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I Am Because of THEM…


Last night at Center for the Arts, University at Buffalo I alarmed my ride or die Shontoya Wilsonbecause listening to Nikole Hannah Jones I became overwhelmed and teared up. There was a very mixed crowd and that wasn’t surprising. However there was a gentleman sitting next to my mom who said “What is 1619, a club or something” My mom looked disturbed and she laughs when she’s nervous. So I answered, “It’s the year the first group of kidnapped enslaved Africans were bought to the US.” He had a look of pure befuddlement on his face. My mom not very Sotto Voce said, “what did he think he was buying tickets too?!” I explained that some people are season ticket holders and just come out. She rolled her eyes in her head Black momma style. I’m sure her lips were twisted but she had a mask on.

My tears, well here’s why. I was a mom at 20 and I KNEW, absolutely unequivocally knew that THIS WASNT IT. I had a high school diploma from one of the most elite schools in the city. But I was a broke ass single parent on the verge of dumb or fucked up. And that wasn’t going to happen. My grandmother told me “do better”. And that lit a fire.

So….here we are: this is about Shontoya and she knows this story well. I tell it because it keeps US humble.

Mr. Currerton and MS. BOARMAN. The deacon always emphasized the MS as if it shamed me. Little did he know pregnancy was a CHOICE. I knew where Planned Parenthood was. But that wasn’t MY CHOICE at that time.

4th Grade: PS #39 which became MLK JR school Mr Christman VP of City Honors was principal there. And he remembered me. WHY? Because I was obnoxious as hell in HS and spent a time or 2 in the office. We didn’t stay at MLK because I as I told my daughter if MLK is such a great school why isn’t there one in Amherst or Cheektowaga? Why is MLK always “in the hood”? WE know what he means to us but White people should appreciate what he sacrificed for THEM too.

But: here I was a parent at 28 trying to keep it to together with this 9 year old. Who was much brighter than I was.

I got a call from Mr. Curreton telling me she was causing a disturbance in the hallway. I believed in corporal punishment only in the most dire instances. My daughter laughs to this day at the ONE spanking she received and how I was soft. But at any rate, she was going to get it for this infraction. So I thought.

I have always, always drilled into her without education, WE have nothing. No system of wealth, no oils wells, no startup tech companies, no jump shot, can’t sing. All we had was SMART. So cutting up in school was not an option. However she insisted it wasn’t her. “Mommy, PLEASE ask my music teacher”, whose name alludes me, was her plea. I have those report cards and I can dig them out, if needed. But I went to the school with the further threat of “tearing her up in class” if she were lying. But sure as shit it WASNT her! But it was her “friends”. That was a whole nother lecture. I had to set her teacher straight all 6’4 and 400+ pounds of him! He bore false witness and that was unacceptable. (side bar that religion stuff and me? We don’t mix)

Mr Curreton and I didn’t get a long and we had run ins before. When I told him he almost caused my baby to get a “whooping”. He literally lowered himself within eye level to me and very condescendingly said, “I’m sorry Ms. Boarman if you believe in corporal punishme..I interrupted him and said “LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT THERE DEACON CURRETON, YOUR BIBLE SAYS “SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE CHILD”. I will not be the parent in the courtroom crying “OH NO, NOT MY BABY” I’m going to kick her ass before the court system does.” He drew back and after a long pause said, “Well I’m sorry Ms. Boarman.” I immediately replied it’s not me you’re apologizing too, it’s her, I jerked my head towards my daughter, who was snickering. But I gave her “the look”. And she stopped real quick. Mr. Curreton did apologize, reluctantly. But we did have more “conversations” or confrontations about other situations and his not so subtle disdain for me and my extremely bright child. I irritated him. I challenged him and he didn’t like that. I also made it a point to tell him I worked for the State and my salary and taxes made sure his got paid too. He did ask me what did I do and I proudly told him, I’m a REGISTERED NURSE.” He sure as hell was quiet. I felt a sense of EXTREME pride to tell him that. I worked my ass off so that Toy could have better choices. It’s by design that she did and does. I know his “what do you do” was filled with assumptions, stereotype, and doubt. That’s why I felt my chest swell, I’m not who you want me to be.

I NEVER and still don’t play about school. What she did after high school was on her. But that K-12, was MY BUSINESS. I showed up to parent teacher conferences even in highschool. I worked OT and 2 jobs for tutors especially when it came to those dumbs ass slanted SATS and ACTS. I have an alt name for them but that’s another story too.

School is all some of us have. Especially people of color. And it’s important that OUR stories be heard. It’s important that we know that our lives didn’t begin after slavery. We existed before, during, and NOW. I was so engaged with the stories from HOME. My mom is an avid reader and she drilled into us the importance of reading, knowing, who we WERE AND ARE. Children are more engaged academically when they can relate to the lessons. If you don’t believe this, WATCH ABBOTT ELEMENTARY.

How do you suppress history and not allow OUR stories to be told? As if we exist only at the whim of White historians, scholars. As if we exist only as a “by the way” or adjacent to whiteness and the history that fragility wants to narrate. No, no one today is responsible for slavery. But there are some who are gatekeepers to the lack of progress amongst black people. There are those who want to hold on to the ideology that our stories aren’t necessary. Should white children feel sad about SLAVERY? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! An entire continent of people were captured, forced to work uncompensated solely at the behest of White people. That is incredibly sad for Black children too. But it’s not everlasting, that sadness…it’s not sustainable because there is joy in our history. There are successes despite our history. There is incredible perseverance and pride. We exist because we are history.

This is why the 1619 Project means so much to those who understand. You cannot White wash history, to suppress it is to allow room for re-emergence. History does repeat. You have to talk about it to learn from the past to evolve from the ugly head of supremacy. Enslaved Africans, Genocide of Jewish people…that’s history repeating. We must not ever be on the wrong side of history.


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