Social Policy

The Trial of Black Motherhood: Lessons of Learned from my ‘Old Earth’

One of my incarcerated companions wrote me and included a picture of himself with his ‘old earth’. I sat confused looking for the meaning while starting at the photo of him and his mother, I’d never heard the phrase before. After a few moments, it finally hit me, the womb of our mother is where we first live, breath, eat, sleep and create meaning. This is why motherhood is such a respected position, the womb of our mothers is where the meaning of our lives are shaped. Even after we’re birthed into this new realm through

her she continues to hold our interpretation of the world around us by filling us with her wisdom throughout each year that we are privileged to walk this earth alongside her. In recognizing that the task of raising any child is always difficult, I also want to acknowledge the fact that an extra thick layer of complication is added when raising a Black child in an anti black society.  Another layer is added when raising a woman in a patriarchy. So in knowing this, a single black woman teaching a young black girl how to navigate in the United States is an extra special gift. To teach a young child to not only be a good man or woman, but to also be a good Black man or woman, is the ultimate task of Black motherhood. Raising a Black child in an anti-black society can be stressful and dangerous, especially within a single parent household which is the function most Black families. Speaking from the perspective of a young Black woman who learned from a relentlessly committed Black mother I want to point out a few of the golden nuggets I’ve picked up on this journey of life guided by my mother’s companionship thus far.. There are so many things my mother taught me throughout my life that I’ve only recently been able to identify as lessons from the perfect keynote speaker. Behind the eye rolls and head nods was a girl who really did take her mother’s guidance seriously. I knew there was no one else to turn to or call on for guidance and support.

Teaching the Value of Education
You never realize how important your education is until you have to pay for it yourself. After my first grade year in public schools I didn’t realize the difference in education between private and public schooling, but my mother did. If she could pay for an education that would set her daughter up for success she would sacrifice whatever she could to make sure I was learning in school. I remember when I was six years old and my mother took me to Faith Christian Academy (FCA) for their 1st grade placement testing. There were several parents and children with us, the kids were separated from their parents to complete a paper exam in another area. A little while after completing the exam my mother was told that I had not met the requirements for entering the Academy that year. “Where did she fall short?” My mother asked shocked. “Spelling” the administrator told my mother and I’d misspelled to many words in the vocabulary section. At that she took me home, I was enrolled in public school for another year in metro Detroit. In all of my classes I quickly established myself as the teachers helper: knowing the answer to every problem, excited to pass out papers and get the first prize for finishing my work on time. Excelling was my expertise. I enjoyed being at the top of my class, I wasn’t upset at the fact I didn’t get into FCA, but the following year my mother attempted to enroll me with my public school grade reports as evidence of my high scholarship and I was accepted. My father complained about the school’s tuition, “Why pay tuition for an elementary school?” he whined an attempt to convince my mother that spending thousands on a grade school education was pointless. I’m eternally thankful that she continued without his support.  Her determination to have me enrolled in that private school was evidence in the value of my education. The one year I spent in public schools added to my perspective, I personally witnessed the difference. I learned that if there is an educational institution  you can attend where you know will improve your academic skill set then strive for it. Knowledge is a priceless and irreplaceable commodity. No one can take what you know from you. I was no longer the top of my class, I hovered between mid-level and high, which didn’t frustrate me as I knew being at the top meant you had nowhere left to go. When I surrounded myself with people who I could learn from I had no choice but to grow. The school’s motto, “Excellence or Nothing at All” sticks with me to this day. Had I not gone to FCA as a 7 year old girl I don’t think that I would have graduated from UW with a double major B.A. at 22.
Instilling the Merit of  Virtue
Waiting is hard to do and that it exactly why it is worth doing. In our instant gratification society, although we recognize that those things that take more time to accomplish are more valuable, we lack the patience and motivation to wait. As a whole we value the quickest and most affordable method in a lot of situations, partially because we as a whole struggle economically but also because we don’t place much value in quality in many areas ranging from food to education, childcare and even healthcare. We gravitate toward ‘cheaper’ options that result in expensive ‘hidden’ costs.
More importantly my mother taught me by example the value of virtue in romantic relationships. I truly think that is the most important aspect of womanhood that a God-fearing woman is forced to come to terms with in this sex driven world. Our womanhood is demeaned and disrespected everywhere we turn: from the television shows, films, rap videos, music on the radio. The media is constantly attacking womanhood for fear that we may realize that what we have to offer sexually isn’t what this society is really after. Sex is easy to find, but it’t the soul that we must dig deep to uncover and exploit when e attack womanhood. There are too many women whose souls are tied to broken individuals due to the fact that they have physically connected themselves to someone who wasn’t prepared for that connection or willing to care for that connection. There have been too many times where I’ve given myself emotionally, financially, physically and even spiritually to someone undeserving until I finally realized that no one is deserving until they ask my father, God the King of Kings, for permission. In order for a man to have access to the wealth of life that I offer they have to be able to obtain the blessing from those who worked together to build me into the woman he now cherishes. This journey of life was begun by my father God, planted by my earthly father and incubated by my mother. The process of developing me into who I am was too tedious in order for me to allow an ill prepared man to degrade in unsatisfactory moments. In all areas of life I’ve realized that those things that are worth having are worth the wait. We cannot lose what is ours. If waiting leads to loss, then I’m thankful that the wait reveled what was’t mine to have in the first place.
Developing the Art of Sass Enveloped in the Necessity of Class
In everything I do I harness the power of the double edged sword my mother is still teaching me to use. It’s a delicate and complicated personality one of rage and anger wrapped in wisdom and elements. This is one of the unique qualities of being a Black woman, we are so used to pain and disappointment that we’ve learned to accept and navigate it with beauty and grace. It is a double edged sword, in some cases people will expect our loud, boisterous attitude, a stereotypical reaction to disappointment, and sometimes we’ll provide just that. But I can assure you that we feel hurt and disappointed so much more than you’ll ever see a Black woman ‘go-off’ in a store or at her child or even her man. In analyzing the appropriate response to our vexation, my mother taught me the difference and how to identify a situation that may require some sass enveloped in class.
Those things you can change, require care and comfort, we have the unique ability to discern the difference between a dead end street and a hidden sharp turn. I’ve realized that there’s no turn too sharp to try not to take, every open road is an opportunity worth navigating. There are too many times when we’re faced with a circumstances that seems inevitably against our favor, if we were to dismiss ourselves at every opportunity we wouldn’t be where we are today, springing #BlackGirlMagic across the globe for all to admire. We are every obstacles worst nightmare, bold and beautiful while delightful and dangerous.
Those things you cannot change, there is nowhere we cannot incite change.
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