“Growing up as an only child though I had four siblings was very lonely”, Zarinah El-Amin Majied conveyed as she recalled her childhood. Her mother, who left Zarinah’s older siblings Annie Pearl and Roosevelt in Mobile, AL a few years before she was born, came to California to search for a love she died looking for.
Incest led to the birth of her first child, Annie Pearl, and later a naive love with a married man who fathered her second child, Roosevelt. Ethel Mae Blackman was quite broken before the birth of her third child, Zarinah, whose father thought a country girl like Ethel Mae Blackman was not one to bring home to the family as a wife.
This heartbreak impacted how she parented Zarinah. “I would be left with random people when my mother worked or went out to drink and play cards,” Zarinah shared as tears rolled from her eyes. “When I was 15 I was left to live with a woman named Georgia who had 7 children of her own.”
Zarinah continued, “While staying with her I became pregnant with my first child Lorina.” Though Zarinah married the father of Lorina, the relationship did not endure. When Lorina was around two years old, Zarinah found herself at one of the lowest points in her life. She was using speed and partying, similar to what she had watched her mother do. One day after a two-day crash, Zarinah woke to find that her two-year-old Lorina ransacked their room and her diaper was heavily soiled. It was at that moment that Zarinah decided that she wanted more for her daughter.
Zarinah’s transformation began in the Nation of Islam. “I learned what it meant to be a nurturing mother, how to cook, how to sew,” Zarinah said. “I was further taught women are to be honored and respected by men and that premarital sex was a no no.”
Zarinah had seven children with her second husband and later one child with her third husband. Mothering was very important to Zarinah. Although being a single parent for most of her parenting life forced her to work outside of her home. Having to be absent came with many consequences, yet the consciousness and morality Zarinah found in the Nation of Islam continued when she transitioned into Sunni Islam.
Zarinah is not only the mother of nine children, but she also has 22 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. She broke the intergenerational chain of dysfunction that began even before her great grandmother was enslaved.
Zarinah’s message to everyone, especially young mothers today is to have faith that you deserve good in this life. “Faith is paramount. You must believe with your whole heart that things will not always be the way they are today even if you don’t believe you deserve more,” Zarinah said. “ Do the best for your child.”
Disclosure: Zarinah El-Amin is Oakland Voices correspondent Amelah El-Amin’s mother.