Doris Albertine Warrick Kenney was born on May 30, 1936, in Bunceton, Missouri. She resides in Kansas City, Missouri where she continues to teach lessons about freedom.
I feel my mama’s love in my next breath. And the next. And the next.
Breathing is a reminder that we’re connected by a chord detached shortly after my birth. I was loved in my mama’s belly in ways never forgotten in a world filled with torment. My mama’s love was taught by a spirit more powerful than anything this world tries to take away.
My mama didn’t have good teaching about how to be a parent. Her mama died not long after she was born. The white doctor told her eleven siblings to prepare for the worse because their mama was old and gave birth to too many children. He couldn’t stay long because he had to go deliver a horse.
My granddaddy ditched town and headed to New York city after my mama was born. His exodus out of Bunceton, Missouri was part of a great Black migration. Granddaddy ended up being a loan shark. He spent a good part of his life in prison for murdering two men.
My mama didn’t learn about her mother’s death until one day at church. She was eight or nine and thought Mama Betty was her mama until the preacher’s son whispered in her ear, “Mama Betty ain’t your mama, your mama rotten in the grave.”
My mama told me she slept in the casket with Mama Betty the night before people came to the house to say their last goodbyes. She felt nobody else loved her after her real mama died because she came into this misery filled world. Mama Betty must have told my mama about a love deeper than the connection of an ambilocal chord.
My mama carried the guilt of not having a mama and the dread of having a murdering loan shark as a daddy. My mama’s love for me is about protection. It’s about giving me something she never received. A real mama loving her babies by protecting them from the pain of abandonment.
My mama teaches me lessons about freedom. Freedom isn’t always about the things out there. The most difficult things to overcome are within. My mama had to break free from all those inside demons. They bruised her soul like traps unwilling to let my mama explore her dreams. My mama battled the demons of racism and gender inequity. Mama went to battle to overcome those traps created by what people thought she’s supposed to be.
Mama trailblazed her way through the weeds of limited imaginations. Too many people told my mama what she couldn’t be. No mama to comfort her. No daddy to support her. Mama Betty went to rest among the ancestors leaving my mama alone to find her way.
My mama teaches me lessons about freedom. It takes courage to break free from being conditioned to a life of inferiority. It takes determination to keep pressing when the thoughts in your head keep talking. They talk about the place of a Black woman in world dominated by white people. They talk about a woman’s place as the tool of Black men.
My mama’s freedom from those inside demons taught me lessons a son needs to defeat his own demons. Fighting the inside stuff gives the strength to attack what’s on the outside. My mama fought the inside stuff to obtain her college degree. My mama used her degree in social work to work to overcome homelessness. My mama addressed economic disparity by establishing a collaboration between Black business owners in Columbia, MO. My mama created businesses and worked in her local church as an advocate for social justice. My mama travelled to Haiti to learn more and give more.
My mama’s freedom is a lifelong journey. Now in her mid-eighties, she’s defying the demons of ageism. Her freedom won’t let her stop finding ways to love and give. There’s too much pain out there. There are too many hurting people in search of the roadmap to freedom.
I find my mama’s love for me in my next breath. And the next. And the next.
I have the freedom to inhale and exhale unlimited possibilities.
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