Kellie Clark talks about the delicate balance of Black motherhood

Kellie Clark with baby Luca on the beach

Black mothers were already battling a health crisis of their own long before coronavirus.

The United States has the worst maternal death rates in the developed world, the numbers are worse for African American women, who are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.

If that’s not enough, Black mothers must worry about the racial injustice their children could face. They have to worry if their children will leave home one day and not return because someone saw their brown skin as a threat.

Nevertheless, Black mothers treasure the gift of motherhood. Black mothers know that joy is resistance. We reached out to black moms to share their hopes and dreams for their children.

Kellie Clark

Mother of 4-year-old Avery and 18-month-old Luca

Kelly with her children Avery and Luca on a hike

As a Black mother, there is nothing that concerns me that didn’t also concern my mom, my grandmother, or my great-grandmother. This fact is both comforting and infuriating.

It’s comforting because Black motherhood comes with generations of historical knowledge of how to steward your children through the ebbs and flows, the curves, and all the edges that our children will have to navigate. It’s all there—generations upon generations of knowledge passed down of how Black mothers raise Black girls and Black boys who can live in a society that was created to never consider them.

To raise daughters who are allowed to be little girls, allowed to imagine and not be afraid of the sound of their voices. To raise sons who are allowed to be little boys who are allowed to play with a BB gun in the park or jog or go get a snack from a store without fear of being hunted. To raise children who don’t have to “tone down” or contort their strength to be viewed as human.

I—like many other Black women before me—have learned that black motherhood is both art and science. It is a delicate balance of your children being aware of how the world sees them but not letting the world tell them who they are. It’s teaching your child that racism is horrible, but being Black is an immense joy.

The science is doing the work of establishing their identity while you have their attention. The art is when you have to revise the contradictions that the world signals to them. The contradictions that go against everything you instilled in them. Thankfully, there is a community of Black mothers who are all doing this work at this very moment and have been for centuries.

The infuriating part? We are STILL having to do this work. We are STILL having to weave survival into our parenting. But I, we, do it because we love them more than life. And I am convinced that my children will leave this world better than they found it.

My biggest hope during this movement of Black Lives Matter and anti-racism has very little to do with wanting a Utopia where all children are treated the same, play together, and go to school together in love and peace. My hope for my children has very little to do with harmony—not because harmony isn’t a worthy goal, but because harmony is nothing without truth and reconciliation, first. As a society–we may be on our way, but we haven’t attained either.

My hope for my children is that they always remain whole. I hope that we, the village of Black mothers, do everything we can to raise whole, healthy, well-loved children who know who they are and whose they are— even in a world that works tirelessly to shatter and break them.

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