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  • Writer's pictureZara Oteng

A Letter To My Daughters, One Year On From Blackout Tuesday

Last year, published "A Letter To My Daughters" which I wrote for Black History Month, during the Black Lives Matter movement of summer 2020.

Here, I write again to my little girls, reflecting on the past year and how I feel now, one year on from Blackout Tuesday.

My dear daughters,

There is so much for you to learn and I must prepare you. Sometimes I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start right here, where we are today.

It is one year on from Blackout Tuesday, and a stifling silence thickens the air.

Last year we saw a man’s life scrubbed out before us. I wonder if you’ll learn about George Floyd in school? How we saw a man fighting for the last of his life, how we heard him cry out for mercy? How, with his last breath, he called out for his mother?

We saw it. Then, a deep, unshakeable grief assailed us; a dark, most wretched hole that only gave way to more despair. When we demanded answers, we were met with meaningless nonsense, and we became incandescent with rage.

When we demanded answers, we were met with meaningless nonsense, and we became incandescent with rage.

All over the world, people spilled onto the streets, screaming that Black Lives Matter too, determined this be known. For a while, I was swept away with hope. This time there would be more than empty gestures. The people would be heard.

All the while, we were surviving a pandemic. Your father and I hunkered down, fearful of the outside, desperate to protect you both. I held you in my arms and wove a world of love around you. Broken by the barbarity of our time, I wept for weeks but still pressed you to me and smiled. Because you weren’t to know the harsh realities of life. Now, your tiny, pink-brown feet pitter-patter about our home, your velvet bellies straining against your vests, impatiently exploring, with all the confidence that only an unknowing Black child can have.

Once you leave my arms, I cannot keep you safe. You will inevitably encounter The System, and like some hellish beast, it will leave scars on your unmarked skin. Intentionally made, it will attempt to swallow you whole, to stuff you into the bowels of its gargantuan machinery. Worse are its sympathetic, human faces. Worse still are its rules; they cannot truly be mastered. They are sophisticated, arbitrary, cruel. We just learn to live with them.

My beloved daughters, the truth is that I don’t have the answers. I am simply tired. When a report is released that tells us institutional racism is a myth in this country[1] – then I no longer know what to tell you. I am not sure that we were heard as we wanted to be.

If one day you feel that rage, I will not tell you to be patient. I will not tell you, “In time,” because there is no time to waste. On our home soil here, Black children are overrepresented in the youth justice system[2], disproportionately affected by poverty[3] and Black people go missing at alarming rates[4]. This is the brutal truth.

I don’t know how to fight this system. I am no hero – I am just your mother, a woman who loves her children.

But I do know that all systems can fail. One day, each pillar of this monstrous thing will fall one by one, until all of it is rubble at our feet. I don’t know when, but if last year is anything to go by, then maybe when you’re pushing against it, there will be people you can call allies and co-conspirators, pushing alongside you.

Perhaps not in my lifetime my darlings, but maybe in yours.

Again, with all my love and hope,

Your Mummy x

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