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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

"Sacred Waters: 19 and Pregnant" (Chapter 8: "It's Up to Me" and Epilogue)

Thompson Memorial Chapel, an interfaith sanctuary at Williams College, was completed in 1904 in memory of Frederick Ferris Thompson (1836-1899), who, at the time of his death, had been the most generous benefactor in the College’s history, according to the College. At the news of his passing, the school suspended all classes and events for the day, and the community gathered in a chapel to pay tribute to Thompson, who had attended Williams.

During the Civil War, Thompson organized and drilled members of the U.S. Colored Troops. He hoped that the soldiers would be allowed to fight for the Union, reported The New York Times (April 11, 1899). Thompson, a prominent banker and railroad president, co-founded the First National Bank which survives today as Citibank.



Naked, she stood proud with her shoulders back and her head high. Gold drop earrings dangled from her elongated ears, and red beads hung round her long neck and full hips. Her posture regal and expression serene, I felt far removed from her poise and ease with herself.

She was an Ashanti fertility doll carved out of blond wood, a gift from a friend’s brother in Kumasi, Ghana, to you for me. She frightened me. I never told you.

This icon of womanhood spooked me because she made me doubt what I knew in my heart of hearts. She said I would not be a woman until I gave birth, until I could be addressed as someone else’s mother the way many African women are called, their own names and identities washed away in the surge toward the future. Could entire cultures be wrong? Was I bucking up against a universal truth?

No. There is no wrong or right. Having a child is a woman’s choice. It’s up to her.

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