Monday, January 30, 2023

A Mother's Song

 I was like many of you, completely appalled, horrified, and disgusted at the murder of Tyre Nichols.

He was just twenty-nine years old.

A son, a father, a free-spirit, a skateboarder. A man. An African American man who could be heard on the video asking, "What did I do?" To no response of his crime other than being a tall, skinny, Black man in Memphis, TN.

Must our color be our death sentence?

I've been asking this since the 90s when as a young woman I was first confronted with the video of the police beating down an unarmed Black man.

Rodney King.

And the incessant calls for AfricanAmericans to be peaceful in the midst of the most unpeaceful actions by those in law enforcement.

Back in the 90s, I was a newly divorced mom with three sons who moved from the big city back to my hometown with three really cute boys who would have white ladies stop and comment on how cute they were.

It was something I talked about when I led diversity training. Back when the boys were just boys and before Missouri and other states started criminalizing them ad nauseam.

1994 was when Missouri instituted the Safe Schools Act and it was not long after that when my oldest son, he just turned 36 yesterday, was met with the aggression of a white male teacher who was just itching to make a skinny, be speckled little boy pay for life because he was sun kissed.

My son is not a tall man, he inherited those diminutive genes from our family tree that barely reached 5'0, he is 5'2" and thin. When he was a little boy, he was a little boy, but had gumption and muscles.

He and I talk about him being in second grade and that white male teacher who yanked him by the backpack and was swinging him in the hallway, and my son instinctively pushed the grown man off him. The result was my son being charged. 

It took hiring an attorney and even the school counselor pleading with that judge and white man to drop the charges. The man was a grown grown man, my son was a tiny second grader and the man had struck him first.

Being a mother of African American sons in this country is hard.

It has always been hard.

We have poured out our lives for their sake in a society that doesn't deem them worthy of living

Now, I am blessed in that my son has made it to thirty-six. 

Despite two major attempts on his life the almost made it that I would be visiting a gravesite and not FaceTiming with him. 

He is an artist and intellectual. He owns his own business, and despite living with permanent disabilities because of being shot, he has a zest for life that is infectious.

Tyre deserved to live.

Like the litany of Black men and boys who have been slaughtered by this unjust and oppressive system, he deserved to live.

It didn't matter that the ones who beat him to death were Black.

They used to gather around for the spectacle of watching enslaved men fight to the death for a morsel of food. 

American history is replete with stories like this.

Boxing, football, all those bloodbath sports have an origin in how the monied classes used to watch people beat each other for just the hope of some kind of living.

That the white police officer has not been identified, has not been charged, and as far as we know as of this writing, has not been removed from office, is not unexpected.

Something in me thinks he made those officers do that beating, they went out to hunt. They were in a fraternity of death and hate, that Scorpion Squad. 

Did they think Tyre didn't belong there?

Do we ever belong in this society that counts our sun kissed skin as sin?

My heart weeps for Tyre's mother and also Bryonna's mother upon learning that these two young souls, both killed by police, share the exact same birthday - to the date. I weep for all the mothers we still don't know about.

What do we do?

My sister preacher in Memphis and fellow public theologian was called on to be there, she led a rally, she led a vigil, she was interviewed. Like me she hadn't watched the video but she said she heard his screams. She signed so deeply that I felt it all the way here.

We all sighed so deeply.

There were news reports and of course, the media trying to use it for ratings. They pulled out talking heads from protests-past and experts all trying to say the same thing that has been said ad nauseam.

None of this is in a vacuum, none of this is by accident, and none of it has to be this way.

What I hope and pray is for our shared humanity to shine.

But we have been hoping for that forever.

I don't know.

There aren't many words that make sense of what happened.

So I am choosing to center love and joy for my family and the people I'm blessed to come in contact with.

They told us that love is stronger than hate.

A sister friend sent me Psalm 27 this morning.

I read it.


And Again.

My faith compels me to believe that none of this is happening without God intervening on behalf of the oppressed.

That is the very reason God came down and walked this earth in human form.

My Oldest Son
The call of justice and righteousness has always been the cry of those marginalized by oppressive systems.

Surely, surely the Creator of theUniverse is hearing the cries of the martyred.

Whatever comes, what I do know is that we will still love, we will still find reasons to laugh. We, African Americans, have had to, not because we are better or stronger than anyone else, but because we want to have a life that is not all consumed by the forces of evil so much that we forget our humanity.

Maybe that is my song in my heart.

That we would look out and see the ImagoDei - the Images of God in all of us, this Creator of the Universe who so uniquely crafted us to be beautiful reflections of Godself.

If I didn't believe that, my heart would grow cold because as the calendar keeps turning any my age creeps up more and more. I don't want to grow cold and unfeeling.

Maybe that is why we have protested.

Why those who went out in the streets to speak to our shared presence on this earth, our shared right to live.

So much more is needed and I don't have answers.

I'm just a mom right now, feeling a mother's heart, musing.

Friday, January 6, 2023

All the Bodies

 There are lessons we gain in life, every moment of it, and sometimes those come from those we have nurtured to life.

I said something about this shifting wiggles of my body and my youngest child, second daughter said, "Mama, stop talking bad about your body."

It stopped me in my tracks.

Was that what I was doing in looking at the expanded middle-age middle and seeing more gray pop up in my twists or the ways my legs feel like weights when I walk up the stairs?

My oldest child and son who is now disabled because of multiple gun shots that left him with nerve damage and limited abilities for longer walks, told me that every day is a blessing and taught me some of the strength-building stretches he does so his aching legs don't atrophy.

The older daughter works out and taught me how to lift sets on the leg machines that would not tear apart the irreversible signs of aging knees. She, like me, has an autoimmune disease that is unpredictable in the ways it decides to flare. Exercise and lifting weights was empowerment.

There were so many lessons in what they were sharing with me, from the doctor who tried to shame my younger daughter who is what we call slim-thick, she will never be white girl pencil thin. 

Loving ourselves as Black women takes all the effort and energy in a country that repeatedly tells us that we are not enough, while white presenting Latinx and even some Asian women, have appropriated our style for their gain. All those TikTok millionaires and influencers, including some white gay men, have studied Black women for our flare for style, the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we wear our hair, all to their benefit and our detriment.

The C.R.O.W.N. act was blocked in the last congress by the older white men whose ancestors benefited from my ancestors cooking their meals and changing their sheets. 

Today is January 6, two years after those same kinds of people tried to declare that only white, wasp, and honestly, male bodies, were the ones that counted, the ones that mattered.

All the bodies that matter are all the bodies that live and breathe.

So when I stood in my mirror this morning and considered the lives I've carried and the lives I've lived, the lives I'm here because of, and the lives that are now my generations in the existence of my grandsons, I realized that she is beautiful, she is unique, she is wonderfully made, and for that, I celebrate. Anyhow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Every Right Partner

 I was sitting in my office doing some calendaring for 2023 when I had to pause, look out the window, and whisper a prayer of gratitude for my husband.

He is my best support system and a wonderful partner in life.

Over the course of the past twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-something years we have been together in this journey of life, we have each navigated through challenging career and educational moments, have shared in the joys of parenting, and more moves than either of us can count.

When he and I started out in this life together, we were each in our thirties. I had been married and divorced with sons, while he had dated, he had never had kids.  We took our time in getting to know each other, in committing ourselves to each other, and in getting those next degrees before we planned a wedding, bought a house, and lived together for the first time.

Needless to say, we could write a book about our experiences. 

He had already been a mentor so deeply understood the pre-pubescent male development needed for my two older sons. He brought compassion and a bit of gentle toughness that continued to reap benefits in their lives. My middle son is a committed married father and I know that he gained (even if he doesn't recognize it) his family man ways of being from how my husband provided for and cared for our family.

Over the course of more-years-married than either of us have been single, we have raised five children to adulthood, gained a few more degrees, supported our children's dreams, and figured out some things about how to be in relationships.

We are imperfect people who try to live this thing called life with as much grace and love as we can.

He and I have our quirks. When we got married, it was almost decided that he would do all the cooking and I would supervise the boys in doing the dishes, managing the house, and just overall making sure we were not walking on piles of stuff everywhere. He does not like to tidy up, but after all these years together, I have found him standing over a sink of dishes or vacuuming and he has found me surprising him with a Sunday brunch or two. We navigated.

So it is in this unusually warm Wednesday in this first week of the first month of a new year that I had to pause and just appreciate him.

He has made an impact in the lives of so many people. He has made it possible for our adult children to know they have a safe place to share their dreams, to come home to if needed, and to always know they had our support.

As I am preparing for my continuing transition from being primarily a work-at-home mom raising the last of our children, I am appreciating all it took for him to be the pretty much sole provider of our household. He didn't place demands on income-contributing-employment of me that enabled me to focus on our children, to be an contributing member of the community, to run for office, to write and be published, to go back to school, to preach, to teach, and to do everything else I was able to do when I was not in that full-time, demanding, marketing career that I had when we started out.

We are empty-nesters now and as my youngest daughter is a freshman in college with a busy social schedule, I'm looking at my ways-of-being in the world differently. I don't need to just be hybrid/work-at-home in my writing/ministry/social justice career. I am facing possibilities.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently said that marriage is not 50/50, it can't be.She shared that there were times she was annoyed with Former President Barack Obama, like how many diapers did you change, kind of annoyed. As an Ivy-league trained attorney and the one who was making more money than he was when they met, she put aside some of her aspirations for the aspiration of what they wanted for their family. Now that their children are adults, she is navigating her new identity in intriguing ways, inspiring ways.  

My husband and I are in the same kind of life moment.  

He probably couldn't tell you where everything is in this house like I can and how I kept up with our daughters' doctor appointments and schedules. I didn't have to deal with people in the world the way he did with his career in academia. We balanced.

That balance is what I hope we shared with our children. Two of them are in relationships, one, as mentioned, is married with children.  We have modeled that it is alright to do this dance of time and positioning so that the hopes for your family are realized.

With the right partner and right understanding of each other's gifts, dreams, and aspirations, there is almost nothing that can't be achieved.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Only Resolution is to Love

Happy New Year!

Well, Happy New First Monday of the Year!

I made an intention not to wax nostalgic about 2022, not to make lists of all that was accomplished, and not to make resolutions for 2023.

"all roads lead to now." That is something my oldest son has been saying all during the holiday break, a time with us that was extended another week because of Southwest Airlines. 

Watching him be in the moment, to soak it all in, and simply enjoy life, gave me a great sense of joy and hope.

If you are like so many of us, it has been a bit of a fog through uncertainties, much like the misty rain I drove through on New Year's Eve from Boston to Connecticut, the visibility was not always clear, my wiper blades got a workout, and we had to navigate a couple new roads as we took a different highway.

The time from 2020 to this new year in 2023 has definitely presented that way, with all that has gone on in the world, so greeting this new day gave me just a sense of being - present.

I decided to be in the moment of making my annual Soup Joumou to celebrate my heritage in Haiti, Cap-Haitien to be exact. It is my connection to my 1776 ancestor who was born there before the family came to New Orleans. The Island of Hispaniola flows through me, so I let myself feel the savory sweet preparations.

For me, it was different in that I started prepping around midnight.

Our family filled with adult children all had varying plans so it was more of a low-key kind of day, my oldest son and I had spent it in Boston after he was there a few days with his little brother. One of my daughters took the train to New York to visit a college friend, and my youngest one, as a college freshman, had so many friends to visit that she has almost been a blur over break.  

He and I watched movies and brought in the new year with joy.

Making the soup with all the different steps and watching it form was my way of making an offering into what I hoped for the new year.

I made soup, then for our African American heritage, made a pot of black-eyed peas and some rice. My oldest son has been with us for the holiday for the first time in about twenty years, so he, my husband and I sat down for this hearty healthy meal.

Once we sat down, we knew there were new moments forming as we all talked about how the time was changing and we cherished about how much we appreciated being together this holiday season.

That said, we still only uttered prayers of appreciation but resolved not to make any grand resolutions of who we would be or what we would do in 2023.

"All roads lead to now, Mama." My oldest son uttered this mantra so many times, he will be thirty-six years old at the end of January and as a small business owner, artist, and creative, he is a muse that observes the world and is definitely present in his experiences. 

I am thankful for what I have lived and for what lies ahead. 

My late father once said when he was a few years younger than I am that he had more days behind him than in front of him. That reality is hitting me a bit differently as I am entering a new year for the first time in decades as the mom of all adults.

Life is like all the waterways we crossed over while catching a day trip in Boston and driving back down to Connecticut. 

Each one flowed differently in directions that vastly impacted the life around it, but each one only seemed to have an intention of being present. 

That is what I want.

To be present in all the moments of my life.

So I didn't spend the day reminding myself of what I accomplished or what I hope to accomplish.

We chilled out for the New Year, I didn't even watch parades but spent it reading a book, listening to the alternating sounds of laughter and sleep that engulfed my tired and busy young adults as the season of holidaying started coming to a close. We just wanted to be.

To be present with each other and in the moments we share.

To feel what we were feeling of joy and happiness.

To simply live.

So if we do have a hope and dream it is to be present in our moments.

To just be.

The only resolution is to love. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________©2023 by Taye Foster Bradshaw Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This writer is enjoying soup for breakfast and a warm latte on a "record warm" morning in Connecticut.