Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dear FLOTUS...My Not So Black History Moment

Dear FLOTUS,

I’ve watched you for the past eight years. You’ve moved and led with such the perfect combination of grace and strength. The way you support your husband and stand in the face of giants is admirable. There is not a bad thing anyone could say about you.

I’ve watched you mother your girls. You’ve kept them covered. Protected. And they’re absolutely beautiful.

It’s Black History Month, as you know, FLOTUS, and I must say: You changed history in my household -- something that I will never forget, and neither will my daughter. But it wasn’t a “traditional” Black History Moment.

A couple of months ago, my daughter Kayna’s school (Osage Elementary) sent home a letter. The letter stated that they would be doing something called “The Hall of Presidents” and that in this presentation, if our daughter wanted an “extra” opportunity, she could participate in the First Ladies presentation where each 2nd grade girl who volunteered could portray a First Lady.

After Kayna said she wanted to participate, I sent an e-mail to her teacher saying she wanted to take part. When she came home that day, she proclaimed excitedly: “Mommy, mommy! I get to be Michelle Obama! I get to be Michelle Obama!”


Tears welled up. I wasn’t sure if I should show her my joy or not. I didn’t want to taint her experience and excitement which was different than mine. My tears came because I remember playing Betsy Ross in the 4th grade at our President’s Day presentation. It was either that or only having the opportunities to play Harriet Tubman or any other remarkable slave. But this? This is a game changer. And what was most beautiful about it? She wasn’t excited because First Lady Michelle Obama is black. She was excited because she is our current First Lady of the United States of America. My daughter is eight, and has been alive for as long as you've been in the White House - so you're all she's known. It's normal for her to see you in this place. 

And FLOTUS, whether the nation has been 100% in agreement with you, your husband or the politics that tend to outweigh some of life’s greatest truths, this was life changing. And my reality is that I am conflicted about Black History Month because we are more than slaves. We are more than what happened thousands of years ago or even 60 years ago. There are black leaders and black activists, business owners, dancers, actors, poets, and yes, now a First Lady of the United States that have made history.

FLOTUS, she was proud. She could identify with you. When she created her small, short speech, she studied you. And I was glad she did. She even wanted to wear orange like you because it’s what you wore for the State of the Union. 

My family and I are extremely big on diversity and creating platforms where people of all ethnic backgrounds can understand one another and grow thereby. My husband and mine’s professions in ministry and non-profit work allows us to work with all kinds of people from all walks of life. But this? This made being a brown girl in 2016 something to brag about because it had nothing to do with just being brown. It had to do with being a person.  And with all of the shootings, accusations, and struggles in our country with race relations, this is my open letter to you. Thank you. Thank you.

My sincerest prayer is that these are the moments that become stamped in history. And that we can celebrate great accomplishments that happened through a person in humanity; in society. That we see people as people. When I ask my daughter to describe her friends to me, she doesn’t see color. This generation is growing up different. Having a Black President and First Lady makes it more accessible and more accepting for children to identify themselves in leadership positions across different sectors in the nation. And that makes them see color less. We can learn from a page in their book. I’m not saying this nation still doesn’t have issues. I’m not saying that it’s not deeper rooted due to people’s backgrounds and experiences. But what I am saying is that there’s hope. And moments like these prove just that. 


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6 comments:

  1. Kayna is in my second grade class this year and I knew she would be the perfect person to portray our current First Lady. I am so proud of her and the wonderful job she did at our Hall of the Presidents

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    1. Mrs. Gavin, you are a phenomenal gift to every student you teach and we are so grateful that Kayna has you as her teacher!

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  2. Kristen, thanks for your blog posts that are always very informative and inspiring.

    After reading this blog post, the “not so black history moment” turned out to be the most “black history moment” to me. The fact that a black girl can freely elect, not only to do a First Ladies presentation, but a “black” First Lady presentation makes it a “traditional black history” moment to me. It reminds me of someone’s dream on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. I am so glad to see that a black girl is not being “judged by the color of her skin.”

    Celebrating Black History Month helps me, and many others, to be better stewards of the privileges we have gained. It is the awareness of 250 years of slavery, 100 years of legalized discrimination, and only 50 years of anything else, that helps me to appreciate the blessings I am enjoying today. “All of us are the beneficiaries of a long line of strong black people who helped carry our country” (President Obama).

    Even as a preacher I am subjected daily by white Pastors, to unfair stereotypes and assumptions from a culture that is still learning to accept me as black person. Black History Month provides opportunities to correct those misrepresentations and fallacies about black people. Black history reminds me that there are many occasions I have failed in my life, and many times I have made stupid decisions. But it was not because I am black, it was mere human stupidity and lapse of judgment. Some people still think the black person’s “inferiority is fact of nature, and that black people are subhuman by fate and not by accident.” No other human being will be given such sub-human treatment in the whole world. And I have decent knowledge of how the world looks like beyond the US border…thanks be to God for that blessing.

    As you rightly stated it’s “deeper rooted due to people’s backgrounds and experiences.” Black history reminds us to stop living our lives on such negative “backgrounds” and start building bridges to the future with the “hope” that you rightly perceived. I still “dream” that there is a world for all of us, which comes from hard work and discipline, but most importantly from treating others as I want to be treated….hope. This was someone’s dream 53 years ago; it’s my dream today; and I pray that it will be the dream of those who will come after me.

    Black history reminds me to still “dream” of a world where love for others exists and prevails over skin color, power and hate…..hope. I still dream of a world where black people can freely attend bible study without fear that a white teenage boy will walk in and start killing them like he was killing flies…..simply because his heritage taught him that “black lives don’t matter.”

    In His Service By His Grace,
    Tomasi Muhomba-Huntsville, AL.

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    1. Thank you Pastor Thomas for your comment and for reading and your endless support, as always!

      I was just noting that sometimes the very thing that we point out so dramatically, can be viewed differently by the children we are rearing. They don't see color like us adults have had to see color because of our experiences. Kayna and Sam Jr. don't describe someone by their skin color as a way of describing someone. And while I fully recognize that Kayna being able to portray First Lady Michelle Obama is Black History and Martin Luther King's "dream" being lived out - I also know that from her perspective, since this is all she's ever known - it's a different and healthy perspective when you grow up in a world that has seen black leadership in a vast array of forms. Makes it more "normal" where that wasn't my normal. Many didn't know they could aspire to be the first black president because it's not what we saw. And because we have a generation that is able to see things from a different lens, I believe there lies the true hope.

      Yes, much deeper rooted issues (for another blog and discussion) but this was indeed about the future. About history being history. About great people being great people. Regardless of color, while still honoring those that paved the way so that this could be a reality.

      Thank you for commenting. I value you!

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  3. Kristen, First of all let me say how proud I am of you and the beautiful woman of God that you are. Kayna has a wonderful mother to show her life the way God would want you to show her. What an awesome testimony that both of you will have in regards to this moment in time.I know your mother would be as proud of you and Kayna as I am

    Love always your Father Preston Brown

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