’They made him go to the back of the bus’ | WBEZ
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12-year-old wants to know about her mother's dreams, difficult family stories

(Storycorps/Erin Dickey)

When she was just a baby, Naomi Baskins used to gurgle her way through the readings she attended with her mother, the poet Kelly Norman Ellis. But she’d always fall silent when her mom took the stage. 

Kelly Norman Ellis said that once, during a reading that included noted poet and Third World Press founder Haki R. Madhubuti, daughter Naomi was doing her usual baby chattering thing. Madhubuti started laughing, stopped his reading, and asked if everyone could hear Naomi.

Naomi brought her mom, Kelly, to the MobileBooth to interview her about her upbringing and their family's history.

Kelly told her daughter she was a fat, happy baby, and so smart.

[0:23] KELLY: "I remember you in your stroller when we'd go through Hyde Park. And you were so nosy. You'd sit up straight. And you'd just would be looking at everything and everybody."

Naomi wondered if anything sad had happened to the family.

Her mother said her grandfather had gone off to war, while her grandmother went off to college. A day later, her grandma got a telegram informing her that her husband had been hurt.

[1:39] KELLY: "A grenade had gone off and blown his hand off. When he came back to Mississippi, my grandmother was pregnant with my mama, your grandma. They wouldn't let him sit down … they made him go to the back of the bus. And here he was a man who'd just lost his hand, his wife was pregnant, and he was in his uniform.”

To hear how the family reacted to the situation, and Kelly’s hopes for her daughter, check out the audio above.

NOTE: Adam Peindl and Katie Klocksin helped produce this report.


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