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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: memoir

A Letter to My Mother's Inner Child

jasmine banks

Hi Susan,

I want you to know that you are beautiful and powerful beyond measure. I want you to know that it is time to heal and thrive. Before you can heal, though, you need to hear some things. 

I'm so sorry that your family didn't believe you when you were brave enough to tell them what happened to you. I am sorry they didn't give you what you need to feel safe. Nothing that he did to you was your fault. You deserved to be believed, to be supported, and to be protected; it was wrong how much your family failed you. I'm sorry for the lies they taught you about yourself. You are not the troublemaker, the outcast, or the dramatic one. No. You were the family barometer. You know how butterflies and bees are the first to feel the impact of toxic environments? That is you, Susan. You are that powerful tender creature that alerted everyone that there was an overload of toxicity. Those folks thrived in the toxic environment, though, so they tried to crush your wings. 

But you survived.

I'm sorry you didn't have what you needed. I am sorry that you felt the constant anxiety and pain of not having enough to eat, the clothes you needed, and the warmth of routine and structure. You deserved safety and good love.  I'm sorry that you didn't feel like you had the option to follow your creative dreams. I want you to know that no matter how old you grow you always have permission to embrace your creativity. You are an artist. It makes sense that you abandoned art and creativity-- your fear and pain wouldn't let you imagine new worlds, so you abandoned it. You'll need to give yourself space to imagine again.

One day you'll marry a man and have two children. You'll use your resiliency and power to teach your two children how to navigate this world. You'll raise them to honor their Blackness. You'll teach them to fight injustice. You'll show your daughter, in particular, what it means to be a fierce woman and mother. Mother's aren't perfect, though and you'll hurt her. A lot. You won't believe her when she tells you about her sexual assault. Hurt people, after all, hurt people and you'll be confused about how to advocate for her-- you weren't given an example of that. She'll spend her teen years and twenties trying to reconcile her deep love for you with the deep wounds you've created. By her thirties she will understand you. She will understand why you made the choices you made. She will understand how your family and the world conditioned you and other sexual assault and incest survivors to self-blame and dismiss; to sweep the unsightly parts of abuse and violence under the rug. She will forgive you and move into an unshakeable respect and grace for you. You'll need to forgive yourself, though. That will be your most difficult task. You'll need to believe that she forgives you. She does. You'll need to tell yourself that you deserve grace, despite how heavy the weight of your regret is. You'll need to release the wonder and gnawing question of "what if I had believed her, what if I had acted differently?" The constant "what if" you put yourself through is further victim-blaming. You didn't know what you didn't know. You'll need to know that she advocated for daughter and protected her daughter like you never did for her. Like your mother never did for you. How astounding that you raised the daughter who would correct the family course and bring healing to all the women in your family who were never believed, protected, or fought for.

You did that, Susan. YOU birthed and raised and nurtured that warrior.

She was born from that pain, and now has a daughter who can thrive because of her actions. While she is healing, and her daughter is healing, it is time for you to heal too. Heal Susan. Release your regret. Let it float away and in its place let glorious hope, love, and grace fill in the cracks from the absent pain. May you be held together by the promise of what her daughter and her daughter and her daughter will do to transform the history of your suffering into deep and unmovable redemption.

Love Jasmine

The Early Years: A Name

jasmine banks

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Before we go any further there is something you should know about me. There are very few things I take extremely serious. I’ll crack a joke about mental health, death, and all kinds of other topics that leave people feeling awkward. People move away from me in order to make room for the eventual god-smack that will happen from my irreverent sense of humor. One of the most serious things in my life has been names and the act of naming.  My name is one of the most valuable pieces of heritage I was given. My full name is Jasmine Dione Banks. That is a strong name, right? My name is so valuable to me, in fact, that when I decided to marry at the tender age of twenty I decided to keep my full name. My parents took the task of giving me a name very serious. When my mother discovered she was pregnant with me, she set to the task of determining what I would be called: who I would be.  In the 80’s, the era of my conception and birth, people were still holding on to that hippie wave. By “people” I mean my mother. She was still all “free love” and “groovy”. She believed that the name she would give me would inevitably shape who I was in the world. It is the first thing that people interact with. My mother and father poured over books by ancient philosophers, historical accounts of strong women, and first-hand accounts of civil rights leaders. My mom recalls, “ I could feel how powerful you were.” To hear her tell the story, you’d believe she was about to birth Joan of Arc. “I knew you would be unique,” she’d reassure me, “every parent says that, but I remember a clear energy shift when I was pregnant with you.”  My father also took name giving seriously. He found himself dreaming about what kind of person I would be. My parents agreed to not talk about names they wanted until a set date. Since both of my parents felt that my name would be an emotional and historical gift, they set out to meditate and research individually. On the morning of the date they agreed upon, the first week in my mother’s last trimester, my parents went for a walk. The early morning sun was starting to kiss the skyline in Enid, Oklahoma. My father grabbed my mother’s hand and looked into her October Sky Blue eyes. He pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to my mother. She opened the small slip of paper and began to gently weep. On the paper my father had written, “Jasmine”. My mom pulled out a small  folded piece of paper of her own. She unfolded the paper and held it up to my father. A huge grin spread across his face as he read “Jasmine”, written on the paper in cursive. They both laughed and wept and knew: My name would be Jasmine.

I was named after the Jasmine flower.  The flower, to my parents, represented a a strong beautiful fragrance, with a juxtaposed gentleness in the mysterious bloom. My given middle name is Dione. Dione is a derivation of Diana, Goddess of the moon and hunt. Diana’s qualities are her physical strength and independence. They wanted my names to impart these qualities to me and manifest in my life.

Just kidding.

That whole story was made up. My mom named me Jasmine because she really liked a song called “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Croft. One day (probably while high on marijuana) my mom heard the song and it was soothing to her. “Blowin’ through the Jasmine in my mind” made my mom relax and so she decided to name me Jasmine. My middle name, Dione, came from my mother’s favorite Psychic Friend: Dionne Warwick. Yeah. I know! I discovered this painful reality about the origin of my name in elementary school. My class was tasked with writing autobiographies and interviewing our parents about our lives. The other kids recounted stories of inheriting names, being named after their parent’s favorite novels, and other really crazy cool name origin stories. Me? I got my name from a song that would one day be a jingle for a  ceiling fan commercial. This is one of my earliest memories of family angst. Lacking a name origin story with gravitas, I found myself rooted firmly in a neurotic space. I’d indignantly quiz my mom, “So you just liked a song and named me after it?” She would answer with the same puzzled, “yes Jasmine” over and over again. I suppose I should practice gratitude that I wasn’t named after Wham! “Careless Whisper”, the Billboard Chart Topper in 1985.  Glass half full, right?