As two white moms, it will be our life’s work and privilege to raise two black boys as they grow to become black men. Work, because while there is a lot we can facilitate for them, there is much we can not ever fully culturally provide. Work, because while we will have ideas about what we believe is best and right in raising them, our scope on the needs and experiences of black people in America is limited to our own experiences as white women, and we will get some things very wrong. There will always be a need for us to remain open, to keep raising our individual and collective consciousness, to recommit ourselves repeatedly to the conversations that will evolve as their identities develop. As their questions become deeper reflections of who they are, where they come from and how they negotiate those complexities in making sense of their place in this world, it will be our privilege to witness their journey - sometimes alongside, sometimes from afar.
Three inspiring things come together for me in creating this micro exhibit, which is sure to evolve as I do, on the weekend which so many celebrate the birth and life’s work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
First, I finally watched the film, Selma. Directed by the stunning Ava Duverney, whom I had the great privilege of hearing speak last summer at Blogher15’s annual conference and who I believe is an important person of influence (her IG account is a great way to be in the know). She’s doing big things in film - I can’t recommend her work enough. The second piece is the real life exhibit I recently saw of James H. Barker’s black and white photography chronicling the actual march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 - a first person perspective on a profound, historical event. And the final bit, Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on Inspiring Leadership, which I’ve listened to no less than 6 times in the last week to get me pumped for work in the mornings. It was this 3 minute segment of an 18 minute talk that coalesced my vision to create the inspiration for creating this exhibit:
In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the mall at Washington to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad. But he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America, he went around telling people what he believed. I believe...I believe...I believe...he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and then they told people. And then some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo & behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day at the right time to hear him speak. How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel on a bus for 8 hours and stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed. And it wasn’t about Black vs. White. 25% of the audience was White. Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world - those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by man. And not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws made by a higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the civil rights movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed him not for him, but for ourselves.
The following micro exhibit represents a snapshot of my making sense of what it means to be a white woman raising black men within some degree of historical context and in light of how publicly we share our adoption journey. I'm intentionally leaving a lot of question marks and unresolved feelings in the way the images blend or contrast sharply, the path of where we, as a country, have walked and the current lack of truth to living in a post-racial society.
-Foster Mom (the artist)