Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The month of March covers me in drapes of emotion. My father passed away on March 12, 1988. That day and many after always seem to create a bit of unease for me. I usually end up with several journal entries about what I'm doing that would make him proud and what I need to work on. My family also celebrates the gift that keeps giving to us—our baby girl's birthday.
March is also Women's History Month. Each year I make deliberate efforts to study women throughout history. This year I have dissected my celebration. With intentional focus, I am celebrating black women. I am dedicating myself to who I am because of who we are.
Not so long ago, I was challenged professionally and spiritually at a business meeting. I sat at the corner of the room with my eyes peeled back, trying to find the center of the universe in the light bulb above me. With the way the conversation was going, I had a greater chance of fading away rather than finding any universal order. I grew restless and wondered if the other people were paying attention to the same details. I began to beg myself to stop thinking. Don't listen, just sit there and try not to frown or roll my eyes.
People talked about how much better Donald Trump is than the man before him. They talked about how Gov. Phil Bryant was going to do great things with the state agencies he was bidding to control; they talked about how much better Jackson would be with a white mayor. They talked of all the great ways that white people join together to make the community thrive. You know, things people think but never say.
Welp. This group shared no regard to whether all were in agreement with their statements. It wasn't a private dwelling. It was a public place, and many could hear the conversation.
I sat there, alone. Alone, in that I apparently was the only person in the room who found the conversation to be depressingly, desperately offensive and just actually pretty damn wrong. Usually I'd go into my "challenge them" mode. I quickly figured out that this wasn't a battle worth fighting. I couldn't walk out. I couldn't scream. So I crawled into the light of my soul, and I whispered, "Harriet! Sojourner! Fannie Lou! Mama Eva! Mother Maya!"
In the pits of my being, I screamed, "Hold my hand, mothers. Silence these voices around me that I might hear from you and not them. Give me your strength. Lend me your class and elegance. Power me with lady-ness that I might gracefully hold onto me in this room."
I called out to my ancestral guides, my historical mothers. They braided hair and quilted blankets with secret messages to lead runaway slaves. My ancestors learned to read the stars in the sky to guide them toward freedom. They watched their husbands beaten within inches of their lives and often to death for being men. My ancestors sang songs that danced demons out of the soul of the young. Black women have fought with fist and voice all throughout history, leading armies of men in Africa. The mothers before me sang out in the fields to their ancestors for the same power and strength that we call out for today.
Celebrating the historical greatness of black women, through their trials and even death, has boosted me to fulfillment beyond measure. Throughout history we have become scientists, human-rights activists, acclaimed writers, poets, freedom riders, business owners, inventors and more. From treacherous valleys of injustice, segregation, abuse, slavery, apartheid, and watching our sons, husbands and dads die at our feet, we have remained steadfast. We have conquered the peril. We have contributed to this life and the last and will the next. So pardon me while I just bask in the greatness that we are because of and in spite of it all.
When I finally opened my eyes to rejoin the awkward camaraderie of the room, I felt a peace and was sort of entertained by the ease that fell over me. The Mothers had reminded me that I was covered and that the people's opinions and lack of knowledge didn't have to linger with me. Because of the mothers, I am better. I am proud to walk in the light they delivered.
I am proud to lend that light to my beautiful daughter. I am thankful to have had a father who poured into me the importance of self-love and cultural awareness. It is my hope that all women identify a connection with those who have paved the path for their greatness. I am eager now to carry the torch of my ancestral mothers.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet, a truth yeller and community activist. She is the founder of an organization that promotes self love, awareness and sisterhood. She also has an addiction to Lemonheads.