Kitchen Table Series
Selected by Charlie Foster
Interim Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services
I was moved by this image in so many ways. It reminded me of my childhood. It reminded me of wanting to grow up and be like the strong African- American women who surrounded me in my church and community. They were well dressed, committed to community, and worked hard. Having a strong work ethic wasn’t an option— it was the default.
We work hard in church. We work hard in the home. And we work doubly hard in our professions. We have to. To hold on to jobs that test our physical strength and ability to manage on small salaries, we must always give 100 percent.
The little girl in Carrie Mae Weems’s photograph is learning to commit to that challenge. It is being modeled here by a mother who wants her daughter to be successful. The mother dreams of a future for her daughter where she can achieve great success and be recognized as a dignified citizen. Too often this mother has lived through discrimination and microaggressions that kept her feeling less respected than her white counterparts. She dreams of a new world for her little girl. She keeps dreaming and working.
She lives through a reality, however, that reminds her constantly that a larger change needs to happen in the community. She lives in a world (country, community) that needs a “come-to-Jesus” moment where people remember that we all desire to live out our right of the pursuit of happiness. Until that change comes, both mother and daughter will keep on dreaming, keep on working.