A Love Note to Black Mothers on Mother's Day

May 12, 2013
By

By j.n. salters

This letter is for my mother. Our mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. All of the other black women who continue to raise black and brown warriors in this battlefield we call America. Who constantly find ways to make ends meet–in a world that continually fails to acknowledge your worth and beauty–just to keep smiles on our faces. To the only women who can grow roses from concrete. Turn scraps into Thanksgiving feasts. Who continue to love hard and wholeheartedly even when the world attempts to steal your joy. Still you rise.Untitled

I just want to say thank you. And that you are appreciated. Loved. Beautiful. Needed. I need you. WE NEED YOU. You deserve so much more than the words on this page. Than your lived realities. Than the media portrayals that negate your wonder. And caricature your splendor. Than the statistics that mock your circumstance. Ignoring your God-like abilities to raise invisible toy soldiers into Gabby Douglases and Quvenzhané Wallises. Turning forgotten flesh into souls on fire.

You deserve to have your faces carved into mountains. Plastered on dollar bills covering the faces of presidents who have stolen from you. Used your image against you. Lied to you. Made your plight invisible. You deserve to have your brown skin on every milk carton and news segment that privilege missing bodies that do not look like yours or your children’s. On the cover of every newspaper that fills its pages with stories of your fabricated inferiority. Leaving your existence in the margins. Near the end. At the back. We are Rosa Parks.

I wish everyone could see you from my eyes. Read the deep history embedded in your rich skin. The pigment of your imagination. The secrets that you hold in the arch of your back. How the sway of your hips creates masterpieces out of thin air. Reclaiming the fetishized movements of Sarah Baartman. How your thick-lipped words echo the endurance of Sojourner Truth. Ida B. Wells. Wilma Rudolph. Harriet Tubman. The everlasting effervescence of your soul that refuses to be broken. The miniature North Stars shining from your crescent-like eyes, leading us lost ones to freedom. Giving us the ability to dodge stray bullets. Dreams deferred. Project hallways turned Middle Passages.

I pray that they will someday see you. In me. In US.

With love,

One of your daughters

________________________________________

photoj.n. salters is a black feminist, writer, and doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s interested in the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality in rights to privacy, black cultural production, identity politics, sex work, law and criminal justice, and visual culture.

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20 Responses to A Love Note to Black Mothers on Mother's Day

  1. Ester Holzendorf on May 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. I am an elder and I appreciate your kind thoughts. Yes we have paid dues. I stand on the shoulders of so many strong black ladies, who stood when the storms of life were raging as they continue to rage. But we know we serve a true and living God, who will never leave us nor forsake us. Because of young, gifted, black sistah’s and brother’s,we as a people will survive, for the Lord is with you. Continue being blessed and being a blessing to us as a people.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

  2. Ester Holzendorf on May 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. I am an elder and I appreciate your kind thoughts. Yes we have paid dues. I stand on the shoulders of so many strong black ladies, who stood when the storms of life were raging as they continue to rage. But we know we serve a true and living God, who will never leave us nor forsake us. Because of young, gifted, black sistah’s and brother’s,we as a people will survive, for the Lord is with you. Continue being blessed and being a blessing to us as a people.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

  3. Ester Holzendorf on May 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. I am an elder and I appreciate your kind thoughts. Yes we have paid dues. I stand on the shoulders of so many strong black ladies, who stood when the storms of life were raging as they continue to rage. But we know we serve a true and living God, who will never leave us nor forsake us. Because of young, gifted, black sistah’s and brother’s,we as a people will survive, for the Lord is with you. Continue being blessed and being a blessing to us as a people.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

  4. Ester Holzendorf on May 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. I am an elder and I appreciate your kind thoughts. Yes we have paid dues. I stand on the shoulders of so many strong black ladies, who stood when the storms of life were raging as they continue to rage. But we know we serve a true and living God, who will never leave us nor forsake us. Because of young, gifted, black sistah’s and brother’s,we as a people will survive, for the Lord is with you. Continue being blessed and being a blessing to us as a people.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

      thank you so much for your kind words. i hope that we continue to make you proud.

  5. Sheila Radford-Hill on May 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Many years ago, I stood in the hall outside the office of a long-time professor in the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. I had just finished a meeting with him. As I remember the conversation, he was inpatient with my insistence that he explain my grade. Without demonstrating that he had considered any of my work, he told me how offended he was by my presence on campus. His principal concern was that had received none of what he perceived to be the benefits of affirmative action. He changed my grade and dismissed me with a comment that once the university stopped lowering its standards, black women would not succeed at Penn. Today, the University has worked to bring some of the finest black women scholars to a number of departments. The university, in turn, is attracting talented black women like you who are thoughtful and appreciative of Moms who blazed so many trails and suffered so many trials. I know challenges still continue but we stand with you young women and thank you for your brilliance and your love.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:21 am

      wow. thank you for sharing that story! i wish i could say that a lot has changed since your days in that hallway…but, it has been moments similar to that one that have helped me to develop my black feminist consciousness. (i am currently online purchasing your book “further to fly: black women and the politics of empowerment.” can’t wait to read!)

  6. Sheila Radford-Hill on May 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Many years ago, I stood in the hall outside the office of a long-time professor in the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. I had just finished a meeting with him. As I remember the conversation, he was inpatient with my insistence that he explain my grade. Without demonstrating that he had considered any of my work, he told me how offended he was by my presence on campus. His principal concern was that had received none of what he perceived to be the benefits of affirmative action. He changed my grade and dismissed me with a comment that once the university stopped lowering its standards, black women would not succeed at Penn. Today, the University has worked to bring some of the finest black women scholars to a number of departments. The university, in turn, is attracting talented black women like you who are thoughtful and appreciative of Moms who blazed so many trails and suffered so many trials. I know challenges still continue but we stand with you young women and thank you for your brilliance and your love.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:21 am

      wow. thank you for sharing that story! i wish i could say that a lot has changed since your days in that hallway…but, it has been moments similar to that one that have helped me to develop my black feminist consciousness. (i am currently online purchasing your book “further to fly: black women and the politics of empowerment.” can’t wait to read!)

  7. Sheila Radford-Hill on May 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Many years ago, I stood in the hall outside the office of a long-time professor in the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. I had just finished a meeting with him. As I remember the conversation, he was inpatient with my insistence that he explain my grade. Without demonstrating that he had considered any of my work, he told me how offended he was by my presence on campus. His principal concern was that had received none of what he perceived to be the benefits of affirmative action. He changed my grade and dismissed me with a comment that once the university stopped lowering its standards, black women would not succeed at Penn. Today, the University has worked to bring some of the finest black women scholars to a number of departments. The university, in turn, is attracting talented black women like you who are thoughtful and appreciative of Moms who blazed so many trails and suffered so many trials. I know challenges still continue but we stand with you young women and thank you for your brilliance and your love.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:21 am

      wow. thank you for sharing that story! i wish i could say that a lot has changed since your days in that hallway…but, it has been moments similar to that one that have helped me to develop my black feminist consciousness. (i am currently online purchasing your book “further to fly: black women and the politics of empowerment.” can’t wait to read!)

  8. Sheila Radford-Hill on May 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Many years ago, I stood in the hall outside the office of a long-time professor in the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. I had just finished a meeting with him. As I remember the conversation, he was inpatient with my insistence that he explain my grade. Without demonstrating that he had considered any of my work, he told me how offended he was by my presence on campus. His principal concern was that had received none of what he perceived to be the benefits of affirmative action. He changed my grade and dismissed me with a comment that once the university stopped lowering its standards, black women would not succeed at Penn. Today, the University has worked to bring some of the finest black women scholars to a number of departments. The university, in turn, is attracting talented black women like you who are thoughtful and appreciative of Moms who blazed so many trails and suffered so many trials. I know challenges still continue but we stand with you young women and thank you for your brilliance and your love.

    • j.n. salters on May 14, 2013 at 1:21 am

      wow. thank you for sharing that story! i wish i could say that a lot has changed since your days in that hallway…but, it has been moments similar to that one that have helped me to develop my black feminist consciousness. (i am currently online purchasing your book “further to fly: black women and the politics of empowerment.” can’t wait to read!)

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