I wake up with an impulse to write the words of my heart: being a daughter, a lover, a touter of feminine power, a sister of African descent… a mother.
As a mother I look at our current events, at the resemblance of this 2019 to the 1960s and 1970s to create awareness that hopes to spring society into an awakened position. I look at the obvious calling for tolerance. From my vantage point, it seems tolerance may not be the thing to call for.
Being a nurturer, protector, cheerleader, dream cultivator, wound healer, Mother – it seems the correct play is for embracing. A call to action would need to be one that rallies the embracing of human beings. The call begins with the clearing of false beliefs, removing facts rooted in ignorance or shame taught to many and immortalized in text. To make the call productive means inequality and practices of dehumanizing must be revisited, the logic aired out, and the humanizing connectors of truth uncovered, then publicly shared. Allow another human being to exist in peace without undue threats of violence, oppression, abuse of any kind; allow them to be treated without bias without prejudice without assumptions and inequalities.
My children should be able to access the living practice of the unfulfilled dream of Dr. King without the present-day tokenism: In order for my darlings to enjoy the process of living this life from their heart space first, there needs to be a conversation. A conversation that addresses the ill-placed logic that somehow people of African descent do not reason, do not feel pain, do not think analytically, do not have or appreciate culture in the same way as people of European descent do. A conversation addressing the fact that today’s society still look at my children in wonderment as my babies display their natural curiosity about the world around them. A conversation that looks at our country’s beautiful Constitution, the language and manner in which race and slavery practices are hidden within the text: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3: “Other persons.”
Article I, Section 9, Clause 1: “Such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit.”
Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3: “Person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof.”
See as we have sown seeds of bigotry, shame and make calls for tolerance, we have not changed at our root, like in the Confederate states’ Constitution of old..
As a mother, this is alarming because I am among people of various self-proclaimed ethnicities, ages, educational backgrounds, varying economic standing who enjoy saying, “Things have changed…” At last in my strongest, most alluring, encouraging voice, I state firmly things have not changed, merely changed in outward presentation.
Yes, shifting the presentation of something gives the illusion of change, but change is evident in the release of previous habits and doctrines with the replacing of doctrines and habits rooted in truth. Truth that comprehends that pain is pain, no matter how we present while enduring the pain; truth that comprehends the people of African descent, like those of European descent, reason, analyze, appreciate culture and cherish family; truth that comprehends and acts on the understanding that people of African descent are just as humane as people of European, Asian or any other descent.
I caution my children, as do many mothers of color who aspire to birth and cultivate offspring they’d like to see surpass their own accomplishments. I caution and dare them to see the world as a place to thrive despite the miseducation that they will encounter. To lead with their hearts, to dream big bodacious dreams that will cause them to embrace themselves first and then embrace others.
This is a teaching of old, still painfully relevant today. Back in 1889 the wealthy African-American businessman Mr. O.W. Gurley purchased 40 acres of land in Tulsa, Oklahoma to support this aspiration and sold parcels to assist, stipulating that his property could only come under black ownership. Greenwood, the community built on those acres, was established in 1906 and continued to thrive. It would later be referred to as Black Wall Street. Greenwood was self-sufficient, separate from the Jim Crow-ridden neighboring towns, illustrating that despite alienation and mistaken beliefs, black people are more than capable of doing all things any other human being can do. Then one day an undisclosed incident occurs between a teenage black boy and a white female elevator operator, resulting in a two-day annihilation of Greenwood.
What precisely happened in the elevator is still not known today. However, that did not stop the torment and destruction that ensued. Today the 1921 riots are considered among the most violent race-related events in our country’s history, leaving approximately 300 African-Americans dead, over 800 in hospitals, and more than 6,000 arrested. When the National Guard was called in, their suppression efforts focused almost entirely on detaining Greenwood’s black residents rather than identifying the initial mob of white aggressors. Amid other parts of the chaos, homemade explosives and incendiary bombs dropped by private planes from a nearby airfield helped destroy more than 35 blocks of the once-prosperous district.
The survivors that chose to go back to Greenwood found it difficult to do, but committed to their task. Rebuilding was arduous, with slippery slopes masked as assistance that yearned to steal the land from the displaced. It took a decade to rebuild Greenwood to a shadow of its former glory. After 98 years, the wrongs committed during the two-day race riots have yet to be addressed, nor reparations made to Greenwood’s displaced surviving families. Bringing us to a familiar quiet that haunts African-American communities to this day.
Presently in 2019, I grapple with the fact that my children may have to be more resilient than I was. Hearing the forceful calls for tolerance and witnessing the superficial changes, I reiterate change is not topical but foundational. The heart’s truth needs to take place in the familiar surroundings of our homes, clubs, institutions of religion to focus on practices such as“poor race relations.” If the societal conversations regarding race, inherent practices of hiding and sighting those of African descent along with the general desensitizing of matters involving those people of color does not take place as a matter of public health, or of respect for oneself and others. Healing for wholeness and improving the quality of life, is something I need to train my babies to do. I’ll also teach them to be as cunning as a snake, as peaceful as a dove, as strategic as chess and oware moves.