By Teresa Younger •
During a conversation about the Virginia Museum of History and Culture’s Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia From Women’s Suffrage to Today, which featured a panel about my daughter, I was asked, “Is your child happy doing this work?” I wondered if I should respond by stating that since my child is Black, this work chose her. That response omitted an explanation of the parts of the work that are fulfilling and compelling. My daughter is drawn into doing good work that philosophically views racial and gendered struggles through a lens of inclusiveness. That is why many of the challenges she supports cannot simply be pulled down or voted away. It seems some people are unable to understand this and spend time swearing at her or trying to bully her into ignorantly staring at shadows walls with them.
Sometimes people are compelled to act seemingly without warning. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Virginia ordered us to shelter in place. Restrictions barely lifted when the killing of George Floyd began playing on the television on repeat. The uprisings began and felt as though a wave of people of all ages and faces joined protests around the world. At great risk, they joined the 400+ year struggle to create a safer world for the African Diaspora whose bodies have been enslaved and broken. Despite the global pandemic, the movement rose this year and reverberated around the world as millions cried out against injustice.
Mothers are compelled to take action that protects their children. They say Black mothers love their children obsessively. We love and protect our children fiercely because we know how easily their lives are stolen. It’s as though I can feel the loss of each life stolen from the community. Some names fade without fanfare or notice, but I feel horrible knowing that television audiences consume videos of our deaths on repeat. The persistence of this vulnerability let’s us know there is work to be done to support our community. We know that we are the ones that have to do the work. Even the best of “allies” have the option to leave our struggle after the holiday festivities. We do not have this option.
I gave this response: “My daughter is a young adult who laughs loudly and often. She seems happy and is happily maintaining a safe space she built for our community where we can be ourselves, build one another up and grow. She is a brave girl. While advocating for inclusiveness and my daughter’s bravery aren’t enough to keep her 100% safe, it is a happier, more fulfilling life than living in a cave sharing in the shadows.”
Teresa Younger is an educator who enjoys history, writing, gardening, and loves being a part of a vibrant community. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UVA and her Master’s degree in education from USC, and has been living in Virginia since 2003 with her family.