Garry Clark: Grandma Shirley’s gift was words of perseverance

Through stories of North Carolina, my grandma taught me to speak up and to bounce back to tackle more.

Garry Clark, president and chief executive of Economic Alliance of Snohomish County

By Garry Clark / Herald Forum

My late grandmother, Shirley Clark, would sit me down in her spotless senior apartment on Maple Avenue in Takoma Park, Md.

She would tell me stories about rural North Carolina. About the strong Black and Indigenous blood line that fought for freedom there, The Back Swamp. She’d tell be about the need to be strong, about being stubborn as hell about my dreams.

She’d say, “Speak up, Boy. The world won’t hear you otherwise.”

Grandma Shirley was barely 5-foot tall, but to this day, she held the strongest voice, the most radiant energy, I’ve ever seen. I wanted to know about her journey, how she was made of stronger stuff, how she endured atrocities in her youth, the loss of both parents, but never let it stop her.

Today, I miss Grandma Shirley, those talks about life, about overcoming, and about falling down, and always, but always, bouncing up to tackle more. Not because you had to, but because every day the sun rises, Grandma Shirley thought, it was a chance to do things even better.

Bounce up folks. Go at it again. You got this.

Merry Christmas.

Garry Clark is president and chief executive of Economic Alliance of Snohomish County. He lives in Snohomish.

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