My daughter’s name is Ori, which translates from Hebrew into English as “my light.”
When my wife and I dreamed her up —years before we started the process of actually creating her—we talked about naming her “Light,” in English. And then one day we discussed the realities of raising a little Black girl in our world, and how, in English, there is really only the word “light.” And it has all these meanings: light bulbs, light skin, light weight.
We didn’t want any of those associations for her. We wanted her to know she was fire— hard to contain, sparkly, illuminating, bright, beautiful, and filled with light. And she is; in her 20 months on earth, she has developed a soulful laugh, a deep curiosity for the world around her, a fierce independence, and a love for her curly hair. She is a flame that brings joy and laughter and light everywhere she goes. To the garbage men whom she compliments with “good job neighbor” as she walks to school, to her teachers at school when she responds “I guess so” to the option to play with blocks, and to me when she says “thank you Mom” after zipping up her coat.
And her joy is Black, because she is Black. She is Black joy.
Her laughter is Black, because she is Black. She is Black laughter.
Her light is Black, because she is Black. She is Black light.
Her beauty is Black, because she is Black. She is Black beauty.
On Hanukkah we talk a lot about bringing light to the darkness; as the story goes, a miracle happened: the oil lasted for eight days and prevented the darkness.
For Ori, and for all the Black babies who light hanukkiahs now—and will hopefully light them for decades to come—maybe this is the year we can celebrate that they, themselves, are fire: hard to contain, illuminating, bright, beautiful, and filled with light.
That dark light can—and does—exist, if only in each one of them. What a miracle they are.
Rachel Faulkner is the Director of Community Investments at SRE Network, a community organizer, and an anti-racist activist, coach, and eduactor. She lives in Washington DC with her toddler, Ori Justice, her wife, and her extensive LEGO™ and sneaker collections.