Letter to My Child from Your Minister Activist Mom
To my little world-changer:
When I first found out you were coming into our world, I knew I had so many things to tell you. While you were still a bundle of dividing cells, I was already imagining how you might change the world – and how we might do it together. Before I even had morning sickness, (and did I ever have morning sickness!) your dad and I had long conversations about how we would invite you into our work and vocations, how you would travel with us and be part of every aspect of our lives. We knew from the beginning that our most important job was to teach you how to create a more just world. Now as a 4-year-old, you still tell people that you will grow up to be “a filmmaker and a professor.” I guess this work of inviting you into our vocations is taking root.
In my own life, I’ve decided to never be only one thing. I hope you learn the importance of this as well. I am a professor with a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics, but I am also an activist, a minister, a mom, a wife, a community development practitioner, and a teacher. I’ve tried to teach you these things from the beginning.
When you were four months old, you marched in your first protest. Troy Davis was on death row and about to be executed, despite serious and widespread evidence to his innocence. Despite the fact that we tell our children “do not kill” but as a state, we tell them killing is justice. So we joined a friend and marched from Woodruff Park to Ebenezer Baptist Church. You were there, sleeping through the chanting, snuggled to my body in the baby wrap you loved so well. I remembered your presence in this first march four years later when I worked long hours on Kelly Gissendaner’s campaign. I knew in the midst of that intense work that somehow I was part of this campaign for you as much as I was part of this campaign for Kelly and her kids.
We marched again in Chicago when Mayor Rahm Emmanuel decided to close 40 neighborhood schools. You were two during that protest, and you watched the marched from your daddy’s high shoulders. This time you chanted along. But we had to make you stop when you kept forgetting to say “don’t” before yelling “close our schools.” That day we watched as minister friends got arrested in the protest. When you asked what was happening, I told you they were being brave.
I see already you have a fire in your bones. It’s the fire that my mamma, who you call Mimi, and my Granny, who you never met, helped stoke through their constant compassion toward those who are on the margins. Right now, that fire in your bones comes out in your play. Last week I loved acting out Rosa Parks with you. But I also listened outside your door when you role-played school segregation and told your stuffed animals, all lined up for their lesson, that it is WRONG to have separate schools for “kids with brown skin and kids with light skin.” I love that you know this, not only because we teach you, but because you have two amazing Pre-K teachers that also care about creating a more just world.
I knew from the moment you were born that there would be times when we would need to make difficult decisions. Because I am a mom, a minister, and an activist, I cannot always be with you. There are other calls on my life. My work often requires that I teach in the evenings when you need to be tucked into bed or that I travel at times when you need to be in school. But as I follow these other calls, you will always be my priority. I will measure the worthiness of the work that I do by asking whether this might create a more just world for you and your children. And I will continue to invite you to come with me. To march, to listen, to learn, to travel, to be in community with other justice-seekers.
Yesterday, as we renewed the passport that you were given as a 4-month-old, I realized that you will have travelled to 6 countries before you turn five. Possibly more if we ever let your globe-trotting grandmother know where we hide your passport. This year, I loved watching you learn to speak Mandarin in China and practice your bow in Thailand. I am thrilled that this summer you will come with us to East Africa – a place your dad and I have loved for so long. I cannot wait to see where else your life will take you.
There are many things I can give you in this life. A roof over your head, food on the table, a Bible we read together, a school where you are welcomed, and love – so much love. One thing I cannot give you is a just and perfect world.
We will need to work toward this together.