May 10, 2015 marks the 107th celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States. Held on the second Sunday of May, we take this time to show love and appreciation for mothers, often unheralded champions in the Black community.
This important day comes with a bittersweet flavor. I cringe to think of how the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others like them will feel on Mother’s Day. Their children and the hope and possibilities which accompanied them, were executed by the police, media, and a criminal justice system that fails to recognize and honor their humanity and value ( hence the relevance of the resistance slogan, “Black lives matter”).
At the same time, we realize that Black women themselves, biological mothers or not, are also devalued in our society. In the case of mothers, we too often blame single Black moms for the “erosion” of Black family values, youth criminality, mass incarceration, etc. We seem to forget that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to destroy one. Therefore to the extent that our community fails, negligent fathers, along with impotent and disconnected places of worship, learning and organizing centers (and let us not forget a racist and patriarchal society) are equal partners in our community dysfunction.
This scapegoating and degradation of Black women is a modern development. In ancient times, long before our tragic interactions with alien invaders, our people revered women. Societies were matrilineal, and we acknowledged goddesses in addition to gods.
On this Mother’s Day, precisely because of all the above, I/we send positive vibrations and love to all biological mothers in addition to those that serve as surrogate moms (coaches, teachers, pastors, foster parents, mentors, aunts, etc.) for our youth.
Despite societal messages to the contrary, Mothers of Hue, you are beloved, invaluable, and most appreciated.
We thank you for your countless acts of love and sacrifice in a thankless and often cruel world. We thank you for putting others first at the expense of your leisure time and finances. We thank you for being the world’s greatest multi-tasker, as you seamlessly play the roles of chef, food inspector, teacher, referee, psychologist, tutor, disciplinarian, coach, financial planner, and the list goes on. We thank you for doing the best you can with what you have and know. We thank you for putting up with our foolishness and for seeing the best in us despite our shortcomings.
Fairness dictates that we send a special shout out to those of you who are invisible to this society: the poor, single-parent Black and Latino moms raising children in turbulent and neglected communities with little help, money or compassion from others. In the name of our ancestors, we urge you to keep pushing, and keep your head up.
I write this to remind you that some of us see you, value you and support you. Your struggles are our own struggles, and we pledge to struggle with you in the home, streets, schools, and boardrooms, rather than against you.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.