The following piece was written in a Fostering Media Connections workshop this spring as part of our Youth Voice Initiative, a project wherein we teach youth who have been impacted by systems how to use journalism and/or creative writing to advocate for social change. One participant, Jazmine Urbi Banks, is a fellow in the Forward Fellows program.
Forward Fellows are powerful young leaders, working to shift the narratives and systems that affect the lives of trafficking survivors and youth impacted by the underground street economy in San Francisco. Supported by Freedom FWD and the Young Women’s Freedom Center, they pursue a year of healing-centered leadership workshops, serve as the Youth Advisory Board for the San Francisco Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking, and develop projects to effect their visions of change.
Mommy and Me
Sometimes I wonder what you expect from me.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not the best and my parenting is trash but you teach me a lot every day.
You have changed me in every way.
Sometimes I look at you and I smile so much because you’re so smart, you’re so beautiful, and when I ask who you look like — me or your daddy — you always say, “I look like me!”
You’re so right, you’re so unique to me, born in this fight to stay every day.
You show power in every way.
I had you at 17. People said I should have had an abortion. I thought that wouldn’t make sense.
See, I needed you or I was going to die.
I needed you to feel alive, Mimi.
There’s been so many times without you I felt like I was dying.
On December 23, 2012, my whole life changed when I saw you.
I didn’t want to cry. I only wanted you to keep me alive. Thanks for giving me a chance, and a real try. You make me so happy when you call me Mommy.
You make me cry when you want me.
When you graduate I’m going with you to college: payback for following me into the bathroom.
Can you hear me?
Sometimes I realize you stay gone because of work and you come back with a lot of gifts for me.
Is that supposed to be the time you’re making up?
See there’s more to this mother and daughter thing.
I’m happy you buy me the best but sometimes I wish you were here to pick me up from my rest.
Thanks for coming to my field trips but I feel you’re still missing a lot.
Sometimes you yell when I’m naughty and I just want you to be patient.
It sucks that you gave up on the family, I wanted you to fight, but everything ended alright.
Sometimes you say I’m wrong, and I know I’m right.
I love you, Mom.
I need you more.
Stop comparing yourself to your mom because you’re nothing like her, and stop asking me if you are a good mom because you’re the best ever.
Jazmine Urbi Banks is a 23-year-old black activist, mother to a beautiful daughter and poet. Jazmine’s work and art focuses on her trying to create an equal platform for beautiful black women. Jazmine wants people to know it’s not what you did wrong it’s what you’re working on to fix it.