This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

June 14, 2009

Working With Black Women, Epilogue: The Next Generation

***Part 1 here; Part 2 here***

So, as the blog says: What about our daughters?

Will they be destined to travel our same paths, stumble over the same exposed roots and boulders we did? Will they be able to be all their selves with each other? Will they decide to identify as feminists, womanists, multi-ists, or nary-ists? Will they be more than their hair, their skin tone, their names? Can they be yoked romantically to men, other women—to no one in particular—without being defined solely in terms of these connections or lack of them?

…The Family Reunion is an ideal natural environment to gain insight into these questions. The aluminum foil is peeled back from the homemade mac and cheese and the pork ribs. The card decks and dominoes are slapping table tops. Frankie Beverly and Maze is echoing across the green grass of the public park, and the living is easy.

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

Hugs and greetings of long-losts have been exchanged and now the sub-groupings have been formed. Loosely based on age and gender, but not completely.

A group of Girl Cousins, from 3 to 10 years old, has coalesced around a shared love of babies and homemade ice cream and a cooler full of juice in pouches. At some point I take them across the field to the portable potty. In-depth discussion: toilet paper and hand sanitizer, who is doing number one versus number two, the merits of High School Musical underpants versus plain white or pink, the odd looking “cookie” in the urinal (“where men go pee-pee; see, their penises fit inside there”) beside the toilet. After all this—and of helping with lining the dirty seat with paper and fastening snaps and belt buckles and buttons—I am ready to head back to the picnic site.

But the Girl Cousins are not.

They have found a sewer drain, full of water from three straight days of rain. The sewer drain is actually a pot of stew, and a discarded stick has become a wooden spoon. Beans are required from amongst the pebbles of the adjacent baseball diamond. Leafy greens are needed from the dandelion plants and grass. Seasoning in the form of sand from the pitcher’s mound gives it extra flavoring.

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

Braids and twists and puffs top the heads. Inside the heads minds work to create a state-of-the-art kitchen. The conversation is focused and intense. No, that’s a little too much salt. Yeah, great idea—Get the brown beans up under the lighter ones. Please let her add her greens next. Look at what I found—we can use it for a measuring cup! OK, OK, we all gonna get a chance to stir! Mmm, it’s almost done; Y’all wanna taste?

The Girl Cousins are from the inner city and the suburbs. They participate in vacation bible school and swim practice and drill team. They sing all the words to Kidz Bop and Beyonce and Keke Palmer and Alicia Keys and Hanna Montanna. Their parents are married, never married…their siblings are theirs by biology and social agreement.

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

They are a diverse bunch.

After the stew is made, the oldest calls for everyone to join hands and bow heads for a prayer. Her words give thanks for this food and the hands, Lord, who has prepared it. She asks for the continued safety of our family, Lord, and the love that we share for each other today and all days. The other Girl Cousins nod, their eyes tightly closed in reverence.

At the end of the prayer they all say amen and begin to eat their meal.

Eventually we head back to the picnic area. The Girl Cousins run ahead, leaving me to snap a few more photographs.

I pray that if there is a God, she or he listens to and answers the prayers of little children over make believe stew.

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

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7 Comments »

  1. *sob* This is lovely. I can’t wait for my girls and your girls to make stew together! We should meet somewhere halfway…sometime…

    xoxoxoxoxo

    Comment by deesha — June 14, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  2. I remember doing this same thing as a child in rural NW Georgia. It was life imitating life and a wonderful bonding period for me and my female cousins. It just happened so naturally.

    It apprears this unwritten tradition is still evident today. I would love to hear more about how it’s survived throughout the history of black women from suburban to rural America.

    Comment by Katrina — June 15, 2009 @ 7:28 am

  3. Deesha, we’ve gotta make that happen soon!

    Katrina, it was so apparent how much of a bonding experience this was–and how it just developed organically. I guess that means that even in this day and age of computer games and TV children’s imaginations can still take wing.

    Comment by pprscribe — June 16, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  4. This brought tears to my eyes. And I’m at work. Crap.

    Beautiful, beautiful girls.

    Comment by more cowbell — June 18, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  5. oh this is so beautiful!!

    Comment by karen L. Simpson — June 18, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  6. This is so beautiful but it saddens me at the same time. As the ONLY SAHM in a sea of suburbia, my niece often hangs with us after pre-school. If she continues to grow up here…she’ll never experience unstructured play with faces that mimic hers.
    Dang…we need to go to a family reunion!

    Comment by Lorrie Milton — June 19, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  7. Thanks, MC and Karen!

    And to you, Lorrie. The unstructured play thing is huge—with kids of any race. I am convinced kids need to do a lot more of this, and the best thing is that it takes little or no toys or prior planning. As for family reunions, I agree—you should go to one. They can be drama-filled, but in the end they are more than worth it!

    Comment by pprscribe — June 19, 2009 @ 7:06 pm


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