When I lost my mother in 2008, Mrs. Kennedy started to play a loving role of mother to me and grandmother to my children. This is something so extraordinary because without asking, this remarkable mother just embraced me with her love, with her faith and with her strength to move forward. Mrs. Kennedy is the woman through which my mom connects with me and with my soul, to this day. When she talks to me or offers me advice, even the way she speaks to me or the words she uses to guide me remind me of my mother. I feel she represents my mother’s voice, yet, she is so unique in her way of mothering me, that for the last 19 years;  she has become my second mother, the woman that I will seek when I have questions or concerns that only another mother would know and understand. Just like me, she is the mother of three boys and she’s been an extraordinary mother to them. Whenever I need advice on something regarding my boys, I  find myself reaching out to her. Her consistent presence helps me deal with my own insecurity as a single mother who traveled way too much when they were growing up. She has become their loving grandmother, making time for anything they would need and unconditionally offers me her emotional support when I feel like venting or discussing anything.

One time I confessed to her that I was feeling extremely guilty for all the activities and events I constantly missed. She said to me, “You know, Ángeles, it’s not about being at every single occasion, it’s about being one hundred percent present when you’re able to make it. Don’t blame yourself for what you can’t attend, but make sure they know you are there when you are there.” I’d love for every working mother out there to understand the point she was trying to make. It’s about being completely focused on our children and unplugged from everything else when we are with them.

I often hear from Mrs. Kennedy that it’s important to always be grateful, especially for the good things life brings. She has always encouraged me to look up and forward, never back. When something bad occurs; she also helps me to recognize what’s happening, while trying to balance out the negative with the positive. Learning to have a heart filled with gratefulness helps you see the positive, but it’s also a path to staying mainly in a state of happiness. If I close my eyes and go through my past trying to see the people who were consistently a part of my life, both in the greatest joys and the deepest sorrows; Mrs. Kennedy is there, holding my hand in all those moments. She has been to all of my meetings, all of my conferences, every graduation, first communion and birthday celebration. Everything. Her love as a mother and grandmother to me and my children appeared all of a sudden, without me ever asking.

 I am so grateful to her because even with all that she has had to endure as a Black woman; her bright spirit and kind heart have prevailed. That is what is so extraordinary about Black mothers; their courage, the love they share, the strength to carry on with dignity and grace even when they are dealing with a myriad of societal issues and grievances.  That’s why for me it is a joy that I found in this country the opportunity to have a second mother, to have her for so many years, to love her deeply. My children and I feel unconditional love with her. We never know how people who will influence our lives are going to come to us. I never thought that I would have a Mexican mom and a second mom that is African American.

I never thought I would learn so much about the struggle of the Black community in this country. She has shared with me so many stories of what it was like for her to grow up in a place where there was so much rejection of her race, where there was slavery, where they had to fight so much to be considered “almost normal” and to be treated as human beings. I’ve learned so much from her, from her great heart of service, from her unwavering Catholic faith. I have learned so much about the African-American community in this country and the suffering,  struggles and longing for justice that individuals have fought decades for. There’s a yearning in her voice when she talks about the past, but she’s never bitter or negative. She knows that everything she has had in her life has been because of her effort and love for her children. 

Whenever she has the opportunity, she tells me stories about her sons when they were kids; their antics and how much she loves having them as her children. When we open our hearts and focus on seeking the best in every person, we attract some of that great energy. I think that’s what happened when Mrs. Kennedy and I started this long-lasting relationship. I love it when we are somewhere and someone asks how we know each other, and she says she’s my mother and I say I’m her daughter. So this year, as we celebrate Black History Month, I want to honor and celebrate my second mother, my heart, my loving compass and the most amazing mother I have been privileged to have for so long.

About the Author

Ángeles M. Valenciano serves as chief executive officer of the National and Global Diversity Council (NDC & GDC), becoming the first female CEO of this major nonprofit. In this role, she advances the mission of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Ms. Valenciano is a seasoned strategist with more than 24 years of experience in human resources, primarily focused on diversity, organizational change, and development. Ms. Valenciano was raised in Mexico and is a graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de San Luis Potosí located in the City of San Luis Potosí in Mexico with a degree in business and computer information systems. She holds an Executive Certification in DEI, Professional in Human Resources (PHR), and numerous Executive Leadership Certifications. As an inclusive leader, she is a proud ally to the LGBT community and chairs several committees for people with disabilities in the workplace. She lives in San Antonio, TX, with her sons. Follow the National Diversity Council and Ms.Valenciano on LinkedIn.

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