The Power of Our Words

People will tell me “you’re a great mom.” I’ve heard that from a lot of people over the years. I smile. I say thank you. But, it wasn’t until a friend of mine said, “It doesn’t matter if the world thinks I’m a great dad, only that my kids do” that it really sunk in. Accolades are great. They are appreciated, but I want munch to say “My mom was a great mom” someday when he grows up and leaves home.

Do I think parenting is easy? Heck no. Am I jaded in believing that my son won’t have some “questionable years” that make me want to scream to the hills? Nope. But, I practice conscious parenting. I think before I speak to my son. I think before I react to my son. I think.

I think about the child that I carried in my womb and the great joy I felt when God blessed me with this awesome kid. I think about how I try to honor God in raising him. I think about the lessons that I want to teach this kid as he progresses through childhood. One of the main lessons that I’ve spoken on before is “attitude of gratitude”.

Gratitude is a taught behavior. Children don’t know when they are being selfish. We have to teach our children how to behave. We have to lead by example and we have to think about the words in which we use to communicate both our love and displeasure with our children.

Words have the power to make or destroy a child.  We can’t take back the words we say once they’ve left our mouth. I try to be cognizant of the power of my words. Am I better than you because I take the time to think about what I say? Nope. But, I ask you do you think about the pain your words are inflicting on your children?

Let me break it down further…I teach my son that God is in him. That he has a light that is shining for Jesus. He should honor him at all times. Does he misbehave? Yep. He’s 7 years old. But, in my teaching that it is to remind him that everything we do, think or speak should be to honor God.

When he gets bratty (as most children do) I will say, “Munch, are you being very gratuitous? We need to have an attitude of gratitude.” It works for him. He lives to honor God at this stage and he knows who the head of our lives is. My words allow munch to self-check his own behavior.

However, what happens when he’s out of line and someone says that he’s selfish and ungrateful? How does that translate into the mind of a 7 year old? Not well. He doesn’t understand. He cries. He wants to understand why someone would say that to him. I have to reassure him that he’s not. Your spirit is aligned with God and he’s not selfish because He gives us life.

I repeat “Have an attitude of gratitude” and kiss away his tears. I have no words when my child is hurting. I hurt when he’s in pain. It’s natural. I just know the power of words. Words can destroy your innocence. So, if you are a parent that speaks out of turn who cuts people with your words I offer this prayer over your spirit “Let the words of my mouth be acceptable to thy sight, o Lord”.

Your words should always be acceptable. Especially in front of your children. They’re too young to understand the words “No weapon formed against you shall prosper”. Words are a weapon. Stop cutting your children.

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For You

For all those who are too tired to run on.

For all those that labor tirelessly for the cause that never seems to end.

For all those that see the senseless acts of violence against my people.

For all those that know that racism is alive and present.

For all those that fight the good fight against the systematic injustices of my people.

For all those who know that the there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or no 40 acres and a mule.

For all the mothers that have buried children.

For all the fathers that fear for their sons.

For all those that see violence and oppression against our children and recognize it as terrorism.

For all those that watch our children get beaten, shot or assaulted and scream and cry in outrage.

You need to know…I AM PRAYING FOR YOU.

That your cause is just.

That your voice is being heard.

That you are supported.

That you are appreciated.

That you can worship where you choose.

That you will be safe.

That this is our country.

That the blood of your ancestors fertilized this land.

That WE SHALL OVERCOME.

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<> on June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
<> on June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

A man holds a sign up during a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015. The racially divisive Confederate battle flag flew at full-mast despite others flying at half-staff in South Carolina after the killing of nine black people in an historic African-American church in Charleston on June 17. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white male suspected of carrying out the Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church bloodbath, was one of many southern Americans who identified with the 13-star saltire in red, white and blue. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a sign up during a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015. The racially divisive Confederate battle flag flew at full-mast despite others flying at half-staff in South Carolina after the killing of nine black people in an historic African-American church in Charleston on June 17. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white male suspected of carrying out the Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church bloodbath, was one of many southern Americans who identified with the 13-star saltire in red, white and blue. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

No More

No more please. No more killing of our black babies and offering up excuses. I’m tired. As a mother to a black boy, this is my deepest fear. A fear that he will not be here on this Earth all the days of my life because of senseless violence. I mean Michael Brown and Ferguson is still fresh in my mind and now we hear about Tamir Rice? How could this happen?

A boy. A baby. Not even a teenager. A child. He is six years older than my son. He is a black boy. He is someone’s son. He is not going to go on his first date. He will not go to his prom. He will not graduate high school. He will not go to college. He will not get married. He will not be a father. He is dead.

How does this happen? Why are our children being used as target practice. No more. I can’t take it. I have a son. I don’t let him play with guns. I don’t let him play video games. I don’t allow him to play alone any where. I organize play dates and I organize outings. Why? Because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that he will be used as target practice and there is nothing no one will be able to tell me.

I’m crying. Literally writing this piece with tears rolling down my face. I’m scared. Scared of looking into the eyes of my son and knowing that because he is a black boy that no matter what I do to prepare him to not be viewed as a threat, he may be killed senselessly by law enforcement. This is heartbreaking to me.

To make matters worse, how the heck can someone like former Mayor of NYC Rudy Giuliani even justify cops killing blacks by saying that “White police officers wouldn’t be in black neighborhoods, killing black men, if you weren’t killing each other.” Are you kidding me? Why would you even say that? To say that our tax dollars don’t buy us the right to have officers serve and protect without killing us or using the stop-and-frisk method because of the color of our skin is of true offense.

Understand this…I mourn all deaths due to senseless violence. But let’s get real, if my son was murdered by someone who is not a law enforcement official we would hopefully see some sort of justice. If it is law enforcement that murders him then the odds that something will happen are slim to none. He will still be dead and his murderer will be free.

My plea is simple:  Please stop killing our children. Please stop murdering my brothers, fathers, cousins and uncles. Please stop protecting those that kill the innocent. Please prosecute those who kill our children. I will go home and be able to kiss my munch, listen to him tell me about his day at school, listen to him tell me how he can’t wait to go to his grandma’s house for Thanksgiving and listen to him tell me that he loves me tonight. I will get to put him asleep, kissing his forehead and sending prayers of thanks to God for another day with him. Tamir’s parents do not have that luxury. They will have to plan a funeral.

Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice

 

Knowing Your Worth

The sounds of screams, fists flying, furniture breaking and blood on clothing; are all vivid images from my childhood that still haunt me to this day. My mother left. Many women don’t. Domestic violence is not always physical. It can take many forms including sexual, emotional, verbal and psychological. It’s all about power and control. It has lasting effects.

I read this article last month on My Brown Baby entitled “#WhyIStayed: Teaching our Daughters & Sons How to Love Sans Violence” and was moved to write about this topic in October. Why? Because October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month and we need to stop blaming the victims for domestic violence and encourage them to get help and get out of destructive situations.

So, how did domestic violence affect me after witnessing it? I suffered all forms of domestic violence at one point in my life with the exception of physical, but it was just as painful.  Domestic violence affected my self-esteem and made me vulnerable and susceptible to unhealthy situations and relationships. You know the kinds of relationships where you think your first name is B*tch? How about the relationships where you’re being yelled at constantly with no regard to your feelings? How about the relationships where you feel that you’re just not good enough because he likes skinny women and I’m too thick for him? How about the relationship where he forced himself on you?

Domestic violence is serious. I suffered the affects for many years. Silently. As confident as I was on the outside, I was a wreck on the inside. I thought no one cared or that it was “my cross to bear”. Suffering alone and in silence strips you of your voice. You begin to doubt yourself and realize that maybe just maybe you deserved all those bad words or things that have happened to you. But, you don’t.

Domestic violence is simply about power and control. Hurt people hurt people. You can’t change someone. You have to love you first. Loving you is the fundamental point of everything we do in life. If you can’t love you, how can you expect someone else to love you? Truth? You can’t.

You can’t change someone.  You can’t heal a broken person when you in fact are broken. I know. I tried. I failed. All I earned was a broken, battered, abused heart and spirit. So, what do you do? You focus on you. Till this day, the best line I ever heard was from the comedian; Katt Williams when he says “B*tch, it’s called self-esteem! It’s the esteem of your mother*cking self. How the f*ck can I f*ck up how you feel about you…?” Vulgar and crude…Yes. But, it’s accurate and on point nonetheless.

That sketch reminded me that I’m the only one who can control how I feel about myself. I stopped waiting on others to validate me or my existence. I accepted who I am and I love me first. Think of it this way…when you fly they always instruct you in an emergency situation if the oxygen masks should deploy that you secure your mask first before helping someone else. Why? Because you can’t help someone else if you die. Help yourself first.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness

Not sure if you know it or not, but October is Domestic Violence Awareness month too. I realized that many may overlook it because it’s easier to remember to wear pink and show support for an equally worthy cause, breast cancer. But when I read this article on USA Today about the National Football League (NFL), I was in agreement with the author and decided to do something about it. So, I will spend some time each week bringing light to domestic violence in hopes of educating and encouraging us to recognize the signs and to hopefully seek help to get out of unhealthy situations. It’s not just women that are abused. Men too.

It’s about control. Plain and simple. I witnessed domestic violence first hand as a child. As a young woman in relationships, I was a victim too it. Not to the physical violence, but the emotional, psychological and sexual violence. I am the face of domestic violence. But, I didn’t know it was domestic violence. No one ever told me.

October is not just Breast Cancer Awareness month but also Domestic Violence Awareness month. Although I don’t know anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, I still support it. But, as a victim of domestic violence, I think I have to take a stand and promote this awareness. Not just for me, but for my friends, family and others who may be suffering.

So, each week I will dedicate one post to hopefully bring about awareness to this serious and just as worthy cause.

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Alcoholism and the Social Drinker

My dad was is an alcoholic. Whether he knows it or not is a question for him. I knew it at the age of 8. Countless nights of violence or not coming home or hospitalizations for his abuse left me confused and thinking what was wrong? His love of alcohol was killing him. Slowly. Softly. Right in front of my eyes.

Alcoholism was one of the things that destroyed my childhood. Fragmented pieces of missing activities, tea time and chasing the ghosts away were replaced with loneliness and make believe because daddy was supposed to be there. His drinking was one of the reasons that I say he was broken. Not the only one, but one of the reasons. He was a warning in my household.

My mother would say, “Remember, your daddy was an alcoholic” anytime we would reach for a glass of wine or champagne or talk about our latest parties where we got drunk. Loudly. Resounding words filtered our ears and alcohol hazed brains. Reminding us that we didn’t want to be like daddy. Daddy was a drunk and drunks are mean.

So, I became a social drinker. I drink an occasional glass of wine (maybe twice a month) and once in a while if I go out to dinner. I don’t want to be the angry drunk. The mean drunk. The one who blacked out and forgot school programs or to play with my kid. Alcoholics are different from social drinkers.

Alcoholism runs in my family. I’ve heard it countless times. I’ve seen it. I learned from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will become an alcoholic. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.*

Multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing alcoholism. There are genes that increase a person’s risk, as well as those that may decrease that risk, directly or indirectly. For instance, some people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that alters their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, and rapid heartbeat when they drink. Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing alcoholism.**”

But, not all of it is genes. Half of it. But, that’s 50% right? Too much of a risk. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with my future. I don’t like to gamble. I don’t like to lose. Genetics. Propensity to become an alcoholic. Phrases that conjure fears of craving a bottle instead of my son’s laughter. These things keep me straight. Scared straight.

“Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment–peers, family, and availability.  But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics.  Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower.  Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.”

-The National Coalition on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

My dad is an alcoholic. It was inherited through genetics. His body isn’t strong enough to fight the “monkey”. So no, I’m not an alcoholic. I am a social drinker. I will decline alcohol, not because of my religion, but because of my desire to not have that “monkey” on my back. Genetics. Sometimes they suck.

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I Remember

I remember seeing domestic violence first hand as a child. I remember the sounds of fists flying and blood curdling screams. I remember. I remember broken glass and bruised body parts. I remember crying and wanting it to end. I remember.

By now, you all have seen the Ray Rice video that was posted by TMZ on Monday that showed Ray knocking out his then fiancee, Janay Palmer (now wife), in an elevator in Atlantic City last February. I was heartbroken. I talked about domestic violence a couple of months when Stephen A. Smith made that asinine comment about provoking violence. It seems that I need to say more.

How about this? Safe Horizon states that:

  • Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men
  • Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
  • Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner

The Families Suffer too:

  • Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
  • A 2005 Michigan study found that children exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic.
  • A 2003 study found that children are more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – which can place a child at great risk for injury or even death.

I Remember

The Ravens dropped Ray Rice from their roster and he is no longer employed after the video was posted. Now, there is a question of whether they had seen the full video prior to the two game suspension or were they just doing it after the full video was posted and everyone was outraged. No one knows. That situation is still being fleshed out and will come to light shortly about who knew what when, but what was surprising was the Instagram post by Janay.

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Wow! Is Janay really worrying about Ray having to get a job after knocking her out? I know she didn’t want her life thrust into the public, but when you marry a professional athlete and he knocks you out in public, you can’t hide. Think Rihanna and Chris Brown. Rihanna probably wished that her abuse wasn’t made national news, but remember what the Bible says:

For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  Mark 4:22 (NIV)

I can’t imagine the humiliation she feels, but this situation right here needed to come to light. We needed to see this so that we can shed light on the fact that 1 out of every  4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. We need to talk about it. We need to get help and we need to hold each other accountable for our choices. Choices have consequences. Good or bad, you must live with the decision. I know that if Janay had a clock she would love to rewind the events that occurred that fateful evening, but she doesn’t. She will always remember.

My advice is simple: Stand up. Be accountable. Get help. Use this tragedy for your triumph. Teach others and know that you will always remember.