ANONYMOUS | January 24, 2019
One AVLF staff attorney, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us how her mother fought against the odds for better opportunities.
I do what I do because sometimes we need an advocate – someone to be our voice and our cheerleader. To champion the cause of our betterment in the face of adversity and obstacles. For me, that person was my mother.
I grew up in the projects, the only child of a single mother and a drug addicted father. I could easily have ended up just another statistic…but for my mother.
There was an elementary school directly across the street from me growing up, and everyone in the projects went there. But my pre-school teacher told my mother that I was gifted and that I should apply to the gifted program. This program was located in another school, and I would have to be bussed there. I would need to first pass the citywide testing in order to gain admittance.
I could easily have ended up just another statistic…but for my mother.
Every day for about a month my mom would ride her bike to the office that administered the test and ask for testing dates. And every day the woman at the front office would tell her, “Not today.” Then one day when my mom stopped by, the woman said with no warning that it was the final day of testing.
Not one to give in or give up, especially on something involving me, my mom rode her bike all the way to my daycare (which was in another borough), picked me up, and then peddled her way back to the office. We barely made it.
I passed the test, and the gifted program became my doorway to a whole new world of knowledge and access that has shaped my whole life.
There were numerous ways that I keenly felt my otherness and the lack of a reflection of who I was as a brown child.
My mother never stopped fighting for me. In the gifted program, I was the only child of color throughout the bulk of my elementary school and middle school years. I was also the only child of lower socioeconomic status and divorced parents. There were numerous ways that I keenly felt my otherness and the lack of a reflection of who I was as a brown child.
One time, I got a spelling test back and the teacher marked “100% -5%” because my writing was too small. My mother went to the teacher the next day and told her that she better not ever penalize me for something as trivial as my handwriting. If I spelled everything correctly then she should give me my proper grade. My grade was changed that day.
She never let anyone diminish my accomplishments or my sense of self.
It strikes me now that my teacher had no idea that perhaps I was writing small because I was feeling small and unimportant. As a conspicuously different child in her class of all white students, I was trying not to draw any more attention to myself.
I don’t know if my mother recognized that, but I do know she never let anyone diminish my accomplishments or my sense of self. My mother has been my champion and my advocate since day one. She is my “why.” As an attorney, I daily advocate for clients who just ned someone to fight for them – just as my mother fought for me.
If you liked this post, check out this thought-provoking piece by Safe and Stable Homes Director Cole Thaler on culturally competent representation.