There has always been and will forever remain one true constant in my life. That is my family. My family is a delicious hodgepodge of intellects, artists, innovators, activists and advocates, dreamers, and doers. It is large. It is loud. It is love. The foundation of love, respect, loyalty, and togetherness was established at the turn of the century with the births of two spitfires named Roberta Charity Paul & Josephine James. The Boleman sisters. Two souls that could not be defined by their gender, race, or circumstances. The two that made a way out of no way and collectively raised a family through some of the most volatile and progressive moments in humankind. If Roberta & Josephine were the foundation for the house of Boleman, then Josephine’s oldest daughters, Beverly-Ann Leona & Cleonia Patricia, were the framework.

I’ve been privileged to live in a family led by matriarchy. By two women who referred to each other as Queen. Two sisters who lived with the confidence and compassion, humanity, we all hope to others see in us. I’ve had 36 years of a front-row seat to greatness. My grandmother Cleonia and my Aunt Lonnie have always been my everything. I didn’t grow up with a sister. I learned sisterhood through watching them love and support one another. They taught me how to find myself and define my place in the world. To dream, while seeing the reality in my dream. I wasn’t expected to be great, because they taught me that I already was. I learned how to seek my answers. How to use my faith, brain, passion, and empathy as a tool to be the very best version of myself. These women taught me how to read and write. How to set a proper table. They taught me how to listen and how to believe. They would tag team. One would teach, and the other reinforces. It was a graceful ballet of tag team that lasted 77 years.

On December 1, 2019, my aunt rested her soul. One of our Queens is physically not with us anymore. My beautiful, gracious, charming auntie Lonnie. She was a force. The aunt that always made you feel like you were the smartest person she knew. At everyone’s special events with a hug and smile. She was an adventurer and an innovator. An educator and a chemist. Aunt. A mother and wife. Grandmother. A friend and mentor. Sister. Niece and daughter. Believer. I could spend an hour listing her accomplishments and how she and about 10 other women in my family have helped change the world, but I don’t want to. Because as marvelous as those accomplishments were, the love she and work she put into our family. The way she said, “OKAY!” or “Alright!” when you did something right. Or the way she hugged and kissed you goodbye. Or the little pat on the butt before you scampered off to terrorize the cat. Or how she made the special food you liked when it was your day. Or how she prayed over you in your hospital bed. Or sent you mugs and dishes when you went off to college. Or making sure you knew the door was always opened and the phone was still on in case you needed her. Queen. Using her power to build others up in a cynical world where they are expected to fail.

I will miss her every single day that passes until all of our collective souls are reunited again somewhere, somehow. I have to believe that her spirit is still shining bright somewhere. It was just too bright to dim. I know in my soul she is waiting for us with a plate of sweet potato biscuits, a cup of coffee, and a big hug.

To my loving, courageous & generous aunt, I am forever grateful. You are a gift. You are missed.

Beverly Watkins