As a Black mother, I live in a perpetual state of fear.
My 14-year-old son is no longer the cutesy, curly-haired boy strangers once smiled at as he went about town double-fisting action figures. He has a moustache, sculpted biceps and all the swag of Generation Z, unruly hair, Biggie Smalls art socks and Snapchat. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a young man in search of autonomy and an identity outside of his family’s. He is becoming his own person right before my eyes and it’s equally exhilarating as it is terrifying.
Him and his friends, some of whom have sprouted up well over six feet tall, are at that age, where their physical presence scares some. I’m not scared of them. I’m scared for them. Because some people won’t see them as the babies they are, as the video game-playing, potato chip-eating, skating-rink on a Friday night, fun-loving babies they are.
I worry because my son is a Black boy growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, once known as “the murder capital of the world,” where folks chant: “I’m from that Nine and I don’t mind dying.” While out with friends, if he misses my call or doesn’t respond to my text immediately, I feel a pang of uneasiness and lump in my throat until I hear from him. This is Black motherhood.
I worry because he is a Black boy growing up in America in the age of Trump where Black boys are too often remembered via hashtags. Because videos of police officers kneeling on the backs of swimsuit clad teenagers at pool parties go viral. Because a Movement for Black Lives is needed now more than ever, in the age of the New Jim Crow.
This anxiety oftentimes overshadows the beauty of motherhood, but I can’t hold my son hostage in my comfort zone to protect him from anti-blackness, white supremacy and the many villains of #BlackBoyJoy. I must equip him with the tools to navigate the ugliness of the world we live in while using every opportunity to teach him. I must talk to him, yet, listen to him even more. I must trust him; then, light a candle and send him on his way.
On any given afternoon, you can find a gaggle of young boys gathered in front of my house hooping. After school and on the weekends, there are always knocks on my door from boys on the block and in the neighborhood wanting to know if my son can come out. Their bikes are parked on the sidewalk in front of my house. Their drawstring bags and skateboards are strewn on my front lawn. I worry that there may be a time where this scene bothers my neighbors or those passing by. Because crowds of Black boys make some people nervous. I must be prepared to defend their humanity at any given moment. This is Black motherhood.
So, for #Mamathon 2017, a walking challenge by GirlTrek, the largest public health movement for Black women and girls,that encourages Black women to walk double the miles of a marathon during the month of May, I dedicated the 52.4 miles I walked to my damn self. That’s right. To me. Each mile I earned toward this month’s challenge, reminded me to focus on the joys of Black motherhood, how my son is finishing eighth grade with high school credits in math and English, how my son is one of the kindest, smartest people I know and how my teenage son still enjoys a movie night with mom. You must focus on the joy, otherwise the fear will swallow you whole.