Over the last several days it has become extremely apparent to me that discussing COVID-19 and the efforts to open schools is a touchy subject. After discussing this issue with multiple people, in multiple roles (over the last several weeks) I have found myself exhausted and frustrated with the conversation. The conversations are “spirited” at best with each individual in the conversation, myself included, wanting to be heard, affirmed, and feelings validated. It creates an interesting dynamic that only allows the space for all involved to leave unmoved, unwaivered, and unrelenting. It is exhausting during a time of infectious disease pandemics, civil unrest, and a relentless feeling there is no end to this tumultuous tunnel.
But most recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a dear friend regarding reopening schools and the conversation started exactly the same. It was a conversation I have had multiple times with multiple people as I found myself wanting to change the conversation. I was tired. Frustrated once again. I thought to myself, “I am never having this conversation with anyone else ever again.” Then I realized it was not the conversation that was the problem. It was the purpose of the conversation that was at the root of the problem. When two individuals who believe two separate things about the same subject, things can get passionate . . . spirited . . . and even frustrated. But when the purpose of the conversation is seeking instead of speaking, the conversation does not change, but you do. Realizing that I had another person on the other end of the conversation who wanted the same things I have wanted from other people (including having their feelings heard and not dismissed), it opened up space for empathy and understanding. It opened up space for learning instead of schooling. It opened up the space for me to see another person who at the core was also hurting; also in pain; a person who was also overlooked and dismissed. When I allowed the conversation to change me, it opened up a space for healing.
Healing . . . Healing is defined in the dictionary as “the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.” This is what I hope my new book “Dear Black Boy” will do. It is my hope the content in this book will create conversation between parents and their children as well as community leaders and the communities they serve in an effort to promote healing that has been caused by generations of racial trauma. This healing may look different for different people, but it begins with the conversation. Just like discussing school reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, discussing race, racism, and the effects of systemic racism on generations of Black Americans is a hard conversation to have. It creates the same feelings of anger, frustration, and exhaustion. Just like reopening schools, discussing race and racial issues can create an interesting dynamic that only allows the space for all involved to again . . . leave unmoved, unwaivered, and unrelenting. Currently, we have a nation going through the stages of grief in the midst of a pandemic. We have a nation of Black Americans grieving hundreds of years of pain from both the past and the present in the midst of also grieving the losses in the past year due to COVID-19 emotionally, spiritually, and physically. You also have White Americans going through the same stages of grief due to these same COVID-19 losses while in the midst of grieving the loss of a nation they once thought they were. We are all in one of these stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression or acceptance. I would say most of us are somewhere on our way to acceptance but have yet to reach it.
Enter “Dear Black Boy.” It is a book written from the pain of a Black mother knowing that one day she will have to explain to her now 4 year old son and now 6 year old daughter that the world will see them and treat them differently. But although it was written from my pain, it was created as a part of my healing process. This book was written and illustrated to capture the essence of what little black boys have had to endure while also validating the pain of black parents having to watch them endure it. This book will not solve racism. It will not remove systematic bias in this country. However, I do believe it will begin a conversation that will help move us as a community through our grief. The book is currently in print and is set to be released in March 2021. If you are able, join the conversation with me and allow the conversation to change you.