I had a fucked up childhood.
Let's just be real about that.
My Mom did the best she could being a survivor of some not so great parenting moments from her childhood...but she spent a good deal of my young life being severely beaten by men, and there was a good chunk of time were I was beaten right along with her. My Dad and my Mom divorced while I was very young, and while both of my parents are amazing and have walked their own paths, we didn't get to walk much of it together.
So, when I come across parents that are raising their children in some of the most transformative and brilliant ways, and when I have first hand had the chance to meet and learn from their brilliant and gifted children or from the stories that I have read about the ways in which these little people see the world, my entire being is filled with love and hope and appreciation for the parents and the children.
So I decided that I would start an occasional award to recognize parents that are raising their chidren intentionally, using a model of parenting that instills a sense of self worth and social justice in their children. There are a number of parents that I expect to recognize, but I am starting off with two sets of parents that make my heart smile.
The Kick Ass Parents: Susan Raffo and Rocki Simoes
It's hard to believe that I have known Susan and Rocki for 14 years. Yep, you read that correctly, 14 years. I met Susan when we were students at the University of Minnesota in 1997. Since then, Susan has been my colleague, boss, collaborator, co-conspirator, emotional support, mentor, and family. I met Rocki shortly after meeting Susan, and Rocki has been all the things Susan has been (including being the boss of me when I had the honor to serve on the Host Home Program advisory board), and Rocki is family as well. About a decade ago, Rocki knocked up Susan with some sperm from a gentleman I like to call the Lesbians Baby Daddy of South Minneapolis (Yay Capper!), and nine months later along came Luca "Peluca Head" Raffo-Simoes.
Susan and Rocki were the first folks to model for me what it looks like to raise a child with a level of intentionality that recognized this child as a little person while teaching her to move through the world consciously and conscious of power, privilege, and the impacts of oppression.
I will never forget the first time I was with the family and Luca interrupted the conversation in order to ask us to explain what we were talking about as she didn't understand what was going on. Susan and Rocki have always given Luca permission to interrupt adult conversation when she is present if she doesn't understand the content, and with love Susan and Rocki both have modeled how to explain adult conversation appropriately but directly and without condenscension.
Oh how I love this family. I have been to about half of Luca's birthday parties, we have grass fights in the Summer, and she even sat in on a workshop I gave this last spring at a queer youth conference. Thank you Rocki and Susan for bringing Luca into the world, and thank you for giving her the tools to live her life with love, conviction, and intentionality. You can't protect her from all the things that will go bump in her life, but she has all the tools she'll need to get over them and without so many of the childhood wounds that I know many of us of a different generation have.
The Kick Ass Parents Award: Jaime Grant and M'Bwende Anderson
It is no conincidence, I think, that the two families that came to mind immediately when I thought of this award were two queer families. The second family is also led by two people that I worship from afar: Jaime and M'Bwende.
I met both Jaime and M'Bwende 11 or 12 years ago when we were working in the youth movement. I was a youth organizer as was M'Bwende and Jaime was an adult ally. Both M'Bwende and Jaime met each other and I met them through the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (rest in peace NYAC). From the gate, I loved both of these human beings. I loved Jaime for her fierce brilliance, consummate nerdiness, and lovely sensuality and sexuality all wrapped up in one person. I wanted to be M'bwende. They were beautiful, intentional, confident, and powerful...the type of person of African descent that every black person in this country should have in their young life....and damn sexy too! Both of them, like Susan and Rocki, work in the justice movement, raise their families using intentionality and direct honesty, and they talk about the struggles and the beauty openly. It's inspirational.
Jaime and M'Bwende have two children: Reilly and Ella. I haven't had the privilege of meeting Reilly, and I've only seen Ella a couple times as a baby. But the stories that Jaime shares about these amazing children often times makes me die laughing and fly with the fierceness of their being. Reilly is an anti-racist avenger, stomping down on oppression and has an analysis of the way the world works and how it should work that took me until sometime during college to even begin to have. I am failry certain Ella is going to form a feminist collective that will one day rule the world.
How I love this family and the people that lead it. How I love that Ella and Reilly are moving through the world already. How I deeply appreciate, as a multi-racial person that grew up in a black/white home, how this black/white home is a model for multi-racial families. Thank you and love to you both.
I am super happy to highlight these four amazing people....Rocki, Susan, M'Bwende, Jaime...you are all KICK ASS PARENTS!