Remebering our MAMA's MAMAs
I usually begin my SF State classes using a techinique by civil rights movement historian Vincent Harding and his Veterans of Hope project. I ask my students to think of their Mama's Mama - to talk about her, discussing what they know about her, how it felt when she hugged them, what her voice was like, etc. But often my students reveal that they know very little about their abuelitas and lolas and grannies. They often don't even know their names. By sharing a little about my family I am able to engage my students in the importance of learning and telling their own histories and getting to know more about their Mama's Mamas and other family members while they still can. Talk about our grandmothers in the classroom reduces stress and barriers among us. It also brings out our warmth and the commonalities among us while also at times highlighting the privileges and inequality as well within the classroom.
When I visited my Paw-Paw [aka Ms. Cum York Ouyang Lee] last week at her home in Sacramento she had just recently turned a ripe 103. As I warmed her hands with mine and kissed her face I thought about how she had immigrated to America and raised 7 children and dozens of grandchildren and great grandkids and great great grandkids.
She made me very sad when she told me that she was embarassed that she had not learned enough English to converse with me and my cousins. I felt guilt for not having learned Cantonese growing up so that I could learn more of her thoughts, wishes and dreams.
As the new year begins my love is with my Paw-Paw, the new babies and my wife Sandi and daugther Jade. I sure hope we all can take some time to visit or learn about all our Mama's Mamas.
Happy New Year - with Peace and Global Justice for everyone.