Friday, February 6, 2009

The Black Mother of Us All

This is a cross-post of sorts from my other blog, expanded with a poem on "Mother Africa" because without the diaspora, the ripping of black people from Mother Africa's womb, we wouldn't need to have a "Black History Month," the topic of this blog post. And it seems appropriate to speak of Mother Africa with allusions to African Eve in The Urban Mother's Book of Prayers because all mothers, black, white, brown may trace themselves back to that continent/source whether they acknowledge their roots or not.

Today's thinking was triggered when I saw the Black History widget posted above at Regina's Family Seasons and decided to post it because I've seen the question asked on blogs, "Do we still need Black History Month in "post-racial" America?"

Yes, we need it, especially urban mothers because cities tend to be genuine melting pots in which mutual respect for and an understanding of your neighbor's culture encourages not only living in harmony, but also helps us identify mutual goals. In addition, urban schools are in trouble when it comes to teaching primary subjects reading, writing, and arithmetic. If our children miss out on those three, you know they're also missing history lessons, and yet sometimes knowing your history, the good stock from whence you came as well as an ancestors' errors, can be the news that motivates you to do your best.

All mothers, both urban and rural, who want to raise their children to respect the contributions of other cultures need Black History Month, something marked on their calendars that reminds them to educate their children about their own history and the history of people who have been marginalized by mainstream culture. Seeing that a better world is more than the slick images promoted on television or magnified by societal bias broadens a child's mind with stories of courage and perseverance. Knowing the stories of people, including women, who have succeeded despite huge obstacles thrown in their paths by a dominant culture, gives us hope that we too can overcome.

We also need it because post-racial America, if it exist at all, is young and ignorant, at the amoeba stage of its evolution. I'm with Cornel West on this post-racial thing. Post-racial America does not mean an America without racism because we're still human in physical bodies; so, people still see and have biases.

President Barack Obama is a beacon to many, but focusing on the achievement of one man would be a mistake. For instance, despite seeing President Barack Obama everyday, or maybe because they do, some whites will separate him from the rest of African-Americans and see him as like them and the rest of us the way they've always seen us, through the narrow scope of crime reports on the nightly news. Humans have a tendency to focus on information that supports the prejudices to which they cling.

On this separation of Obama from the rest of the black folk, if you grew up black and well-spoken, you know what I mean because you've probably had an uninformed white person say something like this to you, "You're not like those other black people." I figure this type of white person is at home saying the same thing to the TV screen when they hear Barack Obama speak or watch his beautiful family. "They ain't like the other niggras." (And notice I keep saying "some" or a "certain type of" when speaking of white people because I know that they are no more monolithic in thinking than some of them think black people are.)

But, as indicated earlier, Black History month isn't only about educating whites, it's about teaching our children. Until school history books mention the contributions of Africans and African-Americans throughout the text, we'll need ways to highlight black history.

So, while we have an African-American in the White House, we see clearly that we're not uncolored; we're still black in America, which is why, I suppose, CNN is taking another stab at its Black in America special that got blasted in the blogosphere last year. I've heard the network is doing another installment that focuses on solutions, perhaps because the last one depressed viewers.

We hope that one day the children we've trained and nurtured--kissed on the cheek following bed stories of black kings and queens, yellow emperors, brown and white conquerors--will walk in a world that does not see color first. Sounds good, but the side effect is that they may not see how they themselves are unique, the roots of how we as a people came to be. Being simply one more face in the crowd can be soothing but also soul-dampening.

Forgetting our ancestors is the fastest way to repeat the errors of our ancestors and revert to our baser selves. Knowing our past is a way to honor our ancestors who made better choices and to draw strength and wisdom from their journeys.

Also, I suppose, with all this focus on Obama, a man for all seasons, we forget that it is through women we come to life. A mother bore us all.

So, I leave you today not with a prayer, but with a meditative poem on Mother Africa, on how we forget to honor from whence we came, and how through memory and honor we may heal. This poem first posted on another site by request.

Mother of Our Flesh
By Nordette Adams

Behold us all, we the ungrateful children,
who spring from the womb then recoil,
curse, and hiss, we adders at our mother's suckling tits,
grow to wild kings and their hordes,
snicker or escape while mama's raped.

We trace to blackest Eve our mitochondrial DNA,
and to the lands of Cush, Ethiopia, owe our first-world splendor.
The Greeks loved these and so engendered themselves
in all points imitation.
The Romans loved the Greeks,
and upon these heads rest our richest civilizations.
But for the womb that birthed our magnification,
we pay no tribute, let her limbs, breasts, noble neck and brow
fall to dispute and the ravaging howls of corruption--
we the ungrateful children.

    Africa, our mother, we have forsaken.

Is this one more reason that Earth comes to tribulation,
because we have disavowed our mama's beauty,
her grace, and peoples to her soil
still born?

    Africa, mother of our flesh!

What must we do this dawn to restore you in our hearts?
What must we do to suck from your wounds
our own poisons concealed?

What must we do to heal?

© Copyright 2005 Nordette Adams

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  1. awesome N! This blog is special to me.

  2. Thank you, Rev. I'm working on finding time to post more often here.

  3. What a great post on the subject of Black History and our need to remain connected to our roots.

    I grew up in the era when Black (Negro) History Month was so very important to us. We were expected to learn about the people who had made a way for us and for others. It was one of the most important times in our lives.

    I still believe that we need to have Black History Month. I am appalled when my younger co-worker's do not know who Angela Davis is or why she is historically important. Nor do they really know about the key figures in our story. I find it to be unacceptable for them not to know.

    Post-racial American means nothing to me as a Black woman. It is a phrase that the media has coined. I have researched to discover if there is a definition. To date the ones that I have discovered are not based on us being colorless. They are based on the fears of White males of losing their power base to us.