I am an immigrant, living in the United States, originally from Zimbabwe (having also lived in South Africa), and come from a family whose roots are deeply planted in the liberation of African people. My grandfather was very active in the liberation struggle against the Apartheid regime. My life has been shaped greatly by my family’s experiences and how I live my life today.
I’m a jack of many trades! I’m an author, TEDx Talk alumni, and Human Rights expert, and I’m a Mom of two girls! Most of my work is really centered around activism. I am an author of a children’s book called “Wash Day”, it explores the complexities of kids of color and their hair. It helps them navigate their experiences in a way that helps them view their hair in a positive light. Hair in the Black community is still politicized and a hindrance for seeking employment (look up the CROWN Act to learn more).
In TEDx talk I discussed the misrepresentation of Black women in the media (look up the Sapphire Caricature, Sara Baartman, and the godfather of Gynaecology to learn more). I’m currently studying International Humanitarian Law to improve my knowledge and skills in activism.
Because much of my life has been influenced by the continuous fight for equal human rights for Black people, parenting my two girls has definitely made me more aware of everything. There’s a level of heightened awareness that comes with being a parent, but when you factor in class, gender, and race, hyper-awareness is on overdrive. Parenting has definitely been a journey of tenacity and complexity. Being a Black person in America, and a parent to Black children, comes with a gigantic burden. Although I am African, I'm not immune to racism in America, nor am I immune to racism elsewhere - even in my home country South Africa.
Child-rearing techniques for Black parents are far more extreme in the way we embed survival, as opposed to other races. Indigenous parents also share this. Surviving other children who are reared by parents who do not instil humanity as a value in their home is a struggle for us every day. The reality of growing up as a Black person in a white society requires us to give our children markers on safety that white parents likely never think about. We talk about stranger danger, as many families do, but our Black children must know that stranger danger, for them, also includes a police officer, a white neighbor - and their children, or even their teacher.
Some may be surprised by reading that, but take a moment to imagine that your child who is innocently riding their bike down the street could end up dead because their neighbor felt that your child maybe wasn’t from the neighborhood, maybe was ‘up to no good’ and called the police... and that instantly reduces the chances of my child’s life. As a Black parent, you have to educate your child that even your neighbor can become the difference between you returning home or not. From a very young age they are very much aware that their safety is threatened due to the color of their skin.
Parenting has also made me eager to expose my children to different cultures. We travel quite a bit and those experiences have shown them the world and how connected we are. As a Black traveler, I am subjugated to the same racist values America upholds. Every Black traveler understands this. We know to pay extra attention to how we navigate certain predominantly white and white passing countries. We seek advice from other Black travelers on safe spaces for us in foreign countries. Racism is everywhere.
Traveling has shown my daughters humility and the power of stereotypes.They would often tell me different expectations of the country we were going to visit and be completely blown away by everything being the complete opposite. And when they bring that awareness back to the classroom, they see the inaccuracy in certain textbooks. Traveling truly opens their minds and is something that our family greatly values.
Being a multicultural family and stuck in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a whirlwind of anxiety. The night our governor announced the closing of our daughters’ school with immediate effect, impacted us greatly. We had no warning or time to prepare. We are both deemed essential workers and it is an understatement to say that everything was upside down. We were no longer able to travel outside of the country, also limiting our ability to see family members abroad. Our entire ‘routine and lifestyle’ came to a sudden halt.
The drastic changes to our lifestyle and the general atmosphere of living in the United States right now has definitely impacted my mental health. I find it incredibly difficult to not get sucked into the current climate of race and politics. Racial weathering and maintaining a sense of professionalism during these times of grief is difficult.
I’m trying my best to focus on my grades and finishing my degree in International Humanitarian Law and my family. Nurturing my children’s mental health and sense of safety is my top priority. I’ve maintained good grades and my scholarship, and as a family, we have a closer relationship with each other - even though we all get on each other’s nerves at times! I’m fortunate that my husband and I don’t conform to gender roles when applying to household responsibilities. You get in where you fit in and stuff needs to be done.
When it comes to fighting for equality and being more actively anti-racist, my advice for white parents, is that it’s important to wake up and try to actively see your role in how your actions are affecting the lives of everyone else who is not white.
That means asking yourself:
What Native American lands are we currently enjoying and living on?
Where and what actually has happened to those Native Americans who rightfully own the land I live on?
Why do I and everyone else around me not know any Native American history, texts outside of Thanksgiving rhetoric?
Why am I comfortable learning about white romanticized colonial history (e.g., the settlers, Columbus, George Washington, Napoleon etc.) and about Black history that solely discusses servitude of slavery, e.g., Rosa Parks, and MLK?
Where are the Asian Americans in the history of the United States and how did they contribute to my comforts?
Why are Hispanic and Latino communities demonized, yet we greatly benefit from their unpaid labor as we walk into Whole Foods and Trader Joes? Their labor increases the quality of every American.
How is my existence in previously POC areas hurting the BIPOC community?
This list is not exhaustive and again requires continuous questioning of habits that contribute to the suffrage of BIPOC, but it’s a good place to start. Talk about these topics openly with your children and family, include diverse literature in your home, take individual responsibility to teach your children about racism - as early as possible.
Find her book ‘Wash Day’ on Amazon