“The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world.” – Malcolm X
Yesterday was my second Mother’s Day, exactly a month after my kiddo turned two years old. These past two years have been the most incredibly catalytic years of my life but within them I found my purpose.
The first year was full of excitement around all the celebrated “firsts” but quickly followed by relief that I’ve actually survived this long. It sounds dramatic but when you have a kid 8 years ahead of schedule while going to school, running an organization, and working it’s not always the easiest especially when people around you are surprised you decided to stay in school and graduate on time or that you haven’t messed up more drastically (*Thanks guys—and to clarify having my daughter was not a “mess up” but in the eyes of people that aren’t me it may have been. Everyone’s a caretaker when it comes to someone else’s kids…. “Shouldn’t you be doing…” or “Why is she wearing….?” Like damn do y’all have kids, can you get you some business please? But I digress*).
Travel back in time with me to when I met John Carlos, Olympic track star, SJSU alum, and Black community activist. I was pregnant at the time but didn’t like to talk about it because I’m the type that would rather have my work speak for me, not my circumstances. John Carlos flipped that on me and brought it up himself.
We were talking about why the work in the Black community was still relevant and important, this was post-Trayvon Martin and we had our own campus-specific issues that Black students were facing. John Carlos pointed to my belly and told me that who was inside was why I was doing this work, not for me but for her future. At that moment everything shifted.
In six years I would have to be thinking about if my daughter was getting a quality education not just for her age or environment, but because of her skin color and if she was being treated fairly in the classroom. I would have to be thinking about identity issues she may or may not face and how she would deal with them. I wasn’t just about to be raising a child. I was raising a little brown girl in one of the most oppressive places on Earth.
I also realized how disconnected I would be from the on-campus work I had been putting in, which hit me just as hard. How do I continue to fight injustices while I’m changing diapers?
Even 2.5 years later, I reflect on the conversation I had with John Carlos and within the last few months I’ve really come to understand what he was saying. Activism is not just being on the front lines with a sign or a bullhorn. Effective activism is you doing your job for the benefit of your community. It’s being the best you and being a resource and foundation for whomever in your community is watching.
My activism is being Mommy. My activism is being the best me so I can teach my daughter to be the smartest and best her. The biggest threat to the oppressive system we live in is an individual of color being excellent and right now it’s my job to teach and raise excellence not only for daughter, but also for the generation of color she will grow up in.
I don’t need all the flowery stuff for Mother’s Day, knowing what being a mother truly means to me is enough.
P.S. I’m working on a guidebook of sorts for youth of color and finding their own activism. If you would like more info or to be kept in the loop of it’s release tweet me @AGtheGiant
P.S.S. This is what it looks like when I’m teaching my daughter the wonders of chocolate.