by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle
What a cold and distant place a woman must descend to in order to watch her own flesh and blood baby waste away. Recent news stories about two sisters accused of neglect and murder crippled me emotionally. How could they keep their dire circumstances hidden, and did they have anyone in their lives to save them from themselves…to save the children from them? A grandmother? An Auntie? A sister-friend? Anyone? What depth of frustration must a foster mom be in to brutalize children placed in her care for healing? I refuse to believe that people are born evil. What has she experienced or lacked in her life to bring her to such a heartless act against a fragile child? A neighbor says they seemed like the perfect family. Nice clothes. Expensive toys. But this sister must have been lost, alone, disengaged. The videotaped abuse wasn’t as shocking to me as it should have been. Only the way it was discovered is new. I hear this story often. Our community is thick with social service agencies, organizations, and individuals working to solve our problems. Obviously societal ills will never disappear completely, but the view from here doesn’t show it getting better fast enough. I believe women are the most critical warriors. Stories like these make me feel like we are losing too many of our battles. Victories are few and fleeting. A few women friends and I came to this conclusion: we are the fighting wounded. We are not holding one another. Too many of our fellow sisters are dangerously disconnected from sources of strength and afraid to talk about the fear, trials, tribulations, jealousy, and competitiveness that we have to wade through daily. I think we are afraid to admit how much we need one another. Our bags are stuffed with emotional cosmetics and we wear our masks well. I have been approached several times recently by African-American women seeking a forum…a safe place for real dialogue between sisters. Now some of y’all might dismiss this as that same old tired “ya ya sister yap.” But this is on the real. Our community is suffering and there’s nobody better to heal it than us. We cannot leave it up to politicians, legislators, and agencies to change the culture of violence in our homes, schools, and community. We cannot put all of the blame on socio-economic status, either. Women. Sisters, if more of us had it together…got together and shared our struggles, successes, resources, and wisdom, we would be so much closer to having a healthy community. Not because we are born to be nurturers (we are born to be and achieve whatever our hearts desire), but because women are naturally the strongest and most effective nurturers when we choose to be. My girlfriends agree. We need more sister-love. I see some of us frantically climbing our slick ladders of success, afraid to look back and extend a hand to a sister trying to come up. We get catty and commit to backstabbing. My sister-friend Gwendolyn says it’s because we don’t understand that joy is abundant. Perhaps we don’t believe that there is enough to go around. We neglect to nurture our sisters because we have fought so hard for our little piece of joy we think the next sister is desperate to take it away. Be it a man, a job, a place in society. Some of us sweep only around our own front doors because we don’t have time to worry about the next one and feel powerless when it comes to effecting change. Too many are victims of violence and despondency…they have never known the warm fold of sisterhood and community. So they remain on the outskirts until it is too late. All is not lost. No doubt, there are powerful sister-forces at work in our community, but we need to multiply that greatly. Immediately. It needs to be a movement. A city-wide sisterhood commitment. Do I sound too idealistic? Actually, a strong brother reminds me often, if you can see it, you can achieve it. I mean, it’s not a bad vision to have. What do I have to lose? I do know women who are seeking circles of sister power. I have been told that a group of women from Milwaukee’s North side are working on a “Million Mom” March. The universe has connected me with a few wonderful women that are willing to create and facilitate gatherings focused on connecting sisters to build strong initiatives for soul-deep change. If nothing else, we need to let our sisters know they can come to us. They are not alone in their struggle. We need to stay in our communities and take them to the heights that only we can. Saturate them with that unconditional woman-sister-mother-love. Reflecting on the latest stories of “women gone bad” in our local news, I asked my friend Tamara, “Girl, you would tell me if I was slipping…losing it…you would know? Wouldn’t you?” “Of course, Tanya…you’re my sistah-girl.” When Sistahs get it together, everything gonna be alright.