As we get ready for Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, we’ve been thinking about family and all the different ways we, as queers, go about family making. So we asked some of our favourite folks to share their family with us, starting with Catherine Hernandez.
“Mom. We’re doing the Huron carol. And it’s bullshit.”
[color]Radical single mom and playwright of The Femme Playlist talks about parenting her daughter[/color]
It was close to holiday season, and Arden was concerned about us attending her school concert.
“Mom,” she said with sorrow while placing an equally sorrowful hand on my shoulder. “We’re doing the Huron carol. And it’s bullshit.”
I knew what she meant. She attends a rather privileged public school in a rather privileged neighborhood because she has been designated as “gifted” (which, is in fact a special need, it just happens to be celebrated in our society) and is schooled in a program suited to her intellectual requirements. I told my ten year old daughter I wanted to support her anyway. I was just going to gird my brown, queer, radical loins.
I entered the school with three of my home daycare kiddos in tow, all of them wearing drawn-on mustaches to keep them from picking their damn noses. Immediately some kid at the school pointed at me and said “You look just like my nanny!”
I lowered my Filipina face to her eye level so that she would never forget it. “I probably look nothing like your nanny. But whatever.”
We entered the school gym and waited for the moment when Arden was to hit the stage. We endured choir teachers indulging in singing louder than their child choir members. We endured watching hijab-wearing students roll their eyes while holding signs about Christmas. We listened to songs about Hanukah and Kwanzaa but all to the tune of Jingle Bells.
Then the real magic happened.
My child went onstage with her class and began singing the Huron Carol. Some white teacher stood before them at the lip of the stage and began drumming on a cheap-ass dollar store version of an Aboriginal drum, feathers and all to the playback music. Emphasis on PLAYBACK. I realized this bitch was miming her drumming, with her eyes closed like she was channelling her 1/18 Chippewa great, great grandmother or something, and doing it for nothing, because her cheap-ass drum wasn’t a drum at all. It was a prop. Which, is often the case when it comes to cultural appropriation: full of props but no truth.
Arden looked at me with an “I told you it was bullshit” face and we both began laughing. Like, full belly laughing in this room full of conservative racist fools. The daycare kiddos chimed in screaming “AHHHH-DEN!!! AHHH-DEN!!! WE WUV YOU AHHH-DEN!”
And there you go. A glimpse into the life of a radical, brown, queer family. Bullshit every day, the strength to fight it, the swag to laugh it off. We dance to the beat of a different drum. But let me tell you something: we didn’t get this drum from the dollar store.