A Note To The Unconventional Mother

She wasn’t there on birthdays, or Christmas. In fact, I am not sure once they reached adolescence if they even remembered her face. Though I hope they did. I hope that when they reached deep inside themselves for memories the institution told them to forget, they saw her-her full Afro. That in deafening silence they remembered the sound of her heartbeat from the inside. That during the cold spells of life they remembered the warmth of her body as they sat on her thighs as children. I hope they recognized their features as hers when they shifted from baby to toddler, from toddler to kid, from kid to adult long removed from the embrace of the womb that birthed them.

To the system she was just another young girl who fell victim to the streets, but it was not the streets that consumed her. The same system consumed her foremothers centuries prior, whose children would also become strangers. They too would forget her face, long for her touch, and go through life unable to identify the woman who gave them life. She would endure centuries of caring for other people’s children, but unable to even touch her own. The process would blind a family to their kin, but cripple a collective from a culture that was stripped and ripped away generation after generation.

The contemporary world bullies the unconventional mother.  The nuanced narrative demonizes the black female body for falling prey to the same systemic pressures that severed the black family centuries ago–foreshadowing contemporary catastrophes that keep us in conflict. The black woman remains expected to rise above what she is conditioned  to ignore. She is a murderer for sparing her child the hurt from a world she is not yet prepared to shield them from. She is a crook for using what white Women use religiously without label or consequence. She is pegged as “doing what she is supposed to do” if she’s given an opportunity to mother like her foremothers were not. Good mothering, with regard to the black female body is normalized, but the black female is not. By this, I mean that the conventional “goodness” of black female mothering is deemed “normal” behavior, but abnormal when aligned with the vernacular perception of the black female body.  There is however, nothing normal about black women who are able to weather the storm and steer their familial ship safely to shore. There isn’t enough appreciation for the black mother for the sheer feat of seeking to produce in a  world that nurtures the black body to a lifetime of  consumerism.

An always solicited supporter for every faction in conflict, the black female collective bleeds love, yet are only able to salvage a small about of love to live on. The black female does not just  merely live on this love, she creates life in love. She is the womb and the woman. The mother and child of the Diaspora. The keeper of culture. She is the girl in the garden, and the girl of the garden watered in tears of joy and sorrow amidst what should have been a devastating drought. She, and I use this pronoun to reference a collective, not only grew but gave.

The black female form is a mother everyday and not just to those she pushed from her womb. The black female form is a mother to those who were cut from the womb of mother continent Africa, and to those who did the cutting. Her breasts sucked women of all colors.Thus, the greatest gift we can give the black mother of past and present, is to embrace her unconventionality.  To acknowledge those excluded from the intentions of this capitalistic opportunity called a holiday—to realize that appreciation should not be because the white world said to do so on this day, but a daily praxis of purpose for those seeking to acknowledge she who is not woman or mother in the eyes of a racist country, but who embodies the roots to a tree cut down in our failure to remember our foremothers. 

She like the space where they would meet for brief encounters for a short period of time, is physically gone and even forgotten to some. The bond with her offspring however,  remains impenetrable and intangible. They cannot tarnish what they cannot touch–this is one benefit of her coerced absented-presence. Whether she lives in the projects, a mansion, check-to check, or in the sky, she lives in us. Our mothers as individuals embody that from which we came, that which runs through our veins.

To the mothers tossed overboard into the sea. To those thrown into a hole in a ground with no label. To those with empty wombs and empty hearts for children they won’t meet again in life—we love you and we are ever-grateful for your sacrifice. 

Black Power ❤

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Until the lion has a historian, the hunter will always be a hero-Chinua Achebe Twitter: @womanistwriter Email: whispersofawomanist@gmail.com E-Portfolio:catherinecsaunders.weebly.com

4 thoughts on “A Note To The Unconventional Mother

  1. Painful yet beautiful. There’s only one man in my life who I love and respect as my father but there’s three black women in my life that I call mom. And this post reminds me of how each has in her own special and unconventional way have mother’d me and the rest of their children in spite of the many obstacles placed in their paths and lack of access to conventional resources. Black women are like the gravity that have held our world together and weatherd all storms. We need to do more to show our support for black women and your goals and dreams. We are a blessed people in spite of all that we’ve been through. Thanks for this post. I will share this with the women in my family.

  2. Black power indeed!!! What an beautifully bittersweet read. This truth should encourage our behavior of being grateful.

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