by Renee Bracey Sherman
“How come you have black mother?” an inquisitive young boy asked me. We were four, playing at a park near my childhood Chicago home. I stared at him blankly but never responded – I had no idea what he meant.
For many years I never understood why so many people would ask me that question. Growing up biracial was a challenge. Greeting cards always showed mothers and daughters with the same skin tone and light eyes; the books in school reflected “diverse” families, but separated the white family from the black one. Mine was never represented.
My father told me about the frustration she endured every time she’d take me to the zoo or park. “She’s so cute. Are you babysitting?” they’d ask. As a young mother, she was angry that people would make assumptions that she couldn’t be more than my nanny because of her chocolate skin. Having to claim your child to complete strangers wasn’t covered in the parenting guide.
My mother put herself through nursing school, and by walking across the stage with me in her belly, she taught me the importance of a good education. I’ve got her deep dimples, smile, and laugh. She raised me with her belief that it’s never too late to learn something new – she learned to figure skate in her 40s and participated in ice shows with my brothers and me. How could she not be my mother? Why do our skin colors even matter?
Each Mother’s day, birthday, and any other day you buy a card for, I comb the card aisles looking for the perfect card. One without images of people or some cheesy line about how she taught me to cook and sew. I search for a card that captures all of the intangible life lessons that she instills in me everyday. Until now, there haven’t been cards for that.
I’m thankful for the Mama’s Day card campaign. It allows me to say what I truly feel and have an image that reflects my love for her. I created a card that gives me the power to show her what I love about her. The Mama’s Day cards make me thankful for everything she has given me, especially her love.
Renee Bracey Sherman is from Chicago, Illinois where she graduated from Northeastern Illinois University, studying economics and sociology. Renee found a passion in working to break down barriers of multiple oppressions that women/people of color/LGBT/low income/immigrant folks face each day by sharing stories. By day, Renee is a fundraiser for Wikimedia Foundation and in her spare time, she volunteers for ACCESS and serves on the Board of Directors of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Renee is excited to be an abortion doula and tweet for Bay Area Doula Project, and to support those accessing abortion in the Bay Area.
This blog post is part of the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration. You can read more posts in the series on the Strong Families blog. Strong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.