Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children

Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children

by Trina Greene Brown
Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children

Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children

by Trina Greene Brown


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Speaking directly to parents raising Black children in a world of racialized violence, this guidebook combines powerful storytelling with practical exercises, encouraging readers to imagine methods of parenting rooted in liberation rather than fear.

In 2016, activist and mother Trina Greene Brown created the virtual multimedia platform Parenting for LIberation to connect, inspire, and uplift Black parents. In this book, she pairs personal anecdotes with open-ended reflective prompts; together, they help readers dismantle harmful narratives about the Black family and imagine anti-oppressive parenting methods.

Parenting for Liberation fills a critical gap in currently available, timely parenting resources. Rooted in an Afrofuturistic vision of connectivity and inspiration, the community created within these pages works to image a world that amplifies Black girl magic and Black boy joy, and everything in between.

"Trina Greene Brown has created a guide for Black parents who want to raise fierce, fearless, joyful children. She knows what a challenge this is given the state of the world but argues that liberated parenting is possible if we commit to knowing and trusting ourselves, our children, and our communities. Anyone curious about how to walk with a child through tumultuous times needs to read this book now." —Dani McClain, author of We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936932849
Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date: 06/16/2020
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 963,323
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Trina Greene Brown is the creator of Parenting for Liberation, a virtual platform launched in 2016 featuring blogs and podcasts that aim to connect, inspire, and uplift black parents. An activist and mother of two, she is also a member of the Resonance Network and the Move to End Violence. With an ethos rooted in community and collaboration, she cultivates cross-organizational partnerships aimed at building an inclusive gender and racial justice movement. She was recently named the 2017 Black Feminist Rising by Black Women’s Blueprint and anInspirational Parent in 2018 by CADRE. Brown has contributed to "On Parenting" for the Washington Post, as well as two anthologies on the intersection of motherhood and activism.

Read an Excerpt


In 2014, when my son was around five years old, it seemed like every time I watched the news I saw another Black person being murdered or otherwise impacted by state violence. It’s wasn’t only adult men and women, but young Black children’s lives that were (and still are) also being taken by those who are sworn to “protect and serve.” The recurring images of Black bodies left in the streets for hours after being shot by police (Michael Brown), coupled with the historical legacy of Black bodies hanging after lynchings, compounded my fears as a Black parent. From Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley Jones, and Tamir Rice: all of them are contemporary Emmett Tills. I became worried that I would become a modern day Mamie Till, crying over the body of my African American son borne from my womb. This fear, which is a trauma response, encourages Black parents (including me, and maybe you) to engage in parenting strategies that are detrimental to Black children.

These behaviors are rooted in what Dr. Joy DeGruy coined as Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome wherein “African Americans adapted their behavior over centuries in order to survive the stifling effects of chattel slavery, effects which are evident large part related to trans-generational adaptations associated with the past traumas of slavery and on-going oppression.” Dr. DeGruy gives an example of the survival strategies employed by enslaved mothers, such as being hypervigilant about the whereabouts of their children because it was unsafe for Black children to stray for fear of severe punishment.

Does this sound familiar to you? This dynamic had definitely been at play in my parenting practice, and it took deep reflection and a lot of research to begin to unpack it. For example, even though we live in a community with an enclosed community playground, I was terrified of allowing my son, Terrence, to play outside without me being present, let alone out of my eye sight. In fall of 2016, I hosted a Parenting for Liberation gathering on Black Friday. As parents sat in a community circle sharing our deepest fears, our children were next door dreaming up visions of liberated lives as superheros. At the close of the event, the parents and children came together, and as each child shared their superhero name, costume, and super power, each parent was to make a commitment to a shift that would help to foster that superpower in their children. So when Terrence shared his superpower — to teleport — it dawned on me that he wanted to have the freedom to move without constraints of time, space, or even me as his mother. So I made a commitment that day — publically — to allow Terrence more space to explore and play. However, that shift came in increments; in 2017 when I finally did allow him to go outside and play without me, I required him to check in every ten minutes, with one “simple” request: “let me know you’re alive.” So, every 10-15 minutes, Terrence would run to the door and check in. However, what he said upon his check-in is what made sadness rise up like a lump in my throat. My 7 year old son would burst into our home and yell “I’m alive!” and then run back out to play.

After awhile, his non-Black friends caught on and would come to the door with him, waiting for this small interruption in their playing to end, and though - at the time - it appeared to be a minor inconvenience, I realized I was communicating something to my son. It was when I saw my Black boy having to affirm his life, with his non-Black peers in the background, that I realized I was reinforcing that he had to validate his life. It was like his own version of declaring Black Lives Matter. However, the only difference was that he wasn’t proclaiming this to a racist system or institution; he wasn’t declaring this in the face of state violence—but this proclamation was to me, his mother. He had to affirm to me that his life matters, his freedom matters, his space to play and have fun matters.

I realize that the mainstream may just refer to this as being a “helicopter parent” hovering around children. However, as a Black parent who is raising Black children, I did not see this as being a helicopter parent — in fact, many of us actually are parenting children in “helicopter environments,” where our children are frequently under surveillance and their movements policed.

Parenting under these conditions (constant surveillance and policing) places limits on the exploration, play, freedom, and free spirit of children and childhood. These conditions lead Black parents, including myself, to use harm reduction techniques such as: not allowing my children to speak up or out for fear of them being considered a threat; having “the talk” with my children on how to engage with police; being the “fashion police” for fear that my child’s fashion could cause deadly interaction with the police; or moving to a “better” neighborhood school because we believe education is the ultimate equalizer. Parenting from these restrictive and limiting ways of being increases dominance over children and can lead to engaging in abusive parenting practices, such as utilizing power and control, punitive tactics, and harsh physical, verbal, and emotional punishment. In my home, I found myself clamping down on my son, saying “no” more than saying “yes,” and raising my voice. I realized that I was not living out my values of equity, joy, love, and freedom in my home because I was parenting from a place of fear. I was parenting to protect but protection did not allow my child to be free. I was putting boundaries and restrictions on my child’s humanity, and I was limiting and blocking him from being his freest self because I was afraid. I realized I wanted and needed a shift; I wanted to unlearn my fear and replace it with liberation and freedom.

In making this shift, I did an assessment of the resources and tools available for parents who are raising Black children to be free. For example, I found ways to engage children in conversations about race. I also found a few books and readings written by Parents of Color such as Revolutionary Mothering, an anthology edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Ma’ia Williams, and China Martens, that focuses on placing mothers of color at the center of movement building and social change, and My Brown Baby: Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children by Denene Millner, and Letters to My Black Sons by Dr. Karsonya Whitehead.

Table of Contents

Introduction 8

About This Guide 15

Section 1 (Re)connection to Self 18

Story 1 Breaking Apart as a Parent 24

Story 2 Shifting Away from Tough Love 29

Story 3 Black Fatherhood 35

Story 4 Finding a Village: How to Build a Black Community 42

Story 5 Watering Your Creativity 48

Section 2 (Re)connection to Our Children 56

Story 6 Family Practices: Open Communication and Family Agreements 62

Story 7 Shifting from Rules to Agreements 68

Story 8 Conversations about Sex(uality) and Consent 72

Story 9 Conversations about History and Oppression 80

Story 10 Underground Railroad Museum 85

Story 11 Kitchen Convos 89

Story 12 No More Police 94

Section 3 (Re)connection to Community 98

Story 13 Expansive Family Community 104

Story 14 Communities of Faith 111

Story 15 Global Communities 119

Story 16 Exploring Liberated Educational Spaces 125

Story 17 Visioning Liberated Schools 131

Story 18 Imagining Liberated Futures 135

Story 19 Movement Communities 140

Story 20 Parenting Communities 147

Conclusion 153

Notes 158

Glossary 160

Hosting a #LiberatedParent Gathering 165

Resources for Further Reading 172

Acknowledgments 174

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