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
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|Publisher:||Feminist Press at CUNY, The|
|Product dimensions:||7.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
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 today...in 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 violencebut 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
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
Hosting a #LiberatedParent Gathering 165
Resources for Further Reading 172