The women who have shaped us

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 6:19pm

In honor of the upcoming Mother's Day holiday, the editors of Michigan in Color would like to make a toast to the strong, influential women of color in our lives — our mothers. We see them as beacons of hope, inspiration and guidance, and we are very grateful to have them in our lives. To all women of color, we salute you today and every single day.

Halimat Olaniyan - MiC Senior Editor

Dear mom,

Every year around this time, Mothers Day, I feel an overwhelming amount of pressure. Pressure to get you the perfect gift. A gift worthy of your acceptance. I know it’s silly because you love what I get you no matter what it is but it’s also frustrating. There is nothing I can give you that will adequately show you just how much you mean to me. I will never be able to thank you enough. But I will continue to try to give you the world and the life you deserve because you have sacrificed everything for me.

You delayed earning your degree so you could raise my brother and help provide for your family. You gave up your comfortable life in Nigeria, where all of your loved ones remain, to venture to America in hopes of giving my brother and I the chance to achieve the American dream. You quit your job and left the reliable, cozy weather of Atlanta, Georgia to follow my father to Michigan where he got a better job. You repeatedly dropped everything to make sure you were always there for my brother and I.

You are the most incredible woman I know. I am sorry for taking you for granted like teenagers and young adults tend to do. I realize now how much of a blessing having you as a stay-at-home mom was. Because of your commitment to your family I have never in my life felt alone. Every time I was hospitalized, you were by my side. Every time I felt hatred growing inside of me you showed me love. Every achievement of mine is a result of the constant love, support and motivation you have and continue to provide.

Because of you, enough will never be enough. I will keep pushing for a better future so I can someday give you all that you deserve. Material things don’t matter. I want to give you the comfort of knowing that my brother and I will be okay, more than okay. That we will accomplish all the things you prayed we would and more. That you were, are and will forever be a success. That all of your sacrifices were not in vain because your legacy will remain for generations to come. As I’m sure you already know. You can see it in my admiration, your son’s appreciation and your granddaughter’s adoration for you. My brother and I are two of the most blessed people on the planet, no doubt, because we have you for a mom. Because of you, I have the strength to not let having sickle cell anemia stop me. Because of you, I am not afraid of what the future holds. Because of you, I am certain that I can conquer anything life throws my way. All I hope for is to someday be as good of a mother as you are.

What more can I say than that I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day mom.

Sivanthy Vasanthan - MiC Senior Editor

Amma,

The early weeks of May have always been rather nerve wracking for me. I repeatedly struggle to properly express my love and appreciation for you on both your birthday, May 4, and on Mother's Day. Every year, I debate on whether to buy you flowers for either occasion –– especially as your name, Malar, means “flower” in Tamil. However, Appa always is against it and says no flower can compare to your strength, grace or beauty. As silly as I used to think that his feelings were, he wasn’t wrong.

You are without a doubt, the flower of my life. Again and again, you have shown me how to stand tall in times of hardship. You have taught me to be proud of myself and of my Tamil heritage. You have encouraged me to fight for what I believe in, even if others, including you and Appa, may not agree. You have urged me to reject sexism and misogyny and to never underestimate my own potential just because I am female. You are incredibly selfless and have sacrificed so much for me, especially as you delayed your medical residency for seven years to spend time at home raising me and Senthuri. You have unconditionally loved, supported and believed in me throughout my life and have given me countless opportunities to bloom and blossom into the unique individual that I am today.

And yet, somehow I’m amazed at how often you doubt yourself. Right before the SAAN formal when you were helping me get ready, my heart sank when you were almost in tears and said, “What kind of mother am I if I can’t even tie a sari for my daughter?” I am also always surprised when you get frustrated about forgetting to make me payasam when I come home to visit. You always tend to get caught up in the little things which goes to show just how much you think about me.

You have gone above and beyond in everything that you have done for me. You have dedicated your life to being an amazing doctor, wife and mother. I am so proud of you and am forever in awe of your compassion, intelligence, persistence and tenacity.

No words, gifts or flowers will ever be enough to reflect the amount of love, admiration, gratitude and appreciation that I have for you. You are the most beautiful flower that I have ever seen. Happy Mother's Day to my inspiration, my role model, my best friend, my hero. I love you so much. Thank you for everything. If I can become even half of the woman that you are, then my life will have been a success.

Love always,

Sivanthy

Jason Rowland - MiC Managing Editor

I don’t think there’s anything I can say to display the gratitude, pride and love I have for you — believe me, I’ve tried. The sacrifices you’ve made for Justin, Courtney and I — and, in reality, for everyone — are too numerous to list. In the face of adversity, you show optimism. In the face of struggle, you see opportunity. And in the face of dejection, you see the chance to give someone a second chance. These core values, which seem to come so naturally to you, are ones I hope to one day embody as gracefully and easily as you do.

For some context, my mother lost her job at the height of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Despite enjoying her career as a saleswoman, she knew she had a higher purpose. After much deliberation, she decided to leave Corporate America to start a ministry that provides housing, clothes and food to low-income people in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. While trading completely different lifestyles certainly hasn’t been an easy process, it has been undeniably worth it.

So mom, this is for you. This may come as a surprise, but your time and energy spent giving to Eternal Life Christian Center was also time you spent training Justin, Courtney and me to be better people. I didn’t realize the significance of your work at the time — often asking “why do I have to move chairs?” or wondering why you needed to collect my own clothes — but now I see what you were doing. The value of having compassion and love for others, regardless of their past, is one that you sacrificed everything for in order to ingrain in me. Admittedly, I still have a long way to go, but having you as a role model makes me confident that one day I will reach the level you’ve achieved.

Most importantly, however, your tireless work has taught me that there’s more to life than just a paycheck. At the end of the day, what matters is the impact I have on those around me. From the hundreds of people you toil to provide for everyday, to me, your loving son, we can all say that you’ve made our lives immeasurably better. As if you had a professional scheduler, you always seem able to balance saving the world and making it to all of my ceremonies and events. Despite having the weight of the world on your shoulder, there was never a time I felt I wasn’t welcome to tell you something on my mind.

You always tell me how proud you are of me, but until now, I’m not sure I ever reciprocated the feelings. I want you to know that when people ask what my mother does, I tell them with pride about how you make the world a better place, starting with how you make my world a better place.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love,

Jason

Christian Paneda - MiC Summer Managing Editor & Senior Editor

When I think of superheroes, I don’t immediately think of the hyper-masculine figures in the movies. The first one that comes to mind is my mom. The “nanay,” or mother in Tagalog, plays a complex role in the lives of many Filipinos and Filipino Americans. If I imagine myself as the main character in the melodramatic feature film that is my life, my mom would definitely snatch the Oscar for best supporting actress. It’s easy to buy into the strict Asian parent stereotype or the very scary tiger mom caricature, yet I know my mom is none of those things. She’s one of the strongest, most caring, most selfless Filipinas I know.

In the Filipino culture, there is something that exists called “utang-na-loob.” Its context is so deep that it cannot be fully articulated in English. But to try, and hopefully not butcher, “utang-na-loob” is the system of social relationships of reciprocity to those older than you who have given you a relatively priceless gift in life that one who is indebted must continually work to give back. The thing is, you can’t give it back because nothing in the world can ever amount. And so you feel “hiya” or shame. Shame can be a bad thing, but in the case the with the utang-na-loob relationship with my mom, it comes out of being thankful. I’m so thankful for all the sacrifices she’s made, her courage to immigrate to the States and her strength to overcome all the racism and discrimination just so my siblings and I can have better, more privileged lives.

To my nanay, my mother, my mom, my rock:

I try my hardest to recreate all the Filipino food you make, but always end up failing because nothing compares to your sinigang or arroz caldo. Coming home means warm rice at the dinner table, knowing everything will be alright. And Ann Arbor, or wherever I end up for that matter, will always be second best because home to me is hearing Ilocano love ballads from my room or Filipino gameshows played off of dad’s iPad. Home is you telling me I don’t need whitening soap and you constantly mentioning how handsome I am (although the second part may be a bold-faced lie). You’re my style inspiration, teaching me how to get the all good deals. I’m still amazed on how you skipped a grade in school but never doubted it because of how wise you are. I’ve always wished to be as smart as you. You’ve taught me how to be proud of my brown skin and my Filipino heritage. You’ve taught me to stand up for myself and others, which I think is the most Filipino thing anyone can do.

I could give you the biggest diamond ring or even the world, and it still wouldn’t suffice. Thanks for always being one phone call away when times are tough in college. Thanks for everything.

Maraming salamat po. Mahal na mahal kita. I love you always.

Always Your Anak,

Christian