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The Black Card: Big Mama Said You Cannot Think BIG When LITTLE Gotcha

By Terry Allen
CEO 1016 Media
Founder Sister CEO Small Business Camp

“You can’t think big when little gotcha,” is a statement that Big Mama, my maternal grandmother, shared with me and my siblings all throughout our childhood. She and my mom used her sixth grade readers to teach me how to read and write “cursive” at age four. She would get books from her employer to share with me all until I left for college. The rule was she read the book first then I read the book next, then she would take her notes and ask me questions. Then she would ask me to write 10 of the best things I liked about each book. Sometimes I would write just five things thinking that would be ok.

Well, I got that wrong. Whenever I wrote less than 10 takeaways from each book she shared with me, it opened the door for the “back porch” conversation. Her back-porch invitation consisted of ice cream, chocolate cake and/ or peach cobbler. I accepted each back-porch conversation with an eagerness. She would identify a passage in the book then ask me if I remembered that point in the book. I confirmed each time that I had read it. Yes! Her next move was to say, “Then why did you not include in your list to make the list a full 10? She would show me how each point I “missed” or I was “too lazy” to write down could have given me a bigger lesson. She and my mother gave me books like Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of Life, Gwendolyn Brooks’s Annie Allen, James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time, and Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I was truly unaware that she and my mom, Ms. Betty, were preparing me with the armor, I would need to be the BIG man she envisioned in me.

At the end of the week, she would do a recap of my missed points and then remind me that she expected me to be the first President of the United States to come from this family and I have to think larger than my current self. She said you must “see yourself as big as I see you.” Later in life she stood in the office of the business I created. She read the letters from two US presidents given to me. She said I am so proud of what you have become. My tears flowed that day. Now during the Racial and COVID-19 Pandemics, Big mamaism is top of mind for me. I am forever grateful for what she did for me. I didn’t become President but one US Senator who became a US President, a Black man, wrote the foreword to a best-selling book of which I am a co-author; sharing her chocolate cake recipe. Thanks to her and my mom, I have had a great passage to manhood.


I hope Big Mama is still proud of me because I am proud of her. What greatness did your Big Mama say about you? Email your answer to

Terry Allen is an award-winning media professional, journalist and entrepreneur. He is also the founder of City Men Cook and 1016 Media

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