Say their names: Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Freddie Gray, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Christian Taylor, Michael Brown Jr, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Laquan McDonald, Yvette Smith, Jamar Clark, Rekia Boyd, Sheresse Francis, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins Jr, Sean Bell, Kendra James, LaTanya Haggerty, Dustin Parker, Ruiz, Dustin Parker. Ahumad Arbery, Philando Castille, Pamela Turner, Korryn Gaines, Atatiana Jefferson, Shante Davis. The list doesn’t end here. Say their names, say their names. SAY. THEIR NAMES!
Some of these names we know all to well. They have become household names in their deaths and they have become hashtags that some of us use on a consistent basis. All of these names are of people who have lost their lives at the hands of the police and racist vigilantes. While I write these names and you read them, my soul aches for the countless times the lives of our brothers and sisters have been cut short at the hands of racism. As I see name after name become a hashtag, my heart goes out and aches for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and children that have had to bury a loved one — To have their loved ones names be on the world’s lips not because of the lives they lived but how they died. Another month passes, another name, maybe one, two, three names. We learn new names like we learn our addition facts, but before the ink dries and the full name can escape our lips another one comes. Another name to say, another name to mourn, another person gone — So many names, too many names. This is my version of America. I can’t bring myself to watch anymore videos of black men and women lives being taken, the visuals too triggering and traumatic to bear. Instead I read, read the words uttered as George Floyd struggled beneath the weight of another racist soul; and how he repeatedly cried out for his mother. My heart broke. As a mom to read how someone cried for their mother as they were dying, it hit me in such a deep way.
Before we go any further I would like to post one of my favorite quotes:
As our country has time and time again shown black people how they feel about us. The constant need to (in true fashion of their whiteness) pillage their way through our culture, profit off the backs of black people only to discard us without a second thought. It’s exhausting to say, to scream and shout “Black Lives Matter” only for people to turn and say but what about. No more we have had enough. The words of Malcolm X still ring true today as they did at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I find myself feeling America is in a constant racist loop, the only thing changing is the year.
As a black mother I get overwhelmed with the thought of what would I do, what I would say, how I would behave if something were to happen to Sophina. It’s a thought that I have constantly. I think about having conversations with Sophina regarding race and how to better equip her to be ready for racism. I struggle with how to teach her to have an unshakeable foundation, so when adversity comes her way she will not fall. Then I have this thought, you can do all of this and they can still shoot your baby dead. It wont matter that Sophina is charismatic, loving, intelligent, friendly, compassionate, empathetic, funny and beautiful. It won’t matter that my baby is amazing. They can still shoot her, keep it so that she has no air to breathe or treat her with no decency. IT WON’T MATTER, because in their eyes she’s just a black girl. She’s a threat. The feeling of helplessness I’ve been consumed over these last few weeks has left me with no option but to check out. I’m tired ya’ll… down to my soul. WE ARE TIRED. As the country, actually, the world began to erupt with protests, I started to research materials to have this much needed conversation with Soph. I thought I had more time, but then I had to think about Tamir Rice and the fact that he was only 12. So then it became an if not now… then when? When will I equip her with the tools, when will I educate her. If not now, then when? I wanted to be intentional in her instruction and keep it age appropriate, because I will fight tooth and nail to have my child treated as a child. It is important to me to maintain her childhood innocence.
I’ve spent the last few days researching resources and materials I felt would equip me with the skills I needed to educate Soph. I don’t remember having any talk with my parents around race, I just remember being young when racist things would happen. How my parents responded and also feeling confused. It wasn’t until I got to Howard University that I felt that I was equipped with how to deal with racism head on, and I remember thinking you’ll teach your kids earlier. I keep thinking back to the time while I was pregnant with Sophina and I had a conversation with my therapist at the time, surrounding race and raising my child. I thought because she was a black mother, we could have a dialogue with honesty, maybe get pointers on what she did. I was met with respectability politics and that I shouldn’t focus on race so much. Man, I had never been so disappointed in my life, because I thought “How can I not focus on race when that’s all white people focus on?” How is race not a factor when its always a factor to even the so-called “color blind” people who make race a thing? You can miss me with that. So with the help of friends, Google and some black owned businesses I have begun to cultivate a list of resources and materials to use in my effort to educate Sophina. Below I have listed steps and everything I will use as I began to help Sophina navigate race in America as a young black girl and I share them with you.
- Make a plan: Sit down and think about the most important things you want your child to know and how you want to show them. Whether it be with videos, picture books, etc. That will help you navigate your search for additional teaching aids.
- Make it age appropriate or developmentally appropriate: As a teacher, I am very concerned on giving my students information at their level. I do the same for Sophina. That doesn’t mean I don’t introduce complex topics or words, I just do it in a way that is meaningful to her, something she is able to understand, internalize and retain.
- Make it a point to stress the importance: Often times I make the mistake of explaining something to Sophina that is important but forgetting to mention that this topic is important we need to pay attention.
- Use everyday things as talking points or lessons: Sometimes the opportunity presents itself, grab it by the horns.
- Express and notate good and bad: Now I’m not one to jump on the “not all” bandwagon, but I think it is important to stress the importance of race as a black person and also notate that not all other people are bad. Especially when they are children. This will give them the ability to discern later.
- Lastly, ask them questions: How does that make you feel? If someone was mean to you because you are black lets talk about what that would feel like? Has anyone ever said anything mean to you because you are black? You would be surprised at the answers you get.
- These Books below are Great Conversation Starters
As a mother I want to do my part to overthrow racist America. I believe that part of that work includes educating my black child on her history, her present and what her future could be. I want to raise a radical, unashamed, joyful black girl, because her very existence is an act of resistance. To quote dear sister Mamie Til-Mobley, “The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.” So Mamas, keep your heads up, soul, hearts and minds protected, and keep on fighting; because the “revolution will not be televised” – Gil Scott-Heron
Until next time loves,