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MAMA – Emelda Nedd – An extraordinary working woman

MAMA – Emelda Nedd – An extraordinary working woman

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by Oscar Allen

When she speaks, I feel strong vibrations coming from deep within her.

“Miss Cuffy been a nice lady,” (she is referring to the late Victor Cuffy’s mother) and she punctuates her story with a shake of the head, a pause, and an “unn”. “If ah been dey pon me foot, ah woulda go wheh Owen and the next one deh an help do fuh dem.” {{more}}

Emelda Nedd spent a large part of her working life as a travelling saleswoman. On her head, she would carry her tray load or a basket load, and in it there would be chives, or other agricultural produce. She sold these items as a worker and at times as an owner. A short black woman, her feet covered the rough miles from Diamond Village to the towns and villages on the windward side of St. Vincent and as far as Kingstown. A mother, with Joe Andrews, of nine children – work was her bread. Good customer service was not an extra that she added on to her work, it was in her – a courtesy, a working class watchfulness, and a caring, careful interaction with her constituency. Perhaps 60,000 miles of sales travel and half a million encounters are now a part of her tissues as she rests today at her home, built by a grandson.

“If yo know how ah glad fu dem,” she tells me bowing her head with quiet passion. Mulda Nedd had little formal schooling but she tells me how many subjects each of her seven great-granddaughters have passed at CXC. She calls some of them by name, others by their parents’ name. “’The girl fo Varita, ah she weh bright, man she beat all a dem. An de boy fo Rudy a Tortola, he get wan scholarship too fo go a college over deh.”

Still watchful over her business, Mama has that African spirit that surrounds and embraces all her generations – those gone ahead and those coming onstream, finding their feet. Kia Browne, a great granddaughter, has counted 152 of Mama’s offspring alive today. Four of her siblings have died, along with six of her children, one grandchild and three great grandchildren. Her youngest brother, Adolphus, is alive and active and she has seen 11 great great grandchildren.

Born in 1907, Emelda Nedd has lived through five generations, and through her mother, Aunt Jess, and other elders, she has had contact with another three generations. One hundred and fifty years of memory and travail and blessing reside in her. What an archival resource! It is a pity that we have so little method for securing such treasures as those that Mama has gathered in her tight body and stout heart.

The story goes that when Mama’s father, James Nedd, and Aunt Jess were married, he was a man of solid substance. He possessed – in the proud voice of his co-villagers, “One pound, 10 and a pot.” His wife and family would not be cooking food in any “oil tinin” or lesser pan. They would get proper food from a proper pot. In those days, the village was a bundle of huts, yards and a few stone wall buildings. The big estates, their factory “works” and some middle-sized peasants provided wage work. School was a privilege, times were tough and life was precarious. Mama came through all of that and she knows that she is blessed. Early in the morning of her 90th birthday, her trumpet voice rose and filled the village airspace with a 15-minute cantata of “Hallelujah, thank you Jesus, praise God, hallelujah.”

Mama is not only blessed, she is a blessing to the nation. Her offspring provide a range of productive and professional services here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and abroad and in the past few years, two of her great grandchildren have received National Scholarship awards.

This year, 2004, it was Varona James, daughter of Varita Andrews and Ronald James, who received the award. Five years earlier, it had been Saboto Caesar, son of Lex and Val Caesar. Not many women, search high or low, have produced two national scholars like this humble woman.

Today, Mama – Emelda Nedd – stiff and sore from the battles she has won over the years, is a fun-loving woman, caring, watchful and faithful as ever. And she takes her politics seriously. “You and your government, all you gwarn,” she tells me with grave intent in her face, and a twinkle in her eyes. Mulda Nedd is not easy.

Bless you, Mama!

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