Parenting Black Children in a Joyful and Sorrowful World

Book cover: ‘Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond’ edited by Valerie Mason-John. Now available on Amazon.


Diasporic Black parents are parenting in a complex time.  We are from the South, from the Caribbean, from the Continent, Harlem, Brooklyn, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, and beyond.  Our families are varied, multifaceted, rich in culture and wisdom, rooted in the cultural splendor of our African ancestry and rising up out of a legacy of slavery, displacement, and discrimination.  We are raising children, step-children, grandchildren, cis kids, trans kids, nieces and nephews.  Our kids are brilliant, challenging, special, gifted, compliant, defiant, unique.  We co-parent with spouses, parents, exes, partners and friends.  Our homes may be multi-generational or singly-parented, displaying layered patterns of kinship and care.

The parents of Black children may not be Black themselves, by way of interracial unions or adoption.  However, each and every one of us is parenting in a cultural climate of vast inequity where hate crimes are on the rise. We are all parenting in an age of technology that is changing our capacity for attention, connection, and eye contact.   

Before the pandemic, a 6-year-old Black boy with special needs whom I know, threatened to pull the fire alarm in his classroom.  The young teaching assistant told him that if he dared to do it, the police would be called and he would be arrested.  What kind of bias — unconscious or not — motivated a teacher to threaten this small child with arrest?  What effect did this have on the boy, and on the diverse group of children in the classroom who witnessed this exchange?  

Dharma wisdom can support us as we navigate the questions and complexities related to parenting Black children. Practicing mindfulness and compassion leads us to enlightenment, the on-going process of becoming a beacon of light to ourselves, our children, and our communities. Enlightenment also enables us to “lighten up,” to cast off the extra burdens of our fears and reactivity and find new ways of skillfully engaging with our children and the world.  The dharma enables us to hold and be held, fortifies us so that we are able to bear even the unbearable.  You and I – all parents and people! – can remind ourselves daily that the world is also full of love and the possibility of light, even in the darkest of times. 

Allyson Pimentel 

For more information about the book, check out this video. 

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