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Armed and Black: One woman’s guide to God and guns

Cory Alexander Haywood OW Contributor | 12/6/2017, midnight
Sheila “Mother” Drake is a self-described “potty-mouth,” a reformed alcoholic, a..

Today, gun ownership among Black Americans has steadily risen, according to studies by the Pew Research Center. In 2016, 19 percent of black adults said they owned a gun, up from 15 percent in 2015. That increase tracks with a change in perspective: In 2013, just 29 percent of black adults said owning a gun makes people safer; the following year, that number was 54 percent.

I recently spent time with “Mother” Drake on a dreary Saturday morning despite her stern warnings that if I tried “anything funny” she’d grab her pistol and “aim low.”   

“Mother” is a term of endearment used within the Black church to describe elderly women - a title Sheila embraces proudly, but feels misrepresents her youthful disposition. 

“N*ggas around here call me Clint Eastwood,” the 78-year-old retired school bus driver declared with a twinkle in her eye, ironically sipping from a coffee mug that says: “Filled with the Holy Ghost.”

“I’ll shoot [Barack] Obama if he brings his ass to my doorstep unannounced. Let somebody come up in here trying to steal from me - thinking I’m feeble and defenseless. Aint’ gone be no talking ... the police can ask questions later.”   

I dropped by Sheila’s home in Gardena to observe “the arsenal of doom” she raves about on Sundays at my grandfather’s church. 

Her message to the congregation during “testimony service” recently was: 

“God gave you Negroes fangers [fingers] to pull that trigger in the presence of evil. We live in perilous times. Keep a Bible and some hardware on your nightstand.”

Sheila’s robust collection of handguns includes a Beretta M-9, a Glock 32, a 357 Magnum, and her late husband’s service pistol that she keeps sandwiched between a Ziploc bag of prescription drugs and a Bible she “borrowed” from a baptist Church in South Texas more than 30 years ago.      

“I’m a proud gun-owner,” she avowed gleefully as I cautiously watched her aim a loaded weapon at several invisible targets. The corners of her mouth elevated to form a mischievous grin. “I used to own a shotgun.”

She added, “They’re all [handguns] registered, legal, and fully-operational. If God calls me home today I might end up in the fiery lake [hell]. My temper still needs fixing when my trigger finger starts itching.”

Research shows that Black gun ownership has increased significantly since the 2016 presidential election, and the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA), a black alternative to the NRA, doubled its membership in just a few short months thanks to a surge in purchases from Black women.

A Detroit firearms instructor, Robert Ector, spoke with Fox News  about this sudden trend.

“Minority women are definitely increasing in numbers,” he said. “Women overall — in particular, minority women — are looking towards guns to protect themselves against crime.”

Black conservative columnist, Stacey Washington, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, echoed those same sentiments.

“I believe the reason we’re seeing more women of color joining this movement to use firearms is because they’re realizing this in not a political issue,” she said. “It really never has been. It’s about personal safety and protection.”