Black America

A Mother and her Son

I saw this yesterday on Mr. Solomon’s YouTube channel. This is a timely and vivid portrait of the pain a mother feels for the loss of her child. It is my prayer that we come to an end of the senseless and meaningless violence that takes the lives of so many sons and daughters in my community. Before anyone says “It is not my problem,” or “That’s not my neighborhood,” you must realize that someday it could be. Tomorrow may see our sons and daughters slain in the streets if we do not fight the hate of today and ignorance of yesterday. If our past is not our schoolmaster, our present will be our misery and a pit will be our future.

Peace.

To: The Woman in the Elevator From: The Black girl next door

Dear ________________________,

You happen to be my neighbor and I needed to share this with you. First and foremost, I am not one to take part in racially divisive discussions. Furthermore, I am nervous to even post this on a blog that I created to uplift our generation, not tear it down. However, what has been said of many of the people who look very similar to myself is appalling and incorrect. Before I go into any detail, this all began before Trayvon Martin was killed, before President Obama was elected, and even before Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America. This began before Reconstruction, before the founding of Howard University, and before Booker T. Washington graduated from Hampton University and came to Tuskegee. This that I speak of is institutional racism. This is the set of canned lines given when what I see as injustice must be justified as okay. This is deeper than Paula Deen saying a few bad words. This is the reason my parents had to endure forced integration. This is what the state that I was born, raised, and educated in struggles to correct when another one of my brothers is missing from the classroom. This is the reason for the coded language spoken about immigrants coming to this wonderful Nation.

However, I digress. What I am writing to inform you happened last year. You and I had never met, but we would cross paths in a night that has stained my mind forever. You see, I moved in next door after months of looking for somewhere to live. It all began with my parents, two Americans who raised my sisters and I to believe that we should go to college, go to graduate school, find a good job, and become productive members of our community (now, let me be clear, “our community” is America).

Unfortunately, my parents taught me all of these things south of the Mason-Dixon line. Yet, I believed it would all be possible in this rural town in east Alabama where you and I live. So, after months of searching through real estate websites, local listings, and pondering over savings, I settled on our condominium community. I was absolutely thrilled and terrified, all at once. I now had a mortgage! You must realize by now, since I see you watching me through the blinds and I have caught you writing down my tag number, that besides being Black, I am also young. Well, I was twenty-seven when I purchased this place. I had been through graduate school and the torment there should have made me leave this state. However, I stayed here to educate those behind me of all races. I ignored the notion that our generation would not buy property and saved some money. What I didn’t have, my parents and grandmother gave to help. I closed a few days before my birthday, cleaned up, and painted the walls a cool shade of blue. I was so proud of something that belonged to not only me, but my family.

A few nights later, I began to see some of our other neighbors. It never dawned on me that they were all white men, and larger than my 5’1” petite frame. I never thought to clutch my purse, lock my car doors, or cross to the other side of the narrow tree-lined streets in our neighborhood. Maybe I should have.

I know you have a real fear of what a man may do to you on an elevator, because I am a woman. But what of the two men that lived across from our building that tried to break down my door? What of these two men that made me fear living in my home? What of these two men that the police, who I thought would understand my side, but laughed in my face? What of these two men that, because they were inebriated, I was told everything was okay? What of these two men that were justified by race and alcohol? What of the two police officers that told me I was wasting their time and these two men wouldn’t do anything to me anyway…?

You know those neighbors of ours? They all laughed about it after they sobered up. They even taunted me when I would leave for work. No, I don’t need to march in the streets for this one. My grandmother already did it over fifty years ago. However, I wish instead of watching me through the blinds, you would have the mutual understanding that only another woman can have. Maybe I really am wishing on a star…

The events of the early hours of that Sunday morning allowed fear to live in the place of happiness for over a year. It has forced the realization that I do not have the privilege to call 911 and expect to be treated the same way you were when you suspected someone “suspicious” was walking through the neighborhood. It stopped me from coming to see if you needed help when you rang my doorbell after one of your loud parties. I only knew it was you when I found your vomit on my welcome mat. Don’t worry, I figured you were okay when you were watching me through the blinds again the next day. You still don’t speak when I try to wave and you don’t bother asking me if everything is okay. However, what you don’t realize is that you and I are both women of this generation with similar concerns. I wish I could get you to see that if I were on that elevator, I would wonder what you thought of me. I am now spending time with my parents, and will soon be renting out the condo. You won’t see much more of me and maybe you will feel more comfortable with whoever moves in. It is ironic, though, that I feel more at peace back in the neighborhood you would never want to get lost. I did love the pale blue walls and my beautiful teal kitchen, but I hate the dent that was left in my front door. I can’t let go of the image of the spit and mucous left on my welcome mat. Although I love this house, I would rather feel uncomfortable on an elevator than in my home.

Sincerely,

Your neighbor,
The Black girl with the Afro

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To: My son

This poem is written from my heart. It is not meant to offend anyone, so please look at this from an open mind. I am a single, Black woman, without children at this point. I want to get married and have children. I want to have a son. I would like to name him after my father, a man who raised three girls, loved his wife, and at one point worked four jobs while serving his country in the Navy. I want to have the type of family that I was raised in, an image of the American family. The only difference being that our skin had a little more pigment. I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, with friends that even today, represent all of America’s beautiful faces. However, what is below are the thoughts that many mothers of not only the past, but who live in this present, have when a son is born with brown skin and nappy hair. It is not politics, it is our reality everyday. I just hope that somehow we get to taste a little more of the dreams the kids of the 80s and 90s had, and less of the division and hate borne forth recently. To all out there, may peace follow our Nation as we endure these emotional times. Take care out there. -KTE

Although you are not here,
and I have not met you yet
These times your parents live in
Fill me with regret
For only the “y” you carry and the joy it should bring
has been overshadowed by the future your skin may gain
Anguish, pain and sorrow fill our Nation’s cup
Your people, our brethren weep from their hearts

This weeping that endures past night
and our hearts yearning for the truth
It’s for the men we see
and the pigment laden flesh
Which is rebuked at every step
and mocked
Even in death

It is for our sons, cousins, uncles, young men
Our fear spilling into the streets as
We hope and we pray
We watch and we wait
All we want is to be seen the same

Equal on all sides
Respected as belonging
To this nation we helped build,
For a time we forgot
We thought we over came
Naive were we
We thought blind was the justice game
The system we fought for
Fights us right back
to put us in our place
We hear some boldly say

So now
we are met with shame
From your mother’s heart this comes
as I pray not just for your life
That when you arrive you find
My present is your past
Your future just as bright
as anyone with a privilege to
Identify as white

However, my dear son
This prayer comes more for your
Earthly father
That he remains here to
Hold your small hands
To see you walk and
to watch you grow
Experience fatherhood
Demonstrate real manhood
Walk without fear wherever he may go
and never regret a place his foot steps
That this present does not steal our future
That together we help you reach your goals
That together we build a Godly home

This prayer, for you, for us, for our nation
For our people who look not just as you and I
From your mothers, sisters, aunts and friends
We hope for a future
We hold only in our hands
Closed to open hearts
Realized by salty wounds
If only we would
If only we could
If only our eyes will stay focused
If only our minds will stay clear
This future you exist in
Will be a better place than we live
I won’t have regret when I hear your heart beat
I won’t feel pain when I know you carry the
Why…
Because, my dear son, my small, sweet prince
Joy will come
Instead of Mourning
for you