A black woman is a church.
She is as much a refuge as the churches that provided escapees sanctuary on the Underground Railroad. Like any house of worship, she is the pillar of her community. Countless prayers have come from inside her. Even those of us who are not religious—we all know a church.
We have often reported on these black women, these churches. One of our favorite stories at The Root was about Eccentrich Richardson—a Pompano Beach, Fla., artist who overcame the suicide of her husband and a potentially life-altering prison sentence to become one of the best-known poets in the country.
Aside from hurdling those obstacles and changing her life, Richardson spent her spare time going inside some of the most dangerous places to teach poetry. She was literally trying to save souls because—after all—isn’t that what churches are meant for?
On Monday, less than three weeks after Richardson gave birth to a brand-new baby boy, she lost everything she owned when a house fire devoured her home.
“My husband was at a basketball league game and the older boys were asleep,” she told The Root, referring to her 11-year-old and 8-year-old sons. “I was up with my newborn when the neighbors knocked on the door and told me there was a fire.”
Richardson and her children barely made it out of the house before the flames consumed the home. Richardson later discovered that the fire was caused by a faulty air conditioning unit.
Now Richardson is forced to rebuild her life from ashes. “We lost everything,” she said. “The car, our home. But it’s the little things you forget you had.”
Despite the loss, the family is grateful for the support of the community. “Every time someone reaches out to help, I am so thankful,” she added.
Yet the family needs much more help. “People have donated a lot of baby items, but my sons still need clothes and shoes,” Richardson explained. “The boys have to wear school uniforms, so we are still trying to find ways to get a week’s worth of uniforms.”
The disaster separated the family until they can find another permanent home. Having her family split apart by this tragedy is the most troubling part, Richardson says. She is leaning on help from the community, friends and neighbors to help the family get back on their feet.
Amazingly, Richardson says that she isn’t concerned about her own well-being:
I don’t think I’ve even cried yet. It might be because of the sleep deprivation from having a newborn, but I haven’t really thought about myself much. I’m worried about these boys, keeping them healthy and trying to maintain some form of stability. That’s what a mother is supposed to do—provide shelter.
A GoFundMe campaign is trying to raise money for the Richardson family, and instead of feeling sorry, she is thankful. “I’m just grateful that my neighbors were there to alert me,” she explained. “I’m grateful that we were safe. I’m grateful that I have friends who are willing to help me through this. I’m mostly just grateful. This could have gone another way, and there is no need to be upset about it. It already happened.”
Upon hearing this, I didn’t think it would be prudent to mention the one time I was really upset because my hotel gave me a double bed when I clearly reserved a king room.
But then again, I’m not a church.