Thursday, January 31, 2008

Strong Women Run Young

Generations and centuries ago, I believe one of my foremothers prayed for the strength of her female lineage. I believed she looked up at the midnight sky and hoped for a time different than the time of limitations. I believe my Grandmother, born in 1896, also looked up at the midnight sky and prayed for a different future for her female lineage. I believe my mother, born in 1924, held back by the limitations of racism and sexism, looked up at the midnight sky and prayed for a different future for her female lineage. I, born in 1964, look up at the midnight sky and pray for a future of possibility and unlimited fulfillment for my two daughters, born in 2001 and 2003.

The great cloud of witness of these strong women are envisioned sitting on a high spiritual mountain looking down on the two girls, the 8th generation from our known beginning. They must be smiling at the six-year-old who is ever considerate, responsible, observant, problem-solving, creative, dancing, and writing. She is the one who prances around like the little princess she is.

This butterfly princess was clearning the dining room table, preparing for the evening ritual. She sang a song that was made up as she cleared. I don't think she realizes how prophetic the words of her simple, sing-song ditty. This little song repeated and her younger sister, the four-year-old warrior princess, chimed in, repeating verses with her sister. I smiled silently at this song and wondered if she really knew that she was singing for the many women in her lineage.

"I will survive, nothing can stop me. Whatever I want to do. No one can stop me. I can survive. If I want to buy a house, I will buy it myself. If I want to buy a car, I will buy it myself. Nothing can stop me. I will do what I want to do. I will be what I want to be, no one can stop me. I will survive. I won't get scared. Stop and see me. Buying my stuff that I need. No one can tell me stop that, no can tell me not to do that. I can survive. Up downs or down downs, I will survive. Nothing can stop me. If flying is what I want to do. I will survive by myself."

I listened to the song she sang and her little voice ringing in my mind. Our first mother, born in Hispaniola, in Santo Domingo, in a time long ago, had to survive. She was kidnapped by a Frenchman who was captivated by her exotic beauty. She and her five-year-old daughter traveled with this man to New Orleans under the promise to be assimilated into the Creole society, the free people of color. Her price for this was her silence and her allegance to him as his wife, if she refused, he would immediately sell her into slavery, her exotic, quadroon beauty would've fetched a high price. She survived for her self and her daughter.

I think she sang a song in her native Spanish to herself and her daughter, little Ester, and promsied that they would survive. They did survive. Ester grew up in the social graces of the unique New Orleans society of free people of color. She was a little girl and quickly learned French and used her native Spanish to speak to the servants on their plantations and in their cane fields. She survived, she married a French man and had a daughter. This daughter would move to St. Louis, marry a free black man and set the stage for multiple generations after her.

My daughter's song rings in my ears as I think of this first foremother, on that beautiful Caribbean island, just going to the market to get fabric for little Ester's birthday dress. I think of her innocent acceptance of the newly arrived ships and cargo that was often traded with the French, Spanish, and free people of color that populated this once united island. She must have been scared when he lured her onto the ship with the promise of beautiful silk from the Orient. Perhaps little Ester's eyes grew wide at the possibility of something new, even as my little girls' eyes grow wide at the promise of a new dress, toy or pretty thing.

I wrote out the generations from this first mother and found a common thread among the women, they are strong, they are overcomers, they are survivors. They navigated a closed society in the times before women had the right to vote and people of color were enslaved. They managed to maintain their culture and upbringing through life's challenges. In the heart of these women was a spirit and a strength that is indominable. It has reached to the 8th generation, young women determined and tenacious, ready to change the world.

Yes little daughter, you will survive, you are strong, you are bold, you are promise.

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