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A photo of Aireale Joi Rodgers and her mother//Courtesy of Aireale Joi Rodgers

For Mother’s Day, Northwestern University master’s student Aireale Joi Rodgers pens a vulnerable letter to her mother.

Dear Mama,

You and Granny taught me that I am made in the image and likeness of God.

I am holy. Divine. Limitless.

Like, if I told you that I wanted to fly,

You’d help me sprout wings

To soar the heavens to find the joy you say I deserve.


Yet, you say, “I wish I could’ve given you more,”

Mama, what more could I need?

You built a childhood for me that was filled with love.

There was never a day that I doubted how you felt about me.

Because even when I disappointed you,

You reminded me that I am “A Real Joy”.


You planted in me roots so deep

That I could never forget my origin,

Constantly reminding me that I come from incredibly strong stock.

Modeling how to harness our ancestral power

To build a life that brings honor to our collective legacy.


When Daddy died, you promised to take care of me-

To “raise me right”.

A responsibility you didn’t anticipate taking on alone.

I saw you relentlessly sacrifice to provide me with whatever I needed

To become who God called me to be.

You gave your life for me long before I even knew it.


You were my first friend, Mama.

You helped me form my first dream,

And pivot when it failed.

You have your Mama’s strength;

A tenacity I am proud to inherit.

I see how life has scarred you,

But, nevertheless, you persisted-

For us.


So it hurts when you say, “I can’t believe someone like you came from someone like me.”


My tongue stings when I use language that is foreign to you.

Mama, those big words don’t matter.

Language is fluid, adaptive, and culturally-grounded,

Like you.

Besides, research is about big ideas, tough questions, and compelling stories.

No one has taught me more about that than you.


So it hurts when you say, “I can’t believe someone like you came from someone like me.”


Mama, did you forget that you were my first teacher?

The lessons you taught, I carry with me.

My journey from our nest on the Southside of Chicago to the Ivory Tower isn’t about me –

It’s about us.


I bring you, Granny, and Mama Eva to class with me everyday.

I bring your wit, your humor, your “don’t-take-no-shit” disposition.

My mind, my body, and my scholarship is a reflection of you.

Mama, you are why I am surviving the white academy.


So it hurts when you say, “I can’t believe someone like you came from someone like me.”


B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. are all just letters.

My most precious title will always be your daughter.

I am someone like me because I came from someone like you.


So please, Mama, don’t forget your holiness.

That you, too, have wings and dreams and joy to find.

We can fly together.

I love you endlessly.

Aireale is currently a master’s student at Northwestern University studying the design and implementation of equity-oriented faculty professional development programs at white serving institutions of higher education. Raised by her mother, grandmother, and great aunt on Chicago’s south side, Aireale’s greatest strength is her faith in God and her people. #blackademic