Meeting Pete: a TRA friendship takes hold in person and in print
It began a few months ago, with this reply to my “thank you for signing up for Mama C, and if you’d care to tell me what brings you to the blog?” email I try to send out every time I get a new subscriber:
I’ve been a reader of your blog for a few months now with my first comment being yesterday. I love your writings and ideas. I drew a connection to your blog because I was raised transracially with connections to my birth family who are AA…
Several emails later, Pete and I agreed that some kind of collaboration on the blog might be fun as we considered what shape it would take (interview, post and response post, guest post) and on what topic.
When I posted this picture around Easter on my blog, and sent Pete an email to check in he replied; It’s really cool you think of me! I think about you and Sam a lot actually. It’s amazing seeing the parallels between us I tell ya. I saw the Easter photo–he looks so confident and aware of self (for his age)! Coming from a transracial family seeing him beam gives me such an awesome feeling inside.
Then I had a series of beyond rotten barber shop experiences with Sam.
So I wrote to Pete for reassurance that after hearing the MF bomb, and several other nameless expletives, it was OK to choose to go elsewhere. Could he promise me that Sam wouldn’t be permanently denied a positive experience in a Black barbershop even after I ended up whisking him across town to the nice little White ladies who can barely buzz better than I can and who think a line up is something in a crime movie.
His wildly reassuring response:
I’m very sorry that you had an awful experience at the barbershops. That is not suppose to happen. A barbershop is a place of business with a diverse group of clients in terms of age, gender and race (my barbershop is Black-owned–has Black, White, Arab, Indian, Latino and Asian patrons) so a certain level of decorum should be held. Offensive language should not be accepted in such an establishment. Barbers’ are supposed to accommodate his or her client. Period. It is a service oriented business. As a parent and a customer you have every right to protect your child and demand a certain level of treatment.I can remember growing up and my Mother understanding the importance of finding not just a good barbershop but a Black barbershop that could provide a good hair cut as well as a healthy AA cultural experience. She could teach and show me lots of things but growing up and understanding what it means to be AA in our society was something that she could not and she understood that.
The barbershop was a sort of center point where AA’s of all areas came and freely discussed ideas and issues from a largely black prospective. Everything from politics and education both locally and across the country to sports and music entertainment. The unique cultural lessons to be observed in a black barbershop can be invaluable to a TRA. Looking back each trip has helped positively shape my black identity.
His ease and support were so immediately helpful to me. Hearing how important his experiences were, prompted me to go back to one of ours, and explain why we left prior to getting Sam’s hair actually cut the day before.
Then I started telling people about our exchanges, and how much I was appreciating it. About how meeting Pete, is like having a second here and there with a crystal ball that is not really yours, but you can look at it from a certain angle to inform your parenting anyway. How a little positive line from Pete about how I’m doing a fine job with my kids, is like having a fairy godfather wave a wand over my fears and chasing them away.
For Pete it seems that hearing me talk about my process seems to be giving him a different lens to look at his upbringing. (I’m hoping he’ll chime in here, or another time to tell me if I’m on the right track here.) If our ideas for collaboration continue to unfold maybe the process of writing his story, and helping to guide ours will nourish him in unknown ways too.
As for Sam? Perhaps meeting Pete this weekend, will give him a visual of himself in twenty years–as a handsome young Black man, established in the world, and navigating it all beautifully. (Of course if something is being offered to him as interesting that doesn’t involve a ball moving at least forty miles an hour, it is hard to gauge if it is actually landing.) Although our timing was such that a hair cut will not work out(our initial plan when we noticed how close he is to my mom’s part of the world) we are all going to meet in person this Sunday for a scoop and a moment at the playground. Hopefully the first of many meetings over time.