A Perspective One Year Later
by Phillip Clark
My Mother, Patricia Gayle Clark, transitioned into Eternity on March 9, 2020. She was “Gayle” to all that knew her. Mama Gayle, as she was affectionately dubbed by my friends, was an infectious conveyor of joy, a lover of life and all the historical, cultural, and social components that comprise the human experience, a tirelessly devoted employee, spiritual seeker, creative entrepreneur, daughter, mother, and the strongest woman I will ever know.
Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56), celebrated by the church and arranged for countless musical compositions throughout the ages, has brought me great consolation, as it offers an apt summary of the posture that characterized my Mom’s existence. After making haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, in Luke’s Gospel, Mary enters into a song of spontaneous praise to God, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness…He has shown might with his arm…dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart…He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly…The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” Throughout her life, particularly as a single parent who always worked, singlehandedly, to sustain our wellbeing, my Mom consistently modeled an exemplary of integrity and strength, humbly trusting in divine providence.
Being unable to commemorate my Mom’s passing with a funeral, due to restrictions imposed we are all enduring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been challenging. Remembering Mama Gayle’s strength and perseverance has kindled my resolve in navigating these uncertain days. My Mom was someone who chased her dreams, while always honoring the interconnected nature of the miracle we call Life. My Mom began her education at Morgan State University, channeling her zeal for journalism by taking part in the school’s fledgling WEAA radio station, working as a volunteer intern, and eventually being hired as a full-time reporter – covering breaking news stories in the DMV area from 1977 – 1979. She went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Towson University and fulfilled her dream of being a radio announcer, producing two weekly public affairs talk shows, interviewing guests, and broadcasting music, news, and talk radio on WLIF (101.9FM) from 1979-1986.
Having been born in an era when legalized segregation was the law of the land, my Mom took great pride in celebrating her identity as a Black woman, attending the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, remaining involved in the community as a Group Leader and Community Worker with the Maryland Department of Employment & Social Services, and ending her career with the State of Maryland, where she was employed for the last twenty years, providing information and referral services about the MD Children’s Health Program to callers at the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and as an Administrative Specialist with the Department of Human Resources until her retirement in 2020.
I have done my best to carry on my Mother’s legacy of remaining politically engaged by participating in social movements pursuing racial, social, and economic justice. As we face ongoing political, environmental, and racial challenges to our planet’s stability, we would all do well to carry on Mama Gayle’s example – courageously singing our own Magnificats as we embody Christ’s hands and feet to an aching world.