DREAMS TO REMEMBER

a visual narrative exploring black motherhood, the Motherline, and ancestral dreams

August 2015


"Black maternity has culturally and historically been mythologized and black mothers stereotyped."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed


"Morrison's standpoint on black motherhood enables black women to resist these negative evaluations of black motherhood by re-articulating the power that is inherent in black women's everyday experiences of motherhood. This re-articulation centers upon a reaffirmation of the traditional roles and beliefs of black motherhood that gives rise to Morrison's theory of motherhood as a spite of power for black women and her theory of motherwork as an enterprise concerned with the empowerment of children."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes



"Black women raise children in a society that is at best indifferent to the needs of black children and the concerns of black mothers. The focus of black motherhood, in both practice and thought, is how to preserve, protect, and more generally empower black children so that they may resist racist practices that seek to harm them and grow into adulthood whole and complete."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Helen M. Stummer

Helen M. Stummer

   Christopher Anderson

   Christopher Anderson


Helen M. Stummer

Helen M. Stummer

 

 

 

 

"The experience of slavery saw the translation of othermothing to new settings since the care of children was an expected task of enslaved Black women in addition to the field or house duties. The familial instability of slavery endangered the adaptation of communality in the form of fostering children whose parents, particularly mothers, had been sold.

This tradition of communality gave rise to the practice of othermothering. The survival of the concept is inherent to the survival of Black people as a whole since it allowed for the provision of care to extended family and non blood relations. The practice of othermothering remains central to African American tradition of motherhood and is regarded as essential for the survival of black people."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


            Bruce Davidson

            Bruce Davidson


Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson


"When a woman today comes to understand her life story as a story from the Motherline, she gains femal authority in a number of ways. First, her Motherline grounds her in her feminine nature as she struggles with the many options now open to women."


"Second, she reclaims carnal knowledge of her own body, its blood mysteries and their power."


"Third, as she makes the journey back to her roots, she will encounter ancestors who struggled with similar difficulties in different historical times. This provides her with a life-cycle perspective that softens her immediate situation. Fourth, she uncovers her connection to the archetypal mother and to the wisdom of the ancient worldview, which holds that body and soul are one and all life is interconnected. And, finally, she reclaims her female perspective, from which to consider how men are similar and how they are different."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Helen M. Stummer

Helen M. Stummer

         Carl De Keyzer

         Carl De Keyzer



"The Motherline represents the ancestral memory and traditional values of black culture."


"Black mothers pass on the teachings of the Motherline to each successive generation through the maternal function of cultural bearing. Various African American writers argue that the very survival of African Americans depends upon the preservation of black culture and history. If Black children are to survive they must know the stories, legends, and myths of their ancestors. In African American culture, women are the keepers of the tradition: they are the culture bearers who mentor and model the African American values essential to the empowerment of black children and culture."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson


David Alan Harvey

 

 

"These daughters, connected with their mothers and Motherline (awareness of heritage), develop a strong and proud identity as black women and secure empowerment."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Alex Webb

Alex Webb


"The survival of black culture and black selfhood was sustained by the Motherline. "The men in my family were buttresses and protectors," writes Wade-Gayles, "but it was the women who gave meaning to the expression 'pushed back to strength.' Whether named mentor, role model, guide, advisor, wise woman, or advocate, the mother represents for the daughter a sturdy bridge on which to cross over. Even the author Renita Weems who was abandoned by her alcoholic mother writes: "Though not as sturdy as others, she is my bridge. When I needed to get across she steadied herself long enough for me to run across safely."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes



"Alice Walker's classic essay, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens' (1983), is a moving tribute to her African American foremothers who, in her words, "handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves hoped to see: or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read." "So many of the stories that I write," Walker emphasizes, "that we all write, are my mother's stories." 

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Eli Reed

Eli Reed

Richard Kalvar

Richard Kalvar

Eli Reed

Eli Reed


"What have you done to protect your son(s) from society's hostile forces?"


Leonard Freed

Leonard Freed


"Until I wrote about our sons, I could not speak or think or dream of anything else."


Ed Quinn

Ed Quinn

                         Eudora Welty

                         Eudora Welty


"Audre Lorde wrote in “Manchild: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response” that “for survival, Black children in America must be raised to be warriors. For survival they must also be raised to recognize the enemy’s many faces”  She goes on to say:

"The strongest lesson I can teach my son is the same lesson I teach my daughter: how to be who he wishes to be for himself. And the best way I can do this is to be who I am and hope that he will learn from this not how to be me, which is not possible, but how to be himself. And this means how to move to that voice from within himself, rather than to those raucous, persuasive, or threatening voices from outside, pressuring him to be what the world wants him to be."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


                                           Bob Adelman

                                           Bob Adelman

                                           Russell Lee

                                           Russell Lee

                                           Gordon Parks

                                           Gordon Parks

                                           Bob Adelman

                                           Bob Adelman


"In an interview with Bill Moyers (1989), Morrison describes motherhood as the most liberating thing that ever happened to me... Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal "other." The children's demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. All that went by.

You've seen the eyes of your children. They don't want to hear it. They want to know what you are going to do now - today. Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me-whatever that was-but somebody actually needed me to be that. It's different from being a daughter. It's different from being a sister. If you listen to your children and look at them, they make demands that you can live up to.

They don't need all that overwhelming love either. I mean, that's just you being vain about it. If you listen to them, somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The persona that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want. Not the one that frowned when they walked in the room and said "Pull your socks up." Also, you could begin to see the world through their eyes again - which are your eyes. I found that extraordinary."

Demystifying the Myth of Motherhood: Toni Morrison's Revision of African American Mother Stereotypes


Constantine Manos

Constantine Manos

Constantine Manos

Constantine Manos


"What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmothers' time? In our great-grandmothers' day? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood."

In Search of Our Mothers' Garden by Alice Walker


Eli Reed

Eli Reed

"When the poet Jean Toomer walked through the South in the early twenties, he discovered a curious thing:

Black women whose spirituality was so intense, so deep, so unconscious, that they were themselves unaware of the richness they held. They stumbled blindly through their lives: creatures so abused and mutilated in body, so dimmed and confused by pain, that they considered themselves unworthy even of hope. In the selfless abstractions their bodies became to the men who used them, they became more than "sexual objects," more even than mere women: they became "Saints." Instead of being perceived as whole persons, their bodies became shrines: what was thought to be their minds became temples suitable for worship. These crazy Saints stared out at the world, wildly, like lunatics-or quietly, like suicides; and the "God" that was in their gaze was as mute as a great stone."

In Search of Our Mothers' Garden by Alice Walker


"Who were these Saints? These crazy, loony, pitiful women? Some of them, without a doubt, were our mothers and grandmothers."


Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson


In the still heat of the post-Reconstruction South, this is how they seemed to Jean Toomer: exquisite butterflies trapped in an evil honey, toiling away their lives in an era, a century, that did not acknowledge them, except as "the mule of the world."


                                                Wayne Miller

                                                Wayne Miller


They dreamed dreams that no one knew-not even themselves, in any coherent fashion-and saw visions no one could stand.


                 Steve Schapiro 

                 Steve Schapiro 

 

 

They wandered or sat about the countryside crooning lullabies to ghosts, and drawing the mother of Christ in charcoal on courthouse walls.

They forced their minds to desert their bodies and their striving spirits its sought to rise, like frail whirlwinds from the hard red clay. And when those frail whirlwinds fell, in scattered particles, upon the ground, no one mourned. Instead, men lit candles to celebrate the emptiness that remained, as people do who enter a beautiful but vacant space to resurrect a God.

Our mothers and grandmothers, some of them: moving to music not yet written. And they waited.

In Search of Our Mothers' Garden by Alice Walker


Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Alex Webb

Alex Webb


"Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength of my mother's garden, I found my own."

In Search of Our Mothers' Garden by Alice Walker