A Mom Memory: “Andreu is _____”

Facebook Post from April 17, 2013

Today is my 3rd son’s, Andreu Noa’s, 11th birthday and he woke up in TEARS! Why? Because I forgot to buy him our “traditional” musical/singing birthday card for his birthday!!! They are usually the silliest cards EVER and EXTREMELY annoying (as a prank to teachers I love who HATE them by the end of the school day  ) I usually deliver it to the school with snack treats, but (  UGH!!!) I forgot! I was trying to be tough when Andreu’s eyes welled up with tears, but when he left out of the room I found  my eyes had welled up, too. I had no idea those cards I sent to school were so important to them… He came back in the room and told me he FORGAVE me for forgetting his birthday card  … Still, I had to come up with something and I came up with THIS! I carefully unsealed the boxes of treats placed an affirmation about Andreu on each treat, and resealed the boxes… I AM HOPING HE IS SURPRISED and pleasantly so… We’ll see…

Follow-up Response: Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂 I really needed the support. (And I could tell some you had been “there” before as well and you felt my pain… Thanks for the empathy.)

I saw Andreu as he was passing out extra treats to teachers in the hallway at school. He looked at me rather bashfully, but the his classmate, Alex, ran up to me and said, “Mrs. Mason we LOVED the notes on Andreu’s treats. They were so cool… I got the one that said, ‘Andreu is brilliant!'” She went on to talk about how different ones got this one or that one that said, “Andreu is _____!” I must admit, I was happy at the thought of Andreu hearing all those affirmations about himself. 🙂

I asked him if he liked them and he said, “Yes…” and I asked him if he was surprised and he said, “Yes…” :/ Sigh…   When I was leaving the school building, I passed by his classroom. (I saw one of the treats on the corner desk by the door. 🙂 ) His classmates pointed toward the door… He looked… I waved… He ran out into the hallway (out of view of his classmates) and gave me a big hug and said, “Thanks, Mom.” Anita (my older sister), thank you for my award because all I could think was that all of my years of sacrifice and trying to be a great Mom were about to be foiled by forgetting a silly musical card. Nita Boo, you are right… My name sake and I are SO MUCH ALIKE! (It didn’t help that we had just celebrated his oldest brothers’ birthday BIG three days ago.

Andreu needed some time to get his emotions together and take it all in. He will probably be able to say more about how he liked them later, if he chooses to… But I think it was a good save… 🙂  

Update: Andreu indulged his Mom and told me more about how he felt about his birthday treats…   He said, “I just kept saying, ‘How did she do that? How did she do that? … Like 5 times, Mom… How did you do that and the box wasn’t even open?” I asked, “So are you okay not getting a card?” He responded, “Oh yeah, it was waaaaaay better.” I asked, “Oh really? Why?”   He responded, “Because it was all about ‘Andreu is…'”   The icing on the cake was when my youngest, Omari, came in looking pouty and said, “Mom, you never did anything like that for me…”   HA!!! So I retain my “Best Mom Ever” crown after all!”

Daughters of the African Diaspora

“Don’t worry Anny, when you have your babies, I will come where you are and show you everything you need to know…”
Within a year of my mother saying those words to me, she had become an ancestor. That is one of the few statements that I can still hear in her actual voice, and I have spent the past 25 years, through births of my own and many others, chasing her words and trying to figure out what she would have shown me.
Initially, my questions lead me to elders in my life. But then I visited Africa for the first time and recognized similarities between how they do some things and what we did during the many summers I spent at my grandparents’ farm in rural Alabama. I clearly saw our connection as people of African descent. I saw traditions that affirmed our “Africanness” and practices that until about 50 years ago had been passed down from generation to generation to ensure our survival.
Until a half century ago, when the U.S. granted people of African descent citizenship, Black women practiced the same birthing skills that had been practiced for centuries prior, brought to this country by African women. Some fifty years later, in a time when maternity care is assumed to be the most advanced, Black mothers and babies are dying at increasingly alarming rates higher than the general population of women.
How can this be happening in the world’s most industrialized, western societies?
It is clear that something is wrong… I would go even further to say, “Something is missing…” or better yet… “someONE is missing…” And I will walk all the way out on the tip of the ledge and say that the SOMEONE missing in OUR story is THE BLACK WOMAN. I believe that in recent decades, we have been missing in our own story. And I believe that WE are and have always been the secret ingredient that allowed us to sustain ourselves during childbirth and beyond.
While more and more attention is being drawn to the ways modern medical systems have failed Black women from the beginning, there is also room to point out our need to “RECLAIM OUR BIRTH RITES” and practices.
What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers know that allowed them to support themselves and others during childbirth that we no longer know?
What knowledge and skills about childbirth did families use when they were not allowed into modern health facilities?
What resourcefulness have we abandoned as “the old way” that was actually keeping Black women and children safe in the face of so much systematic oppression and adversity?
Have times changed as much as we think they have? Or is it just time for us to SANKOFA… to go back and get all that has been lost, stolen, abandoned, forgotten and surrendered.
Daughters of the African Diaspora Alliance (D.O.A.D. Alliance) was established to assist us in our journey to RECLAIM what is ours, so that we are once again the first resource and the first line of defense for our women and children.
It is my prayer that we as Black women who are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends will CATCH THE MANTLE OF CARE AND NURTURE FOR BIRTHING WOMEN that has been left behind by OUR MOTHERS WHO ARE NOW IN THE HEAVENLY REALM; and intensify our efforts to learn and RE-MEMBER WHO WE ARE so we can “HELP ourselves to HEAL ourselves, and SAVE OURSELVES!”
P.S. Daughters of the African Diaspora Alliance was launched on February 5, 2019, 25 years after my mother Johnnie Mae Gray Little became an ancestor. I recognize this day as her Legacy Day and a time to celebrate her legacy and how it has influenced and been manifested throughout my life. May she be pleased with the work I am striving to do.

For Daughters of the African Diaspora

Wait… What connection between South Africa and Africans of the Diaspora…?!

With all of the conversation surrounding the relationship between Diasporic Africans and Continental Africans, I think it is the perfect time to share a unique connection between Africans of the Diaspora and Black South Africans that I had never heard before.

Khwezi with Alfred and Nosipho in February 2015 

I first met Alfred in 2015 during my first visit to Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I had spent the entire day before watching his wife Nosipho cook meal after meal (she was the umpheki) as the rest of us chopped and chopped and chopped the different vegetables for each meal. I honestly had never seen cooking pots so big, but they were necessary to accommodate the steady stream of people who were coming during umsebenzi In preparation for the funeral and celebration of the life of the loved one that would occur over the next few days.


I have not talked much about that experience… perhaps I will some day. It was there in Clermont that I noticed the many similarities to what I had experienced during the summers at my grandparents house in rural Alabama throughout my childhood. So many things felt familiar… Perhaps I will share more about that some time.

Anyway, I first met and had an opportunity to speak with Alfred after the funeral. I was excited to see both Alfred and Nosipho last month during our traditional Zulu wedding celebration. After all of the greetings and introduction to my husband, he told me that he had something he wanted to say to African Americans. I was curious about what he would say. And once I heard his message, I promised I would share it.

“My name is Afred Mandlakayise Ziqubu. I’m from Umlazi. Umlazi is South of Durban. This… Clermont being west of Durban. I want to say something about YOU coming here to South Africa to have the ceremony… the wedding ceremony. People don’t know what African Americans are. Most of African Americans went to America as slaves, our forefathers, but the difference between South Africa, KZN which is KwaZulu-Natal, the difference is that people were sent by King Shaka to go and learn the wisdom of Americans in America. Which makes you, when you are coming here, you are coming to your home… your real home… this is your roots, so YOU ARE WELCOMED.”

Oh… and I will add this for good measure. African peoples have always honored greatly mouth-to-ear, spoken history. All (yes, I said ALL) of those who retain a connection to their family lineage know their family name(s) for many previous generations. (I have taught 13 year olds who knew.) This knowledge is most likely not given to them in a book or on a piece of paper, but it is written on their hearts through the sharing of oral histories. It is from that place and sense of knowing that this message is shared.

Let the unpacking begin…