As I sat down to write this piece, news broke that superstar/mogul/billionaire/everyone’s imaginary bestie, Rihanna, is expecting her first child with Harlem-based rapper boyfriend A$AP Rocky . And as the news spread across my Twitter timeline, one tweet, in particular, stood out to me: “To become a Black mother in these times is a revolutionary act.” While there is certainly merit to the assertion, I couldn’t help but worry that the joys of Black motherhood have become shrouded by the systems of oppression within which they must exist.
Of course, it must be acknowledged that Rihanna won’t be just any Black mother. She has access to resources that will keep her well-insulated from the systemic barriers that most other Black mothers have to navigate. Tennis icon Serena Williams also had access to the best resources and yet, her fame, class and financial status did not protect her from nearly dying of a pulmonary embolism after her daughter Olympia was born via C-section. Even so, the fact that what should have been a wholly heartwarming divulgence was met with even a modicum of austerity speaks volumes. Black mothers have become so used to being ill at ease, that even the most joyful of circumstances, like a pregnancy announcement, are met with hypervigilance.
We’ve been taught a history that tells us that the Black mother was never allowed the liberty of basking in her maternal glow or glory. Her caring hands and nursing breasts nourished and nurtured white babies. Her joyful heart tempered with servitude. Today, Black motherhood has undeservingly become a symbol of adversity and pain. The mother who has to be resourceful. The mother who struggles against all odds. The mother who mourns. The truth is, a long legacy of anti-Blackness has wreaked havoc on our collective ability to settle into the ease of many of life’s joys. Even joys as precious as the gift of motherhood.
And while we certainly have inherited trauma, our history is more than trauma. It is a story interrupted, not defined by the horrors of slavery and colonization. And our story continues in the ways we choose to tell it. And I choose to tell a story of Black motherhood that is more than struggle and stoicism. It is the beating heart of Blackness. It is the smell of fried plantains wafting through the morning air, and the lingering of cocoa butter on yesterday’s clothes. It is the peals of laughter that fill up rooms, and home-cooked meals that fill up bellies. It is tender looks of reassurance, and warm caresses of comfort. The passing on of sacred traditions, and the birthplace of new possibilities.
And as I marvel at my sons each passing day, I allow myself the permission to be at ease in the joy that being their mother brings me. I feel it when I braid my 4-year-old’s hair. And when my 10-year-old sings along to old, reggae songs. It washes over me when I can hear their peaceful breathing as they sleep, and it finds its way to me in the dead of night when I fumble to my 1-year-old’s room, bleary-eyed and half-asleep. It is easy Sunday mornings. Lazy summer afternoons. Kisses good night.
Black motherhood is glorious. It is the glory taken, the glory reclaimed. It is joy. So I’d like to think that the most revolutionary act we can ever commit to, as mothers and mothers-to-be is simply being at ease.