A Year of Loss and Rebuilding

BlackPantherMoviePartyThis is my niece Elisabetta Saulson, her high school sweetheart Jeveon Washington, my mother Carolyn Saulson and myself at the Black Panther movie in February 2018.
Little did we know at the time, a year later, Mom and Jeveon would both be gone.
My mother died January 2019 after a nine and a half year battle with Multiple Myeloma Cancer. My niece’s high school sweetheart Jeveon Washington was murdered at gunpoint in February 2019, a year after his nineteenth birthday. It was about eight months after they broke in June 2019.
This will be our first Halloween, our first Thanksgiving, and our first Christmas without my mother and Jeveon. Sometimes it’s hard to really process how cruel people can be and how callous. The cruelty of those who removed Jeveon from the world. The cruelty of doctors and staff when Mom was dying. The cruelty of friends who made every tiny thing imaginable more important than my mom’s life, her dying, my pain, or me and my family’s needs in the wake of two unimaginable tragedies and the loss of Jeveon’s young life.
Monday night, I told a friend I was alright, just going through some growing pains. The past year has come with a lot of painful lessons about the invisibility of Black pain. for as my mother’s life came to an end, I found I was increasingly expected to don the clothing of the Strong Black Woman, to silently suffer through her final days with no complaint, as my pain was troublesome and a bother to my friends. I, a burden for suffering. I, problematic if I was triggered or troubled by overt and covert signs of racism in the wake of my mother’s suffering at the hands of callous doctors, or my niece’s first love dying of gun violence.
The wounds run deep. #BlackLivesMatter isn’t a cause I support as an ally. Your derogatory comments when you call me a social justices warrior, or you make jokes about me being triggered by racist imagery, or ask me why it didn’t bother me so much before Jeveon and Mom died, hurt. I feel like I am not even a real person to you anymore.
When someone racist tells me he doesn’t believe I am black because I am biracial, I am supposed to suck it up. At every turn, I am supposed to swallow my pain. I am supposed to take the higher ground as others bully me while my mother lay dying, to coddle and shield thin-skinned other who are going through nothing much as my niece only 19 now grieves the loss of a young black many who died at only 19.
I am so glad that I work at San Francisco Bay View Newspaper now and my column #WritingWhileBlack.I wrote two columns so far, here’s my first column. I am so glad that I have the Black Horror Writing and Sci-Fi community, the Afrofuturist Community, the Afrosurrealist community, writer friends like Valjeanne Jeffers, Crystal Connor, Linda D Addison, Nicole Kurtz, Nisi Shawl and community friends like Wanda Kurtcu and Rudi Mwongozi and Hugh E MC and L.M. Kate JohnsTon who validate and know the struggle to be real. Projects like 100+ Black Women in Horror, Scierogenous 2, Black Magic Women, and Black Celebration to keep me sane.
How hard it is for me to bear the weight of this Strong Black Woman mantle you have thrown upon my shoulders in the wake of and in the days since my mother’s death. How hard it is for me to comfort others and tend to their wounds and emotions, making the smallest slight or wounding word or slightest change in the timber of my voice that shows the wound that rests deep in my soul since my mother left this world show.
My tears look like anger to you.
When I am hurt, you are afraid of me and hurt me even more. I look like a monster to you. Just like my mother did. And I thought you were my friends. And it hurts badly.
But I can’t help the way you see black women, how our softest words sound loud to you, how you think we are angry when we are hurt, and how even when you know we are going through something terrible you only think of yourselves and how we owe you deference and servitude.
All that hurts, but I am gonna #StayBlack and honor my mother in every way I can.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on September 18, 2019.

4 Responses to “A Year of Loss and Rebuilding”

  1. Sumiko,
    I know that nothing I can say will truly help but I want you to know that I am here. I hear you. I see you. Your feelings are valid.
    You’ve gone through a lot of painful experiences recently and you have every right to mourn, be angry, and be hurt when your friends don’t support you or have unrealistic expectations of you.

  2. Thank you. So far it is very healing and empowering, and keeping me connected to my mother’s strength and spirit.

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