One of Gee’s Bend’s leading gospel singers, China Pettway is also one of the few locals who have attended college and returned to live in the community.
My mother is Leola Pettway and my father is Willie Lee Pettway. He lives in Montgomery. I have five brothers on my mother’s side and three sisters. But in Montgomery, on my father’s side, I have three brothers and two sisters. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a father. My mother raised ten children without a father, but God was our father, and I thank the Heavenly Father because my mother struggled. But we made it.
My mother learnt me how to quilt. All of my sisters and brothers, when we get home in the evening time from school, once we did our chores—like pumping water, going into the woods cutting wood—we would get our homework. Then we had to get to the quilt. We had to quilt until ten o’clock at night. Then, after that she would let us stop and get to bed. That was every evening except Saturday and Sunday. I made my first quilt, it was a “Star.” And I still have it. My mother, you know, she was challenging me and my older sister. She said that, the first one to piece up a quilt, she would give us five dollars. So I had eight blocks in my quilt, my "Star." My sister, she just had a "Nine Patch." She was lazy anyway; she never liked quilting.
I’m a home-health worker now. I enjoy working with older people. I love my patients and I think they are the most sweet and beautiful people that you can meet. I have to give them their baths, comb their hair, and just fix their beds. And just be like a companion to them. Keep them company. Give them their medicine, give them shots.
Singing is my hobby. I love to sing. I sung this morning and I sung this evening and I sang all day today and I always love to sing. I just enjoy singing. Singing do something for me. I just love the Lord and I love people. I love you all and I hope you will sing with me one day. I like those church songs. Most of the time, I like those gospel songs; sometimes, those old hymns that we used to sing when we was going into the fields.
We got a lot of singers around here. The White Rose, that’s my mom, Georgianna, Creola [Bennett Pettway], and Arlonzia [Pettway]. And then we have the Holy Travelers, but they at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. We have the Ye Shall Know the Truth Baptist Church Choir; that’s myself, Revil, Mary Lee Bendolph, Tinnie and Minnie, Lucy Witherspoon, Gloria Hoppins, Annie Ruth, Mary Lisa Pettway, and Diane Abrams.