May 29, 2020
I talked with my Goddaughter tonight. I needed to check in on her.
I told her I was proud of her for speaking up.
I asked her to be safe.
She told me to be safe.
We both discussed how… this is where we are.
I met Gabby’s parents when we were all arriving in Oakland, California and in our 20’s. We three ended up at the same Presbyteiran Church in downtown Oakland. However, our paths were quite different.
Netti was from Liberia. I’m not sure of all her family history but I remember the Liberian part was what she identified with.
Gabriel was born in Nigeria. His biological mother was born in Nigeria and his biological father born in Liberia. Because of the war there, he was taken to Liberia and then adopted.
Me… I was from a farm in the US Midwest… from Iowa.
We were all three transplants to the Bay Area of California. I loved this sweet engaged couple and they loved me. I came to the church because of the familiarity of the Presbyterian Church I grew up with in Iowa. They came to the church because of the same familiarity; and many other people from Nigeria that had found a home in that church.
I remember the day they asked if I would be in their wedding! I was excited. Then I learned the wedding would be in New York City, where most of their family that had immigrated lived.
I was using my credit card to charge cans of beans for food at the local drug store at that time; so a trip to New York plus expenses to be part of a wedding were not in the cards. Netti and Gabriel understood, and I believe my consolation prize was instead of being in their wedding… they asked to be their first-born daughter’s Godmother. Looking back, I wish I could of done both; but I definitely got the prize!
Yesterday I posted about my wedding day and found a photo of me holding my sweet Goddaughter and her gazing at me. Our relationship becomes richer throughout the years. I recognize we are different… the color of our skin makes that clear. And I recognize God brought us together. We are connected on so many levels. And that has been my gift to truly understand the richness of connectedness; whatever our skin color.
I remember her younger days in the ice skating world… training at the Oakland Ice Arena. This vibrant soul skating her heart out.. in yet another arena that was set up for white skin.
I remember her graduation from high school and going to her celebration. All the world in front of her. And still, limitations.
I remember not once but twice; hearing from my Goddaughter about patrons that abused her with names I cannot type… and left hateful messages saying they would not tip a (that name I cannot type). My Mama Bear hair was raised. I raised my voice privately and publicly. And I felt helpless that I could not do more to help protect my amazing Goddaughter.
When my Goddaughter graduated from the fancy college with Bachelors in Health Sciences; I proudly attended all the events. I remember her telling me how few black students were at her campus. The first graduation event was the Black Graduation. I arrived and was texting her to find where she was. I was in a lovely reception with amazing music and appetizers and lots of black and brown people. I texted; “Sweetie, I thought you said there were few black and brown people here… I am in surrounded by lovely people!” She texted back, “Godmommy, those are the families of the few black and brown people here.”
After the reception, there was a ceremony, just for the black and brown students. When my Goddaughter spoke, she asked me to stand and told the audience to see what a true ally is. I was a bit embarrassed … and also taking that as a continued charge to speak up and support my Goddaughter.
These days, as my sweet Goddaughter is re-traumatized again, after the murder of George Floyd, she posted a beautiful message today. You see, my Goddaughter is Miss Wisconsin USA. She wears a crown. And as she has had to do throughout her life; she is reconciling the voice she has and how to use it. I am so immensely proud of her postings. And I am so immensely scared for her. I write this as a reminder to white people… how very important our actions are right now! I add the link to her post today...
My Goddaughter, first and foremost is a journalist; working as a news reporter. So this day, when in the morning a dark skinned CNN reporter was arrested while reporting, I am worried. The CNN reporter, on camera, asked over and over “Why am I being arrested?” It was all on camera… just like the murder of George Floyd.
My Goddaughter has been re-traumatized continually, because of the color of her skin. As we talked tonight I struggled to find the Mama Bear comfort I want to give her. Because I am scared. For her… for so many.
My Goddaughter posted tonight…
“I just need one question answered today. I think it may help me finally sleep after two days. Maybe it will end my constant questioning with God.
To all the people that are more outraged and incredibly vocal about their distaste for the riots and protests instead of for the reason they are happening (RACISM), how do you think black people and other people of color can navigate our communities to the promise land and finally benefit from the same system that white Americans do?
We just want to benefit from the same right to life, dignity, and happiness you have. We do not know what that is like entirely. That's actually it. We just want to be as happy as you are and see the same America you see.
*Peaceful protest can't be an answer, unfortunately. We tried that AS SOON as we were allowed to and we got lynched, assassinated, murdered, and lost our jobs because of them.*”
I implore anyone who reads this… please hear this...
“To all the people that are more outraged and incredibly vocal about their distaste for the riots and protests instead of for the reason they are happening (RACISM), how do you think black people and other people of color can navigate our communities to the promise land and finally benefit from the same system that white Americans do?”
In the essence of my mission… to celebrate the human existence… I offer this night my Goddaughter’s question… as a prayer… and a challenge.
And as I asked my Goddaughter to read this to make sure it was okay, we had another Godmommy/Goddaughter bonding…
I said to her, “I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna… But I do want you to hope for a better world. And I want to do what I can to make that better world be there for you.” She replied, “You and all that you do and who you are is why there will be a better world”
Good grief… we are a human race. I pray we can start acting the part!
May it be so…