By Jillian “Mama J” Roth
The picture above immediately takes me back to January 20th, 2018 at the 2nd annual Women’s March in Oakland.
This year I was riding solo with this fiercely independent lover, resister, and adventure seeker (instead of as a two-mom mixed race family). This was our second time that week we went to a demonstration where we raised our voices against the injustices around us. Even though she was participating with me, Jaylin, my daughter, asked, “Mama, why are we marching?” My response:
We march to raise our voices.
We march to be seen.
We march to come together.
We march to be in community.
We march because it’s our reminder there’s still more to be done.
Jaylin’s curiosity and continuous question asking is my daily reminder that our words and actions matter, more than ever. In Little Feminist’s July box, one of the activities invites the child and parent to Make a Statement. This photo of my daughter is my statement.
Space to Create
On the eve prior to the Women’s March, I gathered with 20 or so women to be inducted into the Women’s Art League. (Curious to know more, read this!) Part of the art created that evening were signs meant for the March the following day. Although many clever signs were made, I consciously chose to keep it to the 3-word statement: Black Lives Matter. Why these 3 words?
I wanted to provide a layered visual reminder—the sign held by my daughter or I amidst the crowd is a constant reminder that our work is intersectional. I am not simply a woman.
I intentionally identify as a Black* Queer** Mama.
While being a Black Queer Mama makes me a triple threat, both my education, class, and “tanned-skinned” privilege equally makes it my responsibility to use that privilege to raise my voice. Dubbed a data goddess by colleagues based on my love and culture building around data, I’ll start with a couple stats (reference: 42 Shocking police brutality statistics):
- People who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual. (The Guardian)
- 1 out of every 3 people that are killed by police officers in any given year in the United States is African-American/Black. (Mapping Police Violence)
- In 17% of the 100 largest cities in the United States, police officers killed African-American/Black men at a higher rate than the US murder rate of 2014. (Mapping Police Violence)
- 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed. (Mapping Police Violence)
In a previous draft of this post, here is where I originally transitioned to sharing more of the history of the Black Lives Matter movement. And then, Nia Wilson’s (pictured, artwork by @broobs.pds) throat was slit at an Oakland BART station. This could have been me or my daughter, in the city we call home, at a location we frequent.
There isn’t a day that has gone by since learning of Nia’s death that she hasn’t crossed my mind. I have yet to get on BART. As Zeba Blay reminded me when I seeked refuge in the words of my Black sisters,
We know the feeling, but so many of us do not have a name for what we are experiencing. And when you cannot name the thing that torments you, it makes the thing all the more terrifying. …And then something like the murder of Nia Wilson happens or the murder of MeShon Cooper [and in my hometown], and I think about how the anxiety of taking up space as a black woman has so many layers, how black women are killed in America at a higher rate than women of any other race, how violence against black women exists on so many planes, from the physical to the emotional.
This unnameable feeling is what lingers, what I’m asked to push aside or worse simply ignore as I’m expected to stay strong and keep on moving through the world. To continue this thought, and emphasize this collective feeling, I’ll turn to co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Patrisse Cullor, who states in We Founded Black Lives Matter 5 Years Ago Today:
Five years later, we live in an increasingly divided country. We see police violence continue to plague our communities and the ongoing war against black bodies. …The Black Lives Matter Global Network has formed nearly 40 chapters across the globe, determined to change the world from what it is to what it should be, imbuing a moral imperative to liberate black people because when black people are free, we all are free.
This I know to be true in the deepest part of my soul.
Because I am free.
Free and liberated in countless ways.
And so, the photo at the top acts as my daily reminder—it’s the photo on my phone’s lock screen—to keep putting one foot in front of the next—for the Black life I am responsible, the Black life I continue to lead, and ALL the Black lives that matter.
While I’m still healing from the impact of Nia Wilson’s death, I never imagined questioning when and how I’ll feel safe to ride BART again—a privilege and choice in transportation options. Until then, I simultaneously stand proud knowing my daughter and I were two Black lives represented as we joined the 110,000 individuals that came out on that sunny day in Oakland. I’ll conclude with the words of bell hooks:
Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, rebelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.
Let’s get free together with bite-sized and deliberate action EVERY damn day!
Intentional Justice™ in Your Life
The call for Black Lives Matter is a rallying cry for the liberation. On the path towards liberation, it’s critical and necessary that we persist during these challenging times through a cycle of learning, reflection, dialogue, and action, which I believe is possible with bite-sized and deliberate daily action. My intended outcome and hope is that you learned something new or unlearned something that you previously took for granted—the definition of privilege.
Grab a pen and your favorite notebook or copy + paste the prompts below to your favorite digital writing tool, set a timer for 20 minutes, and spend some time reflecting on:
- What’s something new you learned? Or better yet, what’s something you unlearned that you previously took for granted?
- Who could you share this post with? How could you use it to begin a dialogue in your life or community?
- What bite-sized and deliberate action based on what you now know? By when?
Nevertheless, she persisted!
For Raising Our Voices!
- Words Matter: Language matters. Kiddos notice. They pick up on what you say and they hear. This is not simply my experience, yet backed in research.
- Book Selection: We love books in our house! We have been intentional from day one to include books that reflect our family reality, as well as includes the spectrum of diversity. Ask yourself, is my child reflected in every book we read? If so, time to expand. Challenge yourself to explore Black authors and content geared towards Black kids and families. And, I know just the book box subscription to help 😉
- Asking Qs (aka questions): If I was to name one rule, it would be simply to not assume. I know our assumptions are based in what we expect from a category or group.
Learn More about Black Lives:
For Adults: The above I shared is simply my perspective. Below are reading recommendations (books and two recent articles) to uplift fellow Black women voices:
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
- Ain’t I a Woman? Black women and feminism
- Women, Race, & Class
- Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
- On The Killing Of Nia Wilson And The Anxiety Of Being A Black Woman
- I’m Tired Of Writing About Dead Black Girls
For Kids & Families
- Black Lives Matter: A Picture Book for Kids
- Book Lists: Goodreads, Left Bank Books, Skokie Public Library
*I prefer Black over African American as it’s more inclusive of the African Diaspora.
**I have reclaimed Queer to take my sexual power back in a non-gendered form.
***The White dominant culture notion that being tan is more acceptable than being a person of color. Growing up in a predominantly White community and school, I was often given props for how “easily” my skinned “tanned.” On the flipside, within the Black community, colorism is a thing. Simply put, I hold more privilege due to my “lighter” Black skin.
About Mama J
Jillian “Mama J” Roth is a multi-passionate love leader meets mamapreneur with an interdisciplinary approach to how she loves + lives + learns in Berkeley/Oakland, CA and the larger Bay Area. Driven by Intentional Justice™—defined as bite-sized and deliberate action every DAMN day—plus Revolutionary Love or the Lovelution, Jillian uses her cultural superpowers, persistence, and understanding of humans and organizations to co-create transformational experiences liberating the individual and organizational clients she serves.
Simultaneously, Mama J is on a mission to feed the souls of badass women who know intellectually and intuitively there’s a better way than the status quo. Mama J’s approach to personal development is using doses of soul medicine—an experience of being present with your inner knowing or intuition that inner knowing—for badass women who are ready to Love Yourself like a Mother! with Intentional Justice™
Most mornings you’ll find Mama J with a cup of joe amidst the dance of life, leadership, and business. Armed with the love and joy oozing from Jaylin, her 3-year-old daughter with wife Stephanie, who’s also changing the world using physical education. The above encompasses Mama J’s non-stop why to keep putting one foot in front of the next to live a life of authenticity, presence, and adventure with her family. On an ideal day of loving herself like a mother, you’ll find Mama J making choices with love and intention near a body of water drinking bubbles or a microbrew!