Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reflections on a legacy

Recently being the mother of children of color has ushered in thoughts that have nothing to do with freedom, and everything to do with creating it from scratch on a good day. Like when I was slathering Sam’s skin with lotion after bath, and crumbled internally as I had an image of him, or his great, great, great, great, great grandfather being slathered with a salve to help him heal. Heal from the sores bore into him by the chains he wore across the Atlantic ocean, before being auctioned off above ground the next day. My chains are made from little strips of paper, glued in a circle, while being linked to the next piece, handed to me by my mother, and her mother, and her mother's mother. A chain begun one day under the shade of a banana tree in the West Indes. When she ran out of paper, her servant was asked to bring her more.

Shoving books in Sam's daycare teachers arms with a smile and a need that could fill the basement of that church five times over; “It’s about a little (black) boy who (looks just like Sam and who) saves the world from being taken over by urban sprawl... the kids will love it,” I add with such certainty. And, and, and for at least the few minutes while you are reading the story Sam won’t be the only person of color in this entire building, except for the slightly worn out looking graphic of Dr. King that is posted on the wall behind us as we talk. But they listen, and accept, and include, and they read the book.

Four and half years ago I had freedom from the constant hum of race. I had freedom to feel comfort in the margins of my own racial awareness. Is this a new kind of freedom? Freedom to accept how far I have to go, how daunted, not afraid, I am most days of the work I have to do. Does that in itself bring me a little closer to picking at (if not up) those words by Dr. King and holding them in my curious, if semi sheltered lily white hands; "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

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