His tiny brown newborn hands curled around my index finger. It was a wrap, then.
I stared deeply into the squinty, beautiful dark eyes of my firstborn son in 2015. I cradled all nine pounds and six ounces of this perfect little curly-haired being after I gave birth to him. To my amazement, my protective mama bear instincts immediately kicked in. I grew from a woman to a mother at that moment while the world continued on like any other normal day — but I was forever changed that September 3rd.
Four years later when I held my second son’s warm, tightly swaddled body for the first time — and they laid this little weighty being atop me (still slightly medicated and numb from my c-section) — I hazily fell in love all over again. But I was nervous to hold my baby only minutes old. Were my arms strong enough? What were the doctors thinking? But with my free hand, unshackled from cords and medical equipment beeping in the background, I brought him close to my heart and kept him there as they wheeled us down into our room.
Young motherhood is seemingly a continuation of my birth experiences in the hospital — full of love, pride, and sometimes pain and fear. It’s also, seemingly, a blur filled with long nights, early mornings, and often wiping bits of random food stuck to their chubby cheeks made even more pronounced when they smile at you after their umpteenth snack for the day. Young motherhood is finding mismatched socks no bigger than the palm of your hand all over the house [and sometimes in my car] pulling them over growing feet that you can’t help but tickle to their squealing delight. And down the line, Black motherhood (and fatherhood) as we all know is also having two talks with your children in America: one about the birds and bees and one about racism and interacting safely with police.
In 2021, raising Black children is somewhat different from the 1960s — around the time when my mother and father were born. But yet, some things never change. My paternal grandparents (born and raised in the south) came here to Detroit in the 1950s searching for better opportunities to raise their family. My maternal grandparents met here in Detroit then left for Chicago to pursue ministry while raising my mother and uncle. They lived next door to Rev. Jesse Jackson (my grandfather attended seminary school with Jackson) in multicultural Hyde Park. This was during the blossoming social revolution moments around the Operation Bread Basket era, now named the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
During the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, Black households had conversations about racism, law enforcement brutality and legitimate concerns over Black bodies being abused and mistreated. Those same topics are still being talked about today. “We shall overcome” and “Black Lives Matter” are old and new expressions that unify generations of the same movement.
As a late ’80s baby, I grew up with semi rose-colored glasses on thinking as the late Rodney King was brutalized by police in 1991 that this tragic incident will soon pass. The stories of racial injustices my family and past generations faced were unfair hardships I learned and gleaned from. And even my own experiences I grew from — we’re certainly beyond that now, right? I was wrong.
Now as a mother with two Black boys whenever I see stories about our Black men, women, and children who are senselessly killed or injured at the hands of someone out to destroy them it hits me differently. I think about how Emmett Till’s mother must have felt in 1955 when her 14-year-old son was destroyed at the hands of wickedness. Today, many more names easily roll off our collective tongues; unfortunately, of others who have died and their mothers and family mourn. Why? Just because they’re Black? It’s an injustice felt through the generations.
But there’s hope. I think about my strong Black mother and father and their gentle teachings of love and strength found in our beautiful skin; my Black husband bringing up the next generation of powerful Black boys. We got this.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 92 years old this month if he wasn’t assassinated in 1968. I wonder what he would think of the plight of Black America today? I think he would look at the injustices and urge us to keep going despite it all, and he would tell mothers, especially new mothers, to not be weary.
A new generation brings about new change with people looking through a new lens at the same problems with better solutions. Motherhood helps bring about that change. That spark when we continue to hold on tight to our babies no matter their age even if we are afraid that our arms aren’t strong enough to carry them through their tangle of problems — we are. And if we cling to faith from on High for better days, our babies will be more than all right. And they will one day make a difference, too, in the communities they grew up in, attended school in, and raised their own culturally-conscious children in.
Dr. King is quoted as saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I am proud to be a part of the movement of motherhood where I can help actively shape my children’s sense of integrity, strength and compassion through my love; and educate them on the greats like Dr. King. It’s a big job that I feel through Jesus, and my village, I know can be done — it’s been done before and I see the fruits of those works thriving in our community today.
That’s what Black motherhood is to me — another opportunity to continue building on a legacy of empowering my Black sons to rise boldly when their time comes to stand for justice in an unjust world. My elders back in the day who draped themselves in multicolored dashikis with moisturized afros that scraped the sky would agree and with fists held up high I can hear their roaring proclamation, “Right on, sister.”
Right on, my sisters and brothers, indeed.