I could live a hundred years and cry everyday of those years, and those tears would still not be enough to express the exhaustion, pain, and outrage I’m feeling at this moment. As a single Black mother of two sons and a daughter, I have three goals: (1) Protect and preserve their lives (2) Provide them with the tools needed to be successful, and (3) Contribute to creating a society that will be fair and just for them to live in. Education is the path I have chosen to help support me to achieve these goals I have set as a parent.
2020 has interrupted my pursuit in many ways. In addition to the regular obstacles faced by a single parenting student such as, lack of adequate quality childcare, inability to access college resources because of limited hours of operation, and allocating quality time with my kids, I now get to work, teach, and manage a household simultaneously. If regular life had me spread thin, in light of COVID-19, I’m spread transparent. Hiding in isolation from an “invisible enemy” with a four, six, and 13-year-old who don’t completely understand why they can’t go to school or play outside with their friends is torture for all of us. Masking the anxiety exacerbated by fear driven by the media that the enemy will breach our defenses and infect our families is enough emotional trauma to disarm a small army. We’re staying home to protect and preserve our lives. I have been able to continue working remotely for Dermalogica supervising a customer service team of 13, completing my classes virtually, and remaining in quarantine with limited physical contact with others outside of our home.
Around week two of quarantine, I was on the verge of a breakdown. The human kindness I witnessed was the only thing that kept me from jumping off a cliff during that time. Strangers within my community delivered groceries, my village of mentors checked in on me and brought my children puzzles and sanitizer, and my sisters stepped up to take in my kids during the first two weeks of the “stay at home” orders. Their support kept me in a space to be present for those who rely on me most. I had literally and figuratively run out of hands to juggle the responsibilities of being a mom, employee, student, teacher, and a coaching business owner for 12 hours a day.
I had to drop something and, unfortunately, I had to give up my short-lived career as a homeschooling teacher. There was just not enough time in a day nor enough coffee in Cuba to give me the energy to maintain the demands of our entire universe by myself. For the remainder of the school year, my children have been receiving what I like to refer to as “micro lessons” from social learning platforms like Tik-Tok and YouTube. They’re learning math through emptying and counting all of the change from our coin jar to plan what they’re going to buy when earth is safe for them to freely explore and enjoy. They’re listening to (and sometimes interrupting) my work meetings, but they’re also learning about a strong work ethic from seeing me work so hard. They are learning perseverance because I completed my associate’s degree anyway, during a global pandemic even if I didn’t walk across a stage.
And just when we were looking forward to emerging from our cocoons of quarantine, fearful but hopeful about re-entering society with our new appreciation of life, week eight happened. Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both Black, both murdered by police, and one captured on cell phone video as his life was crushed out of his body with a knee to his neck for almost nine minutes in broad daylight on a Minneapolis street while citizens pleaded for his mercy. The unhealed scab from 400 years of racist trauma was peeled off and the whole nation began to bleed out in shock, horror, sadness, and then rage. A wave of protests and demonstrations emerged across the nation and people gathered by the thousands in streets across America united in the fight against police brutality against Black people in America and systemic racial oppression. Some protests sparking riots and looting, along with more violence from police. And now, I’m asked to speak on behalf of the Black staff in meetings and open conversation forums to employers and schools who are driven to do something and say something to demonstrate their support of the Black community – a community that white supremacy has pacified with meeting Equal Employment Opportunity requirements and other passive symbols of allyship outside of granting equal access to positions of power and influence within their organization. Now, when some employers feel threatened that the Black community has united under a common cause and may begin looking into their “diverse and inclusive” business practices, they want to hear from me and countless other Black employees whose voices and suggestions were muted and dismissed in times prior. I’m responsible for sitting at the table to help them understand what needs to be done to help the Black community. While my pride and ego take some pleasure in seeing their vulnerability, I have a bigger commitment to make a better future society for my children’s sake. I cooperatively participate and partner to implement changes that will benefit the advancement of the Black community.
So, I continue to do my job from home and I have accepted a promotion to co-develop the Diversity & Equity program for my company. I’m registered for classes through the summer to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology. My children and I continue to take extra precautions to protect ourselves from the “invisible enemy” COVID-19 by washing our hands frequently and wearing a mask when we have to interact with others. We spend dinner together talking about their “micro lessons” on Tik-Tok while I differentiate for them what is reality versus what is staged. I have “the talk” with my kids on how some people are treated more unfairly than others by people they’re supposed to trust. And I join thought talks with corporate leaders, higher education administrators, and community organizations advocating to destroy societal barriers. I continue to be a voice for the various marginalized demographics that I represent. Some days I’m a “parenting student,” other days I’m a “single parent” sometimes just “a woman,” but all days I’m unapologetically Black. My exhaustion, my fears, nor my tears from a global pandemic and civil uprising have the power to deter me from the goals I’ve set as a parent.