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Dear Grandmother, 


Your house was the epicenter of our family, especially on holidays. I still can’t figure out how you fit all those people in your home or how you cooked all that food. There was never a question of who was welcome because all were welcome. You were brilliant in that way, grandmother. You loved fully, you made your house a home for so many, and you didn’t play. Grandmother’s rules were grandmother’s rules.  


Last year, 2021, was quite unexpected. We were living minute to minute, event to event.  Sometimes, I felt like I was underwater, trying to make sense of the world. You always made things simple. I think we could use a dose of that simplicity as we start 2022.  


As I continue to build B is for Black Brilliance, I am struck by how much you built in your lifetime. You built an empire, seven kids, dozens of grandchildren, hundreds of friends, and thousands of pound cakes baked. I search my memories of you for clues on how you did it all.  As I recall the moments we spent together, your life’s blueprint becomes clear to me. 


You knew your purpose: You never once strayed from your faith. You knew family was the most important element of your life. You lived your purpose. You lived it so well that we all carry your purpose with us. Your purpose continues to grow in all of us.  


You understood your business: Raising seven kids is a business. You led an empire. You have more in common with Beyoncé than anyone I know. You understood what it meant to master your craft. You used your ingenuity and creativity to activate each generation you impacted. You built the systems, ran the finances, and managed the relationships you needed to support all of us. Your life was an act of resistance. Your business savvy was a powerful lesson in activism.  


You were kind and clear: Kindness was your brand, yet we all knew that when Willie Pearl had a rule, it was to be followed. We knew how to engage in your world, which helped us all feel secure. Your consistency taught us the importance of discipline.  


You connected to people’s stories: You remembered the details of people’s lives. You listened with curiosity. You stayed quiet, and you heard our hearts. Your commitment to our lives connected us to each other, forever. 


You loved with your whole heart: You loved us all unconditionally. You didn’t have time to judge. You forgave. You never cursed, you rarely got mad (I mean, we knew when you were mad), and you were grateful for your life. Your love permeated every space you were in and every human you touched.  


Thanks for the guidance. These are pillars that led to the founding of B is for Black Brilliance.  This brand is rooted in what you taught us to be. B is for Black Brilliance will do what you have always done: acknowledge, bolster, and cultivate Black brilliance. We are because you were.  


Thank you for helping me fuel this movement. Thank you for making resistance and activism elegantly simple.  


In Brilliance, 


Shawna Pearl