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I am a black man not a nigger

Some of our greatest moments begin in despair and end in joy. This is my truth about becoming a mother. I was a 21-year-old college student, still attempting to find my way in the world when I became pregnant with my son. I had no idea how to care for a baby, I was still mastering caring for myself. I had plans, I had goals, and a baby wasn’t a part of any of them, but there I was pregnant, afraid, and embarrassed.

Honestly, my fear connected to motherhood wasn’t about being a single mother. My mother and many of the other amazing women in my family are and were great mothers who happen to be single. Some were divorced, some widows, and some found themselves in the baby mama category courtesy of bad decisions, just as I had. I had witnessed their strength, and I knew I had the potential to be a great mother despite what daddy decided to do. I knew that I had to make adjustments because I refused to be one of those girls who had a baby and passed it off to their mother while they resumed their regular life. The real fear came months later when I found out I was having a son. I felt as though I could navigate my way through motherhood with a daughter. I could teach her about womanhood (even though I wasn’t a woman yet) and life from a female perspective with ease. I had heard all the “It takes a man to raise a boy into a man” sayings and, honestly, I believed it.

Boys need male energy, they need examples and role models that look like them. That being said, I couldn’t see myself “giving” my son to his father to raise. Still, I questioned what I could offer a boy regarding manhood. I had nothing and I felt my son’s father also had nothing because he lacked many of the characteristics of a “real man” and was more young and dumb than I was, if that was possible. I was no more confident in him raising our son to be a man than I was about me doing so, but I did know that I would give our son the roots he needed to grow and the wings he’d need to soar. I also knew that I would love him with every ounce of my heart and make sure he was cultured and educated, which is precisely what I have been doing for the past 20 years.

Through the struggles of living in public housing and receiving state assistance, I raised my son, Zay, to be intelligent, God/fearing, respectful and strong. I, too, leveled up and became a better person. I became a better woman because my son deserved to experience the magic of a Black woman. Sometimes we lose sight of what our children really need from an emotional standpoint while trying to provide. Children aren’t born with an understanding of material things, we introduce that to them. Children are born craving love and that’s free sis.

I also encourage single mothers to avoid making motherhood about the absent parent. No sis, you are not the mother and the father, you are a damn good mother, period. Oh and, if co-parenting is possible, give it a try because your child needs daddy too. Yes, I have issues with my children’s father even now, but I have never allowed any of those issues to deny him the privilege of being an active part of their lives. Clearly, their daddy wasn’t the man for me, but my children love and respect their father and Zay has learned many lessons from him.

I made it a habit to always be very open and honest with Zay about life. I knew that as a Black man he needed the truth about the world. I found ways to address his questions about his body and the changes he was experiencing. We dealt with masturbation and sex head-on despite my discomfort. I emphasized the importance of using his discretion wisely when having sex and building relationships. I wanted him to know that he didn’t have to conquer every woman he encountered and that sex could prove to be deadly, plus God forbid he get stuck for life with some random he made a mistake with.

I emphasized the importance of knowledge, control, and respect of self because many men have deficiencies in these areas and their activities reflect it. My son had a front row seat to the toxic show of immaturity between his parents, and I needed to assure he was clear that the acts and attitudes he witnessed were wrong. I attempted to undo the effects of our bad behavior by dissecting situations in a manner that stressed the avoidance of certain things and amplified the importance of others:

  1. Making himself his top priority.
  2. Never disrespecting a woman with his words or actions.
  3. Always exercising self-control.
  4. Removing anyone or any situation from his life that doesn’t serve him well.
  5. Nurturing every meaningful relationship he has.

Two years ago, I was flooded with emotion when I dropped Zay off at college. I was so proud that he had graduated with honors and without incident (except getting caught kissing when he was supposed to be in class). I felt like a winner. Despite every hardship, we made it. That baby that my college professor soothed in her office so that I could complete my final is now a junior in college himself, excelling academically at Georgia State University. Not bad for a Black boy raised by a single black mom.

Single mothers, stay encouraged and do the work, sis. It will be hard and it damn sure won’t be perfect, but It will be worth it. Give your sons love and education. Namely, tell them the truth about who they and how to navigate this world and develop a healthy sense of manhood. Below are six of those truths, I’d encourage you to share with your son.

  1. The world has enough niggers. You are a Black man; you were created with purpose, and it is vital that you consider that purpose in all that you do.
  2. You are strong. Life may not always be kind and your strength will be tested but know that your light is brilliantly shining. Always understand the fall doesn’t make you weak and getting back up makes you stronger.
  3. Your greatest assets are wisdom and knowledge. Every black man should be guided by the wisdom and knowledge not just of his own understanding but of those who came before him and those around him. That wisdom and knowledge are never to be dumbed down because it is a part of your gift to the world.
  4. Your voice is vital. There are so many that need to hear your voice. There are so many that need to be fueled by your strength. Most of all, the foundation you lay will empower the next generation of strong, proud Black men.
  5. Your most reliable ally is the Black woman. Always love and respect the Black woman as you do yourself. Hold her in the highest regard, protect her and she will do the same for you.
  6. Align yourself with other Black men. Never allow social or economic differences to separate you from your brother. You are a much mightier force together. Don’t just be your brother’s keeper, see yourself in your brothers.
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