my cousin and me. It is my life and It just comes back to me, as though it was just in storage.
I grew up in the 50s in Chehaw, Alabama, before Jim Crow and civil rights laws. My Grandfather was a sharecropper. As a child I had to work alongside my grandfather. I'd get up in the morning and pick cotton, from sunup to sundown. We picked cotton for the full season, which was three months, August, September and October and then we went to school. By October we were late, we had already missed two months of school.
What was it like missing school?
School was a three-room building and it went up to 6th grade. The rooms were partitioned off from each class. My experience of school was humiliation because we had already missed so much school and we were singled out by the teachers who knew what we were doing. The teachers already knew why we were late, but it seemed like they took some morose kind of pleasure out of humiliating us in front of the other children. The teachers in my school were always light skinned and they made it clear that they did not like us because we were poor and sharecroppers. They favored the lighter children and the only way you got treated well if you were a dark complexion was if you were smart. It was a step out of slavery.
Would you say you are living the dream larger than life?
Yes, I would say that I am living the dream larger than life. If anyone had told me that I would be sitting here being interviewed about my book, Hickory Nut Blues and that I would have even written a book I would not have believed them. I am living one of my wildest dreams. The book has had me take on my life. I have returned to school. That's something that I have always wanted to do and the circumstances of living, raising a family always held me back. Now I am in school and I love it. I am also fascinated with herbs and make all things herbal: soaps, body lotions, healthcare products, herbal teas and other products. I love food - baking, love cooking from recipes, making herb cookies. I've also written a recipe book.
If you were to write a letter to your future self, what would it say?
Dear Laurice, you have come a long way from a young girl picking cotton, going hungry to being a woman. You are leaving negative people and problems behind. You realize that there is no such thing as a problem and failure. Failure is an opportunity to learn and recreate. You are 63, have grown to be the person I am. I know what is important to me: freedom. I know the love of family. I love who I am. I am a lifelong learner. Hickory Nut Blues is very successful and I have met a lot of my personal goals. I have my BA. I have a successful herbal body care business. I have expanded myself and my life is fantastic.
At this point in my life, I am creating a life and not just making a living now. I am happy.
Who do you admire?
I, like many people, admire Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey and also one of my professors, Dr. Drew. Dr. Drew is a 75 year old man. He is a lifelong learner and he is filled with so much knowledge. I just love him; he is so well put together. I even love some of my teachers at Chehaw in Tuskegee, Alabama. I admire that they were good teachers and they made sure we learned even if it meant beating us in the head. I admire my grandparents. They were hardworking people; they raised us grandchildren after raising fourteen children of their own. Even after he had retired my grandfather went back to work doing what he knew to do, which was sharecropping even though he did not have to do it to raise the grandchildren. He was a man of integrity.
Do you get to express your voice?
Yes I do express my voice in my writing. A lot of people think they know me and the truth is they don't. They do not know my inner thoughts, dreams and/or goals. I cannot express that to them because they really don't care. I don't feel supported. So writing provides me an outlet to express myself and say who I am. It also helps me to expand my creativity and it spills out into other creative expression in my life.
What do you want people to know about you?
I'd like people to know that I am generous and giving of myself and my spirit. I am interested in people. I have a deep interest in people, their stories and dreams. I am also interested in what they are willing to do to actualize their dreams. I also want people to know that age does not have to dictate how you live your life.