Although we have just celebrated Mother's Day, I have observed several different perspectives towards the holiday. For some, this holiday is a day of pure celebration of mothers and women in their lives who have impacted them in a major way. For others, it is a day that proves quite difficult due to the loss or passing of their mothers or matriarchs in their lives. For some, it is a difficult day because it serves as a possible a trigger to a potentially strained relationship with their mothers. And some people find themselves on a fluid continuum among all the previously stated.
I am celebrating my second Mother's Day since my mother's passing in 2012. Indeed the first year was difficult, but I have decided to create a new normal to support myself through the tough times. I absolutely miss my mother, but I have also decided to honor her memory by celebrating other women within my life and society that inspire me. One of these beautiful women is Monique Rivardé. Her life as a woman, mother, and community activist continually encourages me.
On November 6, 2010, Rivardé's son, Bobby Tillman, was senselessly murdered at a house party in Douglasville, GA. I had the humbling experience of sitting with Rivardé and interviewing her about her journey as a woman and mother.
As Rivardé shares the details of her life, she highlights one of the beauties of being a mother is her relationship with her children. Rivardé's countenance illuminates as she smiles from ear to ear, and reminisces about joyful memories with her children, Fashionee, and Bobby. She describes Bobby as silly and always making she and her daughter laugh with his quirky statements, and continuously being a supportive son and brother.
Rivardé says that one of the ways in which she copes with Bobby being murdered, is through the work of her community organization, BFAM, which stands for Bobby's Family. Rivardé, along with other committed family members, founded the community-based organization, which according to their website is to, "nurture the spirits of our youth and promote peace, love and respect along with self-worth." Rivardé expresses gratitude for BFAM because it pours back into her life, and keeps the memory of Bobby alive, while educating youth in the community about decision-making.
As a mother, Rivardé continually stresses the importance of being able to love yourself, and expresses her personal struggles along her journey. She shares many nuances that separated Bobby from many of his peers. Bobby had a special gift of simply being himself, making people laugh, and empowering them to appreciate and enjoy their lives.
Rivardé asserts that the youth that assaulted Bobby represent an increasing epidemic with many youth in today's society. Rivardé states, "The problem with the boys who murdered Bobby is that they didn't even love themselves. How could I expect them to respect my son when they don't even respect themselves? They didn't even care what happened to them, so how could I expect them to care about somebody else. We constantly tell the kids, 'respect each other, and love each other.'"
I am grateful for Monique Rivardé. Her life models many things, but one thing stays with me. She taught Bobby how to love himself by providing him the space to be himself and motivating him to be his best.
Although Mother's Day has passed, please take a moment to celebrate any woman who has had an impact on your life, and take a page out of Rivardé's book, and love yourself, your family, and friends.