Remembering for Samhain

I have clung to a story that is me but doesn’t have to be. A story that defines me and every single experience I live, which I could easily choose my way away.

I’m doing Samhain a little differently this year.

This year, I will step through a door I have willingly refused for too long. Stubbornly refused.

Maybe for the poetry of it.

Maybe ‘cause of rage.

I have clung to a story that is me but doesn’t have to be. A story that defines me and every single experience I live, which I could easily choose my way away.

But even as I lean in to type these words I want to rip through the page like a T-Rex and cry out “fuck you” to myself even for the implication of releasing this . . .

I am angry and my anger gives me comfort. Solace.

Or so I tell myself.

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But when I invite myself to forget, to rewrite, to reclaim my right to love and to be loved . . . I only want to protect the pain in my chest, this pain I’ve known – we’ve known – for so long . . .  this pain I honestly cannot see myself outside of . . . this pain that seems to define who we are in this crazy land where people are considered currency.


In Circle once, years ago, we were asked to name our mothers down the generations as far back as we could go.

When my turn came, I realized I knew only the names of my mother and her mother, a woman I’d met only twice before she died in my teens.

Simple enough. I went to ask my mother . . . only to find she could not name back any further than I.

And so it is, our story in perfect form: my mother not even knowing the name of her own grandmother, having passed before her birth with no one to speak of her after.

Just those few words tell our story so eloquently. Girls raised without mothers, generation after generation. Neglect. Disconnect. Whether from death or depression or just the norms of slave and working class life. We grew up unheld, unseen, unheard in the one place that was literally designed to do just that.

We never knew the soothing safety of a mother’s lap.

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We went from wearing our babies to wet-nursing white babies while feeding our own the poisons invented by the parents of the babies we parented.

And so, it is like our mother-gene was disrupted. Ruptured from the distance between our bodies and our Motherland, our language, our gods. We left our Motherhood behind and became heifers to supply a slave stock to build this empire for the ease we now take for granted every day. Babies raped into and ripped from us generation after generation after generation. Still happening. We are – I am – still living the separation in my life and in all of my cells and even between myself and my son, in our own ways.

And so, maybe you can see why I don’t want to “just let go” of not knowing my Grandmothers’ names. As my story. As my why. Why I’m this way. Why I see this way. Why I hide this way. Why I isolate this way.

But, reluctantly I admit that with the seasoning of my years, I must call out this claim for what it is: attachment to victimhood. Attachment to an old story and an old self. A story I see is legit obsolete in this day in age, because at any moment, I can know my Grandmothers’ names with the clack of a few keys.

And so, as stuck on this story as my body legitimately still is, this Samhain I will break the seal around me by allowing myself to know the names of my Grandmothers, and maybe even a bit of their stories. In so doing, I reclaim us and release this story that cages me like the grandmother I did know of, who hid herself from the world because of how different she was, a displaced southern black girl dropped into Chicago suburbia, grown without a mama, “married off” at 14 to give this world eight live births and eight dead ones.  And each of those living: lost. Left behind when she ran from a life of imprisonment within her own home.

Say Their Names (2020) — Joseph John Sanchez IIILike my mother did when she ran off to college, her first opportunity out. To forget. And eventually to raise me in this forgetfulness, not knowing who my Mothers were, not knowing our true name or our journey to this land, or anything about our loves or legacy.

So, this Samhain I will Remember for us all each of our names going back the years, as far back as I can go, to reclaim each and every soul that is a part of me, hidden lost in the shadows and shame of enslavement.

This Samhain, I will Remember for us all and put this story to rest. I will know my Grandmothers’ names and I will say each one as if it were my own. Because it is.


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