Back in 1971 when I was a senior in high school in Waco, Texas, I won a prize in a national writing contest. It was sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha. Along with the winners from other states, I was flown to Chicago and then taken on a life-changing tour to Philadelphia, Virginia, Washington D.C., New York, and even into Canada. We stayed at the luxurious Palmer House in Chicago, and the Waldorf Astoria in New York. We met interesting people, visited historic sites I’d only read about, and were exposed to possibilities that influenced many of our future decisions. My gratitude to Alpha Kappa Alpha has been unending . I also bow to my teachers who persisted in inspiring my dreams.
I was fortunate in having teachers with vision and who made every effort to encourage my success. My voice and piano teacher, Mrs. Yancy, colluded with my English teacher to buy a beautiful piece of luggage for my trip. My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Wilkins, encouraged me to be confident and to speak up and overcome my shyness. My math teacher, Mrs. White, joined that sisterhood of women in mentoring me and always making me think!
I learned many things from winning that essay contest. The topic was “Integration or Separation: A Dilemma for America.” Naturally I put thought and effort into my composition, but Marjorie Pryor, my English teacher, was passionate about every aspect of the opportunity. She emphasized clarity, originality, depth of content, and care in crafting the essay. She knew where writing could lead, and she wanted me to know. She was overjoyed when I won. I’d never ventured far from home before, other than through the power of imagination. Now, Mrs. Pryor, here I am many miles and several books later.
What makes a writer? The desire for expression comes from within, but the writing bug always benefits from allies. Mentorship comes in many forms. My early mentorship came in the form of particular lovely black women who took pride in their own achievements and wanted the same things for me. They shared their stories, their struggles, their milestones, and their belief in me. I continue to appreciate that at a profound level.
Causes Marsha Hansen Supports
National Autism Association
Lutheran World Relief
Abandoned Baby Center sponsored by Feed the Children