IEditors Note: Remembrance remarks given at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 1st Annual Mother/Daughter Luncheon held May 6, 2018 at WeaverRidge.
Remember with me, if you will a time when at this time of year our Grandmothers, Mothers, Aunts and certainly the First Lady would be in search of the Mother’s Day fashion statement, a beautiful church hat.
The traditional use of hats worn by women in church is said to have originated from the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:15, which says that women should cover their heads during worship. During and after slavery these hats were considered a way to honor God. The harder women worked to create the perfect hat the harder they were working to show God just how serious they were about the reverence and respect to be given to Sunday church service.
“Countless black women would have rather attend church naked than hatless,” stated Michael Cunningham in his book “Crowns.” My Grandmother was one of them! “For these women, a church hat, flamboyant or not, was no mere fashion accessory. It was a cherished African American custom, one observed with boundless passion by black women of various religious denominations.” Hats were a status symbol; once you got up on your feet, you bought yourself some hats.
A woman’s hat speaks long before its wearer utters a word. It’s what is called hattitude. There’s a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat, and it says a little something extra about you. One must have a certain attitude in order to wear a hat well.
If a hat says a lot about a person, it says even more about a people, the customs they observe, the symbols they prize, the fashions they fancy. Over the years, black women began to go a step further and add matching suits, gloves, pearls, and high heels. We as a people historically embraced a convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.
My cousin was interviewed for the book entitled Crowns. She says hats are like people. Sometimes they reveal and sometimes they conceal. A hat expresses something about a woman, but it can also mask some things. Regardless, for sure wearing a hat to Church signified submission to authority and submission to God.
My Mother was a simple, not into fashion at all, woman of great wisdom. So, when I look at myself in a hat, I see my Grandmother. Mama would always say if you want to look good when you get old, don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t run the streets. Can’t say I haven’t done those things, so praise God for being a deliverer and a keeper!
I don’t think people can always explain the peculiarities of their culture. They can’t always intellectualize about it, they just live it. For black women, hats were simply an important element of our culture that allowed them to take pride in their creativity and individualism. And they would tend to dress up when they went to church. She might have worn a wash dress or house dress all week, but “Come Sunday” she would put on her very best, dress as they say “to the nines.” That grows out of the African American tradition that says when you present yourself before God, who is excellent and holy and the most high, there should be excellence in all things, including adorning oneself for worship.
Women are the caretakers of culture. We teach the traditions, rituals, rites of passages to our children more so than men do. I now hear myself, and so do you if you’re at least 40ish, saying things to my children, and to my grandchildren that Mama said to me. No matter how much I remember, appreciate, and even emulate my Grandmother’s fashion and flare, and no matter how much I fight against the takeover, I really am becoming my mother.
Today, the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Nu Pi Omega Chapter appreciate your joining us for our First Annual Mother/Daughter Luncheon as we remember, honor and celebrate the relationships and role models we have had not only with our Mothers but with the other significant influences that have helped to shape our stories.
And so, as we celebrate the gifts of motherhood and daughter-ship, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the struggle and the difficulty that those of us whose mothers have transitioned face on Mother’s Day.
For some it can be a very depressing and lonely day. I challenge you to find ways to embrace her spirit and allow happy memories to comfort you and give you a safe place to land. I believe our Mother’s spirit is always with us. Not time, not space, not even death can change that.
And for those whose mothers are still living, I challenge you to get all that you can from her wisdom, and to can all that you get. Make sure you elevate her to Queen Status. A mother wears many hats in her lifetime, why shouldn’t one of them be a Crown!