Goddess Mothers and True Heroes

Originally published on The Bardo Group blog

“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly

This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines/Life from a Writer’s POV) posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.

“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”  Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine_Baker_1950Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist.  As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty.  As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.

“. . .  the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

220px-Pearl_Buck_(Nobel)Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938).  She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927.  Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen.  Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures.  Pearl Buck adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. At the time of this writing, Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.

“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)

emmanuel-kellyThis brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements.  When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about then Blessed (now saint) Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children.  She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins.  Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.

These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved;  Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain; I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.


Zbaida
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO MY MOM

and to all mothers and the fathers, grandparents, siblings and others who

assume a mothering role for motherless children.


(c) – Mom & me

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers


“BROKEN HOMES,” Single Moms, Remarkable Sons … Gill Scott-Heron, jazz poet

Gill Scott-Heron (1949-2011), American jazz poet, spoken-word poet, muscian and author

Gill Scott-Heron (1949-2011), American jazz poet, spoken-word poet, musician and author

“All I really want to say
Is that the problems come and go
But the sunshine seems to stay . . . “

My son sent me On Coming from a Broken Home (an excerpt from the album, I’m New Here) for Mother’s Day in 2011.  Since then I publish some version of this piece every two years. I think Gil Scott-Heron’s message here is important. 

Gil Scott-Heron died around this time in 2011. He’d started out fiery and angry. Some will remember his forceful The Revolution Will Be Televised and other such works. He was always an artist of political integrity. It showed in actions such as refusing to perform in Tel Aviv because “we do not like wars.”  Over time his style mellowed, but his ideals remained.

Gil Scott-Heron is considered by many to be the grandfather of rap and the father of political rap.  Famously, he didn’t accept those titles; he was critical of young rappers, felt they needed to study more, to promote change and not perpetuate the status-quo.  He is quoted in ChickenBones: A Journal as saying …

“They need to study music. I played in several bands before I began my career as a poet. There’s a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. There’s not a lot of humor. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don’t really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing.”

In the poem shared today it’s interesting to see what Heron does with his personal experience.  I like that there’s nothing of the victim mentality in this piece. I like the way he talks of dealing with life as it is. I appreciate that he points out that single-parent homes are not always the result of abandonment but are often made so due to parents who were lost in war or in jobs as police officers, firefighters or pilots.

“They lost their lives, but not what their lives stood for.” 

On Coming From a Broken Home (video below, escerpt from I‘m New Here) is a good example of how art can explain, validate and give us new perspectives … perhaps even encourage us to talk with one another. The piece is from Gil Scott-Heron’s last studio album, I’m New Here. It came out in 2010 not long before he died.

As always if you are viewing this post from an email, you will have to click on the link to this site to see and hear the piece.

Header photograph/Heron at the WOMARD festival in Bristol England, 1988 by Robman94 under CC BY SA 2.0 license.

Some Mothers’ Hearts Have Stopped

Some mothers’ children stare unseeing
No sweet, wet baby kisses from blistered lips,

. . . . songs unsung

No wedding portraits to dust and treasure
No graduations or trips to the sea

. . . . just their bodies to bury

crushed
beaten
stilled

by the engine of nihilism

Limbs cracked and broken, bellies torn
Faces purpled, hearts stopped

Hearts stopped …
. . . . hearts stopped

Some mothers’ hearts have stopped

Some mother's children

Some mothers’ children

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of some mothers’ children killed in the Syrian Civil War, Ghouta massacre/uploaded by Bkwillwm to Wikipedia under CC BY 3.0 license (I believe it may be a screen shot from a news video)