Friday, August 18th at Missouri’s Botanical Garden, WEPOWER hosted their second ever Garden Party. Paula Vickers shared her journey with WEPOWER and what’s to come. Paula is a graduate of the 2023 cohort of WEPOWER’s Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship and serves as WEPOWER’s fulltime Early Childhood Community Organizer.
August 18, 2023
Paula Vickers | Grandma’s Plan
Paula is a graduate of the 2023 cohort of WEPOWER’s Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship and serves as WEPOWER’s fulltime Early Childhood Community Organizer.
Friday, August 18th at Missouri’s Botanical Garden, WEPOWER hosted their second ever Garden Party. Paula Vickers shared her journey with WEPOWER and what’s to come.
Good evening everyone, I am Paula-Breonne Vickers. I am the daughter of Pamela Marie Vickers, niece of Mary-Ann Vickers Mans, and granddaughter of Jessie Mae Vickers. I am the mommy to 3 year old Parker and 1.5 year old Andy. Being the granddaughter of Jessie and mommy of my two beautiful and joy-filled Black boys is what led me to WEPOWER.
I was raised by these three amazing Black women, my church community, and my neighborhood. I was born and raised in North City Saint Louis, now I am raising my children in the home my family has owned for over 75 years and where 4 generations have called home. Growing up, “grandma’s house” was a place of joy, fellowship, healing, and family. Through the years I saw the transition of my grandmother’s neighborhood. As a child, every home on the block was filled. The grandmamas of the neighborhood had their monthly neighborhood block unit meetings, and the neighborhood as a whole looked out for each other. I could go to nearly any house on the block and could be cared for. I knew all of my grandmother’s friends and family members, and they all knew me. As my grandmother and her friends in the neighborhood started to age and transition, the neighborhood transitioned as well. Many of the homes once filled with families now sit vacant. While my grandmother thought about her legacy, not everyone in the community had been taught at that time how to plan for the wealth they could leave to their family. Without wills or plans, many of the neighboring families did not know what to do with the homes and so the homes and the neighborhood were left behind.
When my grandmother transitioned from her physical body at 88, my aunt (her daughter) inherited her home. My aunt already owned a home, and so she gave me her mother’s home with no mortgage. She shared her mom’s one wish, “Don’t sell my house.” As a young adult, this gift was not always seen as that. At some points I would see my grandma’s house as a burden more than a blessing. At this time last year, I was ready to leave my grandma’s home because when I told people I lived in North city it was often met with troubled facial expressions, questions about horror stories, or stories of how “you don’t fit into what we expect a North City family” to look like. Like many families who have left the area, as a new mom of two boys I worried about where I would be raising them and the schools. Basically, I had absolutely no idea how to navigate the complexity of raising 2 sons in a city like St. Louis. I would consistently go back and forth, weighing options of what would be best for my children, and ultimately felt pressured to move to the suburbs. I felt like I had no power.
Daily, I would search for spaces that would make sense for me, that would affirm me and my journey, and support me with grappling with these important decisions as a resident and mama. When I saw “For Our Babies,” I wanted to learn more and signed up to attend last year’s Garden Party. After attending WEPOWER Weekend, I learned about the Early Childhood Power and Policy Action Group and the Community Wealth Action Group, both focused on policy change and building collective power. From there, I signed up but still wasn’t activated until one day I received a call from a voice that sounded like an aunt or grandmother inviting me to meet with a group of people that all just cared about our babies. Once I arrived, I learned that that group of people that cared about babies would actually be talking at the St. Louis county council meeting. I froze. I knew there would need to be bold actions taken to ensure my children had the childhood they deserved, and WEPOWER was the first space I had seen to boldly say, “We Pull Up.” I had to challenge my own fears, privilege, and teachings that kept me from standing in my power, to recognize the role I am now being called to. Being Parker and Andy’s mama means stepping into a power I once feared or felt I needed to tame to not be seen as an angry black woman in the very white spaces I was in. It was the evening of that unexpected St. Louis County Council meeting, when WEPOWER called on me, I was able to tap into and activate my strength and power to show up for all the times that I didn’t previously. And, that night was just the beginning. Since last year’s WEPOWER Weekend, I not only joined the Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group, I also joined WEPOWER’s Chisholm’s Chair Fellowship alongside LaParis, and now serve as WEPOWER’s full time early childhood organizer, where I get to partner with childcare centers like Urban Sprouts and work with other WEPOWER alumni like MacKenzie Grayson who now leads the region’s only early childhood coordinating entity.
Attending WEPOWER Weekend 2022, has changed my life in ways that I would not have imagined. I was reminded of the way I was raised– but had strayed away from the WE being too focused on the I, and forgetting that we are all better when we put our community first. Imagine If instead of leaving homes that are owned free of mortgages or rent, we instead invested those thousand of dollars a year into our children, ourselves, our communities, or establishing generational wealth. Imagine If instead of moving to communities that then move away from us once we are there, we stepped into powerful roles to reestablish a North Saint Louis that once was a gathering place for joy and celebration.
As a community we should not have to leave the generational wealth passed to us in order for our children to have more choice in education or to be able to start businesses that support the economy in our communities. When we are called on, we have a responsibility to answer. I truly hope you join me, LaParis, and the rest of the WEPOWER community and stay outside with us in the months and years ahead. We have money to win for our babies and conditions to change in our communities.