The Unspoken Truth: Bobbi’s Saga, Mary’s History

“This is the reality of black girls. One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”

– Amanda Gorman, Poet, featured in the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden (January 20, 2021). Sharing her experience of being racially profiled.

“What’s her name – Breonna something, I am sorry she was killed, but you know when you hang out with people with guns and shooting, you’re likely to caught in the crossfire.”

– Susan McCoy, Teacher of Forensic Sciences at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, GA. Comments made concerning the upcoming anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death. (Following her false and inaccurate comments she was called out by her students and subsequently placed on administrative leave)

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman, “Black Moses”, Civil Rights Activist, Freedom Fighter and Conductor, Underground Railroad.

A Tribute to Bobbi

“My empowerment is not about him, it’s about me.

I am not to blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It’s simply my responsibility to make this life.”

“About …Self.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

Once again it is with pleasure that I return to writing and with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 543,417 Americans as well as to the families of the more than 2.6 million people worldwide who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With March being Women’s History Month, and Monday of this week being International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, I honor the significance and importance of women’s contributions throughout history. However, in the spirit of empowerment and walking the landscape of self-discovery, I disavow the purely American celebration of Women History Month.

Regarding, Women’s History Month, I will advocate from the same position I took on the subject of Black History Month; Women’s History is and always will be American History and should be celebrated daily as such.

Just as I believe Black History Month unfairly relegates the whole of a people’s history, achievements, contributions, and the immensity of their pain and suffering to the shortest month of the year, then pack it away until next year, I hold similar views regarding Women History Month.

As I stated previously, Women’s History is and will always be American History. It is in my opinion it benefits systemic chauvinism to limit the acknowledgment of their history, achievements, contributions and, the immensity of their psychological suffering to 31 days a year and then place it all on dusty shelves until next year. 

In this post, I seek to honor and acknowledge the achievements, courage, and sacrifices of two African American women.

The first I seek to honor is Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner of Monroe, NC. She is a historical figure whose accomplishments, dur to systemic racism, have been hidden from view. Subsequently, with the ending of Black History Month, her accomplishments would have gone largely ignored if it had not been for the awareness of Belinda Kendall, CEO and Founder of Promise Media Group, a strong proponent of creating awareness of African American people’s contribution to history. The second person I seek to honor is a contemporary of today. Her confidential name is Bobbi.  Bobbi has been my patient for 10 years. Bobbi is a sexual abuse “striver.” As a striver, she has pushed beyond “survivorship” and is now pushing into empowerment, as she continues to walk the landscape seeking self-discovery.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an inventor and as such a public figure. Bobbi, is mother of four children, recently retired and as such is a very private person. But what these two women share, is the accomplishment of not only surviving, but they empowered themselves to strive despite the systemic racism they endured as African American women in this country.

Sharing their stories are not just footnotes in Black History or Women’s History, rather they are those of American History.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006)

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s legacy has been denied from her by omission and silence. She is the inventor of the Sanitary belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket. It was the first generation of what would become the sanitary pad. This was an idea she created when she was just 18 years old, long before the modern-day maxi pad and at a time when women were still using uncomfortable and poorly absorbent materials such as cloth rags or balls of cotton during their period. Shortly after registering her patent, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s invention garnered interest from a manufacturing company but was quickly rejected once they found out that she was black. Systemic racism prevented her from experiencing any financial gain from her invention. Decades later, when her patent expired and her idea became public domain, it was taken, and copies were manufactured well into the early 1980’s without any mention of its original inventor.  

This information is significant because it transformed the lives of women. Yet, as important as it was, it was held from production and use for 30 years due to systematic racism adding to the psychological impacts and controlling the physiological trajectory of not only black women but all women regardless of race. 

As a man, and as a black man, I felt psychological impacted by this information which had been denied to me. I cannot imagine the impact this trauma has had on the lives of women. As a man, I wanted to speak out not just to be heard but to listen as well. In response to this story, which came to me by way of LinkedIn, I wrote:

“Hmm.  Interesting. WTF (frog)? Racism over sanitary pads? Racism over …WTF (frog), menstrual flow?  Good Lawd? Do I believe my lying eyes?”

I know it would be insensitive to laugh at the ridiculousness of this issue but the idea that racism found its way into something as ubiquitous as menstruation products garnered that initial response but while doing so, I recognize that it is the failure of particularly African American men to understand the psychological impacts and trauma of systemic racism as others seek to control the bodies and the normal human process of the black female body.

I had no idea of either this racist occurrence or that a black woman invented sanitary pads. This is the consequences when others holding hatred of dark skin, seek to control not only access, the credit for the patent, but then hiding their actions by limiting the information being shared and the timing in which the information is being disseminated.  

A black woman’s body being psychologically impacted by systemic racism and yet where do we as black men stand? What do we say? How do we educate our sons? What supports do we provide to our daughters?  Partners?  Spouses?

“So, you didn’t know? – Now, you do. What? Not your problem?  Really? It’s traumatic. – Make it your concern. Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

– Dr. Michael Kane, clinical traumatologist, LinkedIn (published 03.08.21)

“Bobbi”

In the past I have shared excepts from the journals of Bobbi’s saga. Unlike Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, Bobbi didn’t invent or patent items which transform the lives of others.  Instead, Bobbi’s saga, the life of one Black woman, represents the silence of the many whose voices have not been heard.

At the age of four, Bobbi was viciously raped by the landlord of her family’s home. Threatened with the deaths of her mother and sibling, she bored the silence of this traumatic physical and psychological injury. Between the ages of nine to twelve, she was repeatedly raped and sodomized by her stepfather. Following being told of his intent to impregnate her, she summed up the courage to tell her mother. 

Her mother reacted by physically beating her and threatening to blind her with her fork. When Bobbi resisted, her mother forced her into the foster care system then spread lies about her in the community and church saying, “she raised her hand to me.” By doing so, her mother kept her social image and bearing intact while destroying her daughter’s.

And what about Bobbi? Sexually assaulted by her stepfather, physically assaulted, and rejected by her mother, abandoned by extended relatives, and shunned by her church and community. By the age of 12, she was alone in the foster care system. Bobbi remained in foster care, residing in four different homes until she aged out at 18. She went on to have a successful career in public service, married and raised four children. She was intent on protecting them from experiencing the same abuse that she had endured. She succeeded.

For 50 years she kept the stories of her life to herself, suffering in silence and then following her children reaching adulthood, her world suddenly crashed, and she began psychotherapy. That was eleven years ago.  Eleven years of:

  • Uncovering the Unspoken Truths
  • Discovering and sharing what was learned
  • Recovering and healing the psychological wounds

And this writing today is a continuation of Bobbi’s Saga.

March 1st, 2021

“I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I spent the whole session reading my journal and talking.  Dr. Kane said it is getting lighter. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. When I buy things for myself, I would feel like I deserved them because of all I went through in the past.  I know whatever I buy won’t relieve the pain, but it would make me feel better for a while.” 

“I was glad that I survived all the pain I went through. The pain also isolated me from others. I thought the pain would never go away. Only if I could had shared what happened to me with someone else. I remember when I first told my story to Dr. Kane. I was shocked that the pain didn’t go away or lighten.”

“I couldn’t tell anyone else. My husband was closed off and didn’t understand my pain. I didn’t share this with my kids. I thought others might think and look at me differently. I was so ashamed. I don’t think anyone understands how ashamed and dirty I felt. I felt that way for a long time.”

03.01.21 (evening)

“I remembered to call Dr. Kane tonight. He realized that today’s session was a difficult session.  I am still thinking about today’s session as the pain makes me want to isolate. It reminds me of how much I wanted from my mother. I wanted the love that she wasn’t able to give. I then married a man who loves me but isn’t able to show it.”

“I feel anxious and depressed tonight. I appreciate Dr. Kane talking to me on Thursday and Sunday nights. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in over a month. I hope they stay away. In talking with Dr. Kane, we talked about my experiences in foster care. Being alone, having a bedroom for the first time, food rationing, having to eat from 100 pounds of beans and 100 pounds of rice and no meat for a month. The other foster kids not wanting me there.”

“Me trying to kill myself in a receiving home by smoothing myself with a pillow but not being able to. How lonely I felt in foster care. Feeling that no one loved me or cared about me.  Living in intense pain knowing that I was in foster care being cared for as a source of money.”

“It is sad that Black people are not often foster care parents for the right reason. I decided when I was twelve that I would a foster parent when I grew up. I wanted to be a foster parent for babies or teenagers. I wanted to give back what had been given to me. I wanted to select the two ages that was most difficult to take care of. I planned on doing this when my kids became older.”

“When I told my husband what I had wanted to do and how important to was to me, he stated he wanted no part of it. I tried to explain to him why I wanted to be a foster parent and how long it had been a dream for me. He didn’t want to discuss it. He just said no. That hurt me. It meant the end of a dream. I had wanted to give back some of what was what was given to me.”

“I watched Meghan Markle on a special with Oprah tonight. Meghan said there was a point where she did not want to live. She went to the royal family and asked for help. She was told no, that wouldn’t look good. Oprah asked her ‘are you saying you were suicidal?’ She said yes and I was scared. She told her husband. He said he didn’t know what to do either. She had asked multiple people for help and was unable to get it.”

“I thought about my own suicidal thought and also about being scared. Meghan said she had thought every moment of the day.  I remember being like that. It said to me that it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It is the amount of pain you have and how much you can stand. Too much pain makes everything impossible to bear.” 

“People who haven’t had immense pain can’t imagine life not being worth living or the depth that pain can’t get to. It is difficult to explain that to others. One of the things Meghan said was she was so ashamed for having the thoughts. People without the pain can’t imagine being ashamed.”

“I am so relieved that the suicidal thoughts have been gone for two months. That makes me feel safer and not so alone. I told my husband and in telling him it was a relief to me. Tonight at 10:30 I was thinking about suicide and reflecting how those periodic nightly phone calls to Dr. Kane kept me alive. I appreciated those phone calls as they let me know that I could live another day.” 

“I recall the promise I made to Dr. Kane to call if I was going to commit suicide. I could never imagine making that phone call and I had promised. I am alive. I am still here. I will live to see another day.”

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

“If you always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

– Maya Angelou

I never met Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner. I wished there had been that opportunity to sit with her and listen to her story, her struggles, defeats, and achievements. One could say that she was a powerful black woman who overcame the psychological impacts of systemic racism, achieving a patent over a product that is beneficial in the lives of women around the world. I remember as a boy buying sanitary pads for my mother and my embarrassment in doing so. As a husband and father, I recall buying sanitary pads for my spouse and daughter, watching the female cashier hurriedly placing the items in a covered bag and just as quickly myself removing the items and proudly carrying them in arms for all to see.

There is no embarrassment or shame. No one can make you feel something that is not there.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelve following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Bobbi’s Saga

Bobbi is my hero.  Sexually abused at an early age. Betrayed by her stepfather, assaulted, and rejected by her mother and shunned by her church and community, Bobbi struggled, surviving in a state foster care system in which she knew no love and understood she was nothing more than a means for income for those taking care of her.

Shamed, feeling dirty and used by others, she graduated from high school while in foster care, aging out of the system.  For 50 years feeling she would be judged harshly, she never said a word to anyone about the terrible things that happened. Instead, she married, raised four children with the commitment to provide to them the protection in childhood and adolescence that she was denied.

Although she states it was her lifelong dream to become a foster care parent, clinically speaking, in reality, this was her identity and her “saving grace”.  Following her children, aging-out into adulthood, Bobbi was devastated by her spouse’s refusal to support her “dream” of becoming a foster parent.

Being a parent and seeking to foster parent was Bobbi’s way of not only protecting vulnerable others, but it was also a means of insulation from her own traumas which she had carried in silence for 50 years. With her children, grown and now denied the opportunity to provide a shield to others, she was left to face her traumas alone.

I believe in life things happen for a reason. Like in the story of the phoenix, the mythical creature that bursts into flames only to rise out of the ashes, Bobbi’s saga and the weight of silently carrying the psychological impacts for 50 years coupled with the devastation of no longer having others to protect, created a fiery inferno of hopelessness, powerlessness and impending death by suicide.

Her actions led her to psychotherapy, medication management and the desire and commitment to live. Bobbi rose from the ashes and is now actively involved in walking her landscape and in doing so, “living the life she wants and not the life she lived.”

Imagine, sitting in psychotherapy 2-3 times per week for 11 years, following the SELF (Self-Empowerment Leaping Forward) protocol.           

Placing oneself into

  • A safe and secure…
  • Space to either…
  • Sit in silence or…
  • Speak openly about…
  • Secretive (hidden and rooted)…
  • Submerged (unresolved)…
  • Substances (materials/impacts)…
  • Surfacing (arising) upon…
  • Self’s psychological landscape

Bobbi is not only my hero, she is my blessing. Where others may see courage and strength, they failed to see her empowerment. Where others would doom her to the status of being a “survivor” she has become empowered.

She has empowered her SELF to become a “striver,” setting her pace and direction as she continues to seek self-discovery and to walk her landscape.

Bobbi’s Saga, like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, is a story of American history. And like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, she too deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelf following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. 

Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

Dreams -Nikki Giovanni

in my younger years

before i learned

black people aren’t

suppose to dream

i wanted to be

a raelet

and say “dr o wn d in my youn tears”

or “tal kin bout tal kin bout”

or marjorie hendricks and grind

all up against the mic

and scream

“baaaaaby nightandday

baaaaaby nightandday”

then as i grew and matured

i became more sensible

and decided i would

settle down

and just become

a sweet inspiration

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

One thought on “The Unspoken Truth: Bobbi’s Saga, Mary’s History

  1. What a wonderful tribute to Bobbi and Mary. Thank you for the well-written words about two women whose stories have won a place in my heart. Their strength is the type women need to walk the landscape of life every single day in life.

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