ROCKY MOUNT and DURHAM, N.C. _ There is nothing like going home. And I was so thrilled to be joined at Blanche’s restaurant, the new hot spot that my college pal Reuben and his wife (and my soror, Neva) have opened downtown. The space, in a word, is awesome! It felt slightly weird reading excerpts to family and friends who have known me since I was a little girl talking about doing what I’m doing now. But it also felt good. The conversation with my friends is the same conversation I’ve been having with strangers, one that is long overdue and must be had for race relations in America to get better. My brother, Donald, tolerated me telling stories about him, and my Aunt Dale – the one I wrote about when she retired last year as church pianist after 70 years – said afterward that she forgot to make a speech about how, when I was little, every other little girl played with dolls, but I had my books. (And the signing gave me a chance to spend time with my favorite great-niece, Hayleigh, pictured above with her dad). The next day, I was surrounded by love again at the Barnes & Noble in New Hope Commons in Durham, where I was blessed to have in the audience (and I’ll get in trouble for naming some names and not others): two line sisters (thanks Sheila Whitehead-Exum and Wanda Page), one of my best friends from high school, Angelia McNeil-Joyner and my best friend of thirty-something years, Barbara Pullen Smith. My pal and fellow Knight Wallace Fellow Kevin Clemens and his wife, Loree Kalliainen, were on hand as well. It was an amazing discussion and I’m grateful to everyone who came out and bought out The Burden. And I offer eternal gratitude to Lesleigh Mausi, who arranged everything beautifully!