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Updated: Dec 24, 2023

A couple weeks ago, I finally saw my friend Quanita’s comments on one of my posts in which I had wrestled with honoring my own writing/leading work as well as her own, neither in opposition nor in competition but with clear differences highlighted in the word ‘elder.’ [Editorial note: I’m often so UN-savvy with my website that I miss comments made on my own blog. Sigh…working on that.] I smiled and felt the tensive difference between us arise again. She wrote: “I don’t mind mama and there is wound for you in elder. There is some healing being asked of you here because no matter what it’s called, what I am offering is eldering. It’s easier for White women to call Black women mama, we have been mothering White people for a long time.” A gentle observation. Not in refusal or confrontation, but invitation and clarification. I’ve been sitting with it ever since...simmering...

The obvious images immediately arose in my awareness. Aunt Chloe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Mammy in Gone with the Wind, Aunt Jemima, The Help. I knew what Q was pointing out. I noticed the wave of shame in my body that I could impose all of that in the use of a term that for me had meant a newfound feminine respect and honor.

Then I let the shame go, curious… I know enough now to honor how words will be heard outside of my intentions, awareness, receiving and witnessing without judgment or denial. Of course that is what would be seen, felt… And yet…in a woman healed enough to breathe into the Now, in promise of forgiveness and reconciliation, the term Mama could be received without a trauma-charged response. I am thankful, blessed to simmer so.

My family uses “Mother” and “Mom,” which fit our connections. I’ve never called my own mother mama, for instance, though I love her dearly. Mama signals for me an affectionate intimacy and honoring of an elder woman who guides, teaches, leads within a restorative feminine. My conscious feminine sisters call MotherPeace MamaP. My sacred-mountain quest circle called Nature Mama Nay-Nay. We’re so dissociated and infantile in our self-understandings as nature herSelf that Mama Nay-Nay seemed most apt. Naturally, Mama can also honor a balance of belonging to nature, self, and community in a beloved future…

And yet…

…it’s always good to be reminded of the unanticipated weights of the words we use….

Reading up on women's rage this morning, I came across bell hooks’s writing on mammification. “White women seemed to find it much harder to surrender their longing to engage in “mammification,” to have us take care of them, to serve them….Simultaneously, individual black women had to divest of internalized racist thinking that often led them to assume the role of caretaker, “mammy,” and then feel resentful. Most importantly, bonds were made only by those individual women who were willing to interrogate themselves honestly.”***

Most importantly, bonds were made…

Surrender improves with practice. Each doing her own work. Deep smile to belong...

...Enough honest interrogation for now...

***See bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, “Where’s the Love: Political Bonding Between Black and White Women,” (Holt, 1995), pp 221-22.

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