Last night, I went to see "Harriet." I didn't go alone. I bought a row in a theater and filled it with mostly Black women and a few Black men; descendants of Harriet. I sat amongst a throng of other Black women in a sold- out theater, all waiting to see the legend we've heard griots SPEAK of all our lives; waiting to see a reflection of the best of who we desire to be. Brazen. Courageous. Audacious. Harriet.
Dear Baby Girl,
You came to me in my dreams before you were conceived and told me your name. You declared it, taught me its meaning, and how to live it fully in preparation for you. You knew I needed to be an honest and faithful conqueror for myself in order to raise you. You chose your name, but you’re not yet ready to carry the weight of it.
You prefer it in adaptations and sobriquets. You widen your eyes in embarrassment when I reveal the fullness of your name in front of company. Right now, their opinion of you matters because you haven’t finished forming your own. Right now, you cannot bear the heaviness of the name you chose. And, that’s ok. I understand.
You don’t remember how remarkable you are yet. You can’t fully recall why you chose to embody the spirit of a warrior queen. You don’t recognize your uniqueness as your strength in this moment. You’ll have your whole adult life to carry heavy burdens; ones you choose and ones thrust upon you without permission. Now is the time to build the strength for them, not to be crushed by their pressure. I understand, and I want to gift you the freedom to grow into yourself.
I used to call you, very briefly, my “mini me.” But, you taught me, very quickly, that there’s nothing small about your spirit. Your presence brightens the room. Your joy and your drive are effervescent. And, you are not just a reflection of me. You will see my light in your face, but you are your own coruscation. Your own unique brand of brilliance shines in a way mine never would because you are not me. You are already everything I want to be. Free. You mirror the very best parts of me, and of course it feeds my desire to be remembered once I leave this world. But, you are not small, and you are not me.
So, I began calling you my “better-than-me,” but that also only serves my narcissism and plants seeds of anxiety in you. Living is loosely partnered with both as it is, but that is certainly all that can come from being compared to your mother your whole life. I don’t just want you to be better than me. It brings me joy to know that that will be inevitable, but I don’t want you constantly compared to me. I want to help you become the best version of yourself. I want you to decide who that will be and what that means for yourself. I want you to declare it as boldly as you declared your name to me in my dreams, and I promise to use every gift I have to make it so.
My job is not to mold you in my own image. God has done that. It is to help you sculpt your own form in your own way until you’re strong enough to stand without me. Remind me of this as often as necessary. It is to help you carry the weight of your name, until you can fully SPEAK and bear it yourself. I love you more than I’m gifted to express. Thank you for showing me how to conquer my fears to face myself, so that I may live honestly and faithfully for you.