“I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore and I know too much to go back an’ pretend. ’Cause I’ve heard it all before and I’ve been down there on the floor no one’s ever gonna keep me down again.” Helen Reddy

For Woman’s Month, we salute Shirley “Big Shirley” Belton, a “woman of substance.” In 2013.through trials and tribulations she received her masters’ degree in criminal justice, graduating magna cum laude from Capella University.

Big Shirley had just graduated from Coppin State in the 1990s after raising a family and introduced herself to me as a fellow Coppinite. “Just like magic,” we became friends. Her “heart and soul” were big, so when I saw her again, I said, “Hey Big Shirley.” She said, “Nobody’s ever called me Big Shirley” and that’s how the nickname started.

“We are each the authors of our own lives. We live in what we have created. There is no way to shift the blame and no one else to accept the accolades.” Barbara Taylor Bradford

“Suddenly I’m all alone.” While pursuing her master’s degree Shirley’s husband Johnnie died in 2007 and in 2009, her daughter Jackie died from lupus.  Unselfishly Shirley and her daughters Yolonda Allen and Sherry Scipio created Beautiful Sistas to raise money for the Jacquelyn Belton Legacy of Love for Lupus Foundation.

 “You are my friend.” Join Big Shirley, a woman who can “keep on pushing,” April 6 at Maceo’s Lounge for her birthday and graduation celebration.

“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…” Barbara Streisand

Little did I know when I woke up in the middle of the night with a pain across the bridge of my nose that I would be down for the count for two weeks.  Since I’m rarely sick or have a headache I started self-medicating and went to work.  Later that evening I stopped past the beautiful home of Sam and Lydia Redd to celebrate Lydia’s birthday “so I thought.”

“Why must it be that you always creep into my dreams …” Luther Vandross

My head is throbbing so I decided to sneak quietly into their den to rest “so I thought.” Every time I closed my eyes, Sam or Lydia was checking on me to make sure I was okay “so I thought.” After about fifteen minutes I slipped out the door so they could entertain the other guests and not worry about me.

“Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” Henry David Thoreau

I love my friends because of their sense of humor. The next morning Sam and Lydia called to check on me “so I thought”, with my head throbbing I tried to control the laughter within me as Sam said “you got away” with  Lydia laughing in the background, then  it hit me I was sick at the home of an undertaker. With my head throbbing, I said Sam I knew you and Lydia started to creep and I didn’t want to be mistaken for a corpse. After a visit to the doctors and the emergency room, I have a profound respect for people with headaches and sinus.

 “In the midst of it all…” The Kappa Vegas dance is homecoming to me, seeing people once a year for a chance to reminisce and make promises. For the first time in over 35 years, I called my host Senator McFadden that evening to inform him that I would miss the dance.

Happy Birthday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Myron Bundy and a belated to Judge Yvonne Holt Stone.

“It’s your anniversary…” As I walked in Roots to surprise owner Veronica Ronnie Jackson on celebrating 36 years of business, John Shaft announced that a longtime friend and Roots supporter was in the house. Yes! I was there when Roots opened 36 years ago and served the best chicken wings in town. Roots’ anniversary party is March 24, stop by and congratulate Ronnie. “Give me a pigfoot and a bottle of beer…” They serve pigfeet on Mondays.

“You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived.” David Harkins 

I entered the beautiful sanctuary of East Baltimore’s crown jewel, St. Francis Xavier, to attend the funeral of Edith Burns who died at the age of 91. Edith’s foray into politics was through her husband, Clarence “Du” Burns. Edith was full of “wit and wisdom” enjoying the comforts of her East Baltimore community. I loved visiting Edith as we talked about life and city politics of the city, and watching her respond when people would give her well-deserved accolades. With a twinkle in her eyes, she would saym, ‘I’m Edith, Du’s the mayor.’

Friday, Gov. O’Malley, City Council President Bernard Young and the citizens of Baltimore joined her daughter Cheryl and granddaughter Lisa, to bid Edith farewell at the church she loved and thanked her for being Baltimore’s first lady. Knowing Edith the first thing she’ll say to Du “can you believe they wanted me learn to work those computers.”

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well-spent brings happy death.” Leonardo da Vinci

Condolences to Rita Rice and family on the death of her husband Leonard Rice, to Marvin Russell on the death of his wife Roberta Russell, to Randy Abrams on the death of his wife Mary Abrams and to the family of Melvin Ellis.

 “I’ll be seeing you” Valerie & the Friday Night Bunch