Happy New Year!: Recognizing, reflecting on and remembering my biggest influences in Black Breastfeeing

2014: Happy New Year

I really didn’t plan on writing today, but I wanted to make sure to say ‘Happy New Year’ to all. I’m sitting here at my little sister’s house waiting for something to happen — no, seriously — there is nothing going on around here, though we’ve planned on watching scary movies all night long with our kids (yes, they can handle it. Often better than I can).

This year has been a doozy. There was lots going on, that’s for sure, that made some things and my life much more complex than I would have voted for. I bet I cried my weight in tears, which is probably not an understatement — about many things — some of the tears from hurt and heartache, some from frustration and others because I am just a pretty emotional and sensitive person. Of course there were also some awesome things happening around here as well, like being back in school researching what has become the love of my life. I still can’t believe I’m doing this, it is so incredible. Those close to me are healthy and they’re even pretty happy, too, for the most part and so I am thankful for that. Also, I found out I’m going to be a great aunt again. Again — meaning my friend’s daughter who I have known since she was a six years old is having a baby girl in May.

What usually is on my mind this time of year is my family. Many of my best New Year’s Eve moments have been spent in their presence — siblings, my nieces and nephews and everyone. Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom and my grandma the most, who are both no longer with us. My grandma left us just over three years ago at the end of 2010, and my mom in 2002.

Growing up, my grandma always lived just down the street or even in the same apartment complex as us — this was generally the case regardless of where we were — until I was about 14 or so, then she and my grandpa moved a bit further from where we were at the time — a bus ride, a transfer ride and a 2 block walk away but still in the same city. That didn’t deter any of us kids from frequenting her new place. My most favorite memories of New Year’s Eve were spent at her home during those early teenage years, listening to the popular radio stations that would countdown the top songs of the year. With my headphones on, I’d toggle back and forth on my walkman between 92.3 The Beat, 102.7 KIIS FM or even Power 106 to make sure I didn’t miss any of the good music such as Anita Baker, Johnny Gill, Janet Jackson, Levert, Whitney Houston, Christopher Williams, Regina Belle, Babyface and so on, that each channel would play. If you were in, or if you are from Southern California then you know these stations I’m talking about. Because she lived  in such close proximity to Disneyland, I would wait up until the firework show began, look out over the balcony of her 7th story apartment in the senior complex and then I knew it was midnight.

My mom would ‘pray in’ the new year. Growing up in a very religious household, I am no stranger to prayer. We did it much and often — my mom more frequently than the rest of us and her yearly segue into the next twelve-month-period would begin a few hours before midnight; you could find her on her knees, and that is where she would stay until the clock struck 12. She’d emerge from these sessions in a calm-like state, feeling comforted by being in that holy presence of her creator, and then ask for protection for all of us through the night, hearing the ‘celebratory’ gunshots. Right at midnight everyone in my family would make phone calls to each other  from wherever we were, calling our friends, my other siblings and family near and far who weren’t right there with us. This happened each and every year.

I’ve been writing a ‘piece’ over the past couple of years on Black breastfeeding. It’s been more off than on at this point because I’ve been busy and other things have kept me occupied. It’s far from perfect, but below is a very small snippet of its introduction. Each time my twin and I got into a ‘fight’ with our little sister — those inevitable moments of sibling rivalry while growing up, my mom always reminded us of how we ‘prayed her in.’ And my little sister is definitely used to hearing the story — and for me I just thought I’d share where my greatest influences in this area came from — and what and who continues to be the driving force in my work:

‘When we were seven, my twin sister and I prayed daily for our mother to have a baby — a girl. The first memory I have of my little sister is when I was eight. When I walked home from school and into the house and noticed my mother’s things, who had just arrived back from having a Cesarean I threw down my bag and ran up the stairs. That is where I saw her, my mother, and my grandmother. I did not know the impact that scene would have on me down the road. That years later I would come to understand the history of our society — one rooted in injustice, inequality, oppression, and marginalization, where the continuous domination required the continuous subjugation of certain groups…. I didn’t know that racism and sexism manifested itself in obvious and mutated forms, and Black women were continuously to face the brunt of generational trauma, and where breastfeeding and a woman’s breasts have been sexualized and stigmatized….. I didn’t know that patriarchy was praised and accounted for much of this or that our shift from wholeness to brokenness had been instituted by colonialism, targeting our communities and impacting us physically, mentally, emotionally……And that I’d work to challenge those things in this delicate arena. All I knew was that walking into that bedroom, seeing my mom bare-chested with my grandma sitting right next to her as she nursed my little sister — this little brown baby with a head full of curly black hair, was the most exciting moment of my eight-year-old life. Our answered prayer….. And that nearly 27 years later I would call upon this memory and recognize that my biggest influences in Black breastfeeding were right in front of me.’

Even though I can’t have any of these moments back that I’ve shared, I still think about them often and love them like they are happening right now.

What are some of the things you think about each year? Who or what has influenced you most in what you do?

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