Reaching in the Past...
So many ancestral questions are being asked of me as of late.
Has this been happening for anyone else?
I have been asked on more than one occasion in the last month, what has brought me to this work, my journey.
My mother is always at the forefront of my mind when I think of my work and what I do.
Who she was, who she is, and who she is becoming.
Even as she nears 80 years old, and her movements are slower, her activities lessening, and her memory fading, she is still becoming.
During this pandemic and paradigm shift, many of our parents and grandparents have joined our ancestors.
This means we have had to deal with grief in the most unusual ways, have had to adapt to new customs in saying goodbye, and forging ahead in this new normal, in many cases, untethered and unsure.
So, believe me when I say I sit in gratitude for having both my parents still with me in this realm, even though the dynamics of our relationships are changing.
I know, at this point, you may be asking, "Sister Maria, what does this have to do with sustainability? Being green?"
Well, the very foundation of what I do and why I do it is because of relationships—my relationship with the Planet and my relationships with the people around me.
The relationship that is shaping much of what my life is going to look like for the foreseeable future is the relationship with my mother.
Reaching in the past, at how my mother parented me, and how she showed up in the world independent of who she was to me, my siblings, and her spouse is intriguing.
She made it to the University of MD Eastern Shore, A Historically Black College & University, on a tennis scholarship.
Mrs. Bea, played the hell out of some tennis. She would be on one side of the court playing against all three of her children, and we would be losing! HA!
This is a woman who married well into her 20's; she was the last among the five daughters of Bertha McBride to marry and have children even though she was not the youngest.
Something in my spirit leads me to believe my mother probably would have never married if she was born during another era.
I could be wrong, that has been known to happen from time to time.
Watching her as I grew up, I knew my mother was different, not just because my friends would tell me, but mostly because of how she reacted to people's reactions to her.
If unbothered was a person.
She did not dress like other mothers.
She did not interact with my father as I saw other women.
She did not parent like other parents.
She was really paving the way for her daughters to know what it looks like to show up in this world FREE.
A world that doesn't reverence the womb that bore it. A world that sees women as second-class citizens and black women as even less, as chattel.
Every step that my mother took or didn't take has given me the esteem I needed to confidently walk into spaces where no one else looks like me.
Every lesson my mother instilled in me has given me the love I needed to confidently say in these spaces I should not be the only one here who looks like me.
Every time my mother volunteered in our community to make it better than she found, it gave me the blueprint I needed to confidently embark upon the task of bringing some people who look like me with me!
My mother's example is the reservoir upon which I draw when I get tired in this work.
My mother's voice is what I hear when I want to give up.
My mother is more than just the reason I exist, but she is why and how I live.
Out loud, unapologetically black, and with the knowledge, that servant is not a dirty word but one of the best possible titles to ever be called.
Henrietta Cornelius Milburn Coward is the relationship I hold dearest to my heart; it has made and is making me who I am. She, my mother, is who I am honoring in my musings today, this day, and every day as she is the EPITOME of being as black as coal.
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Black as Coal: The Blackest of Faces in the Whitest of Spaces
My Life in Sustainability