By Patricia France
Our heritage is in the storyteller Our time then As a child, you listen as family tell and talk about memories We were at home and talking about who we were.
The valley of luscious green they were filled with forest green trees and moving rivers, and sharecroppers who worked the land and built their family foundation. Patricia Hardy was born in 1945, in Arkansas, Cleveland County, New Edinburg. Her migration story begins when she is eight years old in early 1950s
Patricia reflects on her childhood based on memory and the beautiful storytelling of her mother. She comes from nine siblings, and through her parents, 256 descendants graced the land of Arkansas and followed their journey during the Great Migration. For her family, children’s birth is part of your status and health. With a great laugh, Patricia recalls a conversation with her mom. “Mother, please! All these people!
Patricia describes her mother saying, “I loved them all,” and her father worked hard to support the family he valued.
As the tradition of black people, storytelling and memory played a big part in her sharing her migration story.
Arkansas to California Paved streets in gold Bridges are gold Dark purple grapes, the size of plums A child should be a child, and they didn't tell us Why? Enjoy being young
One memory she has is her great-great-grandfather, an enslaved person who was a slave boy in India. Somebody moved him to Madagascar and then the United States. Her family endured so much and they stayed in one place until the Great Migration. As Patricia expressed in our interview, “she has pride in her family for staying in one place for so long and enduring so much,” which is why she can keep many artifacts, documents, and pictures of her family. A photo she preserves for her children. Her people contributed to the Great migration by cherishing artifacts as evidence of our ancestors, elder, and black life we can all enjoy.
Her sister was the first to leave, she went to Detroit. Each family, one by one, is led by the great migration to find a better life. Similar to many families during this time, Patricia’s father had “a vision for a bigger world out there”.
Her mother, sister, brother, and Patricia traveled on the greyhound bus. Patricia was eight years old at the time. When Patricia, her mother, sister, and brother got on that bus, they left her dad because he had to sell the house in Arkansas and that took time. This was the first time that she was not around her dad. She felt sad and hurt. Her father was a protector of the family and never left the family. When they were home, her mother and father always protected her and her siblings. On that bus ride the white people treated them so badly.
Love her people West Oakland, East Oakland As a child dazzled A dreamer at eight years old
Patricia is a dreamer; as a child. She remembers family sending post cards from stores and choosing to the most beautiful postcard of Oakland and San Francisco. These postcards dazzled her imagination!
Her parents wanted their children to be children and did not discuss the hardships of racism and the Jim Crow South. They didn’t always tell the children the why? It was a way to keep their innocence. So, when they left Arkansas there was no explanation. California had the best jobs at the time because of the war effort and the many opportunities.
The bright and sunny memories of finally arriving in Oakland warmed her skin as they arrived on 18thand San Pablo. Her aunt embraced her with love. Her family took root in a new place; West Oakland.
Values carried on Parents instill these values 1. Own where you live 2. Be honest 3. Work hard 4. Find some to love
It wasn’t perfect once they arrived at their destination, but it was significantly better. Patricia and her family settled in Oakland, but it was not always easy. As a child, she notices the difference between Arkansas and Oakland. The homes were close together; their southern accents and tone of voice, and children and adults stay out after dark. This is not a bad thing, there was laughter at night, enjoying the evening, and socializing. It was a different way of life in the city.
Her parents were eventually able to buy a home in East Oakland. It is still family-owned. In her home, Patricia continues the memories of her family and reminisces with her siblings, who are still alive.
She and her husband raised their daughters in a loving home in Oakland. They all received college educations, worked hard, and lived their lives. Her children’s success is part of the Great Migration story. The next generation continued their ancestors’ dreams to live a good life and follow their dreams.
In her wisdom Patricia shares her advice for the young people in the community:
Dream it Think it Do it quickly Stay focus You must have a lot of belief in you Do you! Be yourself Use your energy to be who you want to be It does not matter who you fall in love with. Love whoever you chose.
Patricia France, interviewed Patricia Hardy
San Francisco Bay Area native Patricia France is a poet and educator. Her writing focuses on memory and overcoming trauma, connections she explores in a series of poems. She is currently researching Afrofuturism and Black empowerment as tools for improving writing education. She appreciates and honors her elders, who have given her strength to keep going forward. Born in Berkeley, Patricia is Richmond and Oakland bred. When not exploring her Bay Area roots and connections in her writing, she can be found tending to her beautiful East Oakland home.