My grandparents preserved my history, and my parents helped me to understand it. I am the proud product of my environment. I was allowed to spend extended amounts of time with my grandparents. Kids rarely understand the importance of the stories our grandfathers tell us. Nor do we grasp the power of the songs our grandmothers sing. I surely didn’t. Out of respect, I listened; and I am quite sure that to my grandparents it seemed as though their verbal meanderings fell on deaf ears. But I did listen. I listened as Grandpa talked of Crispus Attucks and the paradox of freedom for the Black man in America. I listened as Ukulu, the African word I was taught as a toddler to use when referring to my mother’s mother, explained the history of Prince Hall masons as we drove to New Orleans for the annual convention. I waited patiently under the picture of Marcus Garvey as Grandma Gayle sang “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” with vigor at seven o’clock in the morning as she cooked breakfast for my cousin and I. Without my permission, and much to my surprise, I internalized these things. They were important to me, but I didn’t know why.
Enter my parents: two strong-willed people who are alike in values and differences in practice. My father was determined to raise a hard-working independent woman who could defy expectations. My mother was driven to raise an empowered independent woman who would exceed expectations. (No pressure) My father bought me two sets of encyclopedias by the time I was eight in the event I needed to compare information (I was in school before Google). Mom bought me Josephine Baker paper doll sets and Nikki Giovanni poetry. Dad spoke of the Triangle Slave trade and its impact on the Caribbean. They filled in the gaps of African American history for me. They articulated and exposed me to some of my strongest values.
Then, in 2015, at the age of 31, I became a mother. Somehow those stories and songs took on an ever deeper meaning. I wanted to live my best life for my child, because he deserves to live his. The only way I can hope to improve his quality of life now and in the future is if I improve mine, in every way. I suddenly saw the absolute need for routines, and budget, calendars, and self-care.
I struggled. I still struggle. And I refuse to do it in silence or alone. Black women are catalysts by nature. Motherhood shouldn’t suppress that, it should feed it. And yet I noticed that more often than not we stifle each other by trying to adapt traits that never belonged to us anyway. It put me on a journey to find out what mindful Black parenting looks like.
I am the culmination of the stories and songs of my grandparents, parables of my father, and poems from my mother. Those stories and songs got me through my darkest hours. I am merely attempting to add new chapters. To help write the next legacy of my family. One that is free from the bondage of generational curses; free from the debts of guilt and shame we should no longer be made to pay. The thoughts and lessons I’ve learned on this journey keep me sane. They give me hope that the sun shines at the end of the tunnel. May these thoughts and lessons provide a flicker of light in yours.