We’re now in the month of love, but more importantly, celebrating Black History Month. The narrative of our forward movement and the pain of our forced displacement places us somewhere in between those two moments.
When society has continuously dimmed and disenfranchised a subgroup of its people – Black people – it’s hard to see joy. We’re told, especially women, to “be quiet” or that we’re “too loud,” that reveling in pleasure is an act of resistance. But to revel in the beauty of what it means to be Black and set forth a legacy, we must acknowledge both the pain and the celebration.
As we continue to uproot and bring attention to the disparities that people of color face, we must also look at our communities. Black Joy is coming back into who you are in your heart, and amplifying it. Reclaiming your legacy, heightening your purpose.
The word “legacy” has long been dominated by the masculine, so much so that one might not think a woman wants to have a legacy as well. Time and time again, Black women are leading the charge to change, organizing protests and rallies, fighting for justice. But there is a deafening silence when a black mother dies during childbirth or is murdered while sleeping. That is why Black women must have a legacy they’re building, for the conservation of Black life. I carry close this quote from prison reform activist Shug Baévry: “Black women are—too often—both the blade and the balm.”
What’s my Legacy? Womanhood greets every woman differently; we battle personal demons, generational curses and come to healing at varying times. This pandemic has caused us to reexamine almost all aspects of our lives. Despite all that we go through, we’re the gatekeepers of life; we carry, birth, and nurture excellence. Raising our children is the most relevant job we’ll ever have, and it’s priceless. Motherhood offers the ultimate influence and requires the ultimate sacrifice.
Becoming a parent, especially becoming a mother, has been the most significant event in my journey of finding myself. I experienced the greatest joy in that moment; I birthed and became anew. In return for the joy my son gave me, I knew then I had to return this unto him: legacy. Often, when you think about legacy, it’s left behind after a person has passed; however, real inheritance is more about sharing what you have learned, not just what you have earned—bequeathing values over valuables, as material wealth is only a small fraction of your inheritance. It’s not just about getting money and being able to spend it, you want to make sure that money outgrows and outlives you.
Evolving as a single mother, I struggle to live an impactful life for myself without sacrificing time with my son. But as my grandmother would always say, nothing worth having comes easy. Our “birthright” is to build greatness, but also reflect that we’re here because so many people came before us through sacrifice and struggle.
Parenthood has taught me it’s not all about me, mainly because I’m raising a Black son who will one day become a Black man. Because of this, I made it my mission to have a successful co-parenting relationship with my son’s father. We’re raising him to only bring positivity to women he encounters. We’re raising him to know his worth, so in turn, he can truly understand a woman’s worth as well. So legacy and Black joy for me is showing him that family is essential, dreams are meant to be fostered, feelings are ok, and, most importantly, we are human. As a mother and a modern woman, self-care is my legacy. Black Love is my legacy. Black motherhood is my revolutionary legacy. Self-healing is my legacy. Parenting in a liberated manner is my legacy.
So I ask you, what do you want to be remembered for? How are you building joy and legacy into your daily life?
Rudy Johnson is a freelance writer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a full-time mom. As an maternal rights advocate, her writing looks at the disparities in healthcare systems, lactation and breastfeeding, and fertility. She is an aspiring doula, breastfeeding ally, and holistic hippie.