Let’s face it, the past few weeks have been emotionally trying for most people. We’ve been in the midst of a global pandemic, socially isolated from others, and many have faced economic hardships. We now also are facing images/videos of injustice, chaos and destruction.
We can all attest to the fact that being a mama is tiring, period. Being a Black mama with the current state of the nation, is exhausting.
In the past three days, I’ve been tasked with answering our 8-year-old’s question of “why do some people not like Black people?” And, explaining to my 11-year-old why people are so angry that they are destroying buildings. I’ve had to fight off the anxiety that came with deciding whether or not to allow our 14-year-old son to walk the one block (about 600 ft) from our front door to the neighborhood school to kick a soccer ball around with a couple of friends.
All of this is what led me to attend the rally May 31 Demand Justice rally in NE OKC with my 14-year-old son, three mama friends, and one of their 13-year-old sons. I needed to stand in solidarity with mamas who are much more exhausted than I can imagine.
Mothers who have violently lost their children such as Wanda Cooper Jones (Ahmaud Arbery), Tamika Palmer (Breonna Taylor), Valerie Castile (Philando Castile), Samaria Rice (Tamir Rice), Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin) and many, many others.
Making the decision of whether or not to include children in an activism rally is a difficult one. My husband and I discussed it at length. The images of burning buildings and the white haze of tear gas concerned us. However, we reasoned that the rally was organized by community and faith leaders and was being held during the daytime, therefore it was likely to remain peaceful. We agreed that our two youngest were not mature enough to attend.
The final deciding factor was that our 14-year-old son wanted to participate. He is starting to feel the weight of his skin color and gender. He is recognizing that there are people who will make snap judgments and assumptions about him based solely on his physicality and feel entitled to act against him.
So, in the midday heat of the last day in May, my son and I stood together with our friends and well over 1,000 others and collectively grieved with those who have lost their loved ones and collectively called for justice and equity for all.
This evening, as I sit and reflect on the day, I no longer feel exhausted. I feel energized. There are several reasons for this change.
My son and my friend’s son had an opportunity to see that as young, Black men they are not alone – that there are many, many people who are fighting for them to be seen as more than the skin that they’re in.
Mamas of Color: find opportunities to change the narrative that your kids are hearing/seeing. It can go a long way towards helping them understand that their worth is greater than what others may believe. It also can give them hope. At the rally, my son said that he is now hopeful that, in the future, his children won’t have to attend rallies for justice and equity with him. I hope so, too, Son.
I got to stand next to my Black mama friend – one of whom I had spent the week on Facebook Messenger lamenting about the state of the nation – and know that we were experiencing a shared sense of community and understanding. This is something that can be hard to find in the less diverse suburbs in which both of our families reside.
Mamas of Color: you aren’t alone. There are mamas out there that know exactly how you are feeling right now. Give yourself some grace to lament, cry, be angry, be scared. But, don’t do it alone. Seek out mamas who understand and check-in with one another. Your kids are taking cues from you on how to process what is happening. Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of them.
I had an opportunity to witness my two White mama friends who came with us living up to the phrase “actions speak louder than words” just by their mere presence and desire to be there with us. What makes them special is that they aren’t afraid to say that they sometimes don’t know what to say; they just want to hold space for me to talk openly and honestly. They are willing to put in the work and have tough conversations about race, justice, and equity.
My friend who has an adopted Black son who came with us is honest about how little she had thought ahead about some of the issues Black boys face as they grow older. But she is willing to educate herself, seek out advice, and advocate for him.
White mamas: Remember when I said that my son is hopeful that his kids won’t have to hold rallies? Well, it’s going to take you and your kid(s) also becoming allies for that to happen. Build and foster real relationships with mamas who don’t look like you. This will help you and more importantly, it will help your kid(s) become comfortable and willing to be an ally.