I’m the youngest of 3. In the photo Mom holds me in her arms.
My parents were a team. Daddy worked and went to night school to get his degree when he retired from the military.
Ma managed the house worked part time jobs and she protected us kids.
My older brother and sister were 8 and 10 years older than me and when they were kids my parents were in the military overseas with a strong protective community. Even then, Ma was a lioness protecting her babies from racism bullies and creating a loving childhood.
During the Kavanaugh hearings Mom shared with me a story she’d never told me before. When my Mother was about 7 or 8 in the late 1930’s, after Sunday school, the Black Male Sunday school teacher ordered her brothers out of the room and tried to lift her skirt and touch her.
She kicked him screamed, and scrambled out of the room. Her brothers and her ran home. When she told her parents, they spanked her…for lying and spanked her brothers for supporting her.
She always remembered this injustice. That Sunday teacher was a pedophile and ended up abusing many young girls in the church and his daughters, one whom he impregnates and she bore a mentally challenged child.
The ENTIRE CONGREGATION KNEW what he was doing and no one said a word or did anything.
The community just talked about him behind his back.
Let that sink in.
This was the Jim Crow South. Black men and Women were being lynched for nothing. The police were not allies.
Black communities depended on solid family and community structures to survive. In order to protect the community, women and girls paid the price.
In the early 60’s Mom was married and in her 20’s, pregnant with my older brother visiting South Carolina with my dad on leave from the military she went to church with her family.
That pedophile Sunday School Teacher was still prominent in the church. Livid, she went up to him in front of the entire church and publicly named his attempted sexual assault. She named his years of abuse “Shame on you” she said. “And shame on this congregation for being silent.”
She never set foot in a Church again.
Her parents apologised to her for not believing her. After 10 years.
My Mother lived in a time where sexual violence towards black women not only happened at home, it happened by sexually deviant white men and boys in the south with power who would rape black women and girls and not ever be held accountable for their actions.
You see black women and girls in Amerikkka have always been sexualised.
Black girls with loving parents in the south were taught never to walk home alone because a white boy could catch them up rape them and get them pregnant.
Then that black girl would be sent north to avoid the shame and bear the child because of course the rape was her fault for being dumb. The child would be sent back south to be raised by the family while the girl stayed north worked and sent money home.
This is the climate my Mom grew up in. She chose sports, and as the eldest daughter she helped out with caring for her 12 sibling. And the family protected her and she protected them.
She got a basketball scholarship and left South Carolina when she was 18 and never lived there again.
As she raised us she gave us armor. I don’t ever remember having a big conversation about sex I just always knew about sex. When I had questions my parents told me the truth. They also told me that some men out there are dangerous and some want to hurt little girls. My parents did not sugar coat what would could to little black girls In the south. So they kept a protective eye on me and taught me to bite kick and scream talk back to adults and run if I ever was in a situation where a man tried to touch me.
But I was never on a situation where I was alone with a full grown man or boy. In fact I was rarely alone with grown women either.
My parents were strict and I was not allowed to play with anyone they did not know or had not vetted and was not a Jehovah’s Witness. My siblings and my Dad were also super protective of me…the baby.
I was the only black kid in my elementary school from k-4th grade in Northern VA so without me knowing my mother would stop into the school to check on me and watch the teachers. Mom made friends with the black female custodians and lunch ladies who were her eyes and kept an eye on me. She also was in touch with the librarian. You see we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I spent a lot of time in the library during birthday parties and holidays. So the Librarian watched over me.
Women showed up who were my protectors. Even in middle school I’d be acting silly trying to make people laugh in The lunch line I’d turn around and my mom would be there in the cafeteria watching.
She was gps before there was gps.
At the time I hated her for it. I thought my life was boring that I was missing out. I was afraid of her. I thought she was stealing my youth.
I couldn’t wait to get out of the house I became an actor and went on tour.
The funny thing is when I was out on my own I knew how to protect myself. I had no problems saying no to men. I didn’t drink alcohol or do drugs because I did not trust anyone and I saw the effect of drugs and alcohol on the women around me. If I was out with friends I would always watch my soda or juice and keep an eye on everyone else’s drinks. I would leave early and would leave with another friend and make sure we called each other once we got home.
I taught my friends how to look out for one another.
I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 26. And when I did it was my full choice.
My smother gave me the greatest gift my emotional intelligence. My common sense. My knowing that as a black woman in a predatory world I can protect myself by being mindful enough to look out for danger and make choices to protect myself and listen to my intuition.
In my thirties I attracted a group of friends who partied and did coke and mushrooms. I never participated and left the parties early. I remember one time I met a guy at a club and we ended up talking for a long time. These friends left me in the club without checking on me. I turned around and they were gone.
These people are no longer my friends.
As of today, I’ve never been sexually abused, or assaulted. I am grateful to my smother and the community it took to protect me and grow me into the woman I am today.
Looking back here are the steps my parents took to protect their children in a world where children need protection.
1. Be present. My mom and sand literally showed up randomly at my school during school hours to keep an eye on me.
2. Be honest. As your child grows up and asks questions about sex be honest. Explain what the names of sexual organs are how they work and why they work the way they do. Use clear terms and only answer the questions the child asks.
3. Be authentic. Tell your child the truth about the dangers in our society and teach them how to protect themselves.
4. Be empowering. Allow your kid to say now to adults.
5. Trust your kids instincts. If a kid doesn’t want to talk to an adult or hug an adult DO NOT FORCE them to hug or talk to that adult. Kids are tuned into their intuition and we domesticate them out of their gut brain in order to conform.
6. Listen to your kids. Be aware. Notice any changes in behaviour. When I was going to swim class at dinner my parents would ask me how it was going. I was a talkative kid but when they asked me about swim I’d get quiet and give short answers. So my mom popped in one day randomly and saw the swim teacher had all the kids in the pool but left me the only black kid on the side of the pool on a bench. My mom went up to him and politely told him off and took me home. I never went to swim class again.
7. It takes a village. Have your community of caretakers and watch them like a hawk.
I had a friend who lived across the street. My parents liked her parents so she was one of the non Jehovah’s Witnesses I was allowed to play with. I came home after a sleepover my mom asked me how it was and I told her it was great. I told her all the things we did and then told her that the family took a shower together after we worked in the garden.
She asked if I went in too I said no. I waited til they were done cleaned the tub then took my shower. I never had a sleepover at that house again.
8. Lead with love and truth. Living life from a place of love provides so much guidance. We can protect sculpted by teaching them to trust their intuition and that yes they do have power no matter how young they are.
8. Allow your girls to be loud and speak their minds. Empower your girls to develop a bullshit meter. Don’t sugar coat the way many men have been raised in this society.
9. Educate yourself around technology. Look at the internet. Including porn. Know what’s out there and educate yourself around the impact what is portrayed on screen. Teach your kids what authentic love really is and the difference of what is portrayed on screen.
10. Always lead with love. I was given a blessing of parents who love me. No they aren’t perfect and I do have trust issues to this day when it comes to men and relationships. I do know that even now my parents who are in their eighties love me deeply. They STILL protect me. As do my sister and brother. My wisdom is grounded in love. And that love has enabled me to choose men who are not abusers. My exes were all men who treated women with respect and none of them ever abused me or cheated on me and I never abused or cheated on them. I am grateful I was raised with honor.
Having children is an honor and a responsibility . It’s okay to be a smother. Raise your kids…with honor.