When you are a new mother, you are juggling numerous responsibilities such as waking up every 2-3 hours to feed your newborn, constantly changing diapers, obsessing about your little one reaching milestones, and so on. It’s easy not to think about childcare, until you have to think about childcare.
Most mothers are able to stay home with their babies for the first few months. Soon, the reality of returning to work/school looms over their heads. Even if a woman is able to stay at home for a longer period of time, she still needs “self-care” days, errands that need to be done child free, etc. At some point, she will need someone to watch her baby. She will need childcare.
Initially, when I first got to the shelter with my baby, it went well. The director was supportive. I was the first person they had in a long time with a “fresh” baby. She believed strongly in mothers being able to bond with their children and rest and recuperate. Childbirth can be emotionally and physically draining. Unfortunately, she left for another job, and the shelter got a new director.
The new director was a recent widow from California. She and her late husband had owned a vineyard and other business ventures. They had been married for years and never had children. She was a well-off white woman who couldn’t relate to the stress of childrearing. This made it difficult for her to empathize with the mothers at the shelter. She didn’t understand why they couldn’t “just go get jobs.” Despite the fact many of the women were trying to heal from trauma in their lives (domestic violence, drug addiction, etc.), they had children that made it difficult for them to “just go get a job.” It’s not like she offered any resources.
Eventually, she targeted me. I think it’s because she knew about my educational background. She figured because I was one of the rare women at the shelter with a degree, I should especially be working. She failed to take into account I had an infant, recovering from a c-section (c-sections are considered a major surgery), and dealing with slight depression. She became pushy about me finding employment. When I would respond with “who’s going to watch my baby?” She would shrug. Well, that was helpful. The harassment became so overbearing, it wasn’t long before I left the shelter.
Later, I wondered why there weren’t better childcare options for mothers. This society is so bizarre. It makes a mockery of women who don’t want to be mothers, but provides little support for those who decide to become mothers. If anything, poor mothers are seen as an annoyance. Black mothers, in particular, are treated with hostility.
Our society has strange views when it comes to mothers. On one hand we exalt mothers, heap praise upon them (Mother’s Day), yet don’t provide concrete support for them such as universal childcare. As a matter of fact, majority of mothers are treated poorly on a daily basis, especially Black mothers. I often see mothers struggling with kids/strollers/bags/toys etc., while people push past them in a hurry. Usually, it’s mothers who will help other mothers by offering a hand or comforting an upset child.
I’ll never forget flying back to Portland with my 1 1/2 year old. He started hollering on the plane. There were other mothers on board. One sent some of her children’s snacks to me via fellow passengers. Another played with him to keep him distracted. One tried to carry on a normal conversation with me, to calm me. It was my first time traveling with my toddler, so it was a bit overwhelming for me. Recently, I saw an article about a mother who went through a similar situation at an airport. When I read that, it resonated with me.
Funny enough, I never wanted children. Honestly, I didn’t think I was mother material. And still wonder at times. I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant, but decided to keep chugging along. Curiosity got the best of me. I’m an older mom. I had my son at 41. So, it was a huge life change for me. My journey into motherhood has been interesting. I tend to have mixed feelings about it. I love my son, of course. I enjoy watching him come into his own. He’s a quirky kid, which I like. However, I miss my freedom sometimes. I think my ambivalence towards motherhood, is due to how it started out. It was chaotic and traumatic.
Just yesterday I stood for a few minutes at the top of the stairs leading to a white doctor s office in a white neighborhood. I watched one Black woman after another trudge to the corner, where she then waited to catch the bus home. These were Black women still cleaning somebody else’s house or Black women still caring for somebody else’s sick or elderly, before they came back to the frequently thankless chores of their own loneliness, their own families. And I felt angry and I felt ashamed. And I felt, once again, the kindling heat of my hope that we, the daughters of these Black women, will honor their sacrifice by giving them thanks. We will undertake, with pride, every transcendent dream of freedom made possible by the humility of their love. June Jordan, On Call, 1985
It’s May, which means Mother’s Day celebrations. However, for incarcerated mothers, it’s a reminder they will not be with their children/loved ones. Particularly, Black mothers who are the most vulnerable of becoming victims of the criminal justice system. One of the most pressing concerns for advocates of prison abolition, has been the alarming rate of Black women being held in jail…due to not being able to make bail. This highlights the economic inequality of Black women.
“This country’s pay gap problem — the yawning gap between the wages of Black women and white men — can have especially onerous implications in the criminal justice system. Economically disadvantaged Black women have fewer resources to make bail, causing them to wind up behind bars for far too long, even for crimes they’ve only been charged with and often are not found guilty of. This extra time in jail can lead to a seemingly never-ending downward financial spiral. Defendants can lose their jobs, along with access to benefits and even their housing. In short, incarcerating a woman who is poor will only make her poorer.” https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/women-and-criminal-justice/heres-how-prison-and-jail-systems-brutalize-women
A couple of years ago, Black Lives Matters/other grassroots organizations, made it their mission to bail out Black women on Mother’s Day. Besides, getting them out of jail, these groups provided the women with resources/opportunities to help them get back on their feet/thrive in their communities. Please consider making a donation to this important cause, as well as sharing on social media.
For the month of May, I will be dedicating the blog to Black motherhood. The National Bail Out/Black Mama’s Bail Out is one of varied ways people can empower Black mothers.
Last year, TIME magazine dropped the ball with their Person of the Year cover. The issue was dedicated to women speaking out against sexual harassment/abuse…courtsey of the #MeToo movement. Instead of specifically featuring Tarana Burke (originator of #MeToo), white women celebrities cluttered the cover.
Recently, TIME magazine rectified the situation by predominately featuring Burke as one of their 100 Most Influential People for 2018.
However, I was more excited when I saw Burke gracing the pages of HANNAH Magazine. HANNAH is a fairly new publication. The first issue was released in 2016.
“HANNAH is an unapologetic celebration of and safe space for Black women in the form of a growing community, a biannual custom publication, and an online presence. HANNAH is a place where we are not asked nor demanded to justify our existence, presence, or humanity. It is, rather, a space where we can simply BE.” http://hannahmag.com/
HANNAH Magazine wanted to pay homage to Burke after the TIME slight.
I eagerly ordered the issue, but thought it would be more fun to give this fabulous magazine to someone.
So, if you are a Black woman/Non Binary person…this particular giveaway is for you! I want the magazine to go to the population it’s intended for. This will be a first come, first served treat. There’s a catch (of course!) If you are the recipient of this gift, you have to tell me your thoughts about the magazine. It can be via video/short essay/poetry etc., however you like to express yourself. Your review will be posted on the blog.
Entries can be sent to email@example.com. Please put HANNAH Magazine Giveaway in the subject line.
*Trigger warning-sexual violence/rape*
As April comes to a close, it means the final days of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Of course, resisting sexual violence is a year-long concern for women’s organizations. However, it is important there is one month dedicated to examining the pervasiveness of rape culture in this country.
My group, PDX Black Feminism, hosted a meetup to discuss the issue of Black women and sexual violence. To prepare for the gathering, I read a little more on Tarana Burke and her #metoo movement. I also watched a great panel discussion on sexual harassment featuring brilliant Black women activists: Beth Richie, Scheherazade Tillet, and Natalie Bennett. I also finally watched the documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor.”
I’d been avoiding it because the subject matter was too much to bear. The Rape of Recy Taylor was released in fall of last year. The film details the horrific rape of Taylor, at the time, a 24-year-old married mother/sharecropper. Taylor was walking home from church one evening, when she was forced by gun point into a car with seven white men. She was brutally raped for over five hours.
The story of Ms. Taylor is unique, in that, she was willing to name her assailants. It was rare for Black women to do this in the Jim Crow South. The assault on Taylor, caught the attention of Rose Parks. Parks, was a sexual investigator with the NAACP, before she became known as ROSA PARKS.
In the film, Recy’s siblings shared when Parks came to the house to speak with Taylor. The news quickly spread around town about an “outside agitator.” The sheriff drove by the house to intimidate Parks. At one point, he barged into the family’s home and physically tossed Parks off the porch. Parks went away for a few weeks, then came back. She would not be dissuaded.
Eventually, Taylor’s rapists were arrested (it wasn’t too hard to find them, they lounged around town confident in their whiteness). Despite the determination of Taylor and Parks (co-founders of The Committee for Equal Justice), two grand juries failed to charge the men. Unfortunately, gang rapes of Black women were not uncommon in the south, so it wasn’t long before Parks moved on to other cases. This left Taylor and her family to deal with the aftermath of her speaking up.
Life was never the same for Taylor after her rape. I am haunted by the black and white photo that tends to pop up, when researching her case. She is standing stoic. Clothes slightly disheveled. The sadness spread across her face. There are other photos which include her husband and child. She seems distant from them, wrapped up in her own pain. The rape tore apart her family.
Taylor and her husband separated. Amazingly, Taylor stayed in her town, despite all that happened to her. She moved in with her father and went on to live a quiet life. Years later, her daughter was killed in a car accident. Taylor was never able to have more children. As her sister stated in the film, the rapists had “played up in her body.” I can only imagine the violence perpetuated against Taylor’s body for over five hours.
The most startling revelation that came out of the documentary, is when relatives of the rapists, were interviewed. All the men are deceased. I believe one of the men was already in the military, when the rape took place. Later, some of the other men also joined the military. I was alarmed as the camera panned the burial sites of the men. The words “hero,” “courageous,” and “brave” were etched on the headstones. The American flag was displayed proudly on the graves.
I was disturbed by the family members boasting about the rapists military accomplishments. I couldn’t help but think about the controversy of NFL players refusing to stand for the flag. A protest started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. The argument made by those pro-flag, is that it’s honoring veterans/those in the military. The story of Taylor, made me realize that the uplifting of this flag, means we are praising white men who terrorized Black women. It has cemented for me why Black people should not stand for the flag. The American flag represents the history of sexual violence perpetuated against Black women. It was condoned and awarded with medals.
Taylor went on to live until age 97. Long past, her rapists. She never received justice for the suffering she endured from her sexual assault, so I’m sure those years lived were with some unease. In 2011, the Alabama Legislature issued her an apology. Of course, way too little and much too late, but at least Ms. Taylor was alive to receive it.