tv Anna Malaika Tubbs The Three Mothers CSPAN February 22, 2021 12:59am-1:56am EST
again, getting in that suit that you see me in, that is a 300 or 400-pound behemoth. it takes hours to get into. astronauts decrease their pressure. they have to worry about the same problem scuba divers have and that is getting the bends when you change pressure if you do it too quickly. in hollywood you just throw on your suit and go outside and start finding the aliens. in real space this whole process takes hours. it's kind of a long ordeal so i talked through that and then what it's really like to be outside. again you're in this big suit with a little thin plastic visor in front of you and on the other side of that is instant death. so you know, the threat level of being outside for a spacewalk is higher than doing other things. the view is that i saw i felt like at times i was seeing creation, like humans are not supposed to see this. this is god's view and then i had to get back to work and plug in some cables.
and i started to edit the book and edited it while he was laying on my chest i could hear his little breath. it was a beautiful journey while writing this book although not celebrating motherhood but the different ways to care for others and that mothering work that we do is also another level of connection that i was celebrating. >> these are three extraordinary women and three extraordinary men. can you tell us more about how you came to put these women together in this book? >> it's been a journey i just wanted to join other scholars who are collecting the erasure of black women stories and i was inspired about the
incredible film and how she showcases the importance of understanding black experiences in order to understand the united states of america and where we are today. i had a lot of choices to make. so many stories have been erased or forgotten but that's when i decided i needed to narrow down my search and i became interested starting with someone famous thinking the ways it was a racing people and their lives and how that was he wasting the women in our lives and having seen this the past four years and the partner somebody who is a public figure since i was 19 years old i heard the notion you are the woman behind the great man. it was a complement but i never took it that way i've always been right beside him.
so i wanted to flip the narrative of the woman behind the man but the woman before the man was even thought of or conceived that's in a became really excited about showcasing mothers and many of us to do this work the nonbiological teachers and essential workers are doing that mother work we feel underappreciated and not seen or erased or heard that's why wanted to celebrate them and specifically focus on these three women all born with and five years of each other and that allows me some cool intersections in my stories to make commentary in these events that they live through affected them differently so that's the background that how i arrived at these women.
>> i'm so glad you explain the connection because there is a natural connection and that you think of with martin luther king jr. and malcolm x. and i didn't know where james baldwin and his mother fit into that although he was the voice of the movement in so many ways i didn't know how his mother became a part of the story. >> there were so many events that led to the specific project also right before starting my phd i watch the film based on his writing word says he is the witness to his friends work to martin and malcolm what they did for a nation and our world and i thought that is cool to see that as a natural part of this group so thinking of the mothers even with the
preliminary research alice baldwin added a layer speaking of how it is part of our activism. we think so much of mlk junior and incorrectly but the introduction of a third person allows us to think about the variety and diversity of not only of the approaches but the nuance and diversity of the black motherhood experiences such a bring them together painted a much more accurate portrait. >> and with the interaction of their sons. >> they never met each other and in other ways they
would be part of this transformation of the world and then to see those differences so it's cool the book goes in and out with those similarities and intersections to ask them how they celebrate those different approaches. >> i love the way you began your book to become a mother and the joy of learning you are pregnant but also the concern of not knowing what that would mean to be a mother. as you were writing this book did any of your preconceived notions of motherhood changed? >> absolutely. to speak to that further when i found that i was expecting my son and he had a masters in gender studies so i was very well aware of the dangers of black motherhood in the united
states. whether or not you are educated or have access to many, whatever it is or famous becoming a black mother in the united states is very risky are much more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth simply because you are black woman and the system was built to say that our bodies were different to say that we did not know we are in pain or understand our bodies and people did not listen to us and we still see remnants of that to this day so i was worried when i found out i was having a child of course i was excited and overwhelmed with joy but extremely worried with the knowledge that i had of how this would be best studying the's mothers gave me incredible hope and made me feel very powerful and never
expected the circumstances as if they were unavoidable but they would have to endure pain but instead they said i see the world as it is to be a part of changing the and teach my children how to join me in that fight and i will not accept the notion i'm any less than anybody else and it allowed me to advocate for myself. i knew i wanted to work with at the hospital and have other women of color by my side but also use the book to speak to how we can change of circumstances that this is not unavoidable we need to continue to push the nation to see us as the human beings that we are. i felt powerful and influential so there were
obvious connections between their talents and what their sons could do for the world so i found myself and continue to find myself as a powerful and influential person and honestly as a second-class citizenship we often forget the work mothers are doing we take it for granted we expect them to do it all that if something goes wrong when it comes to black mothers and i wanted to change that and i'm grateful to study these three women i see my mother heard in a different light than society does. >> describing as a dangers of black motherhood, i never heard it worded that way there was a physical danger but a social and emotional danger of
being a mother and i'm a mother of four. that is an interesting description but for anybody who is a mother or a black mother, you understand exactly what it means because you do it. >> and having your loved one, your most precious loved ones in the world that sees them so differently as a way that you do and all the news stories and how many of us are being killed day in and day out we know that as we hold our children to this and we have to face that reality to get more people to see the pain we are feeling as a community and as a people that we will not accept this we will continue to push and fight for change because we need the world along with
everybody else is a human being that we deserve to be and that we are. >> as your research these women in the book you write about the difficulty in uncovering their story do believe that's black women of a certain time or their story was not told? >> a lot of factors contributed and one of them is that yes, at the time and even today we record histories and people we deem to be important as a society and the hegemony is quite often the white males so many are told from the white male perspective and they are not the ones that will say yes was black woman
mattered or let's make sure we tell her story in history or even record the date that she was born they were not even sure what year they were born it is just an estimate because nobody recorded it i couldn't find any census data for example but it's also something we speak to as historians and scholars each of these three men care deeply about their mothers and credited her with their success celebrated their mom my mom and say you have the best mother in the world james baldwin wanted to be buried next to his mother. one of his dying wishes was to have a double plot where she would be buried right next to him. whenever somebody came to his grave they would see how interconnected their lives were. even malcolm x. had problematic things in the way
he feels about when and also credits his mom that she was the first to teach him discipline that he found in the nation of islam before he even and met mohammed. so why is it if we have this evidence that is included in the book is wasted over time so part of it is understanding of sexism in society and racism in the intersection that black women are facing they don't think our lives our worthy of documentation or celebrating. >> grady think the's women found their strength? celebrating this generational knowledge but he then before then their parents believed in
their daughters ms. king was the only surviving child of the williams family and as a young woman they will instill in her the belief of her own education and her own voice and opinion and that matters for her to carry forward her siblings and her father she is born into tragedy they all surround her with love and remind her they are with her no matter how far she ends up the same thing her grandparents were these liberated slaves we knew it was like to live in captivity to find freedom and teach her
to continue to carry freedom in her heart these are the lessons the main thesis of the book it is generational knowledge we don't come out of these fully formed notions how they accomplish freedom but instead they have this generational knowledge in the background and experience with their community and is crucial to our understanding what they could do for all of us. >> so as a negative referring to men as mama's boys, do you see anything about these relationships? you write about the stress they gave these men. was there anything about these relationships that served as a negative? >> that's a great question the book is much more of a celebration on the positive but something that is important to mention is not
only generational knowledge but also generational trauma past between family members. is not necessarily because they were mama's boys that made it difficult for them in their own lives but the fact they were a part of the families facing literal attacks for being black people if you think of malcolm x. specifically his family has so many tragic incidents that have been back to back they were very active and outspoken with their commitment. they believed in self independence and long before the nation of islam was even established so they become a target of the kkk and the
black legion the house is burned down her husband is murdered and not given the life insurance money that she deserves and then is put away for 25 years of her life against her will because a black doctor says she is imagining being discriminated against so every single one of those is consistently taken away from them this is what malcolm x. grows up learning so it's not always positive but how he learns in a very sad and tragic way and sometimes it pushes them to feel they have to risk their lives and they have no other option that could be something that is difficult one would hope they would not have to. >> also thinking about james baldwin, again he doesn't come
as much privilege as mlk junior he was born poor and black in harlem and speaks to that experience and the fact his mother was in an abusive relationship and he himself was a victim of a step father's abuse and his mother was as well and she had a more children with this man and he sees this over and over and hates the fact she keeps becoming pregnant and it's difficult so the book contends these are not perfect individuals they all carry trauma as a result of a response to those attacks against them. >> obviously you highlighted three extraordinary women were there any mother son combos you opted to leave out?
it is an extraordinary highlight of these relationships but i could imagine there are so many more you could've put the spotlight on. >> there are so many more not even mother son but generally i decided i would write about the mother and sons i almost felt that erasure was happening on a different scale maybe not larger but the assumption that women cannot raise men talking about these three men if you are a fan of any of them is most likely heard about their fathers because in society thinking of the role mothers play in their daughters lives and we think of fathers and their sons lives. think reverend martin luther king senior and he was a
reverend so therefore that is where mlk junior got it from. or earl little as an activist in james baldwin stepfather and as a response and it's ridiculous if they are good or bad influences they want more simply because of their gender and to change that narrative we are influencing our children and showcasing it from this perspective with a clear the inherited from their mothers to reevaluate how they think about parenthood but also leadership generally and we need to distance ourselves from that so baldwin was a writer and a poet and she
believed in confronting the darkness for the light and the hope and then to describe the talent from her with that perspective and said many times he wants to be a witness to the power of light and truth thinking about the darkness and not hiding from it but confronting and finding a path forward and we think about mlk junior and his mother and maternal grandparents make ebenezer baptist what it is today hope for civil rights and combining states for social justice that working what they would want us to have here on earth with everybody having equal rights focusing on justice this is
when she is raised even when she meets her husband she is considered a literate and already has a college degree around the same age but doesn't have the same opportunities. so she helps him to get into the house then go to morehouse the women go to spelman and through his education even he cannot become a reverend without her. so to say this is her husband church and he inherits it it is a misunderstanding of history and finally with malcolm x. of what she was raised upon the notions of standing up for your freedom fighting against colonization and white supremacy and that's where she meets her husband because they are both activist not because he has but that's how they come together and
then continues to witness his mother stand up against the racist attacks to raise the importance but while we had an important role to play. >> do you think these relationships existed today erasure would still be as blatant. >> honestly unfortunately i do but only because my own personal experience not just a representative of me but i know what it is like to be associated with a famous man or someone that people know well and how often i am erased from his story but how much his mother and aunt are waste
from his story recently we were featured in a documentary called boston on my mind which was awesome but even the filmmakers wanted to focus on his dad but not the three women who raised him. his father has not been in his life his entire life. that's not his fault. he was better way and there's so much i did comment on about mass incarceration but if you want to tell michael story and leah raise his mom to focus on a nail and aired on - - mail narrative it's not okay so still to this day we see it and that's why it speaks to people with a historic narrative also commentary of how we are doing this.
>> especially in the context of how black women are influencing the power structure. so i wonder so giving these three women advice what would your advice be to them specifically related how they could amplify their life's work? >> that's a great question. but in terms of favorite lives are be a lot more opportunity for their platform more to tell their side of the story and if social media or getting their work published there's more opportunity now that they
were not afforded and in many ways they've done their best to make sure the people in their lives knew of their influence if they were modest and humble and didn't know in the same way i do to say i did that. and it happens all the time even when our son was born i would be standing next to michael at events and people would say congratulations to him on the birth of his son. i would go i didn't know michael was capable of having children but good for you. he is very talented. but that's not something he can do but again i'm very outspoken about it was something he studied for a long time but i think we were
somewhat aware of it even if they didn't have the same opportunities to speak up that i am given now i talk about in the book i am very unapologetic because it is not only for me but for many of us and we are dismissing huge parts of the puzzle we are not fixing things unless we are focused in part a heavy racing black women stories but the need to address the issues that affect that personally and deeply but also to carry forward their oral tradition to tell their families about themselves michael was very proud to stand up while her
children watched her and was aware they were watching her and it matters where that they see her in the proud light on that she was risking her life with the power to the professor. all of the family members to focus and not carry pain in your heart or hatred so they found ways to instruct people and we have an opportunity. so it's also a reminder to focus on her own narrative to do that and share our wisdom because it helps us all we continue to move forward in a way that treats us in dehumanizing ways. >> how do you impart these lessons to your son? how old? >> 15 months.
>> he is so adorable. >> i believe he's only 15 months. he carries himself like a full-grown man. >> his personality. i guess if you know who his parents are it's not surprising. [laughter] >> how and when we began to impart these lessons to your son? >> it's interesting to have a mother who wrote this book and to give credit where it is due so i am curious to see how that plays out but a big part of it is not necessarily to say here with you to see me but it is something that my mom raised me with actually and was very clear just because she was the mom she was not obligated we joke
about it now that she cooked us a meal or her drove us to practice and would say thank you for that i didn't have to do that i could be doing my a work or something else right now but i want to support you so you could think me. we don't really think our moms or think about them as human beings you do the thing you are supposed to do. and then as adults we start to think my mom has done a lot for me so ever since i can remember my mom was clear that she was still her own person and then to acknowledge that for her and also just have
being on his conversations that vulnerability is helpful for all of us we don't present ourselves as superhuman for all the way and i don't need any help it doesn't do us any favors so to say i'm having a hard day and then all three of those famous sons probably because they had on his conversation with their mothers. and that to carry that he learned a lot about humanity
and didn't shield him from that maybe he didn't have a choice but something that did a favor to not see her as a superhuman. >> it's interesting you talk about the roles of gender and gratitude man when and the oldest was younger and what men should do and then to be perplexed and then to give the impression that was only for women to do but i still don't know where he was getting it from but i really had to correct a lot.
so we have a chore chart and my daughter says why do i have to wash the dishes? so it really does begin in such a young age. so reading about these three extraordinary women in their own way and reading james baldwin when they are reading letters to her children and then just to have the thoughtfulness with their children in that way equally extraordinary and growing up in atlanta very familiar with the king family there so much more that i did not know about overtaking because you are right those stories simply are
not told as part of the narrative. >> and what those surprises if any did you find in researching these women? >> the biggest surprise on how this was. and with the connections and before they became others and even after their sons passed away all three of them live to bury the famous sons. and in two cases they buried two of their sons overtaking lot lost two of her sons as well as baldwin they passed way before she did.
and to find that evidence to say that he directly inherited the talents from his mother and she rates these beautiful notes and speaks to her talent and ability and was in shock to hear about the influence on the writing when everybody who knew them can see it so obviously and then visiting and had the privilege to be there at love atlanta so much and that means the world to me to speak about it that only in person but virtually in atlanta but yes to be at the first home and to have my own knowledge of an influence to
see how she was being erased even in her own first on everybody was focused that makes sense but then focused on reverend senior and no one was talking about the fact that that was her childhood home and that was shocking to me. and then excited to continue to do the research. and to be shocked and surprised what you didn't already know. >> but at first it's difficult because and as those want to
tell the story and then with the shadows of the famous man but their uncle or father or whoever and they themselves they also had to deal with misunderstanding people treating men as if they were not themselves human and to tell stories about them as literary figures. i approach the first one i had much more knowledge i did as much as i do to not repeat any questions been answered on my own and also to spend time to get to know their perspective if they want to read anything personal to it in the ultimate goal is a new i was doing the
work i didn't want to pop out of nowhere and then be shocked i was doing work on somebody. and all these people knew some are willing to speak with me and then to fill the gap and then to support that and get people excited. and then asking everybody to reach we because that type of support makes me happy that to be so proud and then to have baldwin's grandchildren who has been instrumental giving me the family perspective.
and helping me to understand how crucial it was and continues to be and then to be in extra. to be a huge part of the story but then and then to speak to one of malcolm's daughters and then i really hope i make them proud to see that it is out there and the celebration and may be sharing even more about the women and if they are excited about it and then tell a few more stories.
myself. and then back to the project and then to find my career in so many ways and was given permission so we will see if there is anymore. >> it's hard to believe because it so wonderfully written and research. the family family members share with you that they learn something about their loved ones through their research. >> it was keeping the posted in the fact that was passed away in childbirth because the death certificate is the same month and year that curtis was born and died from
hemorrhaging and they did say the death certificate and to learn more about her name and journey and i just passed as much off to them and then to not take this for ourselves but i haven't heard any major surprises. and then wondering if happy that they were changing the narrative to make it more accurate to represent these men as part of a larger whole in these unicorns it came out
of nowhere and that was painful for her family members and i can tell you that from experience it isn't accurate so i think they were painful for that. >> and doctor bernice king is very intentional speaking her mother's name it's extraordinary that you focus on the mothers of these great men in my last question is of the three extraordinary women , where's their wine you felt more connected to than the other? >> and at the conclusion i talked about how we can find ourselves by understanding the stories so i can see myself as a combination with the ability
to focus on love and light and the remainder that you are only hurting yourself not the person you have patience towards and to find that levity to cope and move forward to always carry with me with that ability to use her privilege of those around and then to have very unique experiences through jim crow with a college education that wasn't common and using that to teach her students with an incredible incrementalist and for others to find the talents and creativity as well i found
that to be incredible and inspiring and also with the bravery it is the confrontation of fear and acknowledging the fear is there in real then to paraphrase whether or not you are afraid if you die it's dust to dust anyway but you can't be afraid but if you are afraid and don't do anything we will continue to be attacked but that might change and we might make some progress. it reminds me of that in my heart. >> and one of my favorites using my vision in the service of others less important whether or not i'm afraid. but thank you for this
extraordinary work. thank you for highlighting the's incredible women. this should be required reading for every son and every husband across the globe. thank you. i look forward to your next work and i will tell my dear friend to bring the men. >> thank you so much for your time and thank you for your also and congratulations.
>> three others were within four percentage points of being majority black. the black people did not migrated. i understand why they did but if not people could control up to 14 part of the coalition to do that. and then to control more electoral college votes in california and new york state combined.
and then to have real power on the state level. and i'm saying to black america and young black americans i have seen you protesting about this i have heard your well if you really want a shot at changing the systems you are protesting against, one of the quickest most powerful ways to do that is through state power. so to consider a reverse migration and do that with intentionality. >> and you have references in your book perhaps you should
share with us what was proposed back then and how is it different? >> so in the late sixties a group of radicals they form the original government and what they were experiencing the idea the list of demands were broader to establish a separate republic in the southern states and to demand reparations to finance that republic. my proposal differs that i'm not seeking succession at one a separate republic want to be
stronger in this republic. >> and i have to ask my generation with the passage of the civil rights legislation but the political power to put is in charge of the cities in the courts and healthcare systems and to be we had 50 years of black political will in the city so why do we have the disparities they are talking about? >> there are no cities in the constitution. the supreme court basically said in ruling after ruling that cities exist at the leisure of the states that's for your preemption by states
is nothing the city can do that the state government cannot preempt. we see that in a pandemic and then they went to crackdown and then the governor says no you can't do that. there's nothing they can do. so it is great to have municipal control 90 percent are in the south. internet environment. and in the united states of america not the federation of america. and to have real power and not to the federal government, you have to be in charge of states. so when those cities that have
struggled and also happens they are majority black cities and with this investment and they fled all the time they still have all the money and the resources so now it has incredible infrastructure and not enough to support it. the cities cannot do any more than it will allow them to do the city still depends on the state for resources but they don't control the states. but then it's a shame to blame the cities for not doing better when in fact it is the pattern and behavior of white people who moved to the cities in the first place.