On this second week of Women’s History Month 2021, I want to talk about a corner stone of the black community that is often overlooked. We all extol our mothers and grandmothers, for good reason. They are our first friends, our primary teachers, and our initial role models. But today I want to talk about the gift that is our aunts.
First let me be clear. You do not have to be the female offspring of a grandparent in order to be an auntie. You are automatically bestowed that title based on that relationship, but that is not a requirement. Some of my favorite aunts are not related to me by blood at all. (For the record, all of my aunts are my favorite.) My mother’s best friend, for instance, will always be my Aunt Kathy. My blood-related aunts all have best friends. Those women are also my aunts. I have a second cousin, whom I will also count as one of my favorite aunts. It can be confusing.
The title of aunt is granted to women, usually who are older than you, even by just a few years. It is possible to have an aunt that is your same age, but in this context aunts aren’t really your peers. An aunt is someone who can speak with some authority over you. She is wiser than you in some aspect or another. She can correct you, but she can also encourage you. Aunties want you to succeed because they wholeheartedly believe that all of our futures are bound up together.
A few years back, Ms. Oprah Winfrey, and director extraordinaire Ava Duvernay let it be known that they weren’t happy being referred to as Auntie. I think they misinterpreted the gesture as a reference to age, instead of as a reference to the relationship. In contrast, Representative Maxine Waters embraced the term millenials bestowed upon her. I can think of no more endearing term for a woman who served many generations.
That’s what aunties do. They mentor multitudes, and not just those who are related by blood. They assist in parenting. (No one person can raise a child alone. It takes a village, and every village should have at least one auntie.) I think of the Biblical midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who helped shelter an entire generation of babies from the wrath of Pharoah. (Exodus 1:15-21). My aunties make sure my kids and I are never hungry. They invite me to Bible Study and Sunday school, so that my spirit is always lifted. Sometimes, they rescue my kids from me. Sometimes, they rescue me from the kids. I could not be the person I am without their support.
Technically, I am an auntie now. I only hope I can live up to the legacy of the ones who came before me. I am hoping I am leaving a legacy for the ones who will come after.