Real Aunties Day, March 8

Real Aunties Day on March 8 celebrates more than your parents’ siblings and genealogy. This holiday provides an organic way to bring all the realness together, especially for Black, Brown, and Tan families and communities. We know that real aunties defy pronouns, are chosen kinfolk, sometimes biological, and some are ancestors. Aunties do the work in real life, physically, spiritually, and emotionally that deserve appreciation. We intentionally set March 8, International Women’s Day, which honors women’s hard work, as Real Aunties Day. March is Women’s History Month, a perfect time to remember aunts!

Cultural nuances about kinships, identity, and the intersectionalities of race, gender, and age are key to understanding how this holiday differs from other family holidays. Our family concept here expands the Euro-Anglo nuclear structure. We embrace Diasporan, global traditions where family is the community, and everyone is your kin. Real aunties are there for us with love, support, fun, and laughter. They bring a secret sauce that holds our communities together. Some aunts drive us crazy. Some aunts are trustworthy and are our go-to people. And best of all, aunts love being aunties!

#RealAuntiesDay History

This holiday was created in 2017 by Sylvia Wong Lewis as part of Auntyland, a media platform that centers on women and girls of color and explores multicultural aunt traditions through stories and events. Lewis believes that aunts are the most under-appreciated women globally, especially single women and those who did not birth children of their own. Aunts are expected to fill in the gaps with time, energy, and support. Most aunts enjoy and love the central role that they play in families and communities.

“This holiday is about decolonizing national holidays. We’re here to affirm. This is a reclamation! We want everyone to take one day, March 8 or the whole month of March, to pause, recognize, and show appreciation for all the hard work that aunties do,” said Lewis.

Lewis is grateful for her aunties, most of whom were Southerners, Caribbean, Black, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, women in her Chinese, West Indian, Creole BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) Mississippi, Louisiana, Harlem, and Brooklyn family and community. Lewis credits her aunties with positive guidance and intervention at pivotal times in her life.

“My aunties helped me to achieve, recover, and thrive in many areas of my life. Creating this holiday is a way to say Thank you and ask the world to join us in giving a global shout-out to real aunties,” said Lewis, a proud auntie.

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My Salvadoran Aunts

If someone asked me how many aunts I have, I probably wouldn’t get the number right—there are just so many of them. After consulting with my mom, however, I have confirmed that I have eight aunts in total. Four are my mom’s sisters and four are my dad’s sisters. Two are in Los Angeles, CA, one is in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and five are in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Those five I haven’t seen since the last time I visited my parent’s home country, which was in 2010 when I was 12 years old.

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Harriet Tubman Monuments

Harriet Tubman was America’s most fierce freedom fighter. She is our ultimate ‘Auntie’! “Aunt Harriet taught us courage and endurance,” said her own descendants who live today. She rose from brutal slavery to emancipate herself and countless others. That’s why we give tribute to Harriet Tubman.

Did you know that in Auburn, New York there is a 47-year-old tradition called the Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage? Visitors from across the globe visit Harriet’s gravesite in Fort Hill Cemetery in honor of her life and commitment to the freedom of African Americans.

This is just one among the many monuments to Harriet that can be found throughout the United States and Canada, almost mimicking her Underground Railroad routes. The monuments, which range from visitor centers to statues, where she is often depicted with a pistol at her waist or with a book in hand, are found mostly in the Northeast and Midwest but can be found in cities and communities throughout the U.S and Canada.

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Haitian pride and respect

Auntie Carmen Michel, in pink, with her sisters Viana & Martina.
By Yansi Murga

Carmen Michel is a Haitian auntie living in Queens, NY who loves cooking, traveling, and listening to Haitian folk and jazz music. She was the third of five children: two brothers, and three sisters, all of whom grew up in Jacmel, Haiti. Despite growing up there, she was the only one of the five who was not born in Jacmel. While her mother was pregnant with her, she went to visit her sickly mother (Michel’s grandmother) in a village called Decouze when suddenly she went into labor and gave birth to Michel. Although Michel is proud of her training as a teacher and nurse, she believes there is more respect to the roles that ‘aunties’ play in Haitian communities.

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Towards Black Excellence

Dr. Marta Effinger-Crichlow is a theater scholar, filmaker, and author of Staging Migrations Toward an American West: From Ida B. Wells to Rhodessa Jones. To hear Dr. Effinger-Crichlow on a CUNY Podcast discuss her Staging Migrations book, click here.  In that podcast interview Dr. Effinger-Crichlow described migrations as physical and symbolic and mentioned that she sometimes sees the world as a theater set.  How people speak, perform, and gesture are of great interest to her. The Chair and Professor in the African American Studies Department at New York City College of Technology-CUNY reflected on her family’s participation in the Great Migration from a small town in Virginia to Washington DC in the early 1900s. Growing up in DC, she recalled as a child listening to her mother and aunts tell stories. She believes that the roots of her creative work have roots in her mother’s and aunts stories. She heard them talk about many things, from the Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the riots that took place in DC following his assassination. She also heard about the migration– what it was like for her aunts and mother to leave their ancestral community Down South and adjust to a new city up North.

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