by C5Damani (old head of the movement)
My first real memory of my Mother was when I was five years old. I had fallen into a quicksand pit* in front of our tenement in Chicago, Illinois. After calling my brother for help which he didn’t hear, I was finally able to pull myself out and run upstairs to the 3rd floor apartment we stayed in.
My Mother was there and I was unsure as to what to expect. Would she be angry because I had soaked all my clothes and shoes? Surprisingly she was not. She got a towel, dried me off, changed my clothes, gave me a hug and a kiss and sent me happily back outside to play. My next memory of my Momma was as the Tupac song says through the bars of a jail cell. I was on the outside, she was on the inside. I was ten years old.
My earliest childhood memories were living with my great grandmother who we affectionately called “Ma” and my aunt who I called “Boose” (pronounced boo-see). We lived in a cold water flat in Chicago, Illinois on the third floor with a pot belly stove in the middle of the combination living room/bedroom. My older brother by one and a half years stayed downstairs on the first floor with another aunt who he called “mama Sarah”. We seldom saw our Mother, so my first “Mother” was my great grandmother who loved me, fed me, disciplined me and cared for me when I was hurt or sick.
My second “Mother” was my aunt “Boose”. She would buy me clothes and toys, play checkers and cards (Tonk and pitty pat) with me, give me a sip of her beer she drank occasionally and treated me like her son (she had no kids of her own, so I was her little man). I was six years of age. These two “Mothers” of mine from Little Rock, Arkansas loved me much and I loved them immensely.
My third “Mother” was my mother’s mother, my grandmother, who my brother and I called “Granny”. Around 11 years of age, my grandmother relieved my great grandmother of her parenting duties (she was getting up in age and we were getting too big and rambunctious for her to control) and took me and my brother to live with her and her husband. We called him “Grandpa”. She was a big woman about 5’10”, dark complexion with big hands and enormous strength. She put us in the Boy Scouts, sent us to summer camps, bought us memberships to the YMCA, bought us baseball bats and gloves, gym shoes, etc. She doted on us, and we loved her.
With all that she did for us, the most important thing she did was to take us to see our Mother who was in prison in downstate Illinois. We would go three to four times a year. While we were happy to see her, we were, at the same time, sad and angry. My Mother was the most knowledgeable person I knew, she read constantly, wrote poetry and essays about her life on the streets among the “dispossessed”, told us about the world of racism and oppression that we lived in and she did it in the starkest of language with an overly liberal sprinkling of cuss words… “motherfucker” being one of her favorites. Each time me and my brother would leave her we would try to come up with plans to break her out. We were 11 and 12 years old.
Eventually, my Mother got out, cleaned herself of her drug addiction and became a part of our lives. She was my fourth and final “Mother”. So, in honor of my four Mothers who have transitioned to the realm of the ancestors, I praise all Mothers everywhere and send them my love and appreciation.
You are the QUEENS of the world.
*It was a large hole in the ground that the city had dug for some reason and because it was in the black ghetto they neglected to fill it back up or put a barricade around it. After several weeks of intermittent heavy rain it became a “quicksand pit” which as kids we would throw various objects in it.