On this Mother’s Day, let’s reflect on the voice of the black mothers through the ages. As we travel back in history, an early voice can be heard as the slave mother tried to give her children hope of the future as a means of protecting them from “the ringers of slavery.”
The love the slaves had for their mother demonstrated that she was held in high esteem, with many slaves refusing to run away because they “could not bear the idea” of leaving their mothers. Putting herself in harm’s way, the slave mother took enormous risks to teach her children how to survive in bondage. Even though the slave family was highly unstable due to the whims of the master, it was an important survival mechanism where slave children relied on the slave mother to raise their spirits.
Following three hundred years of labor as a slave, a new voice began to emerge from the black mother, demonstrating a shift in focus. This new voice spoke of the American promise of equality and opportunity, finding ways to improve the life chances for success for her children, which would lead to a happy, productive adulthood.
Also, this new voice expressed a willingness to work hard to help provide for her children, hoping that her determination would help send them through school, including college. There is an expectation that she wants her children to do better than she did, having a future, going some place and being something. This is her dream that she wants to realize through her children, encouraging them to take advantage of the new opportunities with an attitude of self-confidence and assertiveness.
Now, there is a new freedom due to the long journey of our ancestral mothers. They harbored a dream that they were determined to pursue, letting nothing get in their way and willing to work hard. Looking back over our history, we see the agony and despair our foremothers endured. All they wanted was to pass the torch to their children, hoping we would accept the challenge and follow in their footsteps.
We’ve come a long way from those dark nights, and the dreams they had, along with their faith, must keep us moving “up the great stairs.” We must not retreat from the struggle, for there is much work to be done. Our foremothers gave us the gift of their faith and the courage and strength to keep pressing on.
Their dream of a just society must come true. The sacrifice of our ancestral mothers — “their sweat, their pain, their despair” should become our “torch for tomorrow.”
Today, the voice of the black mother shouts, “I have to keep on! No stopping for me.” Just as black mothers help their children to learn to love their blackness, white mothers have the challenge to raise their children free of prejudice.
On this Mother’s Day, it is my fervent hope that all mothers will urge their children to continue to bring about social change in the future in order to live in greater dignity and freedom. So Moms, “don’t you turn back.”