I grew up in a major US city (St. Louis, MO), and went to public school. With these intersections, in being thrown in with all these little Black girls with barrettes, lotions and all the bright colors on our LA Gears, Roos and Nikes– it felt like everyday was special.
In elementary school, it was the ‘meetings’ in the bathroom about TV shows, toys and how old are moms were. It was learning to do tricks with a jump rope or who could run ‘the fastest.’ Some of my fondest memories are running, full speed with the magic of new shoes, down the asphalt of my elementary school.
I remember learning to catch in my grandmother’s yard with my cousins, and how to watch and try not to pay attention to the conversations grown folks were having after they sent us all outside. I remember going to the candy store 2 houses down for junk food for after school.
I remember my aunt showing me how to pump to swing, and how great it was when I finally got the rhythm of breathing-feet-hands in order to jump rope. I remember as middle school and high school came, how I prized my friendships with all those that looked like me.
The football games.
The school dances.
The teachers that told me I was too brilliant to not be great–even when I wanted to be lazy and average.
In the space of my memories, I am able to point out and hold onto to these moments of safety; feeling like being Black was the absolute best thing I could ever be.
As a mother now, raising Black girls–whom soon will walk through the world as Black women–I strive to provide them a space where they can be themselves. Where they can be comfortable–where they can rest. As I got through this life as Black, woman and sisterfriend, that becomes that much more apparent.
I have noticed this as I go through public arenas, new working environments, supermarkets, nail shops–even Target!–I look for that level of peace. I look for that level of comfort. There is an adage I have come across that reminds us in the human condition to smile at children so they know the world isn’t such a scary or bad place.
The same thing needs to be done and given to Black children. That same energy, safety and wherewithal should be given to Black children. The ability to have a Black child be in the world, feel protected, and seen–is essential.
What would the world become if it would value the peace of mind and heart for Black children to live–and be–and become?
It is, it has become, easy to dismiss my memories as low or base…afterall I am almost 40. But the thing this–it was those memories, those experiences that allowed me to recognize just how unalone in the world I truly am! It allowed me to remember what the media or suspicious people at large thought of the people that looked like me–I could pinpoint a memory which would refute it.
The next logical question is and should be, “How does one offer such a space to Black children as cruel and harried as the world can be?”
The simplest thing to do for Black children is to see them. If you can see them, you can affirm them. If you can affirm them, you can speak to every gift, skill and talent they have. From here? You equip them to do anything. A Black child whom is told they can do anything is weapon in the world!
Help them to create their own memories, make them feel like they, too, are a part of the world. Help them remember they, too, belong to the world–needed in it.
Black children need to be loved radically and often. They need to be offered space to breathe in spaces by people who know what it’s like to lack that ability! Grant them the space to be children–whole and happy. And that can be done with something as small looking them in the eyes when they speak.
The world can be a dark place–give Black children light.