Look in the mirror. Now look around you and think about what you see. If you live in Vermont, chances are that while you are at work, out shopping, or at your kid’s school, the people you see around you look a lot like you and your kids. When my daughter looks around, she does not have the same experience.
My husband and I are raising a black child in a state that is 95% white and because mirrors matter (kids need to see their lives and cultural experiences reflected in those who are around them) we have to work hard at making sure our child sees images in her life that reflect her experience on a regular basis. We do this by cultivating friendships with people of color and being very intentional about who we spend our time with as a family. We are also very deliberate about travel destinations, making sure that we visit places with a lot of diversity on a regular basis. It’s not an easy task, especially here in Vermont. We have been fortunate to have a small and expanding circle of good friends who live here and those we visit outside of Vermont who help our daughter see herself mirrored in her environment regularly.
I can write about the significance of diversity and the importance of creating community diversity, but that is for another post.
I want to devote this post to my husband and his commitment to making our home a place where our daughter’s life and cultural experience is reflected in art.
When my daughter came home at 3 weeks old, my husband ordered subscriptions to every magazine that emphasized black life and culture. He also started developing a library of books with black characters as well as African American history and culture. He seeks out movies and television shows with casts that reflect my daughter and with stories that will help her understand her history and culture.
Recently, we were at a gathering at a friend’s new home and we noticed the beautiful art in her home. The art prominently featured people of color and my husband took note that this was missing in our home. A few days later he announced that he wanted to change things up in our house so that we had a more diverse collection of art on our walls.
My husband is an engineer, with typical engineer characteristics – He is methodical, detail oriented and good at math. He is also very artistic and creative. The engineer in him made him do hours of research on black artists whose art represented black history and culture. As he put it, “I don’t want to just buy black art, I want it to mean something.” His creative side led him to some amazing works by inspiring artists. He worked tirelessly, locating the prints online, finding frames and rearranging the works on our walls.
In less than a month, my husband transformed our home into a space where each room has a piece of art that represents our daughter’s race, history, and culture. And he didn’t stop there, he also wrote about each piece of art including biographies of the artists, while noting how their artwork relates to our family. Our daughter proudly tells friends about my husband’s work and wants to make her own book about the art and the artists featured in our home.
Obviously, my husband and I can’t ever be mirrors for our daughter. We can, however, take on the task of creating a diverse space and community for her that serve to mirror her life experience. We do this, and hope that it will help her feel connected to her race and culture as she grows into a strong, beautiful black woman.