All Articles Tagged "black children"
Our children our being introduced to blatant racism at an alarming rate. In a country where their brothers, cousins, fathers as well as sisters are being shot and killed by police, it has become even more necessary to discuss racism at an early age. But, sometimes you’re forced to do so without warning.
This was the case with mother and award-winning blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley who uprooted her Chicago life and moved to one of the whitest parts of the country, Maine. She discusses it all on her blog Black Girl in Maine. When she isn’t hitting the keys you can find Shay working as the Executive Director of Community Change Inc., a civil rights organization in Boston that has been educating and organizing for racial equity since 1968.
Shay’s story, “When Gelato Gets Racial Or A Little Girl Hears The N-word For The First Time” is from a while back and we keep coming back to it…read it and let us know how you’d react:
As the wheels continue to fly off my personal life, moments of simple joy and normalcy are increasingly hard to come by. My son’s unexpected visit home this week promised to be an opportunity to simply be present with family and savor the simple joys of togetherness. To share in the love that makes us a family, without the heady labels that often weigh us down.
Yet, as a mixed-raced family in a white space, the reality is that anytime we leave our house as a family, we risk incurring the wrath of the ignorant and hateful. To partake in the joys of the first treats of spring can turn ugly without notice and, sadly, a visit to Maine’s most populous city yesterday was the day when the ugly became personal and my nine-year-old daughter learned that there are people who will never know her essence but instead will reduce her to nothing more than a nigger.
I had no intentions of blogging about what happened to my family yesterday in Portland, though in a fit of anger, I did tweet about it in vague terms. However, our degradation was witnessed by many, including a local news anchor who shared what she witnessed on her Facebook page and when a news anchor shares such a tale in a state the size of Maine… well, it seems I should just write about it myself.
My husband, son, daughter and I were walking in downtown Portland in an area known as the Old Port. The Old Port is a cute little area with cobblestone streets and an assortment of boutiques and eateries that draw crowds. We had already shopped at several local shops and were off to grab gelato before heading back to our little hamlet when suddenly and without warning as we were waiting to cross the street, a carload of young white men approached and without warning, the young man in the passenger seat yelled out very clearly and very loudly, “Hey, niggers!”
In that moment, I was frozen, I was scared… I was hurt. Yet before I had time to process what I was feeling, my son dropped the bags he had been carrying and ran off after the car. As I snapped to and realized that my son might be doing something foolish, the sounds of my daughter wailing for her brother to not run pierced my soul. I called out to him, too, in the hopes he would stop but he said he had to run and never paused for a second.
We stood there unsure what to do next, a sense of shame seeping into our souls. To be othered so publicly in such a vile manner is not a comfortable feeling. In that moment, the three of us stood, not sure if we should run after my son. My husband walked across the street to see if he could see our boy — he couldn’t. My husband asked if I felt he should go after him — I said no. We needed to be here when he returned.
In those excruciating moments, nothing was said to us, though what seemed like minutes later, a white man crossed the street and asked if we were okay. I explained what happened and he asked if I could recall what the car looked like and that he would go look for my son once his own ride arrived to pick him up.
Eventually, the standing became too much and the weight of worry caused me to start walking and look for my son, while I had my husband and daughter stay put. I walked a few blocks down the street and came upon my son who was walking back our way. He wasn’t harmed but his anger was apparent.
As we walked, I held his arm just as I had done when he was a small boy which, considering he is now a full head-plus taller than me, is laughable. I asked him why he ran, he told me he ran for every time growing up in Maine that a grown man had called him a nigger and he was too little to do anything but hang his head. He ran because he is tired of hanging his head and feeling nothing but shame. He ran because having his baby sister hear those vile words was simply not acceptable to him. He ran because a pack of white men calling his mama a nigger was not okay.
He knew the risk inherent in running but he also knew that at 23, he is tired of stuffing down the weight of racism and being asked to be the “better person” by silently taking the abuse and waiting for society to change when it clearly has little impetus to do so. He realized that sometimes, a man has to be willing to risk everything, including an ass-kicking or a jail cell, to right some of the wrongs in this world. It may seem… or maybe even be… foolish, but there comes a time when one is simply tired of dealing with injustice.
I have spent the last 11 years writing about race and racism. I head one of the few organizations in the United States dedicated to anti-racism work. While I can go into an academic head space about racism, the fact is it is very different when it is your family and your children living with the reality and weight of being different and being seen as less than fully human. It hurts and if you think about it too much, it will crush your spirit. Yesterday’s events were a psychic gut punch in a week that had already doled out a more than a few psychic kicks.
When I tweeted about the exchange, I was literally blowing off steam on the ride back home and had no intention to really talk about it again. But waking up to numerous messages and to see my painful exchange shared publicly and in detail, well… I am grateful for the anchor’s observations but I am also saddened — saddened that she was not comfortable enough after seeing the entire exchange to come over and ask “Are you okay?”
In my professional work, I work with white people on race and the white American culture is an all-too-polite space where too many times white people don’t speak up and unfortunately, silence can be harmful. Racism is a system, and that silence upholds that system even when we don’t believe we are actively creating harm.
In having the story go public, it created many questions and one being: What happened afterwards?
How would you react in this situation?
The school to prison pipeline is real. Very real. So much so that a 6-year-old, little girl was handcuffed for taking candy from her teacher’s desk.
After Madisyn Moore, a student at Fernwood Elementary, in Chicago, took the candy, the school resource officer decided to teach her a lesson.
Almost an hour later, when her mother Marlena Wordlaw arrived at the school, she found her daughter handcuffed, sitting in a dark stairwell. In an interview with NBC Chicago, Wordlaw said she asked the resource officer why he had her daughter in cuffs. “He said, ‘because I’m trying to teach them to stop taking stuff that don’t belong to them.’”
Little Madisyn said the officer “snatched me out of my class. He made me get out in my handcuffs.” She told reporters, “They hurted.”
Wordlaw said that when her daughter was removed from the stairwell, after 50 minutes, she was crying.
The principal attempted to apologize for the incident but Wordlaw was not willing to receive it. “I don’t accept your apology ever. I’m more angry than anything because it’s my only daughter. I feel like anything could have happened to her. Somebody could have touched her. She’s in the dark under the stairs.”
She told reporters that she has plans to file a lawsuit.
It’s amazing how school resource officers are used these days and the attitudes with which they enter the classroom. For the life of me, I can’t understand why a teacher would need an officer to handle a child who stole candy from a desk.
Certainly, the little girl wasn’t right to take candy that didn’t belong to her. But as a teacher, you should be fully capable of not only disciplining a six-year-old, in your classroom, without outside help, especially for something as small and trivial as taking candy. Loss of recess and a stern lecture would have done the trick. These are consequences a six-year-old can process and understand. These are consequences that would have been benefitting of her action.
Hell, Dylan Roof was given a burger when he was arrested. And he killed nine people during a Bible study. This little girl took a piece of candy and was bound and locked away in the dark as if she’d done something outside of the realm of normal, childhood behavior. Having this child placed in handcuffs for a violation she didn’t even understand is not only lazy teaching and overzealous policing, it sends a very strong message to a very impressionable child about what people in authority think about her and how they can treat her unjustly. Her mother is absolutely right to believe that an apology is not enough. At the very least, the teacher needs to be heavily monitored as she receives additional training on handling classroom conflict. And that resource officer needs to be suspended/fired. An officer who would handcuff a six year old isn’t too far off from a grown man slinging a teenaged girl’s body across a classroom for refusing to leave her seat.
You can watch the full interview with Madisyn and her mother in the video below.
Telling Our Stories: Marjuan Canady, Author Of The Callaloo Book Series, Talks Diversifying Children’s Literature
Author and playwright Marjuan Canady, 29, has set out to address the desperate need for Black storytellers to produce narratives for our people. And most importantly, for our children, so that they can witness and learn more about their incredible history.
A 2014 study by Cooperative Children’s Book Center also analyzed by Lee & Low Books reported that 37 percent of the U.S. population is made up of people of color. Additionally, the U.S. Census predicts that by 2060, 56 percent of children under the age of 18 will be non-white. Yet only 10 percent of children’s books in the past 21 years have contained multi-cultural content. Canady’s Callaloo series addresses the disparity and allows this generation to take pride in where they come from and to love their Black and brown skin.
Canady recalls that her love for storytelling began as early as the age of three. Like many children, the stories shared with Canady as a child enriched her life and even shaped her dreams for the future.
“I had a love and appreciation for stories and the arts for as long as I can remember, which now I know has played a huge role in my artistry today,” Canady said. “I had and still do have a very wild imagination, and that was all cultivated as a child.”
Canady started her career in theatre after studying everywhere from the Duke Ellington School of Arts, to Fordham University and New York University. With theatre as the base of her love for storytelling, Canady started her journey off as an actor and then began playwriting. Unbeknownst to her, one of her plays would birth her first children’s book.
“Back in 2012, I didn’t necessarily intend to create a children’s book. I actually didn’t even know what I was doing, “Canady said. “I had just completed my second play, Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, with two performances in New York and Washington, D.C. The play was full of carnival costumes, dance, jazz music and Caribbean folklore. The play was really an extension of my own cultural upbringing as a child born in the U.S. with Trinidadian roots. A good friend of mine and master visual artist from high school, Nabeeh Bilal, saw the play and approached me about developing it into an animated series and children’s book. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles, and he was living in D.C. and we orchestrated developing the book via Skype meetings and icalendar. We were deeply committed to this project, and it was such a fun and organic process.”
As Canady and her partner Bilal began researching and working together they discovered some harsh realities about diversity in children’s media.
“Neither of us had any experience working in the children’s publishing world, so everything was brand new. Once we really began to do the research, we learned of the shocking disparity in the children’s book world. Really, in all of children’s media, including animation, television, interactive games and books,” Canady said. “There is little to no content being developed by artists of color with children of color at the center. The more we got deeper into the work, the more we became so much more committed. For me, it’s not just about books, but about telling fully rounded, culturally accurate, inclusive and compelling stories in books, live performance, animation, digital content, games and classroom materials for all children to enjoy, learn and love.”
Out of this meeting of artistic minds, the Callaloo book series was born with Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale as its first installment. Callaloo highlights the adventures of a young dreamer named Winston, who is magically transported to the island of Tobago from Brooklyn after being sent to the store to retrieve ingredients for his aunt’s callaloo dinner. Blended brilliantly with traditional Caribbean folklore and present day inner-city life, Callaloo provides children with a myriad of learning opportunities in one beautifully crafted story. This was Canady’s goal.
“I want to use Callaloo as a tool for cultural literacy to not only educate in traditional methods — reading, vocabulary, math, geography — but to teach values. Such as tolerance, cultural difference and appreciation, kindness, diversity and acceptance,” Canady said. “I think these are values that are missing in the world, and we have to start instilling these values in children from an early age.”
In order to begin teaching these values through Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, Canady is involved in community outreach projects at schools and libraries where she reads the story and discusses it with children. To aid in her storytelling, Canady has introduced puppetry into her live readings, bringing Winston to life, which further captivates the imagination and hearts of the audience. “Nabeeh performs the puppet of Winston while I read the book. The children and adults absolutely love him.”
Canady’s success thus far was not easy. It is an enormous task to develop stories featuring characters who are Black.
“I have faced discrimination as a new, young Black writer in this particular field, ” Canady said. “I remember when we first started developing the book. Many literary agents and publishers told me I didn’t have enough experience, and the story was not interesting enough, and there was just no market for these stories. This actually fueled me even more because I knew this was absolutely not true. The truth is there is a much bigger problem in the entertainment and publishing world when it comes to people of color producing their own content. Large companies don’t believe people of color’s stories are valuable because they don’t understand it, and they don’t see it as profitable. Although we have faced some challenges, my team and I decided not to let that stop us. I think we do need to discuss these inequities, however, we also have to create solutions and plans of action to create work and sustainable methods to compete in these respective industries. We also have to support artists who are combatting these stereotypes.”
In spite of her challenges, Canady is grateful for the vast amount of support and love she has been shown on this journey. “The Caribbean and African-American community has been tremendously supportive from the beginning,” Canady said. “Teachers, parents and arts educators all see the value and need in what we are doing. Thanks to our local support, Callaloo is available at Barnes & Noble, over 20 national and international libraries, on Amazon, and other online platforms. The best part of this process is that we get to talk to our audience and find out what kids actually like and what parents want to buy.”
For those upcoming Black writers who are ready to share your stories with world, Canady says that your voices deserve to be heard.
“Live the best life you possibly can and discover your voice. Study those who have come before you and be open to new people, possibilities, and experiences,” Canady said. “The best thing about writing is that there is no formula. You can be free to say what you want in whatever way you believe. Black female voices have systemically been silenced in our history, but the strength, resilience, and vulnerability we possess are our secret weapons.”
One thing that never changes in the Black community is that no matter what obstacles we face, we are built with the endurance and dauntlessness it takes to press on. These characteristics are passed down from generation to generation. These are characteristics our children deserve to encounter early on in their childhood. It’s up to us to make sure it happens by supporting Canady and other young Black women like her who seek to share our stories with the world. Who else can tell our stories better than we can?
Visit callaloothebook.com for more information and to sign up for their mailing list.
It’s prom season again. And you know what that means: time to make fun of young adults because deep down, we are all horrible and unhappy people.
Okay, that may not be entirely accurate. But each year, websites dedicated mostly to Black celebrity gossip and even thought, contribute at least one slideshow to what folks deem as the unrefined or “ratchet” prom attire. These slideshows regularly feature pictures of young teens, usually young Black girls, decked out in everything from revealing dresses with open backs, stomachs, and high slits; long tuxedo trains that look like something Blade would wear; outfits made out of fake Louis Vuitton prints; and teens in dresses made out of old Doritos, Ramen noodles bags and whatever the hell these two have on…
For many folks who indulge in this sort of mockery, the clowning of prom attire has become almost like a sport, with folks debating and even competing over who had the most ratchet outfit of them all. But I never quite understood the enjoyment we get, particularly as grown ass adults, sharing pictures and laughing at what are essentially children – albeit awkwardly dressed children, but still children.
For one, there is obviously a class distinction at play within all of this mockery. In most instances, these are pictures of teens who hail from communities, which are often too poor to shop at high-end boutiques or even rental places for more “suitable” attire. They “splurge” the best they can to have the experience, which by most standards is the crux of normal teenagehood. And when they can’t splurge financially, they use their best creativity to come up with something unique and personal to them in the hopes of making their special nights memorable. That includes commissioning that one aunt who says she can sew, but ends up turning that sky blue faux leather alligator print material you saved up for weeks to buy into something that resembles a turtle shell and not the tailored vest that you had actually envisioned. Now, I’m not saying any full names, but my poor baby brother Eric looked like the disenfranchised Black member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for his prom…
But outside the class distinctions, there is something even more ugly about our mockery of the attire of these kids that bothers me. While we are laughing and sharing these photos for others to laugh at, we forget we are actually sharing pictures of young adults, if not minors. And we are often doing it without their expressed permission. And I can’t emphasize enough “the children” aspect of all of it.
Sure, these pictures are likely snatched from some young and dumb kid’s Instagram, who didn’t have the sense to set their account to private. But that’s the thing: these are young and dumb kids entitled to make young and dumb mistakes like we all did at their age. Meanwhile, the folks sharing these pictures are adults who are supposed to know and behave a little better in life. But obviously, we don’t.
Worse, we forget that behind what we deem as bad dresses and suits, are indeed children with stories, aspirations, hopes, fears, angst, and yes, insecurities of their own. Young adults and children, who were looking to have a good time and possibly feel good about themselves at least for one night. Young adults and children, who felt good about themselves in the attire they had selected, suddenly being the butt of the entire Black blogosphere. Again, young adults and children.
Now, you may not see them as children, and that is understandable considering most of society has a hard time seeing Black kids as actual kids. I’m not bullshitting you here. There are actual studies about this. In particular, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study last year, which suggested that Black boys in particular “may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their White peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.”
And the same sort of dehumanization happens with our girls. How could we forget last year’s scandal involving GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten, who had to resign from her post after making disparaging comments about Sasha and Malia Obama’s short skirts, which they wore to the White House’s annual Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon ceremony? Despite the Black blogosphere being in an uproar over the dehumanizing treatment of our first daughters, the truth of the matter is that we engage in the same sort of dehumanization with other less protected Black daughters – and sons – each time we share and mock their prom pictures.
I’m not trying to shame anyone (too much) who both passes around and laughs at images of these young people’s prom attire; but I hope I have inspired some folks to think about what we are actually doing when we do share and mock these photos. There are enough people in this world waiting to harm our children. And because they are Black, they will have a lifetime of people making them feel inferior. So why do we, as grown Black adults, need to compound that? In short, our children deserve way more protection and respect than this.
I have spent my life, living, working, loving and hating in largely Black enclaves. The one exception is the four years of my middle school, which was spent in a racially-mixed, but predominantly White, school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
My presence at the school was by chance. My neighborhood middle school, which served a predominantely Black, Hispanic and new immigrant Asian population, was severely overcrowded and underfunded. At the same time, the School District of Philadelphia, which was trying to mitigate the severity of a 40-year-old school desegregation case, decided that it would kill two birds with one stone by bussing a bunch of Black kids out of North Philly into White areas. According to the Philadelphia Public Notebook, at the height of the voluntary busing program, “some 14,000 students were bused to schools outside their neighborhoods to improve the schools’ racial diversity.” I was one of those pioneers who got the privilege to wake up extra early in the morning just to take a nearly hour-long bus ride in search of more equitable education opportunities.
While interacting with Hispanics and other new immigrants was nothing new to me, this was my first time actually meeting a bunch of White people, who weren’t just teachers or representatives from some government agencies. Needless to say, that I was excited about the new experience of meeting new kinds of people, particularly in their own spaces. And as I rode the yellow bus on my first day of school through this foreign neighborhood, I had all sorts of burning questions about the mysterious ways of White folks. Did they all live in big houses with live-in maids like on the the television show, “Mr. Belvedere”? Did they really eat pumpkin pie during holiday meals instead of sweet potato pie? Did they skateboard and really say words like “gnarly” and “totally rad?” I would find the answers to those questions and more when the yellow bus finally stopped and dropped us off in front of Webster Middle School.
As I piled off the bus with the rest of the elementary school-aged Black and Hispanic kids, the first thing I noticed was that the neighborhood didn’t look that much different than the one we came from. Sure the streets were nicer and much cleaner and there were actual trees along the curb line. But the White people didn’t look as refined as the White people I’d seen on television. For one, they lived in rowhouses, just like we did in North Philly, and said weird phrases like “youse guys.” The boys were more obsessed with street hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers than anything having to do with skateboarding. While the girls were into dodging plume clouds of Aqua Net and mimicking hair bands. Plus, just about the entire student body smoked cigarettes. Fourth grader, fifth grader, sixth grader, didn’t matter. White kids were pulling out whole packs of Marlboros and chain smoking them up right outside of the school’s front entrance. In short, these White people were kind of rough.
In spite of White people being nothing like I had imagined them to be, it was still a different world than where I came from. And it would get even more different during my first gym class. The teacher, who was handing out assigned seats on the gym floor, told me to take a squat across from a White girl with a brownish-blonde mullet and the stench of a half-smoked Marlboro Light on her clothes. We stared at each other briefly before she smiled and waved at me. Of course, I smiled and waved back. And when she asked for my name, I told her that too before inquiring about hers. It was Dani.
“Hi Dani,” I said grinning from ear to ear. We sat quietly for a few moments, staring and smiling at each other. I thought for sure that I had made a new friend and had already begun daydreaming about all the fun girlfriend things we were going to do together. She was going to teach me who “youse” was and I going to introduce her to some real pie. But then, in the most sincerest of tones my new friend asked me, “Why don’t you go back to Africa, Black monkey?”
I was stunned. For one, she was still wearing that same warm smile she had when she asked me my name. And secondly, while I had heard of such racism in those old Civil Rights movies, which used to come on the local PBS station, I truly thought those days were over. Mom never once mentioned the possibility of racism; she just told me to behave and not embarrass her in front of the teachers. And Mr. Belvedere damn sure never said anything about it neither. In all the planning and rehearsing I had done that morning before school to prepare me for my close encounter with the pale kind, I had no idea of what I would do in event someone said something racist.
Still, I wasn’t no punk. So I said the first thing that came to my mind: “Shut up, b**ch! Why don’t you go back to the North Pole.” Because I was 11-years-old and from North Philly (hence the familiarity with cursing a person out with ease) and the North Pole was the whitest place I could think of. She laughed and shook her head at the ridiculousness of my comeback. And so did some of the other White kids, who had been listening and mocking me also nearby. I however shrank a bit into myself…
That incident came across my mind after reading the story of the little brown skin girl who too was also forced to shrink after facing similar degradation. According to the Grio, Tomeka Fisher was left speechless when she recorded a video of her 4-year-old daughter Londyn crying her little eyes out after being told by her class mates that they didn’t want to be her friend because they didn’t like Black people. If you can stomach it, you can watch the heart-wrenching video here. Fisher had also posted the video to her Facebook page with the caption: “My 4-year-old is crying her heart out, and so am I. I don’t know what to do or say.”
Nor would I. Already scarred by the Africa incident, among others, I probably wouldn’t handle that entire situation very well. And to be totally honest, I probably wouldn’t even allow my kid to be put into that situation in the first place. And not that I’m blaming Fisher for any of this at all. Just like my mom, and so many other Black parents who have steered their children towards more “diverse” educational experiences, the end goal is to better position our children so they have a greater chance in a society, which is still deeply rooted in White supremacy. With that said, how better of a position can we really be putting our children in if it makes them feel ashamed of their color and accomplices to their own oppression?
After the Africa incident, things at Webster got better. And I actually started to make friends with some of my other White classmates. I found out that in spite of our differences, we also had some things in common, like our love for “Mr. Belvedere.” However our friendships were definitely on their cultural terms. I couldn’t even sway them with a slice of grandmas homemade sweet potato pie. And I often felt like I had to overcompensate when I was around them. I had even gotten to the point that I was rocking the “Stairway to Heaven” bangs and talking about “youse” people. Although I had lots of White friends, culturally I felt isolated. And after a while, I started hanging out more with the bussed-in Black kids at lunch and recess. They too felt some kind of way about their new friends…
One thing most moms can agree on: your little one drives you up a wall! Another absolute we might all acknowledge is these little annoying, imaginative, curious creatures really can teach (or at the very least remind) us of a few fundamental truths. You know, like the familiar, but oft-forgotten “treat others the way you want to be treated” or the foundational “sharing is caring.”
We all have those hilarious, infuriating, enlightening (or all of the above) moments with our kiddos that remind us of these lessons we were taught way back in the stone age when we were little tikes. Here, I share with you teachable moments brought to you by Matthew, my feisty, gutsy, spunky tot who’s taught me a thing or two since he came kicking and screaming into my life! Enjoy, but more importantly, take note.
This week my two year old reminded me that I’m raising a Black boy in America.
Recently our national news has inundated its viewers with images, stories and footage of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death, at the hands of police, of an unarmed Black boy.
And while specific details haven’t emerged about the exact order of events leading up to the young man’s death and witness and police accounts vastly differ, for me, the details of the incident are minutiae. The larger issue, and the one thing that is a definite in this case, is that an unarmed Black boy, heading to college, is dead.
When I was pregnant I couldn’t wait to find out the sex of my baby. I wasn’t one of those of ‘we’ll see once he or she arrives’ type of mommies. I was dying to know—the countdown was real. I wanted a baby girl so bad! I daydreamed of buying her cute little outfits and accessorizing her with cute bows and frilly socks, a far cry from the boring stuff boy clothes are made of. And so on the day of my gender reveal prenatal appointment, I was so excited! I could virtually hear the nurse say, “It’s a girl!” I couldn’t wait!
But instead, as I anxiously laid there with my lovely baby bump, she said, “Alright, you’re having a boy!”
“A what,” I thought. “So you mean I have to play in mud? And buy toy trains, trucks and cars? And rough house? Reallly?”
Honest to God, those were my initial thoughts. But surprisingly, I was still excited! I knew what I was having. And my boy and I were going to have the time of our lives once he finally arrived!
As I went to sleep that evening, knowing I was carrying a baby boy, a reality began to sink in for me: I have the overwhelming responsibility of raising a Black boy in America. I cried. Not for the aforementioned superficial reasons, I was over that much. I cried because I knew that raising a Black boy would be tough. I knew that the moment he peeked his tiny face into the world, he would be labeled. He would be a statistic. He would be a target. And it was my job to make sure that I instilled principles, morals and values into him that would help him to overcome all of the above. And I knew that that job would be a tough one. But even still, I wouldn’t be able to chaperone him his entire life. I wouldn’t be there when he’s walking down the street with friends, or when he’s leaving a high school dance, or walking through a department store.
So as I watched news reports and saw Mike Brown’s mother distraught over the loss of her unarmed baby, and I looked at my son, knowing that he would grow up and face the same challenges as Mike, I was reminded that I’m raising a Black boy in America. And that I’ve been tasked with a responsibility to teach and protect him, and pray that the day will never come that I will be like Mike’s mother, fighting for answers and justice over the loss of my unarmed Black son. Historically speaking Black men have been (literally) fighting this country for equality and respect for decades. We’ve read the brutal accounts of slave times, lived through or heard the stories of the civil rights movement, and now, must face the reality that we’re currently living in a time that mirrors the same injustices, violence and unrest as those eras.
That night, as I cried, I promised myself that my village and I would do our best to prepare my son for his life as a Black boy in America.
And today, I’m reaffirming that promise.
When my son was born he came out with the fullest hair you could see on a newborn…even the doctor was amazed! As a naturalista going on five years strong, I have always had a game plan to make sure my children stayed as natural as possible when it comes to their mane. When I found out I was having a boy that made me stop and think, do natural hairstyles apply to boys as well?
I’d say yes!
In fact, it’s pretty silly to think otherwise considering most men do not put tons of chemicals in their hair like us women. Technically, they are natural when it comes to their hair, yet it seems like society has a problem with boys rocking certain hairstyles.
“You’re hair is really cute and all but you can’t expect your son to wear it the same way,” one of my close friends told me.
I’m not trying to put him in pigtails (for the record, I don’t even wear those), but no one, including me, should feel pressured to have to do “the big chop” on a little boy’s hair because society is uncomfortable and think it will make him any less of a man. Have y’all seen the shade “Instant Mom” actress Tia Mowry-Hardrict received on social media for letting her son Cree grow his hair out? He has a beautiful Afro and sometimes rocks cornrows, so cute! I am starting to realize that I may come across the same backlash and have already got it from some of my family who think he may have gender confusion if his hair is left long.
Now I’ll be honest and say that one nurse mistook my son for a girl while I was in the hospital, but did that make me think, oh, I need to cut his hair. No. Those newborn baby blankets are full of blues and pinks so it’s hard to really differentiate the gender of a baby solely off a face – and let’s be honest, some girls don’t look too girly themselves. I digress.
The bottom line is: many have made silent declarations of individuality and self-pride by making the choice to wear their hair natural. It’s something that is thankfully starting to become more acceptable in society with media outlets using people with natural hair in their projects. Who would have thought that this “movement” was only for us girls? Does that even make sense? I have photos of both my mother and father rocking perfectly fluffed fro’s in their day and no one thought anything of it. Fast forward to today and I know of plenty of men who rock dreads, twists and Afros very well.
My son will still be a boy whether he has short hair, an Afro, twists or braids. When he is older he can make his own decisions about what he wants to do with his hair, but at least he’ll know there are other options out there and to embrace them. And who knows, he might become the next Maxwell and you can’t tell me that brother is anything less than perfect.
I was raised by a Black family. I go to a Black church. I live in a Black neighborhood. I did my undergrad at a Black college—finishing my master’s degree at one, too. Teen Girl has been educated in schools where White students are welcome, but none ever enrolled. We are surrounded and cushioned by Blackness aplenty. I never saw anything wrong with it. I still don’t. We celebrate, enjoy and appreciate other races, cultures and communities but, when it’s time to come home, we revel in our own. The other day, however, she brought up an interesting point during an otherwise fruitless conversation about her plans for New Year’s Eve.
“Last year, I hung out with you and your friends like I was one of the ladies in Waiting to Exhale,” she snarked in her teenage drawl. “This year, I want to spend the night at Beth’s house. Like a cultural exchange.”
Beth is her one White friend, a girl she met at summer camp at a very ritzy and very privileged private school in a very monied section of the city. My child was there on a let’s-make-a-conscious-effort-to-be-more-diverse scholarship. That wasn’t the official name, of course, but it surely was the intention. Female. Check! African-American. Check! Single-parent household. Check! And, according to their old wealth and upper income bracket standards, we’re also considered po’ folks, so check for that too, thank you very much. The costs of camp are no joke, so if it wasn’t for that come-up, homegirl would’ve surely spent her days schlepping through the Janelle Harris You Gonna Be Anything But Lazy Internship Program. We were both thankful it didn’t come down to that.
Beth, on the contrary, was there on the strength that her parents could afford to send her on a whim simply because she decided at the last minute she wanted to go.
I don’t begrudge the girl her money or her privilege. She was unknowingly born into both. I do resent her effort to counter it by trying her darndest to pretend her way into Blackness based on what she absorbs on reality TV and World Star Hip-Hop. Between her fledgling Ebonics, her little colored, cornrow-wearing boyfriend and now a friendship with my daughter who, bonus! has dreads and lives in the ‘hood, she is a certified carrier of the storied Black pass. She’s all set.
Skylar thinks my apprehension about their new girlfriendom is the rearing of some sort of reverse discrimination. “You don’t like her just because she’s White,” she accused.
I sucked my teeth. “Oh, on the contrary,” I retorted. “I suspect she only likes you because you’re Black.”
That girl has my blessing to be friends with as many people who represent as many differences as the wide world offers. I just don’t want her to do it at the expense of being the token Negro friend for folks who just want to live the vicarious life for curiosity’s sake. Everybody wants to be Black until the cops come or the paychecks are cut. Then it stops being hip and trendy. It becomes an inconvenience.
Read more at Essence.com
Just the other day, I was talking to a man who described himself as “as white as he could be.” We were discussing the Kieran Romney adoption. I was explaining that although I have my concerns, I’m generally happy about the Romney family adopting little Kieran because far too often black children are the last children to be adopted. The likelihood of them finding a permanent family becomes even more slim as they get older.
This was news to the white guy.
And though, it’s something I’ve known for quite some time, associating a human face to what often comes off as just a numbers and percentage issue, makes it all the more real and all the more heartbreaking.
In a beautifully written story published on NaplesNews.com, we learn about 15 year old Davion Navar Henry Only, an orphan who’s looking for a home.
The reporter, Lane Degregory of the Tampa Bay Times writes that Davion’s names mean “beloved, brown, ruler of the home and the one and only. He’s memorized all of them. Though one of his names means ruler of the home, Davion told a St. Petersburg church on a Sunday morning in September that he’s never had a home of his own.
“My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born… I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either.”
This was the beginning part of the speech Davion delivered to the members of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, in which he petitioned the congregation to adopt him.
Davion, who was born while his mother was in jail, says he can’t count all the places he’s lived in; but right now, he resides in the Eckerd Carlton Manor, a residential group home for teenage boys.
While Davion has a place to stay, he wants privileges and even standard allowances other children take for granted.
From Naples News:
“Davion wants to play football, but there’s no one to drive him to practice. He wants to use the bathroom without having to ask someone to unlock the door. More than anything, he wants someone to tell him he matters. To understand when he begs to leave the light on.”
In the past, Davion has had issues with anger management. He had thrown chairs, earned poor grades and pushed people away. But all of that changed when he searched and found his birth mother, this past June. Davion went to the library and found a mug shot for La-Dwina Ilene “Big Dust” McCloud, age 55. Shortly after that, he found her obituary. The article on Naples News explains that Davion learning of his mother’s passing and that she wasn’t coming back to get him, made him change his behavior. Davion’s caseworker said after he let go of hope of his mother’s return, he wanted to show everyone who he could be so someone would want him.
Throughout the summer he worked on his temper and dropping his defenses. He lost 40 pounds and as a current 10th grader, he’s earned all A’s except in geometry.
As he was speaking to the congregation, he said, “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”
After hearing that God helps those who help themselves, it was Davion’s idea to appeal to the members of St. Mark. Before he spoke, he told his caseworker, Connie Going: “I know they’re out there. Maybe if someone hears my story…”
At the time the article was published on Naples News, on October 15, there had been two couples who asked about Davion. But no one has come forward to adopt him yet. If you want more information about Davion, or other foster children in the Florida area who are awaiting families, you can call Eckerd at 866-233-0790. If you’re unable to adopt but want to donate time or money, you can call Eckerd at 727-456-0600.
In 43 states, child poverty has increased significantly since The Great Recession settled across America. The only states that saw a decrease are Texas and Illinois. African-American and Hispanic children under six, according to The Children’s Defense Fund, have suffered the most through the nation’s slow-moving economic recovery.
Thirteen states have a child poverty rate higher than 25 percent, according to data pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Mississippi, 34.7 percent of toddlers live in poverty and 29.3 percent of New Mexico’s children live with hardship. Both states have the highest rates of child poverty.
These statistics will be sure to rise if the proposal to cut $40 million SNAP benefits over the next 10 years is signed into law. (More on that in a coming story.) “How is it possible when millions of children are poor, Congress could for one minute consider cutting their food assistance,”asked Marian Wright Edelman in a press statement, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Elise Gould, an economist, would agree: “Now is no time to be considering cuts to the safety net.” Gould’s analysis using data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the important of federal assistance for curbing poverty. “In 2012, 1.7 million people were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance and 15.3 million elderly Americans were kept out of poverty by Social Security,” Gould added.
“All Americans including those in Congress have to recognize that Black and Hispanic children already are a majority of our babies and are the face of our future. We need them to be productive,” Edelman said. “Every year we keep over 16 million children in poverty we are losing hundreds of billions of dollars. Children did not cause the recession and they should not have to suffer from the recklessness of others.”
Between 2009 and 2012, only the wealthiest five percent saw income gains. For more than a decade now, poverty levels have been on an ascending trajectory. “The poverty rate increased between 2000 and 2007 from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent, then continued to rise through the Great Recession,” according to Gould’s report.
With the recession leaving 24 states with a quarter of impoverished children (under the age of six), Edelman concludes,”[c]hildren’s ability to survive, thrive and develop must not depend on the lottery of geography of birth. A child is a child and should be protected by a national floor of decency. We can and must end child poverty.”