Maybe it’s my fascination with time travel, but sometimes I wonder if Obama’s parents and grandparents had any inkling about 2008. When I read “Dreams of my Father” I kept looking for clues in young Obama’s life that would give any indication that little boy would one day grow up to be a lawyer at a time when America would slowly be warming up to her Black citizens, when a Black man had already been a credible candidate for US president, and Black men and women were no longer anomalies in Congress and cabinets of presidents both side of the political divide. Did his grandfather see anything in his walks and talks with the kid? Were any of these even in their prayers for their son and grandson and the country they call home? How about Michael’s Brown’s parents? What did they see when they looked at the world in 1996 and imagined 2014?
As the BlackLivesMatter protests took over the country in 2014, like many if not all parents of Black children (no matter what shade of black), I looked at my children and wondered about their future. Not simply the usual worry all parents have about their children’s future. Not whether they were going to go to college, become doctors, or forever dependent on me. Yes, these are always on my mind. But as Black children, I wonder how the scene would play out when they find themselves in the “wrong” neighborhood, when they are hurt and crawl to a door asking for help…when they encounter the police; indeed how is America going to receive them, in all her implications and recoveries.
But I am also an African. Which makes them Africans as well. How would this affect their future? What implications does this have for their future? How do you raise a Black and African child in this climate? What do you tell them? How do you protect them? Can you protect them?
Back in 2014—before the national problem came very close to home and Philando Castile lost his life, and half of the nation saw his killing as justifiable (and indeed a jury of his peers saw the same), yet a year later when a Somali police officer shot an unarmed White woman, even in Paris and London (where I was at the time) I heard the national cries loudly—these were some of the questions I put forward to some of my friends who are also parents of young Black boys and girls. What do we say to our children today, what are our hopes and wishes for them as they grow up to be full-fledged citizens of not only this country but the whole world at large? In a way, I wanted to put a message in a bottle for them to reopen one day if they wake up and find their world maddening. What I received were raw, emotional, insightful and inspirational!
As I read the pieces, what I got from them are the many ways we as parents of Black boys and girls are trying our hardest to build a protective circle around our children, help them realize their strength and affirm their humanity in all its majesty. Indeed especially in a season such as this one. When we have a president who rather than denounce hate would not only bate it but put it on the same footing as those who fight against it. A president who as a candidate, in many rallies dog-whistled racial red meat to ravaging crowds of racists wishing for the “good old days” when “America was great,” when Black people knew their place and that place was not the “WHITE” house. A man whose ascendency to the presidency was a promise of building a wall of isolation, because when immigrants come to America, “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crimes. They’re rapists.”
It’s been over 3 years since I received these essays. (It’s a long story why I am just now sharing them.) In a way, sadly they are as relevant today as they were back in 2014 when Michael Brown became the latest in a long list of innocent Black men and women killed at the hands of law enforcement. And Black people had to remind the country of a simple fact: Black lives matter.
- eg. bailey – For my Children
- Gerald Montgomery – Ambassadors of Geo-Africanism
- Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde – Our Children
- Ramla Bile – Hyphenated in the Cafeteria
- Shannon Gibney – The Endless Enfolding of African Diaspora