“Black women are called “the mule of the world,” because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else refused to carry…When we have pleaded for understanding, our character has been distorted; when we have asked for simple caring, we have been handed empty inspirational appellations. When we have asked for love, we have been given children. In short, even our plainer gifts, our labors of fidelity and love, have been knocked down our throats.” – Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens
We are all products of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ blood, sweat, tears, prayers and sacrifices. Our mothers have mastered the art of being the most powerful source of love and knowledge in spite of the load the world has placed on them. Their strength comes from a history of struggles, many of which we will never even know. Thus, this is a conversation about appreciating the sacrifices of our mothers while taking those lessons to create our own metaphorical gardens. This piece is inspired by, and has excerpts from Alice Walker’s essay, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.
“She handed down respect for the possibilities- and the will to grasp them. For her, so hindered and intruded upon in so many ways… This ability to hold on, even in very simple ways, is work black women have done for a very long time.”
From childhood, we’ve been taught to obliterate any obstacle in our path, to be guarded, decisive, vigilant, supportive to all, rude to none (unless they ask for it), everything to everyone. Our mothers overexert themselves on our behalf, handing down respect for the possibilities with the tools to turn them into a reality, tools that they may not have had the privilege to use in their prime. The side effect of being raised by women who carried the world on their shoulders is that the expectation to do the same is passed down, but with a lighter load due to their sacrifices. We are living in a world where we are still expected to take on unwarranted loads, stereotypes, labels and apart of our journey involves learning what needs to be carried and planted and what does not. Having been blessed with the will to grasp our possibilities, we are now creating our own gardens based on the seeds passed on to us, with the opportunity to decide what we produce. Our gardens won’t look the same as our mothers’, but they will be all the better because of the foundation laid.
The seed/lesson of my mother’s that I want in my garden most is her genuine care for family, friends and community. The person you can call on at any hour, the person you don’t even have to call on because she is already there to be real with you and encourage you, that is a trait I want to replicate in my life as I continue my journey.
If you are tending to the same seed, be mindful overexertion- a seed that we are historically guilty of planting or having planted on our behalf. Black women are the cornerstones of our families and communities, but in the process of replicating this necessity, please do not exhaust your resources and PLEASE do not let anyone trespass in that garden throwing around seeds you didn’t ask for. As we grow and raise families while flourishing in our careers, relationships and social lives, we will be busy with a number of obligations that don’t necessarily prioritize our personal needs. That’s life and our ability to hold on is innate, but are we holding on to ourselves too? This world needs all that you have to give, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
“Because of her creativity with her flowers, even my memories of poverty are seen through a screen of blooms- sunflowers, petunias, roses… and on and on… I hear again the praise showered on her because whatever rocky soil she landed on, she turned into a garden.”
Our mothers could write an international library on turning rocky soil into a garden. I’m eternally thankful for mine, her endless sacrifices and the seeds she’s planted for her young roses. Think about it, they sacrificed entirely too much for us not to have ownership of our gardens and what it produces, regardless of the stereotypes, titles and excess the world tries to throw in there. So keep springing forth, blossoming into your own with the seeds and lessons from our mothers, free to decipher what springs forth next.
“Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength – in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
*Cue Tupac’s Dear Mama*
What is one thing from your mother’s garden that you want to produce in your own as well?
By: Naa-Shorme, Creator of Write to Live