Happy Black History Month Errbody!
When Cardi B asks, “So, what’s poppin’?” My response right now is my daughter’s COLLEGE ACCEPTANCES! Yaaassss! My February has started off more than right. I could have used this opportunity to highlight some Black Excellence out there in the world. Instead, I am taking this time to praise the dopeness in-house.
So this post is dedicated to my first-born and one of my pride and joys, Kaori Nijere Moye. Kaori will be celebrating her 18th birthday in less than a month and we definitely have a lot to celebrate. I’m going to save the schools that she got accepted into until the end but as a proud Black woman, I cannot continue to praise other Black women and leave my successful daughter out of the festivities. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night- I mean, I would… but not well.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of knowing Kaori and watching her develop, she is everything that Black Girl Magic is: intelligent, beautiful, confident, resilient, creative, about her business and about her Blackness. Although I’m her mom, she is my #Goals.
Here are some of the recent moments, as we embarked on the journey that is the college application process, in which I had to bow down to my daughter’s dopeness:
When she taught me that we are not our circumstances.
So here’s the brief backdrop (which I hope to turn into a memoir someday), I was a 15 year old, unemployed high school sophomore who was pregnant by a 17 year old incarcerated Black boy facing serious jail time and out of that came this diamond, Kaori. While I was so much more than that, and her father could have been so much than that, this is how I saw us for many years (and sometimes still do.)
Last year, in Kaori’s junior year, we were coming home together and discussing what she was gonna write for her college essay. She admitted that she was stuck and she asked me what she should write about. This seemed like a no-brainer. I told her to write about the way she overcame so much although her mother was a single teenage mother and she didn’t have a consistent relationship with her father. Basically, I was telling her to ride the struggle bus into a college acceptance.
She looked at me and plainly said, “Ma, I felt normal all of my life. I don’t want to write about that because you made sure I had a normal childhood. I’m good. I don’t feel like I struggled because of that. I didn’t struggle at all actually.” This is what every parent needs to hear. I’m not a crier and I didn’t cry at that moment but I invested in some Kleenex that evening.
Whose child was this? That’s right, mine. Here was my young lady telling me that she’s not holding on to what I perceived as my shortcomings because they didn’t have a negative impact on her. I realized in that moment that I was holding on to that narrative but it didn’t serve her. That was my baggage. She wasn’t trying to carry that with her. While I haven’t let down my load completely, I had to move on from my own trauma.
Needless to say, she didn’t write about my struggle. So what did she write about?
When she expressed the impact of the film, Hidden Figures
Like many Black folk, we went to see the amazing and timeless film, Hidden Figures. This is based on the true story about three Black women who were mathematical geniuses and were instrumental in getting the astronaut, John Glenn to make a full orbit around the earth safely. Not only was I impressed by the cast (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae- all of whom I admire and would throw my wallet at anything that they’re a part of) but I was moved and impressed by my daughter’s reaction.
Here she was, a 16 year old who returned to the optimism of a 6 year old and I don’t mean that in a childish, naïve way. I mean that she saw possibilities and could imagine herself in a way that only a child who hasn’t faced disappointment yet can, even though she had her share of struggle. Because of that movie, she could see herself as a Mathematician. She could see herself as an Engineer. She could see herself doing all of the things that were never offered as an option to her because she now knew that Black women had done it before.
After we left the theater, she said, “I wish this movie had come out when I was in middle school because I really didn’t like math and I didn’t have confidence.” She talked about that movie with me the entire week. She recalled the moment when Janelle Monae, who plays Mary Jackson, goes before a judge to explain why she should be able to attend night classes although it’s for Whites only. My daughter watched that moment, with tear filled eyes, as Mary walks out of the courtroom in victory. I could tell it wasn’t just that woman’s victory; it was Kaori’s victory. It was Black women’s victory, which made it a Black victory.
Quick backdrop: Kaori has always been a hardworking and pretty high performing student. Although she was usually on honor roll, she wasn’t the best test taker, especially once she got to middle school. She began to doubt her intelligence, especially when it came to math. There was a lot of negative self-talk but when she went to high school, she drastically improved in math, even on tests. Despite her drastic improvement, her comments didn’t always match her performance. She still downplayed her accomplishments. After seeing that movie, she really began to believe that a future in math and science was possible for a Black girl like her.
Insert theme music here.
(In my Pharrell voice)
Don’t you know that we’re able?
That alone makes us major
We can all sit at the table
And grow in his favor
She wrote passionately about this experience and her college essay was one of the strongest in her senior class, which leads to the ultimate dope moment…
When she got those COLLEGE ACCEPTANCES!
Like most seniors at this time of year, there’s a lot of anxiety, email refreshing and mailbox checking, looking for those envelopes that hold the key to their futures. Seriously, Kaori was a pain in the ass. She was checking the status of her applications, which confirmed that all of her applications and documents had been submitted. So of course, all I kept hearing was, “Yo. What’s taking so long? Some of my friends already got acceptance letters from like two schools already. So and so submitted their application the same day as I did and she already heard from her schools. I hope I get into at least one of my schools. Mom, would you be mad if I didn’t get in to my first choice? Did you check the mail, Mom? Mom, mom, MOOOOMMMMM!”
She was really testing the trickle down theory cause her stress was definitely making its way to me. We came home late one night and we were sitting down for a few minutes when she got on her phone like most kids do when they’re not paying any mind to their parents. All of a sudden, I heard,
“OH MY GOD! I GOT INTO RUTGERS. IT’S LIT! OH MY GOD, MOM!”
When my daughter is calling on the Lord in our non-religious household and saying it’s lit, you best believe issa got damn celebration! Rutgers is her first choice and what’s even better? My baby got into the Mathematics Program AND the Electrical Engineering Program!
And I responded as only a mother could, “GOOD MOTHERFUCKING JOB, DO! (her nickname.)” I don’t know if all mothers would respond that way but I use cuss words the way people use their unlimited data. Needless to say, I was overjoyed, proud and did what any proud parent would do: I disturbed everybody’s evening to brag about my child.
Why am I sharing this story?
- What I just told y’all? I wanted to brag about my child.
- To highlight the amazing moments that happen in Black families all the time. We have to celebrate our children. They need the encouragement in a world that isn’t always telling them that they’re great and brilliant and necessary.
- Representation matters. Seeing ourselves in a positive way does so much in helping us to imagine more for ourselves. I don’t doubt that Kaori would’ve gotten into her college of choice if she hadn’t seen that movie but I’m not positive that she would’ve developed the confidence to apply for those programs in the first place had she not seen that film. She might’ve just went into Liberal Arts (while there’s nothing wrong with that, I think she would’ve dimmed her own light prematurely by not applying to a field that needs her Black ass face.)
- I wrote this because we don’t want our girls to be hidden anymore. I see you Kaori; I have always seen you and I want others to know your name in real time as you make your mark on the world.
- She also got into SPELMAN so she’s feeling herself right now!
As we prepare for the next phase of her life, we are stressed over the cost of college- I ain’t save no college money. Didn’t y’all just read that I had her ass at 15?- and we’re mentally adjusting to the fact that she’ll be away from home. But mostly, we’re really excited and we’re preparing for her senior festivities and making sure we watch Grownish every week. This is her introduction to college life, watching Yara Shahidi’s character, Zoe navigate her first year in college. We always debrief about the episodes and I’ve even caught Kaori singing the theme song and the lyrics couldn’t be more fitting:
Watch out world I’m grown now.
Mama look, I’m grown now.
You are grown now, Kaori. So show up and show the fuck out!
Mommy loves you.