Archive for the ‘Black Women and Family’ Category

Mother’s Day Blues

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

For many mothers Mother’s Days is tinged with tragedy or sadness. A child’s death or teen suicide, having a child who is a deployed soldier fighting overseas, or one struggling with an illness in the hospital, or one incarcerated can make Mother’s Day a difficult day to get through.

Likewise, not every daughter (or son) looks forward to Mother’s Day. If your relationship with your mother is complicated, or you’re estranged from her, or if she’s no longer with you because of death or she no longer even knows your name because she has Alzheimer, waking up to a day called “Mother’s Day” can be painful.

Such reality was driven home to me recently on a listserv I belong to where one of the members on the list wrote honestly about not looking forward to church this Sunday. As you can see, her complaint was not about Mother’s Day only. It’s about the way the black church celebrates mothers and motherhood on that day.

Others on the listserv weighed in prompting me to ask permission to post for Something Within readers the provocative conversation about motherhood, Mother’s Day, and the church’s clumsy way of talking about motherhood that ensued.

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With Mom gone 7 years, mothers day is a mixed bag for me. I’ve got some incredibly wonderful memories of the day but find that since Mom has died, i often avoid church (black or otherwise) on Mothers Day now. I thought i’d send a shout out to you all to see what you think of the ways black churches celebrate Mothers Day.

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mother daughterLike many of the people weighing in, I’ve gotten to where I wince during Mother’s Day. My own mother died just before Mother’s Day weekend, 2002. I preached her funeral the Saturday before Mother’s Day. And she was my greatest theological inspiration and most quoted person. When I had to preach Mother’s Day in youth church 3 years later, I started the sermon out with “I don’t like Mother’s Day celebrations.” I talk about the joy and pain of being a mother, the joy and pain of being a daughter, the fact that not everyone in the room had “warm, fuzzies” about their moms, some didn’t know their moms, some moms were strung out, etc. The altar filled up with young people wanting to pour out their pain around “mother loss” and “mother grief” and “mother struggles.” It lasted longer than the sermon as they prayed, cried, repented, went to find their moms and beg forgiveness, accepted the notion that God had provided many mothers and aunts and cousins and sisters and friends to help shepherd them into womanhood and manhood. Upstairs, of course, the service was sugary sweet about mothers.

I don’t know what that says, but there it is. I will be with a friend on a beach of Mother’s Day. I don’t expect to hear from my younger son and grandchild because he doesn’t celebrate anything anymore. I will hear from my older son. I will feel loss and joy.

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I think also for me such celebrations tend to be insensitive to women
who have lost mothers, lost children, or who are not biological
mothers. And this is just symbolic of how they are looked upon beyond
the mother’s day celebration. Also while we emphasize that every
father is not a dad or vice versa, we do not emphasize that mothering
is about more than giving birth, more than being an incubator. Maybe
I’ve become too cynical. I am planning to become a foster or adoptive
mother soon– it’s a scary thing as I get closer to the reality of my
promise. Maybe mother’s day celebrations should intentionally
celebrate acts of mothering in the village and should be a platform
for extending our mothering impact on the global village.

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My mother has been dead for over twenty-five years, but I can’t say that’s the reason church Mother’s Day celebrations don’t get under my skin the way others describe. I have fond memories of my mother for sure, but not a lot. But I’ve learned not to resent other women’s Hallmark Card rhapsodies about their moms nor gag when the church goes off on one of its paeans to motherhood. I went to church on Mother’s Day when I wasn’t someone’s mother and still show up now that I am someone’s mother. I go, in part because I’m a woman who goes to church, but also because church is where lots and lots and lots of black mothers/black women are on Sundays. And as a womanist I relish the presence of black women and believe that despite my mother’s flaws there’s something healing and comforting about losing myself on Mother’s Day in a sea of black mothers asking God’s help to mother from a place of healing.

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What do you think Something Within readers? What do you think about “Mother’s Day”?

Let’s be honest:  “Mother’s Day” has strayed from is original anti-war movement origins. Today’s celebration has nothing to do with appealing to the justice loving nature of women in general and mothers in particular. Maybe it should. Perhaps we need to go back to the roots of the celebration.

What do you think? What does “Mother Day” mean to you? How is the day celebrated at the churches you attend?

Oh So”Precious” Open Forum

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I had originally intended to name this blog post “Precious, Celie, and the Opposite of the Tragic Mulatto.” But I changed my mind. Have there been any “tragic mulattoes” movies in recent years? Does anybody but me know what I’m talking about when I speak of the tragic mulatto?  As David Pilgrim points out in his study of the tragic mulatto figure:

…literary and cinematic portrayals of the tragic mulatto emphasized her personal pathologies: self-hatred, depression, alcoholism, sexual perversion, and suicide attempts being the most common. If light enough to “pass” as White, she did, but passing led to deeper self-loathing. She pitied or despised Blacks and the “blackness” in herself; she hated or feared Whites yet desperately sought their approval.

Tragic mulatto.  Think of literary characters like Peola Johnson in Fannie Hurst’s “Imitation of Life,” Clare in Nell Larsen’s “Passing.” Tragie Mulatto. Think real life entertainers like Dorothy Dandridge. Halle Berry, Lisa Bonet, Mariah Carey. (For the tragic male mulatto counterpart, think Frederick Douglass, Bob Marley, Barack Obama.) One of the top excuse racists, like Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell, use to protest interracial marriage is the fate of mixed-race children. It’s an argument rooted in the “tragic mulatto” myth which suggests that mixed race  children are doomed to be rejected misfits whose black blood prohibits them from reaping the privileges that white people enjoy.

You get my point.  The female tragic mulatto character is the antithesis to the fat, black Mammy character that Hollywood loves and shows no sign of doing away with. One has to think long and hard about when was the last tragic mulatto movie produced by Hollywood. But Hollywood sees to it that every generation gets its “black, ugly and unloveable” black woman story. Back in the 1985 it was Celie in “The Color Purple” and now in 2009 it’s “Precious,” Lee Daniel’s movie adaptated character from Sapphire’s book “Push.”

Both films explore incest, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy and colorism within the black community. In “The Color Purple” Celie is the victim of a sick, loathesome abusive father. In “Precious” the girl Precious is the victim of a senselessly savage, cold, despicable abusive mother. The recent film is set in 987 Harlem and tells the story of an obese, black, dark-skinned, teenage girl Precious (played by Gabbe Sidibe) who is impregnated twice by her father and lives in an apartment with her extremely physically and verbally abusive mother, named Mary (played by M’onique).

There’s no denying that while both “The Color Purple” and “Precious” are commercially successful, much-hyped  films, but is it true as  Salamisha Tillet over at The Root claims that the two films have met with radically different receptions by audiences?I don’t know.  Is it obesity that turns some folks off from the movie? Is it the fact that Precious is not only dark, dark skinned and unattractive (in the European sense of the word), she’s morbidly obese and breaks your heart every time you look at her. Do audiences react differently when weight/obesity enters into the equation? Is it the fact that Harlem’s means streets serves as the background to Precious’s harsh life which adds to the movie’s discomfort compared to poor, but gentle rural backdrop to”The Color Purple”?

I don’t know the answers because I haven’t seen the movie yet.

While I’ve seen the trailers, read the reviews, and caught some of the talk show interviews Gabbe has given, I haven’t ventured out yet to actually see the movie “Precious.”. I can do bad on my own, I tell myself. I don’t need to pay money to be drawn into other people’s unrelenting tragic drama.  That’s the excuse I give friends for not rushing out to catch the movie.

The truth is: I’m still weighing whether to wait until “Precious” comes out on DVC where I can see it in the privacy of my home. That way I can cry, wince, groan, scream, and rail in the privacy of my home as opposed to being held hostage in a big movie theatre to a story and a sorrow that have no end.

So, weigh in. Tell me what you think of “Precious.” How does it compare to its Hollywood antecedent “The Color Purple” or its antithesis “the tragic mulatto” figure? Just wondering.

Baby, Baby, Baby…

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

octuplet babiesI admit. I am conflicted.

Despite all the heat I’ve taken on the blog for insisting that women aren’t beasts of burdens, that a woman should be able to determine how many children she wants to have and the spacing of those children, the Southern California mother who gave birth to octuplets the other week gives me pause. Whew!

With the birth of her octuplets on January 26, 2009  Nadya Suleman finds herself now the mother of fourteen children, all under the age of eight. Having a large family is what she’s always wanted, it seems. She’s been obsessed with having children since she was a teenager, says her own mother.  Nadya, who according to her publicist is a college-educated professional, lives at home with her parents at present and all fourteen of her children were conceived through in vitro fertilization.

Now that all the excitement has died down medical ethicists and fertility experts have started weighing in about the medical risks of multiple births. High-order multiple births (defined as three or more babies born together) are dangerous for babies and the mother. Infants born prematurely face the risk of breathing problems and brain injuries that may cause permanent disability. Problems in premature babies, including learning disabilities or cognitive delays, are often not apparent until years after their births.

And then there’s public opinion. Women who give birth to six, seven or eight babies have been showered in the past with gifts from big corporations. Gifts like unlimited supplies of diapers, formula and baby wipes. Maybe even a free van. A brand-new house. But that’s not happening so far for Nadya Suleman.  News that she’s a single mother with six other children seems to have turned off many people and baby supply companies are not exactly rushing to get publicity by showering the mother with free baby supplies. In these harsh economic times there are those who resent that this mother is going to need a government bail out of her own to foot the bill for her brood of fourteen fatherless children.

Fox News is reporting that the mother wants to be paid $2 million dollars for any media interviews done with Oprah and Diane Sawyer, both of whom having expressed an interest in interviewing her on their shows.

I repeat. I’m conflicted about this one.

A woman’s right to choose. The ethics of high order births. A single mother of six, with now eight more mouths to feed, who lives with her parents. Fourteen children conceived through artificial insemination. Welfare for children born to single mothers who conceive through in vitro fertilization. Whew!

It’ll take King Solomon himself to untangle this one and rule on the ethics of it all.

Any takers?

Merry Christmas to All

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

christmas door

We’ll call a truce for the holidays and come back to our discussion of who’s a Christian and who’s not, and why some folks brand of Christianity is a thorn in the side to others.

Hey, it’s Christmas. Let’s see if we can act, if not Christian, then surely civilized.

Christmas in my house means attending candlelight service in the morning and back home for lots of cooking and Christmas music.

Thanks for the Christmas cd recommendations the other week. There are about 15 Christmas cds already in my collection with Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers “Hello Christmas” as my favorite, followed by BeBe and CeCe’s “First Christmas.” Went online last week and decided to add Gladys Knight’s “A Christmas Celebration” to my list. It’s great!

Not many presents under the tree this year, and that’s just fine with me. All the love is getting expressed from the heart and the hearth this year.

If you stop by the blog this holiday, open the door and look for me in the kitchen barking out orders. And trying my hand at one of my mother’s dishes, fried sweet potato pies. Yep, pie crust from scratch.  I’m still at it. BTW, can anyone tell me what’s the secret to a great pie crust?

Anything brewing in your pots this Christmas? Okay, all you divas who love to boast that you don’t cook, can’t cook, and have never cooked a day in your life. I’m looking right at you, honey. You definitely eating something. So do a kind deed for the cook in your life this holiday. Set the table. Clean the kitchen. Thank God there’s food on the table.

Be whole. Be loved. Be happy. Be grateful.

Behold Christ this Christmas!