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Martha Mutale: Love letter to Black women who are struggling with woman-hood, and the decision of mother-hood

 (Priska Neely/KPCC)

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I have been back and forth about what it means to be a Black woman in today’s world. What the expectations are, how to navigate a world that has so little respect for women of colour, yet still demands so much from us. 

As I  watch my three-year-old niece and my two nephews (one is seven, the other will be turning one in April), I keep asking myself if the world is safe enough for them to thrive and be successful in. 

In a way, I know it is, but the other reality is that Black babies are a target. It is hard watching these young Black babies grow up in a world that doesn’t see them as equals. It has made me constantly ask myself the tough question ‘when am I going to have kids?’

I know women who struggled to have children, miscarriage, discovering that their bodies aren’t capable of hosting a baby. So these women resort to other ways, surrogacy, IVF, or adoption. Is this out of desperation, pressure from families and the community? Or is motherhood a genuine choice for them? 

This is not about throwing any shame towards those who have made the personal sacrifice to have children, this is the other side of the conversation that you seldom hear about.  

For years, growing up, I wanted a big family. I have three sisters and have always been surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. I chose many years ago to leave the church. This allowed me to carve out a path for myself which helped me understand other areas of my life. 

The rise of political warfare against Black women’s bodies made me stop and think about what motherhood and womanhood mean to me. I began to pay attention to what was happening around me. And I got really, really scared. Like, scared shitless. Let’s keep it real, you don’t become a parent just to bury your child. As sad as this sounds it was reason enough for me to not want kids. 

I used to get really depressed around my birthday because it was another year without any accomplishments under my belt. Another year of reasoning and being irrational.

I witnessed one of my sisters give birth and I never was able to get that image out of my mind. I love and admire her more than she probably knows. Being there to watch my nephew grow up and be loved as an only child until his sister arrived, I began to understand just how overwhelming, exhausted, broke, and happy my sister was. She and her husband have a beautiful family with three intelligent kids that continue to amaze me. 

I love being an aunt. I have selfish tendencies, but I have a big heart. I love to travel, hike, take road trips, I love food, naps, video games, I write and perform poetry, I have had work in two art galleries, competed nationally on stage for poetry, struggled with health issues and finally cleared out my student loan debt after two years of being broke.

My life is great right now. I found happiness, I am constantly surprising myself and the choices that I make. I am a bit healthier and now take care of my body, learning about boundaries, listening, maintaining and questioning friendships. I am learning how loving myself is more important than anything else. And being more open-minded about how to navigate my own world. 

It’s hard out here for a Black woman, but it doesn’t have to be once we learn to face our fears and take the step we should have taken years ago. 

Happiness is a beautiful process that teaches our bodies, minds and spiritual self how to control our reaction to the world. It’s a process that never ends because we are constantly evolving as humans. 

We need to be more compassionate and understanding of each other and stop carrying around all this negative energy. We are Queens. We are loved, and we deserve love and must learn how to demonstrate love and leave the next generation of Black Queens feeling a bit more hopeful. 

Martha Mutale is a Zambian-born poet, organizer, and advocate. Martha was a 4th Wall participant for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. She has been performing poetry for several years, she took part in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2016, as well as the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam in Vancouver in 2017. She also co-founded a non-profit called Poets 4 Progress which was active for two years. 

See also: Tired bodies, a poem by Martha Mutale

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One Comment

  1. Martha I so appreciate this! Thank you so much for capturing and sharing such vital words! It would be an honour to read with you again sometime in the near future!

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