Mary-Magdalene & Jean-Phanuel: A Black Love Story

There is no love like a mothers love, and that’s on period! Meet Mary- Magdalene (MM) and her son, Jean- Phanuel (Jay) Chumbow. They are a mother-son duo who are constantly using their social media platforms to show the world what unconditional Black love looks like.

Amplify Africa: Can you tell us who you are and where are you from?

MM: My name is Mary-Magdalene Chumbow, and my son is Jean-Phanuel Chumbow. We are originally from Cameroon. My son has Kenyan blood in him, although we like to joke that I am more Kenyan than he is, since I grew up in Kenya.

Jay: My mom is a PhD candidate in Communication at Ohio University, and I am in the 6th grade. She is 30 years old and I am 11 – I play team basketball for Ohio Sting.

AA: Mary, how did becoming a parent change you?

MM: Ooohhh … this question could be answered in so many different ways. If I had been asked this a few times over the years I’d probably have had so many different responses based on where I was at the time and how motherhood came into play at said time. The one thing that remains constant, however, is that motherhood has shown me what unconditional and consistent love looks like in real life. As a Christian (my father being a preacher, and myself having found and accepted Christ as my personal Savior), we are constantly told about the love of God that knows no bounds. If this love I have learned of all my life, is over a gazillion times what I experience in this mother-son relationship I have enjoyed for 11 years now, I dare say that God’s love is indeed, limitless and everyone should strive to experience His love in every way.

Having someone whom you love unconditionally, is one thing; having someone who loves you unconditionally, is a whole different ball game! I now know what loving and being willing to lay my life down for someone means, and also enjoy having someone in my life who despite all that happens in life, loves me and accepts me for who I am. Such is the beauty of parenthood.

AA: Tell us about your favorite memory of each other

MM: My favorite memories of Jay could never be summarized even in a 1000-page document. I enjoy every moment spent raising him, and all the memories we build. I would say, however, that my fondest memories with him are the ones we build when throwing banter at each other, going on trips together, and when he decides to do house chores and serve me my evening tea along with dinner, without me asking.

Jay: I love that she takes me to basketball practice, soccer practice, and hockey even when she has work.

AA: What does the term “Black Love” mean to you? How does it affect how you relate to each other?

MM: Black love to me is the purest human expression of love, only witnessed when Black individuals are able to come together as family, lovers, or friends, to share moments that could not be experienced when shared with any other. While not dismissing what love in general is among people of different races and backgrounds, I have come to appreciate the love that exists among Black people. When we find people who have experienced similar struggles and who come from a background where all society does is put them down and expect nothing good of them, it is amazing to see these people put this aside and love purely. For Jay and I, I choose to set aside the stereotypical “Black single mother household” narrative which society has placed on families such as ours, where children raised in such homes are considered problem children or are condemned to a life of doom. I choose to raise Jay with discipline, love, respect, and friendship, ensuring that his story will not be defined by what the society says, but what God says of him. This love, respect, and friendship, is reciprocated constantly, as this is the form of love he has been exposed to.

Jay: Black love to me is when people (who are Black) support each other and enjoy being together.

AA: What kind of challenges, if any, have you had to face, and how did that impact your relationship?

MM: I would say that the biggest challenge as a parent, is constantly facing the reality that I am raising a whole human being on my own. This sends me into bouts of anxiety and panic once in a while, as I wonder whether I could have chosen better for him. In such moments, I shut down and this affects the mood in the house. I am not oblivious to the fact that it also affects Jay, that’s why I make time to also talk to him and pray about this, as well as seek support from my family and therapists. It’s a life-long journey, and we are learning to live with it every day.

AA: Jay, what is the best life lesson you have learned from your mother that you believe has made you who you are?

Jay: That I should always respect women and to love God.

AA: What is the best life lesson you believe you have imparted to your child?

MM: When you go through something, pray first. Talk to God first before complaining or crying. Maman will always be here for you; she is your number one advocate, no matter what. However, above her, God should come first.

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