It has been said the most significant and integral institution in any nation is the family. The family is in a real sense a crucible in which the folkways and mores of society are learned and passed down from one generation to the next. Children, often the outgrowth of a traditional/non-traditional family, are the beneficiaries of the combined experiences resulting from two parents. If the often cited African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is a valid observation, how challenging is it for two parents to perform this vitally important task? But even more to the point, how much more challenging is the responsibility if it is to be performed by a single mom?
The jury may still be out as to whether or not a woman possesses the requisite skills to make a man out of her son. The aphorism, “You can’t lead where you don’t go. You can’t teach what you don’t know” takes on particular significance in this instance. As Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu has observed in his considerable studies, “Black women love their sons and raise their daughters.” What are the ramifications of this behavior and what are its origins?
One perspective maintains that during centuries of enslavement followed by decades of Jim Crow, Black mothers had to establish low expectations for their sons, according to Dr. Joy Leary. The reason for such drastic behavior stemmed from the mother’s knowing that to raise her son to be a man could very well result in his being murdered. The 1955 brutal killing death of 14 year old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi for allegedly speaking fresh to a white woman focused rapt attention on what could happen to a young Black male who dared to venture out of his “place.” As a result of Mamie Till’s decision to have an open casket funeral for her son, Till’s badly mutilated body would be remembered for generations; particularly by loving protective mothers.
Do residuals of this fear continue in the minds and hearts of mothers today? Some would answer with a resoundng “Yes!” indicating that the protective mechanism has for ages come down through the genetic stream. Others would confidently point to recent history citing the 1999 shooting death of unarmed Amado Diallo by New York City police officers as well as the highly controversial arrest of Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates in 2009, for breaking into his own home. One thing for certain, being aware of this phenomenon that many mothers may unknowingly continue to possess is a prerequisite for change.
Is the task of raising him alone too much to ask or expect of a single mom? If two parent housholds are encountering difficulty can there really be hope for the single mother? Of course the answer is a resounding “YES!” Phoenix , as is the case in other cities, has organizations like Men of Impact Leadership Academy and 100 Black Men. These two groups, as is the case of others, are committed to assisting moms, be they single or married, in exposing their sons to experiences that will assist them on their path to manhood and self-responsibility; all of which leads to their engaging in acts of sacrifice and service to benefit the whole. So mom, don’t feel as if you have to do it all alone. Stay tuned for ideas and suggestions that will continue to illuminate the path you and your son(s) are traveling.
To your journey!