Photo and story by Clay Morris

Clicking and clacking along the entrance to the church in shiny patent-leather starter heels, 7-year-old La’Shenda Hudson was oddly ecstatic about the next few hours dedicated to death. It was an unusually sweltering day in late January 2007, and the little girl was about to experience one of the most defining moments of her life: the burial of her grandmother.

Hudson recalls how was at first overjoyed and antsy with excitement on the melancholy day as it would be her first time attending a funeral. However, as Hudson and her family moved along the program for her grandmother’s funeral, her mood began to slowly slide down from gleeful to despair.

When it came time to view her grandmother’s body in the casket, she was crying and screaming, “I want my grandma!”

As her aunt held her up to see the body of her grandmother, the poofiness of her black and white polka-dotted dress began to shake with the fervor of her emotions. Despite having lost one of the most important figures in her life, Hudson now says her bereavement helped her understand love and the intimate connection to her grandmother that she will always cherish.

As an upcoming senior at Lanier High school in Jackson, now-17-year-old Hudson aspires to be an OB-GYN (obstetrician and gynecologist) or daycare owner, simply because she “loves babies.” Her passion for infants comes from the beauty of the innocence and light that she sees within their generally happy demeanors.

Throughout Hudson’s daily life, she is inspired by dancing, which to her is the perfected semblance of control and expression. Hudson says an idol is singer/dancer Ciara, who she is determined to meet some day.

But she is most inspired by her mother: the strong and independent Chetossa Ann Pope. “My mother let’s me know what it is and what it ain’t. And she always tell me that what happens in the dark will always come to the light. I love her for that,” she says.

Hudson can come across as shy in person, but she describes herself as “outgoing” because she loves conversations, has an open mind and is fun to be around.

Her community in Jackson is unique, she says, because it offers an outpouring of love so abundant it feels as if she will never run out of support.

Her favorite thing about Jackson is “nothing,” she says, adding, “because everyone is moving away.” She agrees with many Jacksonians about her least favorite thing: “Definitely the potholes. They’re horrible.”

As a young African American woman in Jackson, Hudson says her existence feels “all over the place” and “not fair” because of the discrepancies between the treatment of the city’s citizens of color and its white citizens.

True to the pillars of values for her astrological sign of Scorpio, Hudson’s spirit glows with loyalty and wit that would be able to charm even your typical Scrooge. Hudson says she wants the world to remember her as a positive and motivating force in not just the lives of her friends and family, but also to anyone she happens to meet by chance of fate.

Clay Morris is a senior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.