I said to Maya, "Y'know how last month was Black History Month?" We had had many talks about this. We had gone to the African Family Festival at the Bowers. Her school had acknowledged it. She said, "Yea." I said, "Did you know that March is Women's History Month?" She said, "What?"
When I explained what that meant, she was excited to hear stories about important women, even if these stories will only be told by me. Apparently, this is not on the school's agenda.
For Black History month, the Orange County public school system talked a lot about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks -- which, thank god-- but many important leaders and figures were neglected. But it is difficult ---and ridiculous-- to have to cram the history of so many significant people into 28 short days. Anyway, in terms of the civil rights movement, I always talk to Maya about Malcolm X too. I tell her, "Many people don't want to talk as much about his contributions." I imagine our conservative school system would think they were promoting violence or radical activism, but I explain to Maya, "If you were told you were less than human, and not allowed to have basic human rights, wouldn't you want to rise up and physically fight against that?" Maya asked, "What if they had worked together more, Malcolm and Martin?" I said, "They were fighting the same war, but in two different ways. And that's ok." I also tried to explain that George Washington came to this country and organized his group to take a stand against mistreatment, and Patrick Henry proclaimed, "Give me liberty or give me death", and these things are regarded as historically heroic. Malcolm X was basically doing the same. Washington and his crew were not non-violent. They were fighting for freedoms. Why is one heroic and the other radically dangerous?
I tell her, "Just keep in mind that the spin on history is not always what it seems."
Pieces come together for her in conversations like these. Especially when the complexity of discrimination is put in more relatable terms. I see it in her face: Things are not always what they seem. Examine situations from all angles. She is getting this slowly.
So, now we're cramming for Women's History Month; a month to display our brave groundbreakers and prove that they are still important, and that we still need them. The empowering that goes on in my house is a year-round event. It doesn't stop because I'm aware that the issue of women's rights still gets eye rolls by the majority of people. And I'm aware that the strength of my girls still needs to be validated and fought for outside of our house even if they are completely unaware of this. But I gladly clear the brush for the groundbreaking they will do in their lifetime.
Today in TaeKwonDo, my six year old Mina had sparring. She is excited by sparring because she's good at it. She was paired with an older, taller and shyer girl. And Mina wailed on her. I heard one mom say to the other, "What is she doing? She's so rough." Then they realized I was behind them. They turned around and giggled backbitingly. "Boy, Mina is so tough," a mom said fakely. I said, "Yea, well her sister's a black belt and they go at it at home." She said, "They're the ones that did that dance at Christmas time?" I nodded. She said, "Mina was so sweet then. What happened?" And the words What Happened made me want to snatch her tongue from her mouth. I said smiling, "This is TaeKwonDo. She puts on the sparring gear and spars. She's tough." They nodded and as she turned back around I could feel her eyes rolling at the unladylikeness. It saddened me profoundly. Because had they been our sons, nothing would have been said at all. It would not have been "cute" that my girls take TKD seriously or that they want to be masters some day or make the Olympics or own their own studios.
When we left, I high fived Mina for her great work, and we went home to tell Maya and Papi the story. I told Maya, "See? This is why we need reminding of women's history because sometimes people forget that we can do anything." And Papi said, "Just sing them the song already." And I told them the I Am Woman story and then I belted out what I could remember. The girls laughed and it was their turn to high five me.
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