The following blog is a reflection for Black History Month by Brian Love, Director of Community Outreach, The Education Trust-Midwest.

Mattalyn Love Jones is my mother. Fondly referred to as “Moms,” she is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She raised two hardheaded boys to be two productive young men. My brother and I are both graduates of Detroit Public Schools.

Like her mother, she believed in her children going to school and knows our family’s history.  She taught us that if you don’t know where you’ve been, then you wouldn’t know where you are going. She made sure we appreciated both.

Every school year she would not settle for just “ok” grades from her sons. She made it clear that if we didn’t work hard now, we would have to work harder and would be unhappy because we did not have a high school diploma. Her plan was that we would graduate from high school and go to college or somewhere, but we would not be staying at home.

Whenever we (mainly me) would act out and neglect school, we would definitely be given a “strong” reality check.

While Moms kept our K-12 education on track, she also made sure we stayed connected to our roots. Whether it was one of our two annual family reunion trips or going “Down Home” to Memphis, Tenn. This city is the central point of my family.  This is where I go to get refueled with the gasoline of my family spirit.

During family reunions and holiday trips, there are always stories of my family’s history. The struggle through racism and Jim Crow. White bathrooms and black bathrooms. How my family owned the Fairview Café in South Memphis. To this day it still makes me proud to know my family has produced many professionals who have extended the family to other cities such as Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C. and a host of other cities and towns.

I’m very proud to know these family branches are carrying the family tradition of teaching our kids their family history, which is Black History. And American History!

These stories inspired my mother to go to the Library of Congress while in D.C. on business some years ago and research the family tree. Through her hard work and studying, she was able to trace our family’s history from Memphis down to Mississippi and across to Richmond, Virginia. This was my family’s Plymouth Rock. Apparently, that is where my ancestors were brought into this country and sold into slavery.

I come from a family of slaves who fought and grew to become a family of professionals, entrepreneurs and hard workers. Many of my family members have served this nation going back a hundred years or more. My family members have served in the US Marine Corps since Blacks were “allowed” to join and serve our nation. I’m very proud of my military heritage.

So when I see the challenges “down home” in Memphis, I continue to pray and support my family as we deal with yet another senseless killing of a Black man while calling for his mother.

And when I think about Black History, I think about the history of my family — the struggles and the triumphs. I think about all of the stories I have been taught. And I remember I learned all of this from my first teacher — my Black History Hero. My Moms.