Tuesday, 10 January 2023 13:32

The Inspiration Of Flora Molton

Written by  Priscilla K. Garatti
The Inspiration Of Flora Molton Photo by Bernard Spragg

Molton was full on gospel blues, "truth music" as she referred to it, which dealt with the struggles of everyday life.~Kreg Yingst

Last week I slowly walked an art gallery featuring Kreg Yingst's woodblock prints entitled "Psalms and Lamentations." Each woodblock featured a black performer who sang the blues and the gospel. Beside each square block of wood, Yingst provided a narrative of the person's life journey, showcasing their tenacity to keep singing. I kept returning to read about the life of Flora Molton.

Flora was legally blind, but didn't let that barrier stop her.  She often performed on the corner of F Street NW and 7th Street NW in downtown Washington DC where she played a bottleneck slide guitar. She sang while tapping a tambourine with her foot and played a harmonica that was mounted around her neck. She collected change from passers-by in a plastic pail. But the street life was tough and she wanted out. Despite her attempts to pick up work she wound up back on her corner, strumming her guitar and singing her combination of gospel and blues.

Flora captured my attention, I think, because sometimes it can feel futile to keep singing, to keep writing or painting. To simply bury the poems in a drawer, throw out the paint. And like Flora, realize that to make ends meet, there must be other income besides what the songs bring in. Yet she kept going back to her art, back to her corner to belt out her blues and gospel tunes. 

In the 1960s, when Flora was in her seventies, she found some luck with the country blues and folk revival and she was able to make a recording, I Want To Be Ready To Hear God When He Calls.

Let us collectively unite with Flora's persevering spirit. It is difficult to keep creating when others don't understand why you keep making art. "Are you making any money? Has anybody read your books or seen your illustrations. I mean besides family?" Yes. God sees. I encourage myself along with you to keep creating. God puts that desire to make art in all of us. Each story is important. Your voice is unique. And needed in this old messed up world. Let's be like Flora and go to our God-given corner and sing our hearts out, tap our tambourines, play our harmonicas.

Flora remained a street singer even while in her eighties, until she passed away at age 83.

More in this category: The Safety Of Simplicity »

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What Readers Are Saying

In Missing God Priscilla takes a brave and unflinching look at grief and the myriad ways in which it isolates one person from another. The characters are full-bodied and the writing is mesmerizing. Best of all, there is ample room for hope to break through. This is a must read.

Beth Webb-Hart (author of Grace At Lowtide)

winner"On A Clear Blue Day" won an "Enduring Light" Bronze medal in the 2017 Illumination Book Awards.

winnerAn excerpt from Missing God won as an Honorable Mention Finalist in Glimmertrain’s short story “Family Matters” contest in April 2010.