Mt. Olive's Women's Month Honoree
Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church Women’s History Month, 2021
Straight Talk - A conversation with
Mt. Olive’s Women’s History Month Honoree,
by Jennifer Smith
Mt. Olive Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
Women’s History Month, 2021
“The You I Never Knew”: Love offerings with Sharon Floyd
by Jamila D. Hunter
The following is an excerpt from a beautifully transparent conversation with Mrs. Sharon Floyd, conducted on March 12, 2021 via Zoom.
After checking in with one another for about six minutes, we began.
JH: These are questions—a combination of ones I was given and my own—designed to get to the heart of Sharon, the woman. Okay, wait, before we get started, I don't want you to whoop me for saying Sharon.
SF: No, I understand.
JH: This is just for the context of these questions, Mrs. Floyd. I don’t want no problems.
SF: *laughing* You are too old and too far away for me to whoop you!
JH: Ok cool. But yes, I really want this to help people see Sharon, the woman because my assumption is that most people in Saginaw know Sharon, the educator, Sharon the community member, and Sharon at church.
JH: Let’s jump right in. Tell me about your upbringing.
SF: My father was a Pastor as you know. We moved to Saginaw in October 1958. I was eleven years old. So basically, I’ve been in Saginaw the majority of my life.
JH: Where were you born?
SF: I was born in Columbus Ohio.
JH: Tell me about your mom.
SF: My mom who raised me, married my dad when I was four years old. My parents got divorced, I understand, because my mother-- my birth mother-- felt it was too confining to be married to a pastor. And so, when my dad met my mom, he preached at her church in Columbus, Ohio. And my understanding is that she was a pretty woman and he told her --she was serving him dinner or something at a church function-- and he told her, “I’m gon marry you. And I got two little girls who need a mother,” and they got married. They stayed married until she died.
JH: Oh wow, ok.
SF: I think Melvin was 14 or 15 years old. He was going to Buena Vista High School at that time. She developed cancer. We took care of her at home, and she passed away.
JH: Did you ever hear from your birth mother again?
SF: Yes. We were not as close as I reflect back on it as we could have been, but toward the end of her life we had become close.
JH: This is powerful, Mrs. Floyd! You know this mother/daughter dynamic is my passion! I could stay in this conversation for the whole interview!
SF: *laughs*I know you could, Jamila!
JH: Let me make sure I have it correct. Your biological mother made a decision to live her life separate from her children because she didn’t want the life of a preacher’s wife, and then you have your mother who raised you, who really shaped your understanding of life from the age of four. Is that right?
SF: You got it.
JH: I mean, the very idea of your birth mother choosing not to yield to a life that didn’t align with her own desires at the expense of so very much is soooooo deep, in general, but especially during that time. Okay, let me keep going ‘cause you know I have 85 follow up questions, but we have more to cover!
We both erupt in laughter.
JH: So, everything you really started to know about yourself happened through her—your mother who raised you. What did that teach you about womanhood? How did it shape your understanding of womanhood?
SF: Back in the 50s and 60s, my mother didn’t work. She was a pastor’s wife. And she devoted and dedicated herself to her husband. Meaning, she fixed his breakfast and dinner was ready by one o'clock every afternoon. She went to church and many people who knew her saw her as a quiet, subservient person. In the home, she let her voice be heard, but as I came into womanhood, I think she admired the freedom that I had that her generation did not have.
JH: Who taught you that freedom? Or did you just have it in you?
SF: Hmmmm…coming of age and you see things around you. I had the opportunity to go to college, to spread my wings and enjoy meeting people and having friendships with women who were doing their own thing.
JH: So your father never tried to control that narrative of what girlhood, adolescence, and womanhood meant for you?
SF: No, I was encouraged by him to excel and I didn’t do as much as I could have in reflection. You know we, we think that, well I always said I wanted to be a lawyer as well a teacher. But once I graduated from Wilberforce University and came home, and my father--I don’t think he knew this--but I came home because my father was almost forty years older than me and I was a daddy’s girl, and I felt that I needed to be here when he got older. My friends from Wilberforce went on to spread their wings. At that time in 1970, there were so many grants, so many opportunities for minority students and some of my friends moved to Pittsburgh and other places and immediately got their Masters. But I came home and started teaching at Saginaw High and here I was. I didn’t regret it. That’s just what I did.
JH: Wow, I never knew that, Mrs. Floyd! You wanted to go to law school!
SF: Yes, because I was a public speaker and won all kind of oratorical contests and I
enjoyed speaking in the public arena. I could have done that. I mean nobody stopped me. I guess I stopped myself. I didn’t pursue it.
JH: But no regrets.
SF: No regrets.
JH: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you, Mrs. Floyd?
SF: Hmmm…surprised to know about me…let me think…I like to dance! I could never dance that great, but I’m a free spirit. I like to dance!
JH: Okay!! Get it Mrs. Floyd!
SF: So that’s something you didn’t know, and I guess many other people don’t know either.
JH: So that’s something that would surprise someone else. Now I want to know what surprises you about yourself.
SF: [pause] What surprises me? That as I get older, I’m steady learning and I don’t take it for granted. I’m not a know it all. I want to be found useful, but I don’t want to be in the way. I want to always be in a position where I can help somebody continue to grow and to learn. I appreciate the talent of others.
JH: What advice would you give women today? You can think of that in whatever age category you want. Tell me the age category you're thinking of and then give me that advice.
SF: I’m thinking of women maybe 25-40. Don’t be so critical of each other. Don’t be so mean and demeaning. Learn how to love and show kindness. Cause everybody’s going through a battle of some kind, so saying things like, “Girl, you shouldn’t have done that” or “I woulda told him this,” needs to stop. I even have to remind myself. Some of my friends may or may not be in a relationship and the first thing you say to yourself is, “I wouldn’t have done things like that,” but no. Be accepting. Be kind. Everybody needs somebody that’s kind in their life. Be a friend. It doesn’t cost anything to be a friend. There’s always going to be some people that you’re closer to than others, but if we’re going to get through this thing called life, we have to work together. Pull together. Learn how to compliment each other. Don’t be so mean and jealous and hateful. Learn how to share one on one conversations and how to keep a secret, you know?
JH: I do.
SF: One thing through this pandemic is that I’m just so excited at how many people have started their own businesses and are using their talents. We need to support one another. That means so much.
JH: Do you have opportunities to talk to women in this age group?
SF: Yeah, one on one. Some are more receptive than others. I think of the scripture that says the older women should train the younger women. And you don’t have to preach to them. I’m thinking of the saying, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one every day.” So the words I speak, I try to live. When I’m having a bad day, I say someone is having a worse day, so be grateful for what you have. I try to share that--being kind and not being so critical. You don’t have to guess which Sharon is showing up. It’s the same one that was here yesterday. That makes a difference.
JH: I mean, it seems like this is already the beginnings of an initiative you can begin!
SF: No, I hear you and you’re right. It doesn’t always have to be the global piece. Just start where you are and build each other up.
JH: Exactly! Cause I mean from what you've shared here, you’ve invited me into spaces of you that I never knew. I think for the age group you're talking about, being able to reach back and share similar experiences like this would be powerful, especially in the church where so much of this heart work, this invitation to your personal story, goes unspoken and unshared.
SF: Yes, yes. That’s very true, Jamila.
JH: This was everything, Mrs. Floyd. Thank you!
SF: Thank you for being the interviewer!
Favorite scripture: Philippians 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.