Following in Mom’s footsteps

mom black renaissance
I made a decision not to try to be someone I can never be, and just to follow in my mom’s footsteps and do all of that homey-ass Chitlin Circuit level stuff my mom and her community organizer friends like
Doris Rowe, Sharen Hewitt and Bobbie Webb did. My mom and a bunch of the elders are gone now, and I was always trying to make everything “professional” and address all of that criticism about all the weird homey stuff the black community did but now I am 51 and I realize I do all of this shit that they did.
 
SFBayview SFBFF
Why do people who are involved in Grass Roots Community Organization do all of this sometimes disorganized shit we did and I still do? It is because we are poor. We are poor as fuck and doing community conferences like the African American Multimedia Conference and the San Francisco Black Independent Film Festival or Iconoclast Black Film Festival on a shoestring budget, with some food we got donated from a pantry somewhere.
 
When your events are neighborhood block parties with volunteers cooking up pantry food, that’s who you are.
 
black renaissance kay davey miki
I am past being ashamed of who I am. I am past apologizing for getting foodstamps at Eastmont Center. I am beyond pretending to be from some elevated, higher and more bougie class than I am. I am through being ashamed of our BBQs and our block parties and our free furniture off of Craigslist that we took home and repainted or glued together. I am going to be proud of who we are.
 
I love and I miss my mom so much.
SF Board of Directors 1997 tech committee
 
All I can do now is to honor all of the things we have built together, our little empire.
 
On her last birthday – the last one before she died – mom turned 70 and she stood up at Vik’s Wheelhouse in Vallejo and sang Deacon Blues by Steely Dan.
 
“They got a name for the winners in the world. I want a name when I lose.”
mom 4tay miki
 
Well, I would rather make sure my mom is remembered than to try to win whatever contest you guys are putting on, with so much put-on and pretense. I know a lot of you who are openly classist – mocking the homeless, the disabled, the poor, those you step over in your constant climb to the top. But we love each other and our lives and our families are real.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on August 4, 2019.

2 Responses to “Following in Mom’s footsteps”

  1. I grew up poor and never forget how lucky I am to not be poor now. I remember how hard it was to struggle every day both for my needs and against those who looked down on me for being poor. I see you and respect you, Sumiko.

  2. Thank you, BJ Sikes. I see you and respect you too.

    My parents divorced when I was 7 and we gradually cycled down from a working class or middle class standard of living as after about two years, dad started refusing to pay child support and mom had to move into an SRO hotel room in the seedy downtown Los Angeles area and start collecting welfare. We lived poor, sometimes homeless, sometimes sleeping in my mom’s office where she worked, until I was 12 and my mom went to jail and my dad had custody of me from 12 to 17.

    Although he had more money, he wanted to live on the land so we spent two more years out in the sticks in Kalapana living with no electricity at first, then we had solar panels and still had rain water and no real running water.

    My teens from 15 to 17 were more stable, we lived in a one bedroom apartment, and my mom had a one bedroom place when we were kids from I think 10 to 11. When my parents were alive, they didn’t like me talking about it too much. We had to pretend the more stable parts were all or even the majority of our upbringing.

    And mom wanted to write a biography and talk about her seven years in Thai prison, but she never did. She got out when I was just shy of 18. Now we are left to tell her story.

    I have spent so many years trying to pretend all of the bad times didn’t happen I just don’t know how to do it anymore. Thank you so much for listening.

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