Memories of My Mother: Mildred Parish Massey

My mother, Mildred Parish Massey, was the fiercest champion for justice and equality that I’ve ever met.

As a black woman living in the South in the days of Jim Crow, she encountered more than her fair share of hardships. But she faced down segregation and racism with steely resolve, while working for a better future for me and my sisters.

My mom was one of twelve students to integrate Texas Western University — now the University of Texas at El Paso — while juggling a full-time job and raising three daughters. She also became the first black clerical worker at Ft. Bliss. Instead of sending me or my sisters to segregated schools, she enrolled us in Catholic school where we were taught by the Sisters of Loretto, an order dedicated to promoting social justice and peace.

My mother understood the consequences of segregation intimately. When she went into labor with me, the hospital refused her admission and she nearly died as a result. By the time the callous people at the hospital agreed to admit her, they were forced to do an emergency forceps delivery. I bear those forceps scars — the scars of segregation — above my eye to this day.

Despite it all, my mother lived with dignity and joy. And she never lost faith in this country — where she grew up unable to eat at restaurants with her family, but would one day watch her daughter get sworn-in as a Member of Congress.

I carry her faith and passion with me in the halls of Congress every day. There’s no doubt in my mind that my mother would have been on the front lines of the resistance, fighting tooth and nail to protect our hard-won civil, human and women’s rights.

Mother’s Day is not the same without her. But I know that the best way to honor her memory — today and every day — is to continue her courageous, and often lonely, fight for justice.