I don’t remember my maternal Grandmother Odessa Amos(Big Momma to some but I like calling her NaNa). She passed away when I was 2 years old.

My Mom and Dad worked the evening shift and NaNa Odessa babysat for my brother and I a lot, especially since her and my Mom lived across the hall from each other in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, IL.

I’m quite sure we spent many evenings in the kitchen talking, sharing recipes, and eating together.

I’m thinking thats where my like for cooking and baking came from. Mom said NaNa always made her cakes from scratch and would have a strong dislike for the instant cake mixes that they sell today.

See NaNa Odessa left Cotton Valley, LA with only a third grade education and knew that she wanted something better for her children. She made sure all of her children took advantage of any and all opportunities that were provided to them. Each one recieved a Degree and two recieving a Master Degree(my mom being one of them).

She never wanted my Mom to marry my Dad, but of course my Mom did, but by the time my Mom recieved her Degree NaNa Odessa was already gone. I know she was proud of my Mom nevertheless.

One of the hardest things NaNa Odessa had to do was bury a child.

My Uncle Augustus Banks Jr. passed away sometime around 1968. What strength she must have shown while inside dying from a broken heart. She knew she had to go on for the rest of her children and be strong for them.

I still have all the cards and well wishes that was sent to my NaNa. I can tell she was well liked and really cared about the Community. I have her Voters Registration Card from 1964 and I am quite sure she voted every chance she was given as soon as African Americans were given the opportunity to vote. Since I found her card, I decided to vote every chance I get and Volunteer more in my own Community.

One thing that I have learned from her is her STRENGTH. Coming from a Community in LA with no electricity and runnung water, to a Community where she worked as a maid and raised her children to recieve College Degrees.

I watched my Mom bury 2 of her 3 brothers and keep it together like no other. She never lost it in front of us and I can see NaNa Odessa doing the same.

After everything that my Family and I have been through within the last six months, one thing that we remained is Strong. A trait that was passed on from generation to generation. I can hear my NaNa Odessa Spirit saying to me “Its ok Lisa, everything is going to be alright”.

See thats what she named me. Never being able to pronounce Felicia correctly she told my Mom “I’m calling this baby Lisa”, and that is what my Family and close Friends call me to this day. She also noticed that the spelling on my Birth Record was incorrect. I have a slash through my middle name on my Birth Certificate and the real spelling is above that.

I can hear her now teasing my Mom “Beverly why you name this girl after the Whale on Moby Dick. My middle name is Rachelle, but on my birth record it was spelled as Rachel and thanks to my NaNa, Rachel was crossed out and my true name was added.

No matter if I can remember her or not, her Spirit is with me everyday. Everytime someone says my name or I have to show a copy of my Birth Certificate.

Some of the stories about her I found out after starting my Research, but I knew about my name change at such an early age and that is the story about my NaNa Odessa that I carry with me everyday and deep in my heart. I know she  is so proud that I was choosen to tell the Nola Story, wouldn’t be surprised at all if NaNa had a hand in it all like all Grandmothers do!!


  1. A great and truly inspirational story. Made me think about my ancestors who struggled for us so that we could get an education in order to secure a future for us.

  2. Felicia,

    A very nice post. It shows that you can have treasured memories of a grandmother even if you didn’t know her. Thanks for sharing your NaNa with the CoAAG community.


  3. Luckie says:

    You are right, Ms. Odessa’s spirit is with you Licia & guiding you all the way. Thanks for sharing memories of her with us.


  4. Terri says:

    I am passing on the Ancestor Approved Award to you. You can pick your award up at

  5. Pingback: 2nd Edition, Carnival of African American Genealogy ~ Grandma’s Hand: Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family »

  6. Stephani says:

    Your NaNa would be very proud, you have made her presence come alive to strangers. I see her in the kitchen…looking out the window…thinking of her son and then the sounds and faces coming from you…that quick second reminds her that the day is going to be alright.

  7. Beautiful Story Felicia! our grandmothers truly hold a special place in our hearts. Your story makes me think of my grandmother.Thank you for sharing.

  8. Kristin says:

    I don’t like box cakes either. Hope my grandkids remember that about me. Strength is something I remember about my maternal grandmother too.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post! So sweet. Thanks for re-sharing this on Facebook.

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