Don’t get this confused. This column ain’t news. It’s better than that. It’s a story. From the inside out. That’s the way stories should be told. And that’s about all I have to say about the Dan Jones’ Milwaukee’s Riverwest Documentary. Tho’ I was prepared to rip it apart before I even saw it. Ripped it apart once I heard feedback from those who saw it before me. And after seeing it? I wrote a heavy mad black woman critical piece in a fury…then ripped it up — cause it just didn’t feel good to be mad that I was right about it not being diverse and inclusive…truly reflective of this neighborhood. This whole “Riverwest is Diverse!” is gettin’ on my nerves. I’m tired of talking about it and hearing folks proclaim it. We all just need to be it and do it. From the inside out. Coming up in my Momma’s house, I couldn’t wait to get out. I swore when I got grown I wouldn’t have roaches, abusive men, Pinesol, and canned good vegetables in my life. I couldn’t stand my momma and promised myself I wouldn’t be like her. I dreamed of getting away. Got away. Found myself disconnected from blood love because of shame and judgement. I was such a fool. I judged her by what society said were her failures. I somehow forgot how resourceful she was. Forgot the way she took in other people’s kids and helped create these extended love relationships. Helped children survive and make it into adulthood. At the time I thought, “Momma, you can hardly feed the six of us. Why are they here?” I must have over 20 “play play” brothers, sisters, cousins, and such. My momma gave big love when supposedly she had so little. She wasn’t perfect, but she certainly was love and I am going back home to hear the bones of her story. It took a new mother friend of mine to open my eyes to the gifts my mother gave me. I know now that my Momma was my first teacher and mentor in regards to community building. I think it is beautiful the way we make place and family where it is needed. We do it so well when we want to and our community needs more of it. Even the mothers we have the nerve to consider the least among us have stories that can teach and heal. From the inside out. My sisterfriend Gwen says children come here whole and complete. They have a lot to teach us and we better listen. My 10-year-old daughter just put me in check. It came in the form of a written letter which she handed to me in tears as I was trying to write this column by deadline. My daughter’s letter shared how she is sad because I am always busy with writing or meetings and all my friends (translate “work mates”). I am always taking care of and trying to fix something. She is confused by this community building thing that I do. Mad about it when it means I don’t have time….or rather make time to braid her hair, listen to her new song, or share my stories with her one on one. Most importantly, too often lately, I am not listening to her stories. Sometimes we run around trying to save the world and forget about our own backyards. I am so much my mother. From the inside out. I must remember to walk like I talk.
by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle