During our time together, I ask one question to each Iya and daughter.
To the Iya I ask, "What is one piece of advice you would give on how to navigate the world as a Black Woman."
To the daughter I ask, "If you could say anything as a thank you to your Iya what would it be."
Both of their responses were perfectly telling.
Cathy (Iya): I think it is a special situation to be in, being a Black Woman, simply because of the history of this country, the culture, social norms, and what not. Just like other minorities you have a wall you need to climb from day one, but my thing is to always respect yourself and to be assertive in just living and looking out for the best for yourself. Know you have a value just by being a human being. So many things are stacked against you from the beginning, historically like sexism and the racism. I know I didn’t want my daughter to feel like how I felt when I was younger. When I grew up I realized that Black Women were beautiful. But because of the nappy hair and the way of dress and what not people put you in the place that they wanted you to be in. You should maintain your integrity by all means, let me go back a minute, you have your physical side, your emotional side, and your spiritual side that make your person.
No matter what you look like, as far as the physical, whether people consider you attractive or not, you are special, you have value and you should always be intent on maintaining that perspective of yourself. If no one else values you, you should value yourself. On the emotional side, you have again worth, be proactive in what you try to do, try to learn all you can learn about whatever it is you are seeking.
Circumstances might beat you up but you can find joy in so many ways as you try to progress through life. Spiritually, I am a religious person, I believe that God provides, I will put it in terms of Scripture Micah 6:8 "What does God require of you, is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." Every person in this world should have your respect, you might not like them, they might treat you badly but I do believe life is precious and you should have the respect for being who you are.
Tanya (daughter): I think some things she has heard me say to her or to others about her of things that I am so grateful for. So, I will start off by saying, I am Ronald Tatum's child, like spat me out, personality wise, and of course that has pluses and minus. For the most part I love my dad's personality, and I love my assertiveness and my lack of fear and my fearlessness when it comes to speaking my mind, and it has gotten me far. My mother, by no means, is no rug to be walked over. She is the softer side, that being said, I have taken a bit of time to think, what is it about my mom that I most appreciate because I am so much like my (dad), and I appreciate the calm because Jamal (my husband) has her personality, as far a romantic match. Jamal is more similar to my mom whereas I am more similar to my father, and I appreciate the calmness of her storm of talking somebody off the ledge or having us look at stuff from different perspectives. I have always appreciated my mom's faith, which comes first, I have always emulated her faith and I have always emulated her talent when it comes to singing. She was in many ways, her singing and stuff like that, my she-ro
Another thing that I have made very clear is that I am built on experiences, there are very few tangible gifts that you can hand me that I will fall over out of excitement but take me somewhere and that is the best gift. The foundation of my true joy is rooted in experiences, I love that and she is that person who gave them to me. One of my favorite memories, involve experiences, she surprised me and my younger brother with 30 minutes on a private plane at a local airport. It is by far one of my greatest memories as a kid, because it opened my mind, it's something to be sitting on that plane and looking down on the world. I did not know many of my friends’ parents who did things like that, so I was always grateful to her for the experiences. We may not have had all the money in the world but it was the experiences, and I appreciate that.
As far as being a Black Woman, I am one of those people that is very aware I am a Black woman. I think you guys did a great job instilling in us our culture and a pride in our culture, but still just being. Like you don't have to walk around wearing it as a badge. Things have changed a lot, but let me just show up as Tanya. You're clearly going to see a couple of things, I am a woman, I am 6 feet tall, and I am Black. Those things are coming into the door whether you like it or not. I look at both of my brothers and how we have excelled and I am sure they may have a different story but for the most part our parents have instilled in us that pride that you were taking about, mom, and that ability to be assertive and go after the things you want. I think they would both be pretty proud of what we've done.
The other thing is how she handled relationships. I just appreciated that my mom was a friend to someone who needed a friend. Mom, you’ve helped me to be a better wife, through both marriages, and you really helped me get through my divorce. I appreciate your commitment to community, it took me a long time to realize it but over the years I realized I craved being service to community. I also appreciate my independent streak, they raised us to be independent and I am truly grateful for it.
When I was pregnant I knew I was going to have a girl and one of the things I think I was fearful about was that she would be tall. I bragged about my mom because she would never let me slouch, here she was average height, and she didn't have to but she would make sure I was not slouching, stand up straight. 12 years ago I was in Harlem and I walked in this grocery store and there was this girl who clearly was 6 foot 4 and it was clear she was 13 years old, and she had that slouch and I walked by her and said, "You stand up tall, do not slouch, you stand up tall." and you could see her, in that moment just stand taller because it came from a woman who also was tall. It was because of mom, that I knew to tell another girl that because it started in my home.
Thank you so much Tanya and Cathy for sharing your special bond with me and the rest of the world. I loved our time together and the joy that flows so freely from you <3 <3