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STORIES

Our Mothers: Newark

Paris, 28

Dysir, 3

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"After giving birth I felt like I accomplished something. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared to tell my mom at first, because we never even talked about stuff like sex, or having kids. It was also tough during the pregnancy, because my boyfriend's grandfather passed, and that was someone he was really close to. I was having a lot of complications during the pregnancy, so I was scared that if things went wrong, it would be too much pressure on him. Thankfully it all worked out though. I feel like a lot of people in our communities look at babies like a burden. I still don't see why. He's not a financial issue. And I don't even say that 'cause money is there. Even if I was dead broke I would never look at my son like he's a problem. I feel like it's kinda instilled in us to not have babies, even as adults. I was very happy to have him, especially after such a hard pregnancy."

"I feel like Black women are always portrayed as angry or hostile. People have this stereotype that nice Black women are rare. For that, I try to be a lot softer, especially with him. Sometimes I can be too soft. I try not to use curse words at him when I'm upset, or threaten him. I try to build him up and let him know that he can come and talk to me. He even has good relationships with my sisters and my mother. It's important for him to be interacting with different Black women on different levels and age groups. It's so necessary. It means a lot to have somebody who can just listen and hold you. My mom was there for me, but she wasn't that affectionate, so I try to nourish him more in that way. Give him a lot of kisses and hugs. I even try to do that with my boyfriend, too. You never know what someone is dealing with, especially as Black men, so it's good to give them that warmth. I love playing with my son. Sometimes we'll just play games, or put a puzzle together. It's important to not come at them like you're always their superior. You have to know how to level with them. We both can play the puzzle. This is ours. We can do this together. We can color together. And that can get hard 'cause as a mother it's like you're always on the go. Always trying to work and provide. Having my own business kinda' made that a little bit easier. I don't have to be somewhere else, and not be with him. I love having that freedom, and the time to build a relationship with him."

"I used to be kinda' feisty but when I had him, I had to work on that. I've seen a lot of parents push their sons too hard, and that's when they become cold and end up in the streets. I don't want my son to end up in the streets or even to experience some of the things his father experienced. So I wanna' support him as much as possible. I want him to be able to come home and feel love in the house. I don't want him to feel like he always has to be tough or aggressive.  I want there to be a balance between me and his dad. We both can't be tough on him. I want to teach him how to interact with women, and how to respect women. I want him to be able to look at a Black woman and think, 'You could be a really nice person,' instead of being influenced by the stereotype."

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"I honestly want him to do whatever he wants to do. My plan is not to force college on my child. I went to college and I realized that it wasn't for me. My mom made me feel like college was a must. I guess 'cause she's older, she feels like college is the only way to have a successful career. I don't want him to feel that kind of pressure. I don't want him to feel like he has to do something he doesn't want to do, in order to make me happy. I feel like if I were to finish college, that would make my mother happy. I recently just got out of feeling that, and now I'm comfortable with my business and the path I chose. I want him to be comfortable and happy with whatever he chooses, too."

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"The majority of people out here think there are only 3 ways to make money: basketball, rap, or drugs. I really want him to see different options and to have an open mind. I just hope I'm supplying and giving him whatever he needs to accomplish what he wants. As he grows up, I just want him to be involved in as many activities as possible. Newark schools may not have sports like volleyball, so I want him to go to school outside of the city. I had him in swimming when he was only 1. I want him to be open to all different types of sports, so that he can have different options. I also want him to watch me running my business, and understand how business works so that he can be able to have his own."

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"I'm so scared of him growing up in this society. I don't want to keep him too sheltered to the point where he doesn't have the street smarts to get out of certain situations, you know? But I don't want to get a call in the middle of the night saying my son is dead, either. I'm trying to figure out how to give him that balance. I'm definitely not letting him go to school in Newark, and I still have to figure out how to teach him how to deal with cops. I have a friend who's a cop, so I'm hoping she can teach him how to interact with them and not have a bias. Not all cops are bad, but there are also a lot who won't care about him making it home or not. Then, there's his friends that I have to worry about. His father can definitely teach him some things from what he experienced, but I also want to make sure our home is a place that he can feel comfortable in, and know that he doesn't need anything that's in the streets. It's complicated and it can be scary, being a mom." 

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"I want to give him and show him as much as I can. Before he grows up, I want him to be able to experience a lot of different places. For example, my mom took me to Disney World 4 times. I want him to be able to experience that. Even though I was in Newark I was still able to see outside of this, and that helped to open my mind up to different possibilities. Some people have never been outside of this city. So, it's a priority for me to make sure he sees just as much as I did, and even more. I don't want him to grow up here, and think that this is it. I want him to grow up knowing that there's more, so that he can want more."

 

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"Motherhood changed my life in that it helped me focus and start a business. I don't think I would've settled down at 25, without him. It made me focus on the bigger picture. It made me see that it's not only about me. It's not only about the materialistic stuff. I used to need the shoes, the parties, and the vacations, but now what's in front of me is most important. I feel like he came at the perfect time and I'm happy to have him."

"I needed him because he made me focus and see the things that I didn't really think mattered. Just life and family. Those small moments, like car rides where I can be like 'I remember when we was in the car and Dysir said this.' To see small things, like new sneakers be so big to him, or a lollipop. It really made me appreciate the things I took for granted. I wasn't really focused on family before but now it makes me happy nice to see him and my mom and my sisters do their little handshakes and stuff. He made me see and value life differently, and I love him for that."

 

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JEAN MASSEROUX

HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER. PHOTOGRAPHER. FOUNDER OF @THEHUEMANJOURNAL.

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