by Michael D. McCarty

Story Summary

Michael’s mother models the importance and love of reading, but, mostly importantly, the value of kindness. When Michael tours in Brazil, he discovers that his mother was teaching the students there as well.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the power of positive reinforcement?
  2. What was learned from the “Tea & Pound Cake” encounter?
  3. How is reading the key to making your dreams become reality?


  • Live Your Dreams by Les Brown


  • African American/Africans
  • Education and Life Lessons
  • Family and Childhood
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • Taking a Stand and Peacemaking

Full Transcript
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My mother thought she had gas but she didn’t. Her stomach was bloated because I was in there. Now this was quite a surprise because my mother was in her 40s. My father was about 50 years old. They weren’t expecting any more chillun. There was 14, 20, 25 years between me and my siblings. Surprise, surprise, surprise. Now, as long as I can remember, and I can remember ’til I was about two years old, my mother always read me and told me stories. She read me folk tales and fairy tales, and told me stories about growing up in Barbados. One of the favorite stories that she would tell me again and again was how much she loved reading.

Every night she would sit in her room and read and read and read until her mother would come in and say, “Close that book and go to sleep and turn out the light!” And then, my mother would go to the window and read by the gas streetlight. And she imparted that love of reading to me.

My mother would buy me books, any kind of book I wanted. Wouldn’t buy me Playboy but any other kind of book I wanted. She’d get me books. Marvel comic books. She turned me on to Marvel comic book, inadvertently. She got, I wanted a Green Lantern. She came back with, with Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. But anything that got me reading, she was for it.

My mother explained that during slavery times, blacks were not allowed to read because the slave masters feared that if blacks could read, that knowledge was power, and they would be able to use that knowledge to escape. So, she imparted to me the belief that, if you could read, you could do anything now.

Now, my mother read the newspaper, every day. In fact, at one point we got four newspapers. So, we would have discussions about what was going on; the civil rights movement, the black power movement, and she would share these things with me. My mother used to go to Evanston and she would clean homes in Evanston, white folks homes, and she loved this because it was her chance to get her own money. And that was something that was exciting to her. And she imparted that too to me; the idea of being independent. The idea of being able to take care of yourselves. Now, my mother, I grew up Catholic, and my mother was the best Catholic Christian I ever knew. You talk about do unto others.

Let me tell you the story about my mom. Now, one day me and my mom were home alone. I was about somewhere eight, nine, ten years old.  Doorber… doorbell rang. I answered the door. There was a woman at the door. She says, “Young man, is your mother home?”

I said, “Yes, ma’am. I’ll go get her.” I got my mom.

The woman said to my mother, “Miss, you don’t know me. I’m passing through the neighborhood on my way to catch a bus but I really have to use the bathroom. May I use your bathroom?”

My mother said, “Of course.” She showed the woman the bathroom and while the woman was in the bathroom, my mother went to the kitchen. She prepared pound cake and cookies, milk and tea. And when the woman came out, she served that woman like she was a long, lost friend.

Now, my mother instilled in me this belief, that I could do or be anything I wanted to be. She said that to me constantly to the point where I believed her. My mother never got to know about my career as a professional storyteller. But I know that if she had been aware of it, she would have said, “You go, boy!” Oh, yeah. My mom said, “You go, boy.” Long before Martin Lawrence was saying it, OK.

Earlier this year I was in South America telling stories in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. This French high school in Buenos Aires wanted to do something different. The director of the edg… of the English department, finding out that I had been in the Black Panther Party and been involved in the civil rights movement, in the black power movement, created a curriculum around my life, for her students to study these things. To study the Civil Rights Movement and race relations in the United States. They designed the curriculum around my life. They had to take tests about me. They had to write papers. One of the test questions was, “What role did Michael’s mother play in influencing his life?” My mama was a test question now. Oh, I feel so good about that. My mother told me that anything was possible. I believed her because that was the sho’ nuff truth.


When I was a boy my mama told me,

I could be anything I wanted to be.

Reading to her, the mind was the key

To make my dreams a reality.

She said as long as I kept my head in a book,

It didn’t matter what direction life took.

More than beauty, wealth, and fame,

Knowledge is the key to the power game.

My mama, gave me the knowledge I would need

And in my mind, she planted the seed.

She nurtured that seed with a mother’s love

And prayers for guidance from powers above.

As I grew to be a man, there were times of my life

Full of hardship, I’m talking buku strife.

But in those times of difficulty,

I never forgot the things that my mama told me.

There was a time a few years ago,

I was confused about where my life would go.

Around this time I just found out,

What storytelling was all about.

I’d heard stories from Peninnah Schram, Joel ben Izzy,

Sybil Desta, Elle Erato, and Leslie Perry.

Listening to these folks inspired me,

I said, “A storyteller! That’s what I’m gonna be.”

Was I committed telling tales, took off like a rocket,

Now I’m living by my mama, have mouth will run it.

Hope this little tale inspires you,

To make a go at something you really want to do.

Thanks for listening. It’s been slammin’

 We’ve been getting down, oh, we’ve been jammin’.

And that’s the end of that.