A Love Letter To My Soon To Be Born Granddaughter
Will she grow up to be an angry black woman? God, I hope so!
I have three to 48 hours to write you a love letter.
I better think fast, write fast and edit a little because my daughter, your mother, is in labor. I’m going to be a grandfather — -your grandfather. And if the doctors are correct, Ava, you’ll be here in 3 to 48 hours.
What will you look like? What will you sound like? Will you cry a lot like your mother? For the sake of payback, I hope so. Will you be strong-willed like your grandmother? For the sake of future success, I hope so. Will you be nurturing and supportive and encouraging like your great-grandmothers? For the sake of humanity, I hope so.
Or will you be a sometimes-angry black woman? For the sake of upholding your standards, I certainly hope so. The angrier, the better.
As a black woman, there’s quite a bit about which to be angry. It has been said that being a black woman is like being black twice. I can’t know all that you’ll face, I’ve only been black once and the perks for me are many. I get to be viewed by society as being less intelligent. I get to be viewed by society as being less moral. I get to be viewed by society as being less law-abiding. I get all of that and more. You’ll get all of that and less. Because I get to be angry and show it, you won’t.
My indignation is righteous. Yours won’t be. You’ll be called an angry black woman. My anger is justified because I’m black. Yours will not be because you’re black, twice.
But don’t fear being called an angry black woman. Every meaningful societal change had anger as its parent. It means you have standards. It means you have consciousness. It means you care. I certainly hope you have standards. I certainly hope you have consciousness. I certainly hope you care. I certainly hope your anger births your strength to fight for those people and principles your standards and consciousness dictate are deserving of your caring.
Now, at your birth, our nation is in great peril. We seem to have lost our dignity and our decency. We seem to have lost our soul and our minds. Our Constitution talks of forming a more perfect Union and establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility. I hope you recognize that sometimes working to establish justice means necessarily foregoing tranquility. It means necessarily being angry.
I hope you recognize that being labeled an angry black woman is more often than not, an attempt to control one’s behavior, not describe it. Don’t be deterred. Don’t be swayed. Don’t be controlled.
Be like the first sometimes-angry black woman I loved. She was kind. She was loving. She was patient but from time to time, she’d be angry. Often, angry at me. Always I deserved it. Often because I failed to live up to my promise. She wanted me to do better, be better. I tended to not like having my deficiencies laid bare. I’d deflect. I’d double-down. I’d even lie.
But more than anything, she was strong. She moved me from a New Orleans housing project to an Atlanta suburb. She raised me mostly singularly. She taught me to care, about myself first and others, a close second. She taught me to be confidant, never allowing me to use the worst four-letter word of all, can’t. She molded me into a man and a lawyer.
Be like the next sometimes-angry black woman I loved. I met her one day when I was in downtown Atlanta walking to court. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Had I not had the confidence instilled in me by the first sometimes-angry black woman I loved, I never would have approached this one. She was your grandmother. I gave her my card. I invited her to lunch. She gave me her number. That was December 15, 1993. On June 1st, 1996, we wed.
She was kind. She was loving. She was patient but from time to time, she’d be angry. Often angry at me. Always I deserved it because I failed to live up to my promise. She wanted me to do better, be better. But with her, I wouldn’t deflect. I wouldn’t double down. I wouldn’t lie. She made me strive to fulfill my promise.
But more than anything, she was strong. I was barely a man when I met her, six months out of law school. I turned down my dream job at the public defender and instead armed with only ambition and confidence, I started my own practice. She was a fully-grown woman. She’d graduated college, served in the military and had already bought a house. But I was actually armed with so much more than mere ambition and confidence; I was buttressed by her strength…and her home. Our home.
We have two daughters, your mom and your aunt. I hope as they grow into their womanhood, they’ll continue being kind. They’ll continue being loving. They’ll continue being patient. But more than anything, I hope they are strong and from time to time, angry — -the angrier the better. I hope it fuels their strength to make society and others fulfill its and their promise. I hope it fuels their strength to fulfill their own immense promise.
All that and more I hope for you.
Actually, all that and more, I expect of you. I expect that you will be like your mother and your aunt and your grandmother and your great grandmother. I expect that you’ll even be a little like me. I expect you to have my passion and compassion. I expect from time to time you’ll be angry. I expect it to fuel your strength to fight for your principles and fight for a more perfect union and to establish justice, with or without intermittent lapses of tranquility.
I expect you’ll cry sometimes. I do. I can hardly read this letter without crying. You’ll be stronger than I am. Most black women are. And because you are, I expect you’ll be called an angry black woman. But nonetheless, I expect you to be undeterred and unswayed. I expect you to be uncontrolled.
Know that being black once is good. Know that being black twice is better. Know that I love you. Know that I always will. Know that I have much more to say. Know that I always will. But for now, I have to go. Your mom needs me. I have to think fast, write fast and edit a little.
Because Ava, I only have three to 48 hours to write you a love letter.