Author’s Bio: Dr. Hattie N. Washington was born in 1946 in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the daughter of Samuel Neal, Jr., a former Navy man, and Janie Lucille Goganious Neal, a homemaker. She has been a teacher (both regular and special education) for over thirty years (in the United States and abroad—Scotland and Greece). She is currently a college professor at Coppin State University where she was the first female Vice President for over 8 years; former Assistant Superintendent of Baltimore City School System, Program Specialist for the Maryland State Dept. of Education; a local and state administrator; TV hostess, and civic activist.
She was the PTA President of her two biological daughters’ middle and high schools throughout their years in those grades. Today, one daughter is a physician and the other daughter is an attorney. Dr. Washington’s education includes a BS Degree in Elementary Education from Norfolk State University with a Minor in Special Education; Master’s Degree from Ball State University (an Athens, Greece Overseas Program) in Counseling Psychology, and a Doctorate from University of Maryland, College Park in Curriculum and Instruction. She has done further postgraduate study at Glasgow University in Scotland (on a Rotary International Scholarship) Harvard University in Boston and Oxford University in London, England.
Dr. Washington is the Founder & President of Aunt Hattie’s Place, Inc. (AHP) which is a 501 © (3) non-profit residential facility in Baltimore for males with special educational needs. Founded in 1997, AHP rears males from ages 13 to 21 who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. The foster boys are usually in special education or are several grade levels below their peers when they first come to AHP. After entering AHP their lives have been proven to be both fulfilling and successful. One such success story is that one of my foster young men whom I got at AHP when he was 8 years old just graduated from Coppin in December. He has a teaching job already.
What inspired you to write your book? The thing that inspired me the most, to write my memoir, was to show people that they, too, can triumph against all odds. I was in a loving home in Prince Edward County, where my father and stepmother provided for my siblings and me. My parents loved and nurtured us, but things changed after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954, requiring school to integrate. Many schools, including Prince Edward County school district, refused to desegregate. It was the only school district in the United States to resort to such extreme measures of closing down all of the schools for five years, starting in 1959.
I grew up with a father who loved his family unconditionally. He sacrificed much so that my siblings and I could have a better life than he had. Back then, my father knew my temperament and my way of reacting in situations; therefore, for him to make the sacrifice to send my brother, my two sisters and me to live with our biological mother’s sisters in Norfolk, Virginia, so that we could continue to receive adequate education, I think hurt him more than it hurt us. I was eleven years old and in the 5th grade when my two-room schoolhouse was closed. But, my father knew education would be the key to our success. Because of his sacrifice, I was determined not to let him down; thusly, I was driven to succeed.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The two books that influenced me most are “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston.
Yes. This is my first book. It took me almost a year to complete it; however, I have been keeping notes, lists, vignettes & thoughts about my life for about ten years. It all just came together when I sat down and made up my mind—with the nudging of relatives and friends--that “it was time” to write my book and share my story and strategies to inspire others.
Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
Yes. I write with an outline to categorize the main points that I am trying to get across and to organize my paragraphs into an order that can easily be developed into a well-written story.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
No. I have to have total silence. Silence helps me concentrate more. I love writing in detail and want the reader to feel as if they were there with me on my journey. Music would distract me at that point in my writing. A little peace and quiet helps me accomplish my goals of writing a great book that hopefully everyone will love. However, I find that when I am rereading a draft or reflecting, I do like to play some soft instrumental music then in the background. Music then relaxes me and invokes more in-depth insight on various initial thoughts.
What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
I’m an avid reader myself. As such, I frequently visit many authors’ websites, posts, and blog, including yours. I see where different authors go to promote their book, and I may follow their path or suggestions. I also love speaking to people. That’s one of my life’s passions. At most conferences where I am a public and motivational speaker, I share my passion of rearing foster boys and giving back. I also share stories of my life and various experiences. I find that people love stories. I try to make my speeches, workshops or trainings not seem like a lecture or a class at all. I try to make my presentations appear as if I’m just telling an interesting and inspiring story about my roadblocks, divine interventions, achievements, and lessons learned along the way.
What advice would you give to new authors?
The advice I would give to new authors would be to follow your passion and [to] never give up. If you have a story to tell, get started and tell it. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles and pains or even your happy moments with others. Your compelling story can help and inspire many people out there.
People need to see our valleys as well as our mountaintops. One cannot fully appreciate their successes in life if he/she has not experienced some failures, disappointments or roadblocks, and still overcame. In the words of one of my acclaimed mentors, Maya Angelou, and, “Still I Rise”.
How about sharing an excerpt from Driven to Succeed: An Inspirational Memoir of Lessons Learned Through Faith, Family and Favor
If I Grow Up
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
If I grow up. That line has struck a chord with me since the day I heard it. From a young age, we are encouraged to think of what job we want to do when we grow up. What contribution do we wish to make to the world? We’re asked that question before we even learn how to tie our shoelaces. I had asked that question countless times at Aunt Hattie’s Place, but on one summer evening, after eating a spaghetti dinner with my foster sons, I didn’t get the answer of historically respectable professions—a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer—that I normally had gotten in the past. The response was, “If I grow up.”
I looked at my foster son, Lamont, whose mother was on crack and whose father was murdered. Oh, my goodness. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. To which I asked, curiously, “Did I hear you say, ‘If you grow up?’”
He matter-of-factly replied, “Yes, because kids around my way don’t git to grow up and be somebody.”
“You don’t think you’ll grow up?” I asked, baffled.
He looked at me and began his story. His father was a high school dropout and sold drugs to support the family. And his mother had been on crack as far as he could remember. The reason he was placed in foster care was because his grandmother, the woman who had taken on the challenges of raising him, became senile and was placed in a nursing home. Lamont admitted to selling drugs and was hoping to get caught so that he could go to jail. There, he would get what he called “three hots and a cot.”
I looked at him and asked, “What do three hots and a cot mean?”
Another one of my foster sons answered before Lamont could. “Aunt Hattie, it means three hot meals and a place to sleep in jail.”
Now I was speechless. When my mind could finally process the things they were telling me, I said, “You mean you want to go to jail?” Their response was, “Yes.” They said if it weren’t for Aunt Hattie’s Place, they would be homeless. In jail, at least they’d have a place to lay their head and something to eat.
One of my foster sons named Isaac added, “It’s better than being homeless, shot by the police or shot by drug dealers.”
I became upset with them for thinking like that. I said, “If you go to jail, you’ll get a record. Then you can’t go to college because you can’t get financial aid.”
They told me that they felt the police were their enemy instead of Mr. Friendly. I was surprised to learn that many of them feel that they can’t make a legitimate life. For some reason, they feel that the policemen are out to get them. I’ve heard many of my foster son say,
“Why try? I might as well live bad and steal a car and go to jail, so I’ll have a bed to sleep in and something to eat.”
What’s next for you?
I will be retiring this June and will be going on a book tour to promote my memoir, and I have a new coffee table history picture book coming out soon. The coffee table book details a timeline of my life during the Massive Resistance, a time when Prince Edward County’s school system was shut down for five years during an attempt to block integration. I am also working on a cookbook to be published later this year--in time for Thanksgiving. So stay tuned on my website: www.drhnwashington.com or www.aunthattie.org
Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
My book is sold at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells and where books are sold.
My book is sold at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells and where books are sold.
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.