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BLACK CARD: Big Mama Said: God Gives Nothing to Those Who Keep Their Arms Crossed

Terry Allen with Dr. Julianne Malveaux (1)
Terry Allen with Dr. Julianne Malveaux

In her gentle, yet unwavering voice, my grandmother Lucille “Big Mama” Allen used to say, “God gives nothing to those who keep their arms crossed.” At first, I didn’t quite grasp the depth of her words, but over time, her wisdom revealed itself in so many profound ways. Lucille “Big Mama” Allen, wisdom flowed like a soothing river.

“Child,” she’d remind me, “life’s gifts and assignments won’t land on you if you stand there with your closed mind and crossed arms crossed. Open your heart and embrace all that life has to offer.” Big Mama’s lessons were illustrated by the efforts to ban books – a stark example of how closed minds hinder growth and understanding. “Blocking others’ journeys is like blocking your own blessings,” she’d say. Through her, I learned that true wisdom comes from welcoming diverse perspectives.

This weekend, at the Pan African Bookstore, after being introduced by the wordsmith, Patrick Oliver, Dr. Julianne Malveaux reminded us that “we have to tell the truth about American history not only to others but to ourselves.” Before that moment, I presented Dr. Malveaux with Big Mama’s Roses and a custom replica doll of the famous journalist & activist Ida B. Wells Barnett- Big Mama ‘s spirit invaded my soul.

Furthermore, Big Mama used this notion to encourage us not to accept the status quo. “Don’t let injustice thrive while you stand idle,” she’d declare. She would read out loud Mary McLeod Bethune, “silence in the face of discrimination amounts to consent. Protest openly against anything that smacks of discrimination or slander”.

To bolster her stories, Big Mama would recite one of her two favorite white men, Robert F. Kennedy’s words: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” She made me realize that ripples are born out of our gifts and assignments.  I grew to know we can converge into a powerful current that dismantles the strongest barriers of oppression.


Big Mama left us with lifetime tools: the courage to welcome diverse experiences and the determination to stand up against injustice. Her words still echo in my heart, a testament to the enduring wisdom that she, like the countless ripples of change, bestowed upon us. If you have opened your closed arms email at and share , Amen 

Written By

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


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