It is a world divided in endless opposites, a world still pained by the atrocities of the past, the endless generation of trauma in the present, guaranteeing even more atrocities for their future.
But I know that an important gift we have to give our African/Black babies and racialized little ones is hope. I say this as a mother whose own mother, and grandmother, and ancestors before us were enslaved and chained to lands not our own, lands haunted by Indigenous genocide, taken and toiled with by so many inhumane impossibilities. Yet they were cradled by freedom, rocked by resistance and fed by unimaginable and well-earned rage and persistence.
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This insistent cloak of hope — sturdy and planned, fierce and feared and crafted to perfection — is the tool that will destroy the master’s house.
In the era of Trump, in which anti-African/Black racism and other forms of hate and violence are a daily occurrence, it’s critical to reflect on the possibilities for our Black and racialized children’s existence and our parenting in hostile grounds.
As community practitioner, activist, artist, academic and mother of two who is engaged in intersectional justice work, writing this as we have just marked Martin Luther King Jr Day (MLK Day) is an emotional endeavour. I have grown up, learned, lived, cried and dined on the voices and actions of revolutionary fervour.
I have debated the value of non-violent actions versus armed solutions and have both researched and witnessed — supported and experienced — the impact of violence on our health. Anti-Black racism and other forms of trauma can severely impact our health and well-being.
Honouring our past
MLK Day is more than just a day. For Black people in North America and around the world, it is a practice and a lifestyle. While our civil rights are reflected upon and fought for 365 days a year, MLK Day is a reminder to honour the voices and actions of our pasts. We must not forget their lessons and their inflexible commitment to justice work in often unthinkable conditions.
MLK day is also a call for us to act against the current local and transnational, unjust and obscene realities that still threaten safety, civil rights and human dignity for Black and Indigenous people’s lives. MLK day represents hope that our children’s future can be actualized and dictated by the people they are, and not by the colour of their skin.
As Black folks and others ponder, debate and engage with each other on MLK day — like we do most every day — I would like to leave you with eight critical ideas to help parent our children in our current climate.
These ideas are important to provide guidance and tools for parents often isolated and preoccupied with constantly reacting to grievous acts of violence against our children and on our minds and bodies.
I want to provide hope and support for continued resistance. I want to spark critical conversations in our communities to deconstruct and challenge anti-African/Black racism and all forms of intersectional trauma, while forming collective responses and actions.
Eight tips for parenting in an anti-Black racism climate:
- Self-love: Teach our children about love for self and love for our communities. Teach them empathy, passion and the importance of African/Black reunification processes.
That is, we should teach our children to see each other as connected and in familial ways. By doing this, we stand the chance of rebuilding from the transgenerational trauma of forced separation, isolation and deportation of African and Indigenous peoples globally as a result of enslavement and colonialism. The “I am Haitian, I am Nigerian, I am Colombian, I am Somalian, I am Trinidadian, I am Brazilian” (to name a few) and “I am you” strategy.
This is not to be confused with homogenizing all African identities as the same. Rather, it teaches our children that we are of the same or of similar cloth but differently woven and actualized.
- Know your history and imagine a future: Teach our children Black history pre- and post-African enslavement. Continue to teach our children to imagine a future of greatness, resistance, freedom and hope through creative mechanisms: Dance, poetry, storytelling, theatre, music and visual arts.
Encourage interest in critical practices in health, medicine, law, psychology, political sciences, engineering, social sciences, sciences, humanities, education, journalism and teaching to ensure changes in these disciplines.
- Connect with Elders: Teach our children — in an age-appropriate way — empowerment as a way to combat anti-Black racism and other forms of violence. Connecting our children with diverse Elder teachings is critical.
- It takes a village (African proverb): Form collectives in which to raise our children. Think outside the box: Collective housing, collective eating, collective educating and collective healing are all possibilities.
- Acknowledge trauma: Parents should seek support to learn how to heal from the impact of their own experiences of racism and trauma and how it affects their parenting.
- Safe spaces and healing: Create spaces of safety, housing, and healing for our children and parents who have been impacted by racism and criminalization.
- Intersectionality: Teach our children the importance of intersectionality in an age-appropriate way. It is important for our children to learn that the racism we experience connects with factors of indigeneity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, age and disability in order to fully see the layers of self and communities that we exist in. In turn, decolonizing our children by teaching them full acceptance of our heterogeneous identities allows the true teachings of emancipatory, Pan-African and Diasporic realities to emerge. Hence, our children need to understand that questioning and standing against all forms of violence is revolutionary and denotes change. MLK Day is a reminder to honour the voices and actions of our pasts but it is also a call to action to look at our current lives and see what we can do better.
- Language: We need to teach our children the importance of languages, both Indigenous and colonial, in order to communicate through differences. Language can also be used as an emancipatory tool against the impact of colonialism and enslavement.
Stories from my mother
My childhood consisted of rallies against woman abuse, South African apartheid and Turtle Island (North America’s pre-colonial name), to name a few. Boycotts of products linked my direct actions to transnational movements; my working-class understandings of my immigrant experience with racist daily living; raised by a divorced sole parent who redefined womanist warrior as she parented with endless love, humour, discipline and knowledge of self and community.
My mother taught me the power and importance of reunification for African/Black peoples and the so-called “marginalized” ones. Amid insurmountable obstacles, my mother parented her children through a lens of history and hope, creating magical moments, along with using essential tools to survive and thrive in a world divided in two; a world that often tried to silence her, stereotype her and tried to interfere with her parental lessons. My mother stood up, spoke often, spoke loud and proud.
Her parenting and the legacy of her and others like her — people who are often unknown or whose names are not spoken about publicly, but who have influenced so many of us — have valuable lessons to teach us about parenting in an anti-African/Black racist and traumatic environment.
There are many other stories that I would like to share with you about my experiences of parenting as a Black woman in a racist, anti-Indigenous, sexist, classist, homophobic, transphobic and ablest society.
For now those stories will have to wait as they are still percolating, settling, raising and rising in the hope of a better, more just world for my children, your children and our children. Our engagement continues.