Like Wu-Tang, I am for The Children

Like Wu-Tang, I am for The Children

I want to preface this by saying that I had a very Black childhood. In my early years, I was ensconced in a multigenerational household with maternal grandparents who were children when Harriet Tubman was still alive. Their lives spanned Ford Model T cars being the epitome of fly to Super Mario and Yo! MTVRaps. On top of that they lived a very Black ethos. My mother still remembers her Saturday school lessons, via Israel AME Church, where they were educated weekly about Black History. This is before the month that we begin celebrating tomorrow and while Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was still alive. The story of us was always foregrounded in my life, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

With that said, a few weeks ago a former work colleague asked me about how to begin talking about MLK, Rosa Parks, Civil Rights with his itty bitty. I quickly told him to gather some age and developmentally-appropriate books and just begin there. Kids can only process what they can process. We are currently in a world rife with misinformation and disinformation and our attention spans have whittled away due to the ever-present bite-sized nuggets we are fed on social media. Not to mention the current spree of book banning, which I hope leads to book sales for the banned authors. I know that a lot of parents want to prepare their children to have a full understanding of the world and themselves. Too often, parents find themselves responding with tactics to undo harm instead of strategically preparing to move through the world armed and ready. So when anyone reaches out to me about parenting, I jump to respond.

When my daughter, Young Auntie also known as Tiny Smalls was 5, we had the following brief conversation:

YA: Martin Luther King wanted all the kids to play together and color. Then he died. Me: Um, ok. That's about right.

Just one year before, she came home from preschool excitedly talking about “Martin Looftha the King of the Black people!” So I consider this to be growth. Exponential growth!

Since then, we’ve read books together, watched documentaries and bio-pics, gone to his monument in DC, and even went to the King Center in Atlanta. She’s been pretty immersed in Black History and Culture via extra-curriculars, fam and extended fam, and being my child. From the Schomburg to the NMAAHC in DC, she has been able to experience “us.”

Pretty much anything she wants to know, I have a resource for it, or I will find it. As she is an artist and wants to go to art school, we are reading, watching, and discussing John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. I didn’t know about Berger until grad school.

But I digress…

Now our conversations involve discussions of patriarchy, capitalism, misogynoir, and Black Radical Imagination because she can handle that and articulate her thoughts pretty well. Earlier this week, she came out of her room after finishing a Zoom with her current extra-curricular program, looked at me and said, “Whew, chile, our new mayor!” and shook her head like the head of the Usher Board she is.

I say all this to say, we don’t need to burden our babies with all the things. We are to support them as they come into political and social consciousness, which they will if they have a village (she has a whole mid-sized town) to support them. I also say all this to say that one of my favorite aspects of parenting has been being part of this process and witnessing her expand to the dope ass human she is.

This isn’t just about my daughter though, it’s about all children; yours, mine, ours. I can do this for hours (wink). You don’t have to be a subject or content area expert to support a child with their education. You just have to be real and honest. And if you don’t know, say that, and learn together.

This is what Old Dirty Bastard was doing when he yelled “Wu-Tang is for the Children!” How many young folks saw the collectivity of Wu and embraced that as a form of community? How many are well-versed in early soul because of the immense catalog of samples that RZA exposes them to? How many young folks are shifting their and our timelines because of this? This is also what my grandfather did many years ago when my itty bitty self asked him if he had been a slave? It was our annual viewing of The Ten Commandments and the Hebrew slaves were making bricks. I knew he had made bricks so I put 2 and 2 together and got 43. His response was “no, but some of my family members were.” At that moment he shifted my timeline and began my lifelong interest in knowing more about the story of us.

The speculative is about shifting. It’s always shifting and as experiences, thoughts, and ideas come into your consciousness, you have the opportunity to move toward just Black futures, a real tangible liberated Afrofuture.