i have three nieces – ages 14, 8 and 3. i didn’t have them, but they’re mine. they’re yours. they are ours. somewhere along the way i think we relaxed on the ‘it takes a village‘ mentality. with all this r. kelly talk and the young black woman recently attacked at mcdonald’s, i wonder when we eased up on protecting black girls and have black men, too, stop caring as much about and for them?
i remember when my oldest niece was born. the excitement was heavy. i chose her first name. she was our family healer. my parents who hadn’t spoken in 10 years after ending their 29-year marriage were now in the same room…and talking. as she got older i bought her cute little dresses in every shade of pink. i got her a faux mink coat from target and wrote her a poem informing her of her royalty for her 2nd birthday. i adored everything about her and we all cared and treated her as the special gift she was then and still is. my 8-year-old niece and i have a special bond; we share the same birthday. she’s the most precocious, witty little girl i know. and her 3-year-old sister is direct and gritty. they’re my venus and serena. again, i didn’t have these girls, but they are mine. they’re yours. they’re ours. as a black man first and their uncle second, i’ll do anything to protect them – from harm, their own potential mistakes and especially anyone who dares to even think put their hands on them. i’ll also drive the 345 miles for a recital or an award and even to talk about those slipping grades.
my 14-year-old cousin gave me a unique privilege – she let me follow her on instagram! i felt cool. in with the happenings of today’s teens. then she posted something i knew was wrong. not just wrong for a 14-year-old, i felt it was just wrong. i told her mom then called her out in the comments. okay, so she blocked me but my message was heard – i’m watching you and more importantly, i have concern for an about you; even what you post on social media. can you imagine if instagram were around in the 90’s? the thought of an r.kelly sliding in your teenage daughter’s, your little cousin or her best friend’s dm’s both frightens me for them and my own actions toward him. sadly, i’m sure it’s happening at this very second.
but black girls need more than protection – they need love, support, ears that hear them, secure women to look up to and for all men to treat them like the queens we know they are. how can we show black girls we care? with my nieces, i:
- establish trust. i listen, honestly share of my own childhood and adult journeys and extend a whole lot of grace. this helps keep deceit and secrets away. i want them to know disappointment is too big a burden as consequence for any size lie.
- ask questions. they might think i’m oprah with the “how are you” (just saying “good” is unacceptable), “wyd”, “who is that” and “what did you learn today” but they understand my genuine interest in their lives.
- let them know that i am part of their trusted community. and if i’m helping raise them, i will reprimand them when they’re wrong and praise them when they succeed. i was raised by a community and my rural, backwoods north carolina upbringing wouldn’t have it any other way. i think my brother and sister agree.
- let them not only know, but feel that they are loved. and love is many things. it’s asking those questions, it’s listening to their heart break and brighten up and it’s as toni morrison asks, “when a kid walks in a room, your child or anybody else’s child, does your face light up?”
- remind them of their worth and show them they are more precious than rubies.
what are you doing to show a black girl you care?
a boy who loves – j. darius greene