Tag Archives: Black motherhood

How dare you? The story of Kelley Williams-Bolar

26 Jan

For the vast majority of women bringing a child into the world triggers something so deep and so primal within that until we take our last breath we will forever be conditioned to put the health and welfare of our child first. (Obviously there are exceptions) I saw this clearly in my mother’s last weeks and days, after having brain surgery to remove a fast growing tumor, when she finally became conscious she was not the same person she was prior to the surgery. But she never forgot she was a mother, the last conversations she was clearly able to articulate centered on my brother and I, telling my father to remember our birthdays, etc. One of the last conversations she had with me was by phone and she was so weak…yet when the nurse put her on the phone, she whispered daughter.  So weak that she could not utter my given name yet she knew I was her child.  It was at that moment I realized that mothering never stops; it simply changes shape even when our children become adults as I am now learning with my own son.

That said, no matter what our financial circumstances we all want the best for our children. In today’s world we are seeing a revolution in mothering which we see clearly being played out within social media, on television and books. Many women in my generation (Gen X) are refashioning our lives to be the best mothers we can be for our children as evidenced in the rise of stay at home mothers. Yet for women with meager financial resources, doing one’s best can take many forms, going to school so that we can eventually get better paying jobs, etc.

This brings me to Kelley Williams Bolar, a Black mother currently serving a 10 day sentence in Ohio. Her crime? Sending her children to an out of district school as her local school was neither safe nor adequate. Ms. Williams-Bolar made the choice to do the best for her kids by sending her kids to an out of district suburban school that incidentally her father, the kid’s grandfather resides in. However this is a crime. The reality though is that this sort of thing has been going on forever, perhaps if schools were not funded so unfairly in our nation a parent would not have to make the decision to break the law in order to make sure that their kids receive an adequate education.

I won’t say that Williams-Bolar didn’t break the law but her punishment for a crime that if we are honest is victimless is 10 days in jail, probation and community service. More importantly because she was convicted of a felony, she now risks being disqualified to teach. See, Williams-Bolar is a senior in college looking to pursue a career in education; she currently works as a teacher’s aide. Apparently the judge wanted to make an example out of Williams-Bolar and deter others from skirting the law. Now as you can guess, the area Williams-Bolar resides in is predominantly Black and poor and the schools she sent her kids to was predominantly white and middle class.

There are some who are saying that race should not be an issue, but let’s be honest. Do you think this would have happened had Williams-Bolar been white? Of course not! Oh, she may have been caught and there may have been repercussions but a felony? Not likely.

While mothering and motherhood is simply not valued in this culture, I think it’s even less valued when the mother is a woman of color. Historically Black women were not allowed to mother our own kids; instead we were forced to mother other’s kids. It’s why the image of the Mammy still exists, we are seen as mothers of others but not our own kids. I think this is why it’s shocking to some when we see a Black mother fighting to mother her own kids and give the best we can to our kids. It’s why Black stay at home Moms are still perceived as oddities even in solidly middle class neighborhoods. It’s why when a Black mom shows up to be a class helper or accompany the class to the field trip we are looked at with skepticism. Its why even in the blogosphere there are literally only a handful of mothers of color whose blogs are highly rated and last time I checked while there are plenty of Mamas who have turned mothering into a money making venture with blogs that are producing real income and book deals. I have yet to see a Black or Latina mother receive these same accolades and rewards. Our mothering is simply not valued. This along with classism and racism is why Kelly Williams-Bolar is sitting in a jail cell as I type this separated from her kids with her future looking not too bright.

The only real crime in my eyes that Kelley is guilty of is wanting a better life for her kids yet doing that in a system that does not value her as a mother, a woman and most certainly a poor person.

Mother’s Day

8 May

If you are a regular reader then you know that my mother is deceased. She passed away 5 years ago of cancer, seemed like she was recovering but at the last minute fate decided it was not to be and she left this world. Too soon in my opinion.

My Mom was my best friend and to some degree (as much as possible between mother and child) I was her best friend. She entrusted me with her secrets, and knew that no matter what she could count on me, just as I could count on her. Though to this day, I still beat myself up that I was not at her side when she passed. Sadly I could not get a flight to get home that day and was planning on getting home the next morning. However death waits for no man or woman.

However in the years since her death there is one day that really makes me crazy and its Mother’s Day. See on the anniversary of her death, I can keep my misery to myself and fake a happy face. Same with her birthday and even my birthday.

Yet Mother’s Day is one of those days that no matter where you go, you see images of mothers and their kids. Go out to eat and its the same thing. In fact I hate being out shopping anywhere near Mother’s Day as folks assume you are in need of a gift for your mother. Um, nope…my Mom is dead. Just shopping for myself.

Now I know folks who love to cry well its just a made up holiday, funny thing is I haven’t met too many folks who say that if their mother is deceased. In fact among women and men I know whose mothers are deceased Mother’s Day serves as a reminder of what you don’t have. Even if your mother was a raving bitch, imagery of mothers still can send you over the edge,. I know because my own mother had a strange relationship with her mothers.

There was her birth mother who decided when my mom was 9 months that she didn’t want to be a mother anymore, so she left my Mom and her father…this was the 1950’s so it was a tough time for my Mom. My Mom eventually met her birth-mother at 16 and they did end up having a relationship, in fact since my Mom’s death I have come to know birth -grandma as I call her. Then there was my Mom’s step-mother whom she had a rather tumultuous love hate relationship with. In some ways I think it was because my mother did not have the type of mother that she wanted and needed that she was driven to be super-mom with her own kids. She was a stay at home Mama at a time (70’s-80’s) when more women were going to work, instead choosing to be home with us.

She was a good mother though a deeply flawed person….look, I admit a lot but sharing my Mom’s flaws isn’t going  happen.  No, she had her flaws and yet the older I get I am learning from them, though many days I wish she was here to get guidance from.

So Mother’s Day is bittersweet at best and while many would say but you have your own kids, indeed I do but even grown up Mothers some times wish we had our Mommies.

For those who have your mothers in your life, I say honor and cherish her and not just one Sunday out of the year but all the time. I always assumed my Mom and I would become gray-haired old ladies together but now she’s gone. I should add if your Mom is not in your life due to issues then feel free to discard my advice. If your Mom is gone, then enjoy  the memories of her that make you smile. Over the years I can finally look back without bursting into tears and on Sunday there will be white flowers on my table to honor my mother. In the African-American churches that I was familiar with as a child, on Mother’s Day women would wear either a red or white flower. Red indicated that your mom was alive, and white that she had passed on.  So while I am not inclined to wear a flower, instead they will be on my table reminding of how my Mom always used to say get me flowers while I am alive because I don’t need em while I am dead. Like my Mom, I have grown to like flowers, they add a certain energy to the house.

If you are a Mom, happy Mother’s Day to you.

Mamahood is the new hustle but where are the sistas?

10 Jan

For the past year or so as I have gotten really into reading blogs, I have noticed this strange phenomenon, average every day women who happen to be mothers who have taken the art of mothering into something blog-worthy yet they also make a few extra bucks via these ventures. Now what I am about to say here is not new since a few months ago a sista did an amazing article for Bitch magazine talking about this exact thing, but this is my spin on it.

Yep, there are all sorts of Mommy bloggers out there as well as Mommy zines, even books about average every day mothering, which is cool since I love seeing what other Mamas are doing to stay sane and keep their wee ones engaged. However I have noticed a small, ok maybe a large problem. Where are the women of color bloggers? Zine? Books? I mean seriously, for every one black woman waxing poetically about the joys of motherhood, knitting, cooking and just living life (like my girl Chi-Chi)there are probably 25 white women doing this. The thing is some of these blogger Mamas is getting paid, but what about the sistas?

Is no one interested in our daily lives?  I admit when I first started blogging I wanted to be a cross between this and this which maybe I am some days but most days, I am just me and I follow no rhyme or rhythym with my blogging, so gone are my dreams of being known as a Mama blogger…instead I am just a sista in Maine which is already pretty strange.

But no, on a serious tip why is it that now that living simply is all the rage we see less representation among people of color, shit in my humble ass opinion many of us perfected the art of living simply, we just didn’t use flowery language to make it sound good. Look, my Mom was a stay at home Mama in the 70’s and 80’s and we were pretty much always broke, shopping at the thrift store and garage sales was a normal part of our lives. Saturday mornings in the summer, my Mama was up early with her trusty shopping cart for us to prowl the neighborhood in search of bargains, back then the shit wasn’t cool and I used to pray none of my friends would see us.

Cooking from scratch? Again, that was the norm in my house. Macaroni and cheese never came out the box, it took hours and was made from scratch with a mix of cheeses. In grammar school one of my favorite things was when I could invite friends over and Mom would make pizza (no Boboli crust for us, all homemade, made by hand) with a side of butter cookies. Good times, man. Yet no one ever gave my Momma a book deal and until recently I never thought much of these things, it was just the way Mama rolled. Shit, my Mom was sewing clothes and re-fashioning her thrifty bargains long before anyone thought it was hip.

No, it hasn’t been until I started reading Mama blogs and seeing how folks elevate this simple living that it hit me that I couldn’t be the only sista who grew up this way and even has a few of these handy talents, yet where is my book deal? If you are a handy sista reading me, where is your book deal?

Look, don’t get me wrong I am not mad that some Mamas are getting their hustle on while raising the kids, times is tough and folks gotta earn a few shekels anyway possible. I just want to know why the powers to be aren’t being more inclusive, really? I would be all over a book written by a woman of color who is a homemaker, and I suspect I am not alone.

I do know from engaging in the Black blogosphere there are sistas who are not only homemakers but even Mamas who are homeschooling like this sista, yet despite the few sistas I read on the regular who are engaging in these things, I still think we are greatly underrepresented.

Anyway maybe I should break out my trusty camera and start snapping photos about our lazy days and convince some publisher that there is a market on Black motherhood. What say you?