Remembering my nephew as he would toss his daughter up into the air and catch her. Remembering the infectious sound of her giggles.
I’d watch them play Peek-A-Boo and Hide-N-Seek. He’d chase her around the living room and into the kitchen. He’d make big loud growling noises and she’d squeal in delight.
He’d pounce towards her, just missing her by the toes, and he’d gently grab her arm. All the while she’d squirm and twist and contort her little body every which way, to get loose. And all the while, my nephew is boding her, instructing her and encouraging her on ways to not get caught. To instill in her the need to run faster.
But of course, he could catch her, but that’s not the point, so he won’t. Instead he’s encouraging her to keep her head up, telling her that she mustn’t squeeze her eyes closed, that she must look and keep her eyes opened.
Then he’s growling again, menacingly this time, so now she must listen, using all of her senses to stay alert, to be aware, to watch out for her daddy and the signs of his playful danger. It’s coming.
Every now and then he’ll stop to give her a kiss. One of those deep raspberry belly blows, that make her little legs kick into the air. And then he relaxes too, a moment to enjoy fatherhood. Because as quiet as it’s kept, he’s giddy with delight too. He relishes these moments.
But from where I stand, I can see his fear, it’s there, in his eyes. What if they come after him and catch him, then go after her? What if…
His daughter pushes off him and lickety-split she’s gone. She’s a fast learner. She’s giggling again, pulling him back into her world, where it’s safe. For now.
He switches back to playful dad mode, back into the hunt for raspberry belly blows. He crawls after her, lovingly reminding her to not let him catch her.
Me standing there, watching and holding her doll baby. It’s the other game that she likes to play, the gender related and domesticated role of motherhood. But it’ll wait. Right now she has her dad, this little black girl, being taught life skills, she’ll become an expert in both, in order to survive.
And then, like a lioness in the jungle, she’ll nurture and protect her cubs and further the myth of the black super woman.
Acrylic on canvas. “Her America” is part of the America 2 Me series of paintings using a premise of caution. The original flyer used in the #BlackLivesMatter protests held in Los Angeles and Boston during the summer of 2020.
My daughter, Deanna Marshall is an activist who gifted me flyers from the September 9, 2020 protest in Boston, MA. I’ve stained some flyers and incorporated them into pieces of my art. Hopefully to extend the message, “until racism ends in America,” from generation to generation, in a cautionary tale.
More of my artwork can be seen here: