Much of Cecile's identity is unrelated to her role as a mother. This is because she doesn't take motherhood all that seriously. A generally self-centered woman, Cecile seems to look upon her daughters as getting in the way of her quest for personal fulfillment. When she's finally reunited with them, tensions inevitably arise, largely because mother and daughters are on different wavelengths.
If nothing else, Cecile is an intensely driven woman, with a strong, overriding sense of purpose in life. Unfortunately, that involves abandoning her daughters and heading off to Oakland to become a Black Panther and a poet. If nothing else, this shows that Cecile has a purpose in life, even if its pursuit involves neglecting her duties as a mother.
It's fair to say that Cecile is not really cut out for motherhood. She's too much of an individualist to take on such an onerous responsibility as raising three children. And yet, despite her fierce individualism and sense of independence, Cecile, or Nzila, as she prefers to call herself, joins up with the Black Panthers, which, like all groups, insists on a certain degree of conformity among its members.
Cecile is a deeply creative person, as can be seen from her poetry and the huge importance she attaches to it. Indeed, she's so committed to her art that she even changes her name for it. As far as she's concerned, Nzila, not Cecile, is a poet's name. In taking on this identity, Cecile is further separating herself from her past and the three daughters that were a part of that past.