Monday, February 9, 2009

Black Men Need Sweet Potato Pies

Happy Monday cyberfam! So much I’m itching to blog about this week: I went to the best bridal shower of my life yesterday, I finally found the perfect Freakum’ Dress and I am getting the scoop on the best places to score a fab cocktail ring. It’s all coming up soon so stay tuned….

But on this beautiful Monday morning, I had to get a story off my chest that I’ve been thinking about a whole lot lately. And it has nothing to do with "style" in the traditional sense. But, I’ve been wanting to share this conversation I had with my mother some years ago for a minute and that desire has increased since Barack Obama became President. And then last night when I learned of the allegations against singer Chris Brown involving songstress Rihanna, I knew I had to post it. (Please read this to get my thoughts on Black women and domestic violence.) It might take me a minute to get to the point of this but stay with me please, there is a definite jewel at the end of this (kinda long) story.

About seven years ago, a friend and I were discussing being away at college in my kitchen while my mother cooked. I joked that although my mother sent food to my brother while he was away at college, I never remember her doing the same for me. It was one of those moments when I was joking, but not really joking. I proceeded to share with my friend all about how my mother would bake sweet potato pies from scratch, freeze them and overnight them to Virginia from New York and how my brother and his buddies in his dorm would inhale them in less than 48 hours of receipt.

Now while circumstances were indeed different when I went away to college (I didn’t live in a traditional dorm and had access to a full kitchen so I could always cook when I didn’t want the café food, I wasn’t as far away as my bro was, etc.) I still felt some kinda way about not getting those pies overnighted to me like my big bro did. My mother being the type of mother she is could sense this and politely said to me, "One day when you have a son of your own you’ll understand."

I didn’t get what she meant by that until a few years later. But when I did finally get it, it was like someone dropped a piano on my foot. The world, yes even with Barack Obama being President, has a way of putting Black men through the wringer. Really, through the ringer. And no I’m not claiming that all Black men are created equal because in my opinion, they are not. For every Barack Obama there is a shiftless, non-child support paying dude who thinks the world owes him something. Please understand that I realize this. But there are also a lot of Black men who have unfortunately never been told their worth. Never been introduced to the likes of Thurgood Marshall or Vivien Thomas or even Floyd Flake. And so when you’re only shown negative images of yourself, constantly at that, you typically start to believe them. See, now I understand how homemade sweet potato pies help to balance that a whole lot. They let you know that someone is rooting for you. That someone has your back unconditionally and is supporting you and your dreams and aspirations. As a woman, I am now usually able to tell when a man has had someone bake sweet potato pies for them at some point in their lives. It isn’t always their mother either. It might be a grandmother (I think that was the case for Barack), it might be an aunt or grandmother, it might even be a teacher.

There is an old adage that goes something like "Black women raise their daughters and love their sons." On the surface, some might think that is what I’m reinforcing in this blog post. But it so isn’t. On the contrary, I hope that folks see I’m saying it is even more important that we encourage Black men to get and keep their ish together. Sweet potato pies, to me, can actually help to do that. These pies can be in the form of genuine encouragement, a hug or a smile. I’ve had situations occur with my brother, male amigos and Mr. TK of walking into a "posh" hoity toity boutique to know that they experience ish I don’t even think twice about, even as a Black woman. (By the way, for every time that my mom baked a sweet potato pie for my bro, my father was going in on my brother and riding him about something. Trust. But that’s a whole ‘notha post for another day…)

My mother has actually been sharing her wisdom on life with me over food for a while now, perhaps that is a southern thing. Mom, thanks for the love and the lessons, as always. Now, can you teach me how to bake a sweet potato pie?

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