my first mother chose this woman
on her deathbed.
a flesh mother for me
Someone once said to her
Your daughter looks just like you.
my face relaxed
i would have to study her so I might continue to
learn to plant each step sure of my footing
did not know then
that she would swallow me
crack my bones with her wisdom
suck out the marrow
grind me smooth
that sure footing comes from confronting
British boarding school, colonized
Biafra War, brutalized
trans-atlantic migration for alien registration numbers
for children dipped in Americana
too bitter for a village girls taste
too unstable for open rejection
bloodied and bruised but still smooth
never let them catch you with your nails chipped
let spirit guide or stay lost.
either way. you will eventually learn
that grace in your steps is earned
by Anwuli Anigbo
In conversation with Anwuli Anigbo pertaining to The Women That Raise Us:
Do you consider "negative" and "positive" relationships and experiences with women as a contribution to your growth? Do you consider friends, inspirations, fallen relationships or even the everyday encounters as a contribution to your current self?
There is no growth without proximity to women for those willing to learn. I want to tell you about all the women who have shaped me for better or worse. Tell you how even the men and boys in my life are shaped by which woman brought them into my life and how the women supported (or didn’t) their presence. That would be too long a story but the moral is that all my roads are walked with women.
"There is no growth without proximity to women for those willing to learn."
What are your thoughts on women of color being hyper-visible yet invisible in society and/or within their own communities?
Our culture does that with everything. I don't know if I even take it personally. We perpetually consume and discard. Being aware of the system and intentionally not participating has opened the door to other communities living in a different reality.
How can we lift each other while we still climb as individuals? How can this become an ongoing practice?
I love the phrase "Lifting as We Climb." It fills me with beautiful memories. I think of my Black Feminism class with Dr. Audrey McCluskey who introduced me to the phrase and the history. The nights I spent reading about Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and so many others. I still have the PDFs from the class bound and on my bookshelf. I think about the history and the women I learned about in that class often. They remind me to remain rooted in the "why." Why is this work important and what is the real goal? Ella Baker and Wilma Rudolph, these are the ancestors, I call on the most for guidance about how to stay committed to what is real in a world of smoke and mirrors.
Where were you mentally, physically, emotionally, when the piece was created?
When I wrote this I was reflecting on the story of how my adopted mother came to have me and my sister. Particularly, how my adopted mother is not my birth mother's sister, she is married to my birth mother's brother. What it means for my birth mother to have passed her children to her. What is says about female connection. She is the only person I trust to tell me about my birth mother. How much I love, fear, and consider her. Them. They are one to me in some ways, forming one continuous motherhood.
Anwuli Anigbo: "I started to write in college as a way to sense my way and embrace the darkness. My stomach was heavy with new life, old life insisted on smashing into my gentle protrusion. Unwilling to accept my decision to take up more space. Writing helped me release, organize. grow, harvest. and delight."