Ancestor Rena’s Crowning Moment of Truth

InnaRae - Clementon, New Jersey
Entered on August 8, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Too many of our ancestral mothers have suffered in silence…through the humiliation of being forced into the dark side of a capitalistic structure – trading their beautiful bodies for even the hope of staying alive on this side of creation. My foremothers’ tears ran inside as their blood swallowed the pain – giving life to a wail that traveled through our generations. Tempted to escape and/or anesthetize the pain, the choices made by many of the women in my matrilineal line prove that these cries need to be expressed because they need to be heard.

It is no longer hushed… that, at least one time in her life, my beautiful grandmother suffered through her choice to trade sex for money. Subsequently, until her time of transition, her spirit was cloaked in shame. Drawing its power from America’s hypocritical and oppressive societal standards, she debased and criticized her actions as low. The sad truth is that this system we worship was designed to fail her from the moment she was born a poor black woman in the early 1920’s. And let’s face it, not many women can say they know exactly what they would do while staring 11 hungry children in the eyes… no hope in sight. I know I can’t. In this same light, another woman who sells her sexuality to the world in the form of entertainment and suggestion might be respected by mainstream America. I ask which is more honorable, the hungry woman who uses sex to feed her children or the seductive starlet who makes a “legitimate” living doing the same?

I refuse to judge. But, what I can say is that rather than view my grandmother’s decision as a source of shame, I ‘made it beautiful’. Instead of accusing a scarlet woman, I choose to honor the strength in Rena – since she was committed to the pulling through and continuation of her family. She cried inside, ‘he might have my body’, ‘but…, her soul contended … never my spirit’. Yet, not one other person attended to it until now. Torn and fragmented, the Afrikan Slave Holocaust perpetuated this along with other adaptive behaviors that can be changed with truth and honesty. For me, her wailing found its way into my artistic space, inspiring my latest album release “Rena’s Moan”. And for that, I am grateful. Please check out the video section of this space…to the ending of the tribute song “Eye Candy” – as I shared these sentiments during her moment of sacrifice… proving to the world why the value of a black woman’s voice has a worth beyond all prices. Our resiliency and knack for survival are as much a mystery as the earth itself.