Listen to our elders. They are filled with wisdom. Mrs. Genera Billups was born March 19, 1911, making her 102 years young. She didn't let her race or the times growing up keep her from pursuing her dream of getting an education."I feel fine like always do. Always keeping busy you know," said Billups.
Living in this world for over a century is impressive enough, but it has been the way she has spent her time here that's truly inspirational. Billups was born in Linden, Ala., less than 50 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and when the climate was still hostile for African Americans, especially females. "I didn't let that be in my mind," Billups said.
Instead, she focused on her studies, a practice that her family made top priority growing up with a father who helped educate slaves. "You educate yourself so that you can take advantage of all the opportunities you have in the world. But without the education you are limited to what you can have do," said Sterling.
By the early 1930s, Billups was fresh out of high school when the country entered one of its darkest times -- the Great Depression -- and racism was rampant nationwide ahead of a looming WWII. But the adverse atmosphere and all the negativity didn't stop her from attending college.
"She was a person who persevered all the time," said Sterling.
Billups went on to earn a Bachelors degree in English from Alabama State College before marrying and moving to Birmingham, where she became a teacher in both Shelby and Jefferson counties. Along the way, she taught herself and three daughters to play piano, a hobby the family still enjoys today.
During her long tenure as a teacher, Billups became the first-ever girl's basketball coach at the Shelby Training School, learning the rules of the game from reading books. Sterling and her sisters gleaned from their mother."We grew up in the Civil Rights Movement. We were all a part of that. We got started early because we wanted more. We didn't want to have to fight as hard as my mother and her age group had to fight in order to get the things they wanted," said Sterling.
Billups attributes her fulfilling life to her faith in God, though, she rarely stops to think about the significance of all her accomplishments."I just kept on living and kept on living. Doing that, I just enjoyed the days that passed. And I look forward to the next one," said Billups.