I met my best friend, Mateo Gin-Tarango when we were in the eighth grade, and we’ve been close since. Both Mateo and I were raised by single mothers. But we connected with a deeper understanding that being raised by single mothers actually meant having an abundance of a family rather than lacking a parent. Our mothers—tenacious and loving as they are—created networks of support systems of strong, influential women who mothered us. Women who brushed our hair, cooked our meals, picked us up from school, told us stories, and guided us through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Of these women, one stands out. She is Mateo’s grandmother, Mary Tarango whom they drew in the third grade when asked to draw pictures of their superhero.
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.
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.
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.
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.