A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

Journalist Alysia Steele’s explores the “jewels in the Mississippi Delta” who held it down for their families through decades of strife and racial struggle. 

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Alysia Steele

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and many of us may feel the keen absence of the women who meant the most to us.

How many times have you wished you could turn back the hands of time and have one more conversation with one of the most influential women of your life? Maybe have notes of memorable anecdotes they shared?

This was one of Alysia Steele’s biggest regrets concerning her paternal grandmother, Althenia A. Burton, who died 20 years ago. Since then, the memory of her grandmother has stayed with Steele, never fading, and ultimately culminating in the conception of her current project, a book proposal, “Jewels in the Delta,” that has gained interest from publishers.

“I have a huge sense of regret that as a trained journalist I never had the foresight to get her story and I’ll never hear her voice again, and I can’t even tell you how much that hurts me,” Steele tells The Root.

Steele has interviewed about 47 women and is conducting the last of what will be a total of 50 interviews in the coming days. The project has taken her approximately 11 months to complete and countless hours of recording, transcribing, coaxing and traveling. It’s been hard work, to be sure, but to Steele the end goal has been more than worth it.

“How many of us stop and talk to our grandparents to get to their stories? To really ask them the questions that are hard?” she adds.

“[These women] deserve some recognition,” she says. “You think about the big stories that went nationwide and abroad, but there are challenges that everyday people faced that aren’t being told … and I wanted to pay respect to those women who held it down.”

Steele grew up with her grandmother living just a few doors down from her and her parents in Pennsylvania and described herself as her grandmother’s “mini-me.”

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