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By j.n. salters
This letter is for my mother. Our mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. All of the other black women who continue to raise black and brown warriors in this battlefield we call America. Who constantly find ways to make ends meet–in a world that continually fails to acknowledge your worth and beauty–just to keep smiles on our faces. To the only women who can grow roses from concrete. Turn scraps into Thanksgiving feasts. Who continue to love hard and wholeheartedly even when the world attempts to steal your joy. Still you rise.
I just want to say thank you. And that you are appreciated. Loved. Beautiful. Needed. I need you. WE NEED YOU. You deserve so much more than the words on this page. Than your lived realities. Than the media portrayals that negate your wonder. And caricature your splendor. Than the statistics that mock your circumstance. Ignoring your God-like abilities to raise invisible toy soldiers into Gabby Douglases and Quvenzhané Wallises. Turning forgotten flesh into souls on fire.
You deserve to have your faces carved into mountains. Plastered on dollar bills covering the faces of presidents who have stolen from you. Used your image against you. Lied to you. Made your plight invisible. You deserve to have your brown skin on every milk carton and news segment that privilege missing bodies that do not look like yours or your children’s. On the cover of every newspaper that fills its pages with stories of your fabricated inferiority. Leaving your existence in the margins. Near the end. At the back. We are Rosa Parks.
I wish everyone could see you from my eyes. Read the deep history embedded in your rich skin. The pigment of your imagination. The secrets that you hold in the arch of your back. How the sway of your hips creates masterpieces out of thin air. Reclaiming the fetishized movements of Sarah Baartman. How your thick-lipped words echo the endurance of Sojourner Truth. Ida B. Wells. Wilma Rudolph. Harriet Tubman. The everlasting effervescence of your soul that refuses to be broken. The miniature North Stars shining from your crescent-like eyes, leading us lost ones to freedom. Giving us the ability to dodge stray bullets. Dreams deferred. Project hallways turned Middle Passages.
I pray that they will someday see you. In me. In US.
One of your daughters
j.n. salters is a black feminist, writer, and doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s interested in the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality in rights to privacy, black cultural production, identity politics, sex work, law and criminal justice, and visual culture.