Birthing Sons/Raising Boys: An apology letter to my son and your son too!
Maya Angelou “If I have a monument in this world, it is my son. Raising a child, especially a son, is like carving a monument detail by detail”
As I hear the sirens of the cop cars go by I sigh cause you are home safe and then I pray that they are not coming for another one, to claim yet another life tonight. I fear that this time it will be one of your friends walking to the corner store for their mom or grandma that can’t go out. I fear that this time they are coming for one of mine friends as they march the streets tonight healing, reclaiming, calling ancestors, moving energy, enraged, outraged, screaming for broken hearts, children lost, mothers mourning and screaming for a better world for you.
My son, more than any other day, today, I write you not as your mother but as a women who birthed a son into this unjust world without a road map. I am lost and I am scared for you and for me. They say that women birth justice as we carry within the next generation and the generation after that. They say that the womb is the most powerful place on this earth. I sure wish I would have kept you there. But i gave birth to you instead. They say women are magical, made with the infinite ability to manifest and transform the world but today I am scared and I doubt my own ability to create another world for you.
On January 25th, 1995, I gave birth to you because I thought, I thought I could with everything that I had learned to keep you safe. But every time I turn on the TV I see mothers being convicted for protecting their children. I see children being taken from their homes because they are being “neglected” cause mothers have to work two jobs or more. When mothers go out in protest we become political prisoners, when we try to leave violent homes the only other place to go is a shelter, twice as bad and when all else fails , when we protect ourselves we end up in jail and we go crazy cause we find ourselves against the wall cause we are poor, cause we are hungry, cause we have been raped, cause the government has abandoned us, cause we are teen moms, cause our bodies are weapons of war and properties of the state. Then and always then we are put in mental institution and declared insane.
And yet here I find myself writing you a letter of apology for the contradictions that we live in today. I am sorry because I didn’t read the fine print…
1. I gave birth to you in this country under the pretense that we where free and you would be safer here than in our country, that you were better off but we live in a state of war and fear. As a young black latino man you are a target and will be someone that people will be suspicious about when you walk into a store and taxi drivers may not stop for you in the streets of manhattan.
So I prepare you to be safe instead.
.2. I thought that when it came time for you to go through your “adolescent” identity crisis you would be able to explore your sex and sexuality but it turns out we also live in a homophobic/transphobic world with policies growing everyday with more invisible yet blatant discrimination and violence.
So, I teach you how to be self expressed and love anyway.
3. I thought you would get a better education but when they put police in schools and started jailing children so they can get free labor in prison and so you don’t get financial aid if you have a criminal record when you went to college and the only choice for you is to go to the military or become a policeman… while your white college counselor tells you not to apply there or there you wont get in anyway.
So, I create alternative political education for you at home instead and we apply for college anyway.
4. I thought you would see yourself on TV. Dream I said, anything is possible. Instead you turn on the news and you see yourself as stereotype characters to entertain white america or you are bombarded with how bad young black men are, they kill, they rob, they do drugs, they drop out of school and they end up in prison.
So we sit at home at talk politics instead deconstructing internalized, institutional and interpersonal oppression instead.
5. I thought I would be taking you to museums and creative arts workshops supporting you in exploring the magic of life and all your talents so you can choose who you want to be. Instead we are in constant struggle going to protest for immigration rights, against police brutality, dignity of human rights, equality for the LGBTQ, domestic workers, violence against women, reproductive justice, , ending wars, child abuse, ending sexual assault, protecting native lands, freeing our countries, and the list goes on and on. And when all else fails and the government doesn’t step up to meet our needs , you don’t see me very much cause I am out starting this non profit or this collective or strategizing, or fundraising or healing from it all.
6. I thought you would have opportunities to find a job, an open door here or there. That your future would be secured. But we enter into a financial crisis that doesn’t even belong to us but you will bare the burden anyway, owing 100′s of dollars in financial aid, no job security, no social security. And I will still ask, and it will still be required of you to be a tax paying member of society and work anyway. But when you get angry at the constant declines, at the constant abuse and turn inward, angry as hell, feeling powerless and devalued, i will ask you to dig deep and find another route. Don’t give in to who they expect you to be.
So, we build altars, light candles and call our ancestors instead.
I am sorry that instead of creating and living into possibilities, my teachings have been one of resistance and survival even when you didn’t have knowledge or words to explain what was happening and how you felt. I struggle as your mother to communicate the language of love in a world that communicates violence and hate. I tried with everything I had to do it differently. You played with barbie dolls, hell I bought you your own, even though your dad was like that is for girls and was afraid I was turning you gay. I put your hair in pony tails and put you in your sisters clothes, purples and pinks. You didn’t like sports so we went to museums and the zoo, parks and oceans picking up unknown animals you wanted to save or talked about other worlds as we looked at the sky. You didn’t like hip hop, you where into alternative music and skateboards, you loved to draw instead of being out in the street. Even through all the abuse you witnessed in our home, I prayed that you would not be like your dad and learn to respect girls and women. I put you in catholic school for a “better education” cause at least I knew I could undo in our home what you were learning in the oppressive religious institution about god and family, and women and men and roles and gender. I mean I was a lesbian by then so we were already living the contradictions.
What I didn’t know was that this world had already shaped me to raise you a certain way. The fear of being a mother to a Latino young man in America had been already internalized, so no matter what I did you would be stuck with being raised by a mother, her contradictions and her fear. Both those I in inherited by my dominican ancestry and our beautiful heterosexist, machismo mentality and the one that I was bound to become living in Washington Heights and watching all my brothers die, go to jail, become drug dealers or addicts and then choosing one as your dad, becoming a teen mom and ending up a single mother. To only suffer and live the rest of my life raising you to be anything but not be like him.
Even though I spent years doing political activist work so you can see a strong women fighting for a just world. I was not convinced that this would be enough to save you. I constantly weighed my choices and your chances of survival. I saw you, watched in fear as you had one foot in and one foot out, the internal struggle of not having a dad in your life. We fought, we cried, I wanted to give you away, hand you over to the state while at the same time I wanted to cover you, protect you from life ills. I researched all the youth programs in New York but you had to be in prison or have an addiction or be in foster care. No empowering program for young men just because. So, I did what I knew how to do and I had all the sisters you would need in your life, social workers, reproductive health workers, lawyers, organizers, empowerment coaches that took you to healing circles and sweats, cause we where committed that you would have a different life be a different kind of man. Yet, I looked at my life and there were no powerful men around. In our family you had my dad who was never around but you loved him dearly, your dad who left you too soon, and the male child abusers who I protected you from when we went home on vacation.
So we read books, Malcolm X , The Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Che, revolutionary men and women that you hated to read and 10, 11 and 12 cause you wanted to read comic books instead. But I knew that sacrifice would be small compared to what you would be faced with today. The only thing left that I could do was prepare you to be a soldier, a guerrilla fighter , to have no fear in the face of the many wars you would face personally and in the world. We worked on your feelings, on your anger wrote letter to dads who didn’t love us and for your little boys lost. i needed you to feel every step of the way cause the war being waged is to break down your spirit, to detach you from your humanity and leave you spiritually homelessness.
They say young black men without dads have a slim future but when I look at our “founding fathers”, drunk with patriarchy, carrying guns filled with white supremacy sneaking into our homes at night ready to rape mothers with their capitalist dicks I say fuck them. You have a better chance of living a hundred years with a single mom at the helm than walking the fucking streets of this so called “free country”
The fight is far from over and this mothers job is not done till its done. So in the meantime, I write this to you cause we will die waiting for an apology and it will keep me sane as I wait for you tonight.
Trayvon Martin The VERDICT: Not guilty!
It’s 12 o’clock do you know where your son is? As I sit here waiting for my son to come home from work, I pray that god brings him home alive. I feel tears stuck in my throat to think of the world he is growing up in and that I can’t save him. We are Ina state of war and on my to do list is an added on state of fear calling my son on the hour every hour when he is outside. What’s the message… Don’t not live in fear but be careful, call me when u leave and when you get there. Be in communication. Have your know your rights pamphlet in your pocket, and your lawyers card in your pocket, don’t stay out to late but have fun, we must continue to live and to love and to procreate but walk on the other block if you see the cops, fuck it , light a candle and call your ancestors to walk with you, precinate when you walk out the building , in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit, you are safe but don’t wear your pants down or a hoodie or stand in the corner or talk to loud. Walk in a group never alone better yet stay home ill take you everywhere you want to go but finish school, grow up and dream! Its not that i dont trust you, I don’t trust its the world!