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Harlem On My Mind: A Young Black Boy’s Blues; A Black Mother Laments

The other day I was up in Harlem after a great book event at Hue-Man bookstore, taking in the vibes, the street and the scene that is quintessential Harlem U.S.A.

As I walking up Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, I heard and saw a young boy, about 10 years old, being scolded by his father. Like most kids, it seemed like his father was telling him to do something he didn’t want to do. The father was yelling at his son, and it became more intense. The rest of the conversation–voices elevated, passersby watching–went something like this:

Young Black Boy: ” I wish I could kill myself.” (repeat, repeat, repeat)

Father: “Oh yeah, what good would that do?”

Young Black Boy: “At least I could be in heaven, and I wouldn’t have to be around you. “

Kimberly stops in tracks. I couldn’t move. The father continued to yell at the boy, while the mother stood by quietly holding on to the baby stroller.

Now I know emotional blackmail when I hear it, but I could see this boy’s pain in his face and in his body language. It was one of those moments when my mommy instinct told me to run over there, hug that boy and tell him millions of moms are rooting for him and his success and that this life here on earth can be beautiful and peaceful and full of possibilities. And that, even when it isn’t, you don’t ever give up.

I wanted to give his mother an understanding and empathetic look, like, “I know, sis, it ain’t easy,” and share some of my own struggles. But I knew none of these options were allowed.

I knew that our “village” mentality has long disappeared and that I needed to mind my own business, stop standing on the corner acting as if I was lost (when I was really engaged in the drama) and keep it moving to my car.

I drove off very sad that day. I was sad to hear that beautiful young boy declare that he thought death could be better than his life, I was sad to know that at a time, when we need other mothers, Aunties, grandmothers and sometimes well-meaning strangers more than ever before to help raise powerful and productive Black children, that we have had rid ourselves of these traditions. To our own detriment, I think.

But I was even more upset with myself. I felt I should have said something, done something anything, despite the consequences. I even dreamed about it last night. I wonder, if we can start showing Black mothers that we care, understand and support each other, can we bring “the village” back? If we rewrite the rules for what actually defines “my own business,” and say every Black child is connected and if yours fails, mine fails so therefore, by some very basic rules of logic and humanity, it is indeed very much “my business,” can we bring it back?

Can we????


One Response to “Harlem On My Mind: A Young Black Boy’s Blues; A Black Mother Laments”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes we can! But it will take patience and consistency. One neighbor at a time to get back to where we once were on this issue, and others like it. A community raising our children.(each one teach one) The difficulty in doing this present day is that "community" means so many different things for so many of us. Class/acceptance and of course economics have driven a wedge in the village family so to speak. Now we have a group of people who can or choose to no longer relate to the others experiences – which in turn makes folks feel "unqualified" to comment on "your family choices". I fear we have learned to adapt/fit in a little too well. We can however take steps with our families, friends & neighbors. As Mahatma Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. Change starts with us.

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