I love summer, and July is my favorite month. One of the items on my bucket list is to see more of my home state–one can only see so much in the Twin Cities metro area, and Minnesota is one of the larger states. Driving in my car on the open road is not only pleasurable, but it has also given me some of my best ideas for my novels.
Two years ago, I finally made it up to Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Yes, it’s a tourist spot, but it’s still gorgeous. Last year, it was the North Shore highway along Lake Superior to the Canadian border. This year, I drove up to Bemidji, Beltrami County seat, aka Paul Bunyan country. Would you believe that the county has 400+ lakes? From there, after traveling through miles of forest and lakes, I stopped in Grand Rapids; any Judy Garland fan out there knows that it is her birthplace. Next to the house is the Judy Garland Museum, filled with memorabilia from her life and career, such as the Emerald City carriage, the gingham dress she wore as Dorothy, and replicas of the ruby slippers. On my return trip, the highway took me around Mille Lacs Lake, with fishermen and boats galore. I haven’t made it to International Falls (or as Rocky and Bullwinkle call it, Frostbite Falls) yet, but it’s certainly doable for another trip.
July has also been a productive month for me as an author. Never Give Up is ready for the next stage of the publishing process, with its release scheduled for December. The first draft of one of my WIPs, The Right to Be, has been completed. The second, To Thine Own Self, is well on its way to completion. In addition, I have written the beginning and ending to another novel, plus the outline. That being said, here’s a shout-out to my writing community on Twitter. Your support and creative energy are awesome!
For this blog, I give you a nonfictional work; specifically, a biography. Written by Sharon Botts Garth, When Destiny Calls: Living Life With Purpose is the story of her grandfather, Rev. Henry Botts, Sr., who became pastor of Zion Baptist Church, one of the prominent Black churches in the history of Minneapolis.
Born in 1875 near the end of Reconstruction in Missouri, Henry Botts’ life is one of strength, service, perserverence and a life lived by spiritual values, not only in the pulpit, but through the ways he engaged with his parishioners and his community. Though he was subjected to the challenges which faced African Americans during those times, he wasn’t defined by them. Sharon takes us through Reconstruction, the Great Migration, setting down roots in north Minneapolis, his assuming the position as Zion Baptist’s pastor in the 1920s, the civil rights era, the growth of the Black community in the Twin Cities, and on through to his death in 1967.
As a native of the Twin Cities, the historical aspects of life for African Americans here struck home. In comparison to other major urban areas, the Twin Cities Black population (northside Minneapolis, southside Minneapolis, and the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul) was tiny, and it was subject to the practice of redlining until the final version of the Open Occupancy Law was passed in 1969. Sharon beautifully illustrates the pivotal role the churches played in the unity and survival of the community, as well as the preparation for succeeding generations as adults and citizens. Those roles are as vital today as they were then, perhaps even more so.
I have often said, “If we don’t share our stories, who will?” Thank you, Sharon, for sharing the legacy of your grandfather, Rev. Henry G. Botts, Sr., and the life lessons he handed down to us. And for those of you who are intrigued by another unique voice of Black history in the urban Midwest, look no further than your Amazon or AuthorHouse library.