In the midst of both a pandemic and an anti-racist social justice movement in our country,
I find myself, as a white person, a mother, grandmother, and now a caregiver, searching for the wisdom of black grandmothers.
I believe black women may be the most resilient people in the world
and that their strength gives hope to the whole human race.
What Keeps Me Standing seems to me to be an ideal title as so many of us, for many different reasons, face hardship.
The book consists of letters to future generations based on 1,000 contributions from black grandmothers.
Here, for example, are the words of Catherine J. Brent, talking about her faith:
The task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Our Father will not forsake you. No one is too lost to be found, too low to be lifted. You’ve got to remember who you are and who you belong to. Your love must know no barrier, and you must embrace the type of courage that cannot be shaken, a faith strong enough for the darkness, a strength sufficient for any task, and grace to meet life’s challenges. By this guiding light I have lived and now pass the light on to you.
Two other sources of inspiration are sustaining me right now.
The first is a podcast, from a favorite source: OnBeing.
African-American poet Marilyn Nelson, told OnBeing interviewer Krista Tippett about a really difficult period of her life
when she had a young baby, a teaching job, an unhappy marriage, a mother with Alzheimers,
and the stress of a tenure review in a white male dominated English department.
“I kept thinking of my great-great-grandmothers.”
I kept thinking if they could live through what they lived through, I can live through a tenure decision!
A third source called Real Black Grandmothers, is the product of a wonderful scholar, Dr. LaShawnda Pittman.
What a treasure trove of stories, research, blog posts, and resources.
I encourage every grandmother to explore it.
Black resilience and white fragility may well be linked to each other.
To become less fragile white grandmothers can learn from and honor the resilience and faith
that brought black grandmother’s through the hardest of times, past and present.
As I dig deep for resilience, I am grateful for the stories of my black women friends
as well as the documentary works of art that contain them.
What keeps you standing?