Just This Sistahs Opinion: Precious Gifts

Artist: Shepard Fairey

Precious Gifts

On Monday mornings, my co-workers and I ask each other the customary question of, “How was your weekend?” It always involves answers of new restaurants discovered, errands run, movies seen, and activities done with our kids (for me, it would be my 8-year-old nephew).

This morning was different.

This morning we just shook our heads at each other, exhanging exasperated glances about the not guilty verdict handed to George Zimmerman Saturday night, acquitting him of all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

This morning, I shared how much my nephew favors Trayvon, and they agreed.

This morning, I explained the anger I felt, the hot tears that fell two days ago as I thought of my 8-year-old nephew, too young to know the impact this legal decision could have on his life.

But this morning, as angry as I still am, I realized literature can help me cope with life’s disappointments, better explained by what I retweeted Saturday night:


Yesterday I finished Tanita S. Davis’ Happy Families, the story of an African-American family coming to terms with the father’s decision to live as transgender, told from the perspectives of 15-year-old twins Ysabel and Justin. The siblings love their father, but worry what impact this will have on their family. They also worry about what people will have to say about their father Christopher, now to be known as Christine.

Happy Families delves into the typical teenage embarrassments and insecurities, but there’s a part that really stood out to me as I read yesterday. Justin, a flourishing debate team member at his high school, uses his patented logic to help him sort through his feelings. Though it deals with a completely different subject than the GZ trial, I felt it profound:

Fact: Random violence happens—no matter where you live.
Fact: Some racist could attack us for being African-Americans. But no one has.
Fact: These last three questions probably fall at least a little under the category of “paranoid.” Who are these “people”? Why do they suddenly know who we are and what we’re doing?

Other than asking Dad to be careful and praying for him like always, there’s nothing I can do about any of this. Just like every other day of my life, when I say goodbye to Dad when he flies down to supervise a building site, when Mom has a late job and I go to bed before she comes home—all I can do is make sure they know I love them, say my prayers, and let it go.

Stuff happens. None of us control anything.

Considering the decision found by an all female jury, one that couldn’t realize that an unarmed black child minding his own business in his own neighborhood didn’t deserve to die, the impact of Justin’s realizations that “none of us control anything” hit me hard once again. It’s not something I didn’t know before, but when tragedies like Trayvon Martin’s killer walking free occur, you can’t help but feel like we can’t win. We’ve fought so hard through slavery, through segregation, through languishing at the back of the bus, and we think after those brutal periods, nothing could be worse. Until injustice slaps us awake again.

But despite Justin’s realizations, we can do something. We can affect change in our words, our actions and reactions, and our most important gifts, our children. As always, education is key. Not only should we teach them to be aware (not scared) of the cowardly boogeyman with guns, we should arm our children with the knowledge that they do matter, that their lives do have meaning even in the face of this verdict. We should impress upon them that while being black could mean being a target, they do not have to walk in fear. God will handle the rest.

And, as Justin, says, “Make sure they know I love them, say my prayers, and let it go.” My nephew’s life means too much for me not to.

Just This Sistahs Opinion: Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day

A story about my mom…

Last week, my mother and I were watching the local 6 o’clock news. One report that grabbed our attention was a story about domestic partnership registry becoming available in our city. Now both gay and straight couples can register to be granted rights as unmarried couples or couples whose marriages or aren’t recognized under state law. Under the registry, domestic partners can make health-care and end-of-life decisions for one another, visit one another in the hospital or jail and take part in educational decisions of their children. It’s a big step for our sleepy college town.

Watching two men sign the papers to have their relationship recognized, my mother made her trademark sound of, “Mmmmmm.” It’s the noise she makes when something doesn’t agree with her (think of the “ooooh” cat from Puss in Boots, and you get the picture).

Then the next thing she said is, “You better not go up there!”

She meant City Hall to register a domestic partnership with my girlfriend.

My back was facing her, so I couldn’t see her face. But I knew my mother, in her usual fashion, was half-joking, half-serious. While my relationship is no secret to her, it doesn’t exactly motivate her to run though the streets, announcing her baby daughter has a female partner.

So I laughed and returned the joke, “I’m grown. And what are you gonna do if I do?”

To which my mom replied with a smile, “You just better not be up there.”

Despite my mother’s warning that I stay away from City Hall with a black pen in hand, I know she wants the best for me in all aspects of my life. My sexuality is still a tender spot for her (it will get better), but she loves and accepts me. As long as I’m happy, I believe that’s all she cares about.

She knows I’m happy.

No matter whom I’ve dated, her love remains unchanging. She always calls me when I don’t call her after a couple of days, threatens to stay a week with me when I’m sick, and detects even the slightest distress notes in my voice.

Most importantly, my mother prays for me. Every morning, she sits for a spell with her Bible, and her talks with God ensure her child is safe, healthy and in His hands.

My mother’s prayers, I’m sure, have kept me.

And for Mother’s Day, and all the days between, I’m thanking God for her.

Just This Sistahs Opinion is column about lesbian literature and life.