There is a woman from St. Louis who dreamed of being a nurse and helping those who medically suffered. Even after failing the board exam, she never gave up and eventually lived out that dream as Registered Nurse in every conceivable nursing department for more than 50 years. That woman has been a beacon of courage, hope and tenacity for an entire family for decades. Her name is Claudet and she is my Mommy. My mother is badass. She drove alone cross country from California to St. Louis with two kids in tow, just to take that nursing exam. She never gave up on herself and she has never given up on us. That’s what mothers’ do. They hold families together, are blunt and always right. However, all mothers aren’t perfect. Sometimes they have addictions, are mentally abusive, stay strapped up with a firearm and simply are just not the milk and cookies – share a recipe type.
These are the mothers that belong to Tarana Burke, Britney Cooper, Mata Moreno, Lathan Thomas, Theresa Thames, Tina Farris, Erica Sewell, Yolanda Sangweni, Desiree Gordon, Dr. Koko Zauditu and Director Shantrelle P. Lewis. In Our Mothers’ Gardens celebrates the strength and resiliency of Black women and Black families through the complex, and often times humorous, relationship between mothers and daughters.
You will laugh, cry and relate within an inch of your life with these women who hail from anywhere from the Bronx to Sierra Leone, as they carry their hearts on their sleeve sharing complex, enlightening historical lineage of their families. Along with old adages like, “if you play with your hair too much it will run away” or “jewelry are not accessories BUT necessities.” Lewis addresses how Black people, particularly Black women have learned to navigate within a culture of silence. We have become accustomed to keeping our mouths shut and our ears open for the sole sake of survival. Not only for ourselves, but for those we fiercely love.
Yet, a few of these life lessons are shared in clay animation style with sketches like ‘Black Moses Barbie’ with Barbie and Ken being told how to runaway to be free by Moses aka Harriet Tubman with “freedom oars being sold seperately.” I even learned that my name RENATA is a diravitive of the word that literally means “being reborn.” Nothing can replace a mother. You only get one and they teach you that when you are Black in America you can’t have a short memory becasue you are singing a very long song. Shantrelle P. Lewis’ In Our Mother’s Garden is a must see for any mother, daughter, family and even those who are desperately seeking to understand our culture. Maybe taking a day trip In Our Mother’s Garden is the prescripiton we all needed and is right on time.