As mom sat with her head held high ready to be called up to receive her certificate for community leadership, I felt a great sense of appreciation and gratitude. This is what she has always done in her community-way before this recognition ceremony. This is also the second graduation I attended for my mother. What a privilege. The first was when she graduated from Brooklyn College in the early 80’s. I was just as proud to be her daughter then, as I am now. She had no idea what she was setting into motion for her daughters being all innovative and hardcore and shit. The worst thing she ever did was to raise four daughters who are each a manifestation of her truth; it came back to bite her. See, in the not so distant past (although everything seems prehistoric before the internet) where many of my peers lost their mothers to the streets, “another one bites the dust” was not an understatement. Nameless and faceless was the rule and not the exception. Father figures were something of a myth with a phantom like quality. Whatever level your mother was functioning on — anything was better than not having a mother at all. A mother on crack and running the streets was definitely better than no mother at all; a fate common amongst neighborhood kids. If your mom came from the school of thought “you gotta have a man” then any man would do and would be in the home with an all access pass to her children. Now, there wasn’t a huge difference between what was happening in other communities across America except for the compactness of the situation and the ability to alleviate it. If you think of regular sandwich bread and the type of sandwich it’s originally designed for; think about constantly adding layers and layers of meat, veggies and other stuff in between the two slices of bread. Individually, none of these foods are the culprit but combined there will be an impact on the integrity of the bread. These were the women in my community. There were no buffers no protection and no alleviation. Cops rolled up slowly and mostly always too late. The beauty of being born was lost somewhere in between those two slices of bread. The belief that you are supposed to be at the bottom set in slowly like rigamortis. Hitting rock bottom wasn’t a far enough drop. Substance abuse, physical, psychological and emotional abuse took out many women of color born before the 1960’s. Racism, classism, sexism, poorism, blackism were all “isms”;just a part of everything else they had to manage — factor that all in and if you still decided to survive leaning in a forward motion then thriving is not going to be easily attand. Where the outside world could not survive in these conditions, a news van was often on my block for a guaranteed quick news story, “there goes that news van again…”
In the mist of all that, my mother gathered her tools and redefined the rules. She was a private person — to and from work she went. Never hung out in the streets. On the phone any given time, telling a neighbor, “If your daughter is sexually active that mean she needs to know that storks are not a factor in any part of this”. My friends came to my house to cook and to use real knives. To cut up veggies and other stuff. To eat salad which wasn’t considered food back then. My mother is a complex woman and was not exempt from the pull of substance abuse. Remember when I said earlier, that the worst thing my mother ever did was to raise four daughters who are each a manifestation of her truth. There were times, in the not so distant past, where my sisters and I had to step out of daughter mode and become the women our mother created. She had no idea what she instilled in us and in a way it backfired on her. She was out powered and outnumbered. We reclaimed our mother at all cost. Breaking all the rules. Violating her darkness. It got ugly at times. WE tag teamed like no bodies business. We were like the cartoon character Voltron. The individual tigers were good but together -united they kicked ASS! The worst thing she did was to give birth to four daughters that held her in her truth. I am currently back in daughter mode I enjoy being here. Where mom could be mom and daughter could be daughter. Awesome place to be.