12 Years and Graduation Photos


Ah, a rare photo of the cellist.  He’s normally sparse around these parts, and I can totally understand. He’s 13, he’s a FULL teenager, and he has a right to his privacy. Today, however, I want to tout him a little bit, and give a reflective post, all at once. It might be lengthy and for that I apologize. 

The last two years has been pretty interesting for this kid. Last school year, he lost a principal that had been at the helm of his school for seven years, successfully completed an important year as far as secondary schooling goes, and kept a great attitude to boot. Well, as great of an attitude as a teen can. 

I’ve shared in many online forums and with teachers, and administration people that he has had it a bit rough. He’s not what people think a “typical” black boy should be. He doesn’t play football, or basketball, even though so many people feel that he should. Instead he loves drawing, tap dancing, and art in general. 

I’m sure you can imagine how conversations can possibly go between him and his classmates. However, today, I’m not here to rehash those things. I’m here to build up, and not bring to light the very negative things that somehow work their way through the recesses of our young people’s minds to cause them heartbreak, hurt, and just a general feeling of not mattering.

The cellist is:


It’s quite difficult these days raising a young black boy in America. For those of you who this might offend, well, it’s the truth. When I look at my son, I see awesomeness. When someone else looks at him, they may see a threat. Someone who needs to be put under authority. 

I see a child born and bred in the fear and admonition of the Lord. A kid who likes to laugh, and listen to music while pretending to clean, and someone who has three little people looking up to him. I see potential. I see an ability to change this world. I see a Nicholes. 

I see a kid who has been on the honor roll every year that he’s been in school. I see a kid that will continue to be on the honor roll into high school. I see a kid who loves making friends, and who loves learning. The challenge of it. The thrill of it. I see a kid who is so much a mashup of his mom and dad that it’s magnificent. He’s going to be SO much better than us. He’s already out striding us in places. I can’t wait to see what else he accomplishes. 

I see a goofball too. Someone who isn’t afraid to laugh out loud, and embrace it. He’s constantly searching for who he is, and when he finds a characteristic that is his, he owns it. I mean, to have parents like us, you kind of have to, no? 


On this day, he was on his way to school for graduation photos. Here in Chicago, we do have an 8th grade graduation. I tend to not make a HUGE deal about it, because I count graduation from post secondary school the “end,” but I know that all the steps that lead to it are important. 

I’m choosing to write about this particular day because it coincides with the anniversary of my sister’s death. Amazingly, she was ever so present this month, and especially the week before her anniversary. I often blame her for things that go wrong. Let me explain. If something doesn’t work out the proper way, I’ll say something along the lines of : 

“It’s Jessica’s fault.” 

That way, I blame someone who can’t technically say anything back to me, and well, that’s about it. It’s morbid, but it works for me. This entire 8th grade graduation get up. Totally Jessica’s fault. When my sister was preparing for her senior prom, she had a dry erase board with all of the items that she needed to complete in order to make that day awesome for her. It was frightening. She planned that thing like it was her wedding. It’s always weird WHEN you’re in it, but when we go back and think about it, it was the last time that she would get super dressed up for anything. I’m definitely hoping that this isn’t the case for the cellist, and I am not trying to bring that type of feeling over the post. I just want to let you all know the fervor in which this outfit came together. 

He needed gray. All gray. Every bit of clothing on his body is gray. Yes. EVERY bit. He needed a bow tie. He stated that if he couldn’t find one, then he would need me to make one. He needed a fedora as well – although I think that came because the collective has their own. His locs needed to be crinkled. Totally channeling the spirit of his late Aunt Jessica. I can hear her giggling right now. 

Crinkled Locs HFON

The process was exhausting, but to see him move smoothly out of the house on that day, proud of what HE picked, and looking like a gentleman, well, that made me proud. I had flashes of the pride that went into dressing back when my granny and grandpapa were younger, and it made me smile. Those rich browns encased in every color one could imagine. And here I have my own caramel baby, dressed to the nines in a color that is cool, mature, and so very him. 

I’m proud. Not in the sinful way, at least I hope not. But I am proud. I’m proud because society stated that having a child at nineteen would certainly ensure that he would lag behind others in a “two parent environment.” Nothing is ever stated that sometimes those two parents may not live as one for seven years, but then they’ll get it right. I’m proud because he is proof positive that villages rock. I’m proud because this is NOT just me and Mr. Houseful, but an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, great grandparents, and friends. Tons of friends. All of us have poured into him, and each day he reflects what we shine. 

I realize that no matter how much he may get on my nerves, I’m raising a decent child. Mr. Houseful is showing exactly what goes into becoming a great addition to society. I LOVE the ode to old-time ways of dressing. It makes me happy. 

There are so many more great examples of young black men than what is being portrayed on television, or in the newspapers. The representation is so small, yet so much bigger than what we are allowed to see. I want people to see my great example of black youth NOW. I don’t want those who know him now, to have to give accolades the next time someone thinks that the lives of black youth are not worth anything. It could easily happen and that scares me. 

My prayer is and has always been that I get to get old enough to see all of my children happy in their lives and older as well. I want them to LIVE on purpose. Be those activists and educators that this country so desperately need. I want them to be the artists and government to. 

And by this, a child shall lead. 

I love my cellist. 

It’s been 12 years since my sister died, and I can assure you, that she would love him too, and that makes me smile bigger than I anticipated this day ever would allow me. 



  1. Becky says:

    Natasha, dear – this was beautifully written. Your son is beautiful and you’re raising a smart, artistic man. <3 to you and your little ones always!

  2. Liz says:

    You wrote: “My prayer is and has always been that I get to get old enough to see all of my children happy in their lives and older as well. I want them to LIVE on purpose.” And then I hollered “AMEN!” loud enough to scare the dog awake. Awesome kid and great post, my friend.

  3. Sarah M says:

    I will say it right now… I am jealous that you have a cellist in you house! I LOVE LOVE cello music. And to have a SON that is so driven in the arts is WONDERFUL! Mamma you are doing something right with that young man. I don’t care what is viewed as ‘typical’ but you are raising an awesome young man who will bring your honor as a parent and joy to a wife one day.

    • Natasha says:

      He is such a talented kid too. I hate that the world that he lives in makes him feel inadequate for it. I’m hoping that we can counteract the negative and pour much into him so that he can be awesome and not jaded as an adult.

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