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Snapshots: Setting Sail on "D.C. Homegirls"
National Public Radio®


Today, we check in with Patrice Gaines, the award-winning former reporter for the Washington Post. A few years back, she moved to Lake Wylie, South Carolina for a little peace and quiet, but she got a whole lot more.



This summer, she's trying her best to stay cool. She's also been thinking about family and what it means to be a modern black woman.


Ms. PATRICE GAINES (Former Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Washington Post):
When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother occasionally said with great love, you've got to be three times better than white people just to be treated equally. The first time I really felt the weight of their words, I was the only little black girl in my kindergarten class and I'd peed by pants. It was just an accident, but I felt like I've embarrassed all the descendants of African people. How would they ever recover?


As I got older and the three-times-better message flowed through my veins like blood itself, I held my breath whenever I heard news of some man committing a horrendous crime. I hope isn't black, I'd say. I thought of the three-times-better rule again recently when I became the co-owner of a boat along with my friend and fellow Northern transplant, Jeanette(ph).


Lord, if my mother and grandmother could see this boat, I thought, why they are probably turning over in their graves right now. It was a pontoon boat. You know the kind that's open with a flat bottom that sits on two metal cylinders? They have seats all around and a canopy overhead. But the previous owner changed it a bit. We like to say he customized it, removing all the seats and building a shabby, little cabin in their place.


One day, Eddie(ph), a very polite black gentleman who does maintenance work at the marina, approached Jeanette and my sister Carol(ph). You all built that boat, didn't you, he asked, implying that if we hadn't somebody owed us some money.


We named our little boat, D-Sea Homegirls. It's a reference to our previous hometown, but we spell it capital D-hyphen-S-E-A. It isn't much but it's ours, which brings me back to the three-times rule.


Jeanette and I are the only black people with a boat docked at the Lake Wylie Marina. I know my mother and grandmother would rather I owned the largest, sleekest boat on the dock, but I don't. And it's a relief to float away from that barren, mental landscape they built in my head.


On our official launch day, Jeanette donned a multicolored beanie with a propeller on top. I followed her lead, wearing a jester hat adorned with bells. We are not traditional co-captains. My friend Lou(ph), the only person with boating experience, was on board for the maiden voyage. My sister Carol came along with her small Pomeranian Fred(ph) who wore his new Scooby Doo lifejacket.


My sister Vicky(ph) came, too, with my 4-year-old niece Jordan(ph) - a grandchild my mother and grandmother never got to meet. Wearing a tiny Tasmanian Devil lifejacket, Jordan stepped onto D-Sea Homegirls and felt it move beneath her feet. Her eyes widened. Is this a boat, mommy, she asked. Settling back in a lawn chair on the deck, holding her stuffed Barney and eating from a bag of potato chips, I looked at her face and saw pure contentment.


As we sailed deeper and deeper into the blue, our funny-looking cardboard box of a boat became something like a yacht, only more beautiful and three times better.


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CHIDEYA: That was Patrice Gaines with this week's Snapshot. To hear previous stories from Lake Wylie and see pictures of D-Sea Homegirls on her maiden voyage, just visit our Web site,


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CHIDEYA: NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.


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CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.


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