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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

The Paw Print

Black History Month Feature

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

What is Family? – Chloe Palmer

what is family?
well you may think of an unconditional affection
and the people around you forming the strongest connection
well instead my family is a bit out of reason
my mom’s side i can’t go one month without seeing

while connection to my black family trails far behind
because it was themselves that they were struggling to find
I only saw a fraction of my family for most of my life
and i just gave you a hint (i don’t see my dad’s side)

So what happens when your reality’s distorted
When you aren’t around all the people you should’ve supported
Well i’ll tell you right now it isn’t fun
When you’re family isn’t together as one

if i name any family member i can give you two definitions
let’s start with my parents and see the difference

what is a parent?
Well my parents slowly went their separate ways
When as a kid I was convinced that they’d be together always
Now instead when they’re around each other i feel a shadow of fear
Because they haven’t spoken face to face in years
My mom won the battle, I see her every day of the week
But my dad, now we have to facetime just to speak

What I would give to have that family back, but now it’s sadness
if i had my dad around more i would’ve struggled less with my blackness
he could’ve given me the advice i needed
but instead, our lives proceeded

what is a grandma?
well i have my from Cuba, so many stories she told
she basically raised me till i was 5 years old
then there’s my nana from texas, her brain got weak fast
it was alzheimer’s dad said, last year she passed

i remember at my nana’s service i struggled to find
a unique experience i had with her that was only mine
while i watched my other cousins talk about how their times with nana were so fun
i couldn’t think of a thing, not one
besides the fact i visited her 3 days before she died
and my dad kissed her forehead while tears welled in her eyes
she couldn’t even open them to see
she couldn’t remember anything, so how could she remember me

did she remember my cute baby cheeks
or how i used to have the energy to run around for weeks
did she know i was too young to be aware
of how much i loved her, or how much she cared?

what is a grandpa?
my papa alex from my mom’s side
would sit in a little corner and hide
reading his bible and whisper as he prayed
but my dad’s father just left him one day
he never came back at all
so i never got to meet my grandpa paul
the hold that alcohol had on him continued to grow
so he drowned in it until he finally let go

my dad was eight years old when his father let go
my dad barely knew him, wasn’t much to know
besides how many times he’d drink per day
or how many packs he’d smoke away
but i’m still grateful to paul for the short time he had
because without him, i wouldn’t have my dad

when my uncle bros died, and his funeral came
he was another black family member to pass
my auntie got up to the podium and asked
why do we keep meeting like this?
I only saw my black family when we suffered a loss
or someone was hurt and we seemed to gloss
over the fact that we didn’t take enough time
to snap out of the resentment and get our relationships in line

i didn’t cry at the service for nana or uncle bros
because quite frankly, they were people that i barely got to know
i was too young to remember my nana in good health
or my uncle bros before he ruined himself
i wish i saw them at their highs instead of their lows
who were they back then?, i guess i’ll never know

my dad used to resent his siblings every day
because of the substances that dragged them away
but finally my dad stopped fighting it on our behalf
and realized that his family was all he had left

most of my life i’ve only had half of a family
half of a home
half of those to comfort me when i felt alone
no one to give me true advice on my curls
or tell me what it’s like to be black in this world
half the people to love
half the people to hold
at one point i’m sure you understand why it got old

so hold your people, you’re family tight
and the ones you don’t see, reach out and fight
to connect with them again, the ones you love
don’t wait until they’ve gone above

don’t wait, be desperate, be impatient
don’t wait for yourself to have the crushing realization
that you should’ve called more
that you should’ve checked in
because now look at the mess that my family was left in

don’t make the mistakes that i had to suffer consequence from
what is a family if it isn’t together as one?

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

Brownettes – Lilie Henry

Brown. Notoriously the color of feces, dirt, and mud. Brown. Locked away in the crevices of things more beautiful, more important, more attention-grabbing. A cause and effect of all things dirty.

Its reputation is forever tainted in ruin. The color brown triggers a curl of the lip, a deep scrunch of the nose, a tongue sticks out in protest. But if its meaning lies in sticky mud bubbling in a humid, oppressive swamp, what does that mean for the boys and girls who bear the same color on their skin?

I sit amongst my classmates. A dirt stain amongst a sea of glossy pearls. Pale peach faces and rivers of veins coursing through them. My sliver of hope laid in the palms of my hands, the palest thing I could find. Yet somehow I knew without words that it wouldn’t be enough; in fact, my classmates were often appalled by my palm’s paleness, as if it was something I wasn’t supposed to have.

I stop to ponder and look beneath the surface. Under the layers of dirt and feces, I find a beacon of beauty and sublimeness. Wipe away the dust and there it lies. Brown, not only the color of dirt and mud, but of chocolate, coconuts and coffee: rich, deep, flavorful, exotic.

I approach the mirror. The rainbow of brown from the brownish-black on my elbows and knees, to the creamy caramel on my forearms, and the deep chocolate brown that rests on my face stands before me. I imagine myself under the warm summery glow of the sun, the photons brushing my skin, leaving me with a vibrant glow.

I open my eyes and greet my melanated skin with a smile.

In hindsight, I have come to love and appreciate my brown skin for several reasons listed below:

First, my brown skin allows me to hide my blush. Something I am truly quite grateful for. While some bare their embarrassment blatantly with a vigorous pink, I instead get to mask my embarrassment under a muted chuckle or wringing fingers between sweaty palms. I get to avoid the coos of the crowd as they haughtily point at their trophy. No one will ever get to see my embarrassment, not unless they look hard enough.

Secondly, I (rarely) have to worry about sunburns. Not that I opt out of wearing my daily SPF, but I don’t have to face a blotchy, peeling mess after standing under the ruthless sun for several hours. I am forever grateful for the little melanin molecules dotted all across my body, shielding me from the grave dangers of that scorching orb in the sky.

Yet, because of my own awareness and appreciation of my melanated skin, my eyes often catch the absence of brown, almost like a reflex.

On the weekends, I enjoy sitting on the couch and watching whatever program appears on the television in front of me. Sipping my sparkling water, my eyes dance across the tv, scanning for any sort of melanated person, a familiar blotch of brown on the screen. When the scan fails, the same thought percolates through my mind: “Huh, there isn’t a single person of color in this show. Strange.” If art supposedly imitates life, how isn’t there a single person of color to break the homogeneity of this fictionalized world?

A question that I myself cannot answer. An inconsistency that could only be answered by someone who lacks what I have.

Brown. The color of dirt and mud, but also the color of coffee and chocolate. Beautiful brown that encompasses the beauty and the ugly of the natural world.

Brown. A color I am proud to wear on my skin.

Jennifer Godwin-Minto
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