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Love, Mama

August 25, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

**All quotes are taken from popular hip-hop/rap songs and are performed by black/African American identifying males. This piece is intended to be largely interpretative and should be read in conjunction with "Disclaimers**"

"I was young and dumb with a pocketful of cash. Posted on the block with a pocketful of glass. Full speed still running from my past but it's starting to catch up, yeah it's gaining on my ass."

These deep set brown eyes of yours compliment your chocolate brown skin to make the most beautiful horror I've ever witnessed. My fears for you are many--my greatest fear is not that you are young and dumb it is that you will not make it to be old and wise. Lord knows I never made it easy for you. What are you supposed to do when the game stays the same, the players look new but their tricks are recycled? Why is up to you to change when the rules don't? Just remember it's impossible to outrun your past. Bits and pieces of it seep into the present muddying an already blurry and complicated picture.

"I'm steady tryin' to find the motive, why I do what I do. Freedom ain't gettin' no closer, no matter how far I go."

Within the walls of our house I have some control of the consequences you face but once you walk out that door, you belong to the world once again. I become powerless and defenseless as you tell me how no matter what you do things just don't go right. I see you trying everyday, there's no doubting that. Still you have all these questions of freedom and how to get it. You want this independence that I've never known and you yearn for it so deeply. How far do you need to go? At what cost? The same questions I asked myself all my life are written on you and though I have no answers, my prayers envelop you. I just ask that whatever freedom you're looking for does not come at too great a price.

"Would you miss me? Would you miss me? Would you walk up to my casket? Would you kiss me?"

If our story grew bigger than just us two, I would be devastated at how the media will defame you. I'd be mourning the single greatest thing I've ever known while a whole bunch of folks who haven't done right either are going to throw stones. They'll make me forget all that you set out to do and who you really are. They'll discredit me for raising you and tell me the world is rid of one more vicious statistic. I'll be rethinking the word "justice" and my faith in humanity as I will always be the one looking out for you after the crusade taken up by a few is long gone. I can't stand this reality but I know somehow I have to prepare for it.

"I don't always do what I should, but I do what I gotta do. You've been at the bottom, you see the hunger inside of you. Don't say what you won't do, cause it can all change. When the going gets tough it'll drive you insane."

Sometimes what you should do is not always what you have the OPTION TO DO. When you spend your life constantly trying to get ahead and realize you're further back then where you started, it's crushing. That's a truth a lot of folks don't want to hear because it makes a simple picture more complicated. As a black man, you are feared no matter what you do. If it is the day you graduate from college or the day before a jail sentence, baby a lot of people see little good in you. As a black woman, I have a similar yet distinct lot in life too. Don't let the insanity of how folks view you with a broken mirror influence your choices.

"All that I've been given is this pain that I've been living. They got me in the system; why they gotta do me like that? Tried to make it my way but got sent on up the highway. Why? Oh why? Why they gotta do me like that?"

Survival by any means necessary is the game and the motto but please know you're never going to have a fair hand. There's an invisible hand that shuffles life's cards and it has preferences for who it deals well to. Folks of color disproportantely receive aces of agony, deuces of discrimination, queens of criminality and kings of chaos. It's not your fault nor mine there's a vicious game being played in which black and brown folks aren't the dealer, the broker with some bargaining power or the authority to stop the game. This is decades and centuries of strategy. Whether you do it your way or not it is always a game. A game which you were never meant to win.

"Am I wrong for wanting better? Should I just settle for forever? Oooh, I swear it feels like this is as good as it gets. Am I wrong for wanting cheddar? Although they'll tell me that I'll never... get out of here, I swear, I'm driven by a better life."

My son, you are never wrong for wanting better. Push yourself to attain both the material and non-material things that will allow you to live comfortably. Don't stop chasing your dreams from a fear of getting stuck in one place forever. Whether you are looking for independence, freedom, money or just something to call your own there is a common thread in all of that. You are searching for yourself in a sea that doesn't reflect you. You want something to lay claim to to say that all the negativity that people have placed on you is wrong. You keep trying this is not as good as it gets.

"You'd love to hear the story how the thugs live in worry. Duck down in car seats, heat's mandatory. Running from Jake, getting chased, hunger for papes. These are the breaks many mistakes go down out of state."

Does anyone know your story? Do people still label you a thug from a hood who throws up sets and walks hand in hand with danger? Would they be surprised to remember that anything that can happen to you can happen to them? Not all of us have the same stories and worries so if someone ever does find your truth I hope they are aware of that. You're not less of a human because you made a mistake of being at a corner store or at school. You're not less of man for defending yourself against an aggressor. In your last moments--wherever you might be--remember this. You are not what anyone tells you to be. You are great and you are loved.

"I wish I could take the pain away. If you can make it through the night there's a brighter day. Everything will be alright if you hold on. It's a struggle everyday, gotta roll on. And there's no way I can pay you back; but my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated."

I am honored to have had you. Humbled to have grown with you. Blessed to love you.

Love, Mama.

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