If you are new to my blog, let me say that I am a proud 47yr old Black American Mom that talks about the gritty-ness of being Black American, Co-Parenting, Growing Old with my Womanhood and Racism. I’m Black American. I descend from American Chattel Slaves and I am PROUD OF IT. Anti-Black American sentiments, colorism and stupidity is not welcome in this space.
We good? Read on.
I talked to my Auntie Shirley, yesterday. For the last three years or so, I love having these private chats with my Auntie. As she gets older, she shares memories of my Momma with me that expound on things my Mother told me about when she was living. It is like getting a front row seat to the things that shaped my Mother and that also shaped her trauma.
My Momma used to say “you’ll know me more in death, than you will in life… you’ll miss me when I’m gone.”
She never lied.
I didn’t know her well while she was living. She was surviving, not thriving. All her energy went into making sure I thrived. The fruits of her sacrifice — I’m here, a fairly brilliant educated woman, with a great start to my career in the early days, a devoted Mother and a Black American Woman filled with pride because I know where I come from.
As I laughed with my Auntie Shirley, I mentioned how Black Americans have been suffering over 400+ years of employment, medical, social, fiscal and educational apartheid. I mentioned how it used to hurt me so much when my Mother used to look at the scars from picking cotton that were ingrained in her hands and burst out in tears. She some times would cry and cry and cry into the night. Just looking at her hands triggered some very hurtful memories. As we talked, my Auntie said something that literally brought me to tears, “they used to pull us off the school bus and make us pick cotton”. And just like that, I was quietly balling on the other end of the phone. I didn’t let her know I was crying, but that cut me deep.
My Momma was “big brained”. She loved learning. She loved school until undergrad. She skipped a grade. She was always on the honor roll. To think, she loved learning so much and worked so hard; that she did all of that while having to miss days to pick f’ing cotton is hurtful and infuriating. She used to tell me about missing days from school to pick cotton. I used to feel so bad for her, but when my Aunt told me they were yanked off the bus — I felt so angry at all the shit I ever gave her. I felt angry at the injustice my family had to endure while they were sharecropping. I felt angry at the American government and racist white people who propped up Jim Crow laws and made lives for Black Americans a living f’ing hell.
Then my Aunt said “Yeah she could pick some cotton. Your Mother was competitive and she would pick as much cotton as the boys. Imagine your Mother picking up to 200lbs of cotton. She would even sometimes break down the bales and put them on her back.”
And my heart sank.
I used to complain about hauling the laundry to the laundromat. I used to be super angry about having to haul that shhhh on my back. I complained about doing the dishes. During my teenage years, I wanted nothing to do with being domestic. I gave her so much hell about who I thought I should be and who I thought she should be to me.
… but I didn’t know her story. I just knew she had deep trauma from the Jim Crow South and the reason I even exist is because she made the Great Migration to Chicago from Hayti / Caruthersville Missouri for a better life.
I’m 47 gotdamn years old. If my Momma had’ve lived she would have been 72. She died when she was 46. So much trauma affected her life. She suffered from depression and it crippled our relationship until a year before her death. I still have so many questions and I have my own trauma from our tumultuous relationship to work through.
As the conversation drew to a close with my Auntie, I said to her “I want this pandemic to blow over, because I want you to come down here and spend some time in my beautiful house.” She then said to me, “I would give any amount of money to have your Mother, my Sister, come down from heaven and visit with you and see how wonderful you turned out. She would be so proud of you. You were her pride and joy. She kept her foot on your neck so that you would turn out to have a good life. I would give anything for her to see you and your baby. I would give anything for her to see your good life.”
My heart started to burst with love, joy and sadness all at the same time. I’m a sharecropper’s granddaughter. My Momma picked cotton. This wasn’t that long ago. I am the descendant of American Chattel Slaves. And I’m proud.
So your Black Lives Matter message may be only for a moment, but for me it is a f’ing lifetime and I will forever be proud of where I come from. I will forever be proud of that young girl that picked up to 200lbs of cotton in the Jim Crow South, she was my Mother. She was a brilliant Black American Woman.
I’m sorry they pulled you off that bus Momma and you still demonstrated intellectual excellence and moxie, in spite of Jim Crow. God Bless you. Thank you for being my Momma.