We’ll get to the third installment of “Voice Lessons” another day.
The story of Washington, DC mother, Banita Jacks, 33, murdering her four children (ages 17- 6) and being found by U.S. Marshals holed up in the house with their decomposing bodies has me in a fit this morning. Banita Jacks told investigators that her four daughters were possessed by demons and died in their sleep. I will spare you the details on how each child was actually killed. In fact, a few lines into this blog post and I’m deleting everything I was about to write and concur with others that it’s obvious Banita Jacks is mentally ill and needs professional help. I’ll even pass right now also on pointing the finger on all that went wrong in this case (e.g., the police, school officials, the child welfare agencies, the children’s dead-beat dads, the family that filled the courtroom at Jacks’ arraignment).
I need to get something else off my chest and out of my spirit at this moment.
But before I do, let me once again reach for that moving passage from the book of Jeremiah that helps to call women to their senses.
Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come out quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.
The sound of wailing is heard from Zion;
How ruined we are! How great is our shame! (Jeremiah 9:18-19)
As many of you know I spend a lot of energy here on this blog coaxing women to tap into their inner strength and to step up and speak up. I try as best as I can to support women, uplift women, defend women, give voice to women, both those from our past and those struggling today. (And I have made my share of enemies, both male and female, for being passionate about issues impacting women.) Like others I think the time has come for us to wake up and stop the media’s whoring of our daughters and to stop sitting idly by why others write us off as ignorant and insignificant. I write here on this blog unashamedly from a black woman’s perspective, knowing full well how much black women, and other women of color in this society, are loathed. I am unapologetically a woman of faith, shaped and formed in the belly of the Protestant Christian tradition, for better and for worst. I believe women of faith have surrendered their voices to the men whom they’ve allowed to occupy the seats of power in their traditions, and that we have sinned against God, ourselves, our children, the world, and even our men, in doing so.
But none of this means I am unaware that women are just as capable as men of evil. None of this means I don’t know that black women are not perfect. I am fully unaware that some women are crazy, plain and simple. Some women are downright sick. Sexism, racism, and neither classism can be be blamed for all our sicknesses. Some women shouldn’t have babies, shouldn’t be allowed to raise children (even those they gave birth to), nor should some women be allowed near children.
Let me put it plainly: not all black mothers are saints.
I ain’t finished, but I’m through for now. I’ll close with one of my favorite mourning scenes found in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.
Ignoring tradition, Pilate bursts through the church door of her granddaughter’s funeral shouting “Mercy!” and begins walking toward Hagar’s coffin, shaking her head as if that will help the reality of Hagar’s death not be real. Reba, Hagar’s mother and Pilate’s daughter, joins the older woman at the coffin singing “Mercy” in a call and response ritual that everyone in attendance joins in.
In the Darkness. Mercy
In the morning. Mercy
On my knees now.
Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy.
At the close of the ceremony, Pilate identifies Hagar as her baby girl, repeating the words for all the attendees. In the end, Pilate proclaims loudly to the heavens and everyone in attendance, “And she was loved.”
Lord, let it be that Brittany, 17, Tatianna, 11, N’Kiah, 6, and Aja, 4 were loved by someone in that family and knew it.