I did these sketches (above) many years ago. When I first drew these, I was trying to capture what the women in my family look like on any given Church-Sunday. I remembered this sketch today in thinking about Mother’s Day and so added some words: Today I thank every woman who ever kept me… [Yes, this post is a re-mix of previous mother’s day posts. Click here for those.]
I have strong memories of being a little girl when adults, especially my family and close neighbors, asked me: “who keep you when your momma work?” OR “who keepin you right now?” (the second question was when I was on a part of the block where I wasn’t supposed to be or at the corner store without permission). Who keep you? That’s always been one of my favorite expressions. No one in my family or immediate kin network ever asked “who babysits you?” I was never babysat. I was always KEPT.
There is a philosophy at work here for how black children need to be raised and looked after: keeping black children is simply a different kind of love. It is more than merely sitting with them, teaching them, or taking care of them; it is a kind of valuing that only black communities have been willing to provide for black children. You keep the things that are most valuable; you do not discard them even in a world that encourages you to do so.
This notion of KEEPING also makes me think of my mentors and sister-friends today who have also kept me in all kinds of ways. And while I don’t mean to diss the brothas here, it has been the women who have made me accountable to a higher calling. They are the ones who have kept me sane, kept me grounded, kept me strong, kept me humble, kept me whole, kept me honest, kept me full, kept me real, kept me righteous, kept me right ….and kept my well-being as their first priority. They have kept their high standards, their moral authority, strong example, and good karma as a model for me, especially in those times where the folk around me have claimed these things but stayed too stuck in stupid and triflin to actually achieve any of it.
So today I thank every woman who ever kept me… my mother, my grandmother, my ancestors/she-elders, my aunties, my cousins, my mentors, the older girls down the block, and all of my sister-friends now. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!