because of them

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With my mother on her father’s farm.

“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see — or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.” –¬†Alice Walker

It’s International Women’s Day and there is no greater personal celebration of womanhood than being the mother of daughters. It will be the greatest challenge of my life to raise them to embrace difference including their own differences from normalcy. To be fierce. To prefer pink, blue and every color in between. To rise up.

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My teenage years with my beautiful mother.

My mother was a single mom, working full-time as a nurse for many years of my childhood. Whether attending to the wounds of soldiers in a war zone or assisting in the surgeries of elderly patients whose eyes have failed them, my mother is a woman of strength and resilience. And she is the greatest feminist I know, for single-handedly making my journey a step above all the muck and mire she faced in her life.

She and my aunt, lost their own mother at a very young age and were raised primarily by their grandparents. Their grandmother, a woman who has become legend in my mind, had a towering presence both in the physical and in personality. A farm woman who could butcher a chicken blindfolded and sew the most extraordinary quilts from scraps of fabric that she also used to make her granddaughters’ clothes.

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Joining my aunt in a serenade.

My aunt. I grew up thinking of her as the funniest, fun, passionate and spiritually guided woman I ever met. My visits with her never failed to rise my mood to heights that could touch the clouds. She’s my feminist hero even though she’s reluctant to use the word.

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My grandmother holding me just weeks old.

And then, I think of my paternal grandmother whom I met but do not remember. She raised six children during the Jim Crow era, working as a dishwasher and fleeing the south with her family for a better life up north.

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Aunt Honey.

One of her daughters, my Aunt Honey, as she was affectionately known, would become my first black feminist hero. If she was Catholic, she would have been granted sainthood. A postal worker for most of her life, she was always craving to learn more, to see more of the world, and make it better by providing for others when she herself had very little to provide. You felt her kindness the moment you encountered her presence.

These women aren’t famous. They aren’t the first to go to the moon or discover a cure for some disease, but they are remarkable for the lives they lived. Their influence is indelible on me.

My greatest gift to my daughters will be to raise them with the fortitude these women, these mothers have lived. Feminists!–very damn one them and I’m proud to call them my own.