Race and Religion

As many of you know I’m interested in how race, religion, culture play out in our everyday with the emphasis on how much they impact on our ability to grieve the loss of motherhood. As a black woman I have my childhood memories that have influenced my journey into adulthood, not in a negative way, just in a “I never expected that” or “no surprises there” kind of way.

Since that pivotal, in 2018, moment when Jody asked me why black women were not connecting with her there have been a number of conversations that have gone a long way to re-framing my thinking around my experiences today. I have also been blessed with the many women I’ve meet on my journey, all of whom have added and helped me to grow my story in a way that I did not think possible. These moments have lead me to have conversations that I did not think possible. These conversations have allowed me to bring women together to explore aspects of race and religion that other forums would possible not allow us to have. For this reason I started my Women of Colour platform where I can have conversations (with other women) to explore how race and/ or religion has or has not impacted on our ability to grieve the loss of motherhood.

So I invited my friends Dr Krista Cooper, Civilla Morgan, podcaster at Childless Not By Choice, and Haneefah Muhammad to join me for my first conversation on this topic.

I am so grateful that they were open to having such an open and revealing conversation with me, a conversation that enabled me to explore areas of religion that I had not thought about. I won’t say too much more as you can listen in via this link …… but I just wanted to close with these quotes…

“as childless women we can carry the burden of the disappointment of God”

“…it should be about a relationship with God, not religion… just because we are in a relationship it does not mean that it will all work out…”

“the bible holds a gamut of human experiences… use the bible to know that we can survive, not to instruct us how to live…”

“the best thing to do (with our grief) is to hold kindness, compassion and quietness”

These were bits that really stood out for me during our conversation, things that I had not heard or thought about before, but quotes that I will continue to think about and use as they re-frame my thinking. I feel so honored to have been able to gather these women to talk about this topic and so grateful that they said Yes. Thank you to Krista, Civilla and Haneefah and thank you all for listening too – I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did… click here to listen.

Watch out for part two where Ruth Levy Abramson joins me to talk about her experience with the Jewish faith.

Adventist Radio Interview

A few months ago Vanesa Pizzuto, presenter and producer at Adventist radio invited me onto her show, On The Go. Vanesa came across me via Sheridan Voysey, who I shared a platform with at Fertility Fests’ Fertility Fight Club at the Barbican back in April. So yesterday I was welcomed at the Radio station in Watford by Vanesa and her team.

It always surprises me how I feel like every interview is my first. This time I was particularly surprised at how emotional I felt during this one. I do, at times, feel a touch of sadness when I tell my story but at this interview I was reminded of how I felt when I first attended a Gateway Women’s workshop back in December 2014. I was also reminded of how I felt when I first faced the possibility that I was grieving the loss of my dream of becoming a mum and I was reminded of how far I have come since 2014. What a journey!!!

It is so great to be invited onto Christian platforms, Premier Christian Radio being my first, where I can still remain true to who I am. One of the difficulties that I experienced in the church environment (that I was in at the time) was the feeling of not being truly accepted and the many messages of ‘not being good enough’ that I felt on a regular basis. Today I was heard, acknowledged, understood and validated all in a place. This is a feeling that I never thought I would have, I never thought that the ‘Christian world’ would not accept my truth.

So today I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be heard on a platform that could have easily said No (to me) and from a woman who know’s how important it is for our stories to be heard so that other women on a journey similar to mine can hear that they are not alone. So I’m sending a BIG FAT THANK YOU to Vanesa for allowing me to share my story and for her world to know my truth xxx

Storyhouse CHILDLESS on Sun 10 November

Jody Day and I will be at the Storyhouse in Chester on Sunday 10 November. Jody is the keynote speaker at the opening and will also chairing the wrap-up panel at the end where I will speak about my experience of involuntary childlessness for black women and women of colour.

Jody

There’s an amazing lineup of talks, workshops, performances and activities to choose from at Storyhouse CHILDLESS, including:

  • Real-Life Stories from members of the Chester Gateway Women Meetup Group who’ll be on stage to talk candidly about their experiences;
  • Robin Hadley, the UK’s most well-known (and loved!) academic and speaker on male involuntary childlessness on ‘The Rise of the new MAWFIA: Men Ageing Without Family – Invisible and Alienated’;
  • Barbara Dillon on the grief of involuntary childlessness and how coming out of the closet (this year) as a member of the LGBT community is woven into her story;
  • Shona Hookham on being diagnosed with POI (Premature Ovarian Insufficiency) and facing both the menopause and childlessness in her early twenties;
  • Dave & Lizzie Lowrie’s interactive seminar on the principals of great storytelling and how to apply them to our lives to help us live a better, more meaningful childless story;
  • Chiara Berardelli’s ‘Seamonster’ – fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, a one-woman music and spoken word performance by the Italian/Scottish singer-songwriter – based on her album ‘Seamonster’ which charts her experience of coming to terms with being childless by circumstance.

 Read more about the programme and book here.

I look forward to seeing you there

Yx

Premier Christian Radio

On Thursday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Maria Rodrigues on her Woman to Woman radio show at Premier Christian radio. I am always amazed at how nervous I feel before an interview, as if it’s my first and then I start to speak….

Maria was great, really warm and friendly and, as I found out during the morning, that she is childless too so it felt extra special to have been invited to share my story knowing that the woman on the other side of the microphone had a story of her own that she could have easily shared in place of mine.

My friends told me afterward that no matter how many times that they hear my story it touches them as deeply as the first time they heard it. So here is the link for those of you who missed it and for those who’d like to hear it again…. (click on the picture below)

We are born into stories…

I went to a lecture in London earlier this year that was presented by Professor Helen Milroy. Helen is a descendant of the Palyku people and talks about using art as a form of healing and about her research/ work around Aboriginal mental health that includes recovery from trauma and grief. 

Reflecting on her experience, and the experiences of the other Aboriginal stories that she told, Helen mentioned that “unless you hear the stories and give some sense of validation the womb will remain open…” “…stories need to be heard in order for us to be understood…” Helen talked about the need to understand the cultural context around peoples stories and the need to strengthen cultural knowledge especially when children have lost their elders, their language, their generational stories and their culture.

Helen presented her observations from the experience of the Aboriginal community who have the tragic history of child kidnapping and ethnic cleansing (much like our history of slavery) to better the Australian race. As Helen spoke I found myself identifying with the generational trauma she was talking about. I felt like she was describing my experience as a black woman in the UK. My experiences of being seen as the angry black women , being dismissed and over looked because of my gender and/ or skin colour or being told that I’m being over sensitive (to what I perceived as a racist situation). Now I realise that not every white person is being intentionally racist towards me (or other black people) but when I think about the genetic memory that black people carry (as a result of slavery) I wonder what genetic memories white people carry that then impacts on their unconscious treatment of us being different to them???

I spoke to a white women recently (not that this is unusual for me) who relayed her experience of a black women (as she described it ) ‘playing the race card’ – I’ve been accused of playing the race card in my past – lets face it, what black person hasn’t? I have a tendency to reflect on conversations days after I’ve had them, and when I thought about this conversation I realized how dismissive the term ‘playing the race card’ can be. The term (which may actually be over used) can stop us from fully exploring the back-story to the situation where that person felt that ‘it’ was racist. If you think about Helen Milroy’s comment “…stories need to be heard in order for us to be understood…” especially regarding their cultural context you can see how we can miss the truth to someone’s situation especially when you take into account that transference (a situation where the feelings, desires, and expectations of one person are redirected and applied to another person) plays a part in our everyday interactions.

I understand how unjust it can feel to be accused of something that, for you, is just not true but unless we take the time and care to deal with our feelings (in our own time) we will not be able to listen to the story in front of us, we will not be able to validate that person’s experience. Without asking, how can you understand the cultural context around that persons experience that reminds them of their past in that present moment. Ok yes I realise that it also relies on emotional intelligence – from the person asking the question and the person providing the answers without blame or being in victim mode – but I hope that you get where I am coming from here???

People need to be able to tell their stories so that they can move from surviving to thriving” and this means making a long-term investment and committing to listening and understanding. As Helen Milroy said in her talk “…bearing witness to someone’s pain is part of their healing too”.

Should White People Adopt Black Kids?

I saw Jada Pinkett Smith’s latest Red Table topic talk today with Kristin Davis from Sex and the City – I just love both these shows. The title ‘Should White People Adopt Black Kids?‘ did intrigue me as it’s something that I’ve questioned myself over the years. As a black women and facilitator for the Gateway Women Reignite weekend workshops I have come across black couples who have been rejected from being adoptive parents so I do get angry when I hear that (or even see) white women have adopted black children. Ok yes I get the ‘its about love’ aspect of this argument but is love enough when the black child is being subjected to racism and the white parent can’t help them, or the white parent doesn’t get it so plays it down because their white privilege is preventing them from truing seeing what is right in front of them.

I saw Jada Pinkett Smith’s latest Red Table topic talk today with Kristin Davis from Sex and the City – I just love both these shows. The title ‘Should White People Adopt Black Kids?’ did intrigue me as it’s something that I’ve questioned over the years.

As a black women and facilitator for the Gateway Women Reignite weekend workshops I have come across black women/ couples who have been rejected from being adoptive parents so I do get annoyed when I hear that (or even see) a white woman (or couple) have adopted a black child. Ok yes I get the ‘its about love’ aspect of this argument but is love enough? What happens when the black child is being subjected to racism and the white parent can’t help them, or the white parent doesn’t get it so plays it (the racism) down because their white privilege is preventing them from truly seeing what is right in front of them.

I guess my question is do white people really understand the complexities of bringing up a black child? Do they get what is involved? Will they disregard that childs’ culture?

Listening to the interview it was good to hear Kristin say that as a white person she doesn’t understand what a black child culturally needs or experiences. White people can only look into our lives (as black people) but their white privilege can (at times) prevent them from seeing the reality of that child is experience. White privilege can make people say “we don’t see colour” which can be such an undermining statement in itself. For me being black is part of my beauty that is disregarded if you chose to not see me for who I am. White privilege can silence my experience.

This is a hot topic that has many layers and after listening to the Red Table conversation I realised there is a layer to this that I had not experienced before. One of my concerns is that the black children being adopted will, at some point, loose their identify because they are being or have been brought up in an all white environment. From the conversation I now realise that there are white people who see that it’s not just about love (although it’s the start) it’s about embracing all who that child is and knowing their own (cultural) limitations leading them to putting in place the support systems for their black children to also know who they are too.

Here are some other links on this topic…

Red Table Talk: Ellen Pompeo Opens Up About Raising Biracial Children

The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race – Time Magazine

5 Things Adoptive Parents Need To Know About Growing Up Black