My Mother Story…for International Women’s Day 2017
Happy International Women’s Day! Today, I wanted to write a really quick entry, because I had a few women on my mind heavy. Today was a day when those of us who could, were encouraged to stay home – a way to reflect on the economic and labor power of women across our planet. This day, March 8th, is also about c celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
However, today, I came to work. I checked emails. I filled out paperwork, followed up on setting meetings, prepping for class, attended meetings, and continued to make sure that nothing was “falling apart” in my absence for the past three days. Today, I engaged with my children, whom I had not seen because of my recent trip, and I showed up as a wife and partner for my husband, who was preparing for some important meetings himself. But, with all of that background noise, my mind was heavy with thoughts and memories of the women in my family. These heavy memories became louder and louder as my day unfolded, and even more louder still, as I was deep in the midst of reading and reflecting on an upcoming talk about W. E. B. Du Bois and Black Feminism. My relationship with my Nana, my Gram, and my Mami were my way of celebrating today. I was beginning to develop my very own mother story. And then I thought about two very distinct pictures that I keep around me.
The first picture is of my grandmother, H. Lawrencie Jones (Goodwyn). Born in 1920 in Ebony, Virginia. My “Nana,” one of the many women who served as those foundation stones for my life. But this picture has always been so intriguing to me. I remembered how I felt when I first saw this picture, I was amazed at her surroundings, her facial expression, and as I learned about how much work and money went into maintaining and running a corner store in the Bronx, the picture became more powerful for me. That labor, her work, her inability to “take a day off,” made me think about this particular image and I have been staring at it a lot today. My grandfather’s corner store on Tinton Avenue in the South Bronx, was where my mother was born, where countless Goodwyns leaving the South took a rest and gathered their thoughts and money to move on and find that Great Migration success. The other labor, that of raising my mother and teaching her how to navigate those disappearing boundaries as a young Black girl coming of age in New York City. I am celebrating my Nana and her labor today.
My great-grandmother, “Gram,” was my grandmother’s mother. Hattie Elizabeth Shaw (Goodwyn). She was born in 1889 in North Carolina to Ransom and Elizabeth Shaw, members of the Eastern Band Cherokee nation, those folks who stayed behind and hid in plain sight. Her history was a secret to many of us, she never talked about her family or her life as a young Native woman, but I know her labor was real. She would bear many children and loose her husband early in my grandmother’s life, but she continued to raise her children to learn, go to High School, and then head up north, where they perhaps would find a way and a better life. I remember her as gentle and stern, and appreciated all the stories from her and my grandmother about making fires and washing and raising children and tending to crops and sweeping yards. That labor, that invisible labor, helped to shape my family mother story, and made me think warmly of another one of my foundation rocks. I am celebrating the labor of my Gram today.My mother or “Mami,” Andrea Battle, is the rock that continues to help me grow and learn and understand that my power is real, my labor is a part of my own story. Labor should never define who I am, but come from a space of love and purpose, a way to change the world in a way that is real and even tangible. This is why I am an archaeologist, this is why I took a chance to find what I wanted to do and then decide how to do it according to my own terms. My family mother story is strong, not because I come from generations of StrongBlackWomen, I gave that up right around the time I read my godsis (another rock) Joan Morgan’s When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, none of my family mother story is about celebrating that. The story of then women in my family is about recognizing the collective power of our work, our love, and our joy. Having women like these in my life so early on, helped me to recognize and reach out to countless women who have continued to shape the love I have for my work and my teaching. Thank you, Oseye Mchawi, Isoke Nia, Gail Bell-Baptiste, Michele Wallace, Hortense Spillers, Maria Franklin, Theresa Singleton, Sheila Walker, Omi Oni Jones, Irma McClaurin, Johnetta B. Cole, Paula Giddings,
A. Lynn Bolles, Irene Diggs, Ida B. Well, Anna Julia Cooper, Maria Stewart, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Ella Baker, Beyonce’, and Remy Ma. These along with countless women who I know I am forgetting to name, are all a part of my mother story, those sistahs who always seem to have my back, my front, and even my side.
Here’s to you…Let’s make this celebratin’ a habit #IWD2017