Better Days

So much tragedy. It’s hard being a parent right now. Tragedy everywhere. May is graduation and prom for most colleges and high schools. It is supposed to be a reminder of the future. Your life begins once you leave those hallways. Or so it is assumed.

I read the horrific story earlier this month about an 8 year old boy named Gabriel Taye that had killed himself two days after being bullied. He was 8. A baby. The same age as my son.

The story last week of Kingston Frazier who was 6 years old and had been shot. His mother ran into the store at 1:15 a.m. and left her car running and the keys in it. Why? I couldn’t figure out why she would do that until I realized that her child was sleeping and it was probably hot outside and she wanted the air to run to keep him cool. Her car was stolen by three teenage boys. Her son was murdered.

The story of Lt. Richard Collins III who was murdered on the campus of my Alma Mater. No reason. Waiting for an Uber with some friends at the bus stop. A white student unprovoked attacked and killed him. Collins was a model student who was just commissioned as a second lieutenant. Set to graduate from another college three days after being murdered. Model citizen.

What do all these people have in common? They are all dead.  They are all boys. Two were murdered by other people. They are all black.

As a mother, my heart breaks as I think about my son growing up and leaving the safe confines of my house. Is it unreasonable? Nope. Given the state of this country, I would argue that it is very reasonable. I worry when he exits my home and goes to school. Schools aren’t safe anymore. Sandy Hook reminded me of that.

I worry because of the color of his skin. That beautiful caramel colored skin is a badge of honor. A combining of complexions of his father and I that reproduced and created this gorgeous melanin he proudly wears. I love it, but I monitor his toys. No toy guns. They are not safe. Tamir Rice reminded me of that.

I worry because he is sensitive. Too sensitive. He cares about other children, but I’m trying to thicken his skin. Teach him how to trash talk. Teach him how to defend himself.  To stand for right and be a good human being. But, he’s experienced bullying. No matter how much you try to protect your children they may fall victim to bullying. Bullies can hurt you beyond belief. Gabriel Taye’s death reminded me of that.

Do I overreact and not let him play in the neighborhood? Yep. Do I live in a bad neighborhood? Nope. But, I don’t trust strangers. Not with my Munch. I don’t leave him in the car. He begs to stay sometimes. He doesn’t like going in the store. Fear grips me but I make him come. Someone could steal the car, take it. I don’t care. Not my son though. So, I never leave him alone. We have to be vigilant about protecting our children. Kingston Frazier reminded me that my being overprotective is not in vain.

All the things that I can give and experiences I can provide that will make him a well rounded young man may not help him. I’m already looking into the top high schools in the area. A better opportunity. A future. A chance to go to college and make something of yourself. You are better than you think and smarter than you’ll ever know. Be of good character. Stay out of trouble. Pray. Give it to God. Lead by example. All those things may not be enough. Lt. Richard Collins III taught me that.

These are perilous times. So many tragedies. So many parents having to bury their children. It’s not supposed to be that way. We are supposed to smile as our children get married. Laugh and love on our grandchildren. Be their support system when bad things happen. We’re not supposed to bury our children. We’re not supposed to pick out suits or a coffin.

Life isn’t fair. I know this. Tragedy happens everywhere. I get this. But, oh I pray for better days. We need them.

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Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

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An 8 Year Old’s Perspective – Part I

“I don’t want to be a distraction to the other kids”

That was what I was told. It was a week ago today that I attended back to school night at Munch’s new school. I had asked his main teacher to show me his desk. He took me to the back of the room to the last desk in the corner. He saw the concern on my face. He responded immediately “Ms. Thomas, he chose this desk. I asked him why he chose this desk and he said that he doesn’t want to be a distraction to the other kids.” 

Wow.

I had a mini meltdown. Fear was gripping me and rising up like a fire in the pit of my bell. I tried not to cry. I’m not going to shed tears right here in front of everybody. I’m going to be strong. I sighed. I pushed that fear down and began to explain…

“Munch is a very shy and sensitive young man. Until he gets to know people. He’s brilliant. He can recall what you’re saying, but he will tap his feet, his fingers or sing out loud whenever he feels like it. Usually when he’s not engaged. He doesn’t mean any harm and the kids at his last school said that he was distracting them.”

He smiled and responded “Okay, he will be fine. I know he’s new here and shy and I will look out for him. I know how kids can be.” I smiled. Sort of smiled. He sensed my hesitation and said, “Mom, I got him. I’ll look out for him.” He explained that the counselor wants to meet and have lunch with him. He said that she has lunch with all the new incoming students.

I smiled a genuine smile this time. Maybe because I felt that my son had an advocate. Someone who knew how it was to be at a new school and be shy and sensitive. Someone who could sense that my son has felt the harshness of the educational system and knows that his behavior is sometimes distracting.

I was comforted by his teacher’s words. I was hurt that my baby felt that he was a distraction to anyone. Much less to other children. He’s brilliant. He’s bored easily. He’s allowed to express himself. We welcome that.

Every day I asked how was his day and he would say “Okay mommy, but no one wants to be my friend.” I would explain that friendships take time to develop. But, he didn’t tell me about his seat selection and I began to wonder what else was he not telling me.

I didn’t have to wonder too long. I came home that night and Munch met me in the kitchen with hugs and kisses. I told him that I went to Back to School Night and I had met some of his teachers and they seemed nice. I explained how his main teacher told me that the counselor wants to meet him and have lunch with him.

He responded that he had already met her. He said that he met her because another boy had said something malicious about his stomach. He said that he told an adult and they were taken to the counselor. He said that she was very nice and told the boy that what he did was wrong and bullying. She said that if he did it again, he would be out of class for a couple of days.

I said, “That’s good Munch. What did you think of her?” He responded that “She was very nice and he liked her.” I just listened. He then began to tell me how the same little girl that lied on him last week on the school bus was saying that he was calling her names again today on the school bus.

What? “Okay, Munch I will call the bus drivers supervisor in the morning and get this straight. You just keep being a good person and being kind to everyone. We will pray for them tonight” I responded. He said, “Okay”.

I took him upstairs and made him shower so he can get in the bed. I still had to call his dad and let him know what was going on but that fear that I had suppressed during the meeting with his teacher was bubbling. I was scared that my son was being bullied. On the school bus. At his new school.

While Munch was in the shower, I washed his back and he began to cry. I asked “Munch, what’s wrong baby. What’s the matter?” He responded “Mommy, I knew the kids at this new school weren’t going to be nice to me, but I never expected the adults to be mean to me too.”

“What adults are mean to you son?” I asked. He responded ” The vice principal yelled at me today. She told me to sit down but I didn’t see the seat. She said it’s right there.  There are only three adults in that whole school that are nice to me.” I asked him ” Which three adults baby? He responded “The principal, my teacher and the guidance counselor.” He sobbed loudly. 

The fear spilled over. With tears dripping down my face I held my son. I reassured him the best way that I could that I would find out what’s going on. I told him that I love him. That I will always be here for him. I needed him to know that I was going to fight for him.

Hell No, Bullying Has Got to Go

Catchy title huh?

But, I’m serious. This issue with my Munch being bullied has been pushed until April 5th because of conflicts with the school and Spring Break so although I’m not thrilled, I’m understanding. You know by now that I am dealing a lot with issues from my Munch’s school and my Munch’s mental health so I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned about my district’s bullying policy.

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Now, before you all say that “T, you know he’s going to have to stand up for himself right?” Yes, I know, but I don’t want my son to be labeled. The angry black boy that uses his fists instead of his words. Many people don’t have to think about that but as a mother to a black son that could follow him throughout his school years in a file. He’s not angry at 7. He’s sweet. He’s innocent. He wants everyone to be his friend.

Everyone will not be his friend. I’ve tried to teach him this since he was in kindergarten. Kids are fickle and they like you one day and not the next. Don’t worry about it baby. I reassured him as only a mother to a 5 year old can do. But, what do I do now? He’s older. A little wiser, but he still longs for friendships. Me? I could care less whether someone likes me or not. Why? They don’t pay none of my bills so kick rocks and move out of my way if you don’t like me.

However, I can’t teach my 7 year old that words don’t matter. That words don’t hurt, because they do hurt. I know. I’ve heard some horrible s*** in my life that still stings. Like “You’re a poor excuse for a mother”, “You’re a b**ch”, “Nigger” and many more f*cked up things that left scars. So, you know what? Words do hurt and we need to teach children how their words impact others. Just like their actions.

We have this meeting scheduled on April 5th and there are apparently some things that I discovered in my district’s school policy that we will be discussing at this meeting.

Schools are required to conduct developmentally appropriate prevention activities such as:

a. Holding regular classroom meetings with students to discuss safety concerns.

b. Clarifying and reinforcing classroom rules against bullying, harassment, or intimidation.

c. Conducting classroom lessons on sensitivity and tolerance.

d. Forming an Anti-Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Committee to assess the nature and prevalence of bullying at the school.

e. Celebrating the annual national anti-bullying week.

f. Conducting grade level focus groups or a school-wide survey to identify problem areas in the building and the level of bullying, harassment, or intimidation within the school.

I actually want to know when this was done this school year since when we return to school it will be 4th quarter. I’ve never seen nor heard of them conducting classroom lessons on sensitivity and tolerance when I told you that his teachers are upset because my Munch is crying all the time. Really? Umph, read your own dang policies.

The second thing is that the school counselor should have filed a bullying report. Which I want done and documented and an outline of what will be done to ensure that the children understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Break down bullying for a 7 year old. For example, If I call someone a “stinky head cry baby” and then I get punched in the face which one of us is wrong?

If you answered the one who called the name you’re only partially right, but I like where you’re going with this. We need to reinforce that verbal intimidation and name calling are just as bad as physical conflict. Whew! I feel like I’m making this dang school work this year.

You mad huh? Oh well. Stop messing with my Munch because this bullying has to stop. I’m screaming “Hell No, Bullying Has Got to Go” because all of us are responsible for the behaviors of our children.

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The beginning chapters– Drops of blood

You have to check out http://www.lynzrealcooking.com if you haven’t already done so. Whew! Her personal stories will have you ready to buy the rights to her life story and sell it to Hollywood. Not to mention her beautiful food recipes and photos. Check her out!

lynz real cooking

Outside temperatures in Riyadh dipped down, making life inside the villa bearable. The door stood ajar and the brown plastic window remained cracked, both bringing a much needed breeze but also giving another point of entry for lizards and cockroaches. After six weeks in Saudi, life had improved dramatically but it still seemed we were living a make shift existence, one that I assumed had been left behind in Seattle. See See and Foof ran around the villa playing made up games, bed pads were stacked to make forts and reinforced with pillows and blankets. The older boys attended Arabic school, struggling with the language and behavior of both students and teachers. I walked down the street to pick them up at the end of each day, listening to stories that fueled my frustration and posed the question, “why had we come to this place?” Contractions came and went as I…

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Assault at Spring Valley High

Please Note: This post has a video clip. If you are receiving this post via email, please click on the title and read it from my site directly to see the videos.

 

By now many of you have seen the video of the school resources officer, Deputy Ben Fields, in Richland County, South Carolina and the violent way in which he called himself removing a student. A FEMALE student. Can you believe it? Do you understand why I scream #BLACKLIVESMATTER?

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This is ridiculous! I’m outraged that a man is using excessive force on a CHILD. We are trying to teach our children that bullying is wrong and this dang officer is the bully. He’s using a badge to use brute force on our children.

Haven’t seen the video? Check it out here:

Do you see why our black children are afraid of law enforcement? Do you see why our black children are taught that if you encounter a white cop that you just be compliant and not resist? The child didn’t resist. She just shut down. This law official just threw her like she was a rag doll. As a human being you can’t tell me that he was justified in any way. He is a MONSTER!

Apparently, she was being disruptive. Disruptive! She was disruptive because she had her phone out. Are you serious? Disruptive means that you get to be dragged out with brute force and thrown around the room like a rag doll because you had pulled your cell phone out? No, it doesn’t.

This child was a victim of police brutality and this officer should lose his badge at the very least. I am too angry to think what I would have done if this man had manhandled my niece. I can’t find words to describe the pain I feel watching this video.

When you watch the video notice how the children don’t move or seem shocked that this is happening. What the heck is going on in this school? What about the teacher? Where the heck is the educator to not speak up or try to intervene on this child’s behalf? Aren’t you partly to blame? You like to watch children being manhandled with excessive force by a man who looks like he’s on steroids?

I send my son to school to get an education. To become a productive educated young man who will make a difference. To not be a victim of police brutality. I can’t help when he walks out the door and gets accosted walking because he’s black, but dang my tax payer dollars don’t support police brutality in the school.

I am praying for that young girl. I’m praying for the children in that class who didn’t seem shocked to see this kind of behavior and I’m praying that every human rights organization from the ACLU to the NAACP find out what kind of education and force are being used on our children at that school and fire every last person.

Is there any place our children are safe?

 

Off Limits

Let me get on my soapbox for a moment, please!

As many of you may have heard by now the issue with the fumbling GOP staffer who thought it cute to diss the President’s daughters on Facebook.  Elizabeth Lauten is was a staffer for Representative Steven Fincher (from my home state of Tennessee). She resigned after her inappropriate comments about Sasha Obama and Malia Obama were posted on her Facebook page.  Here’s a screen shot of what she said.

Elizabeth-Lauten

 

Now, why would this grown woman concern herself with the attire of the President’s girls? She’s a political communications director and is supposedly super smart (she claimed to have gotten a perfect score on her ACT). Shouldn’t she have known better? Didn’t she learn anything from Justine Sacco? Aren’t there more pressing issues that she should be worrying about than how the First Daughter’s look at a Turkey Pardoning Ceremony? Aren’t Republicans trying to stop immigration reform, repeal the Affordable Care Act and charge the President with every crime imaginable because they don’t like the fact that he has reduced our budget deficit, created and supported Equal Pay for Women and reduced unemployment to the lowest since 2008. Not to mention a whole lot of other things, but why would that concern Ms. Lauten?

I mean I have a son and no I’m not the President, but some of the facial expressions he makes are pretty hilarious too. He would rather be watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates than attending a function for or with me. He’s a child. Not interested. It happens. Heck, you should see some of the facial expressions that I make as an adult. I haven’t truly perfected the art of showing disinterest (I’m working on it) and I’m almost 40. So, why would you expect children to know how to do it? Because they are the President’s children? Chile please!

Ms. Lauten then tried to offer an apology for her post, but guess what? Too little – too late. But, the funny thing was that it wasn’t an apology. She said:

“I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a post I made on Facebook earlier today judging Sasha and Malia Obama at the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony:

When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager. After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”

Now, I have a degree in English Language and Literature and I know word semantics and word play and what she did was apologize for getting caught. Not to the children she offended. Someone who is that smart and a communications director should know what words to use to apologize.  She tried to CYA (cover your a**) in hopes of keeping her job and avoid being social pariah numero uno. Communication rule number one Ms. Lauten – you can’t make comments like that and expect to keep your job.

I would like to offer this piece of advice for everyone – Children are off-limits. Always. Whether they are in the public or on the streets, public shaming of children is not acceptable. The President said and displayed this noble character trait when he was running in his first election and Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, was discovered to be pregnant and unmarried. He said, “Children are off-limits.”

In a society where young women already have self-esteem issues about their bodies why would you choose social media as a platform to further draw attention or try to humiliate them? To say to them that they need to “try and show some class” is an opinion drawn from what? How disinterested they looked from hanging with their dad? Oh, it was how they were dressed? Let’s see you said that they should “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar”. Umm, what bar have you been too lately where…

1. Underage women were admitted in.

2. Dressed like Sasha and Malia

Shouldn’t you have respect for the President and his children because hey he is the President? I thought what they had on was very age appropriate and not bar attire. But hey, I’m a mother and a bit conservative in my appearance and would wear what the girls wore (If I could fit it and it was appropriate for someone at my age to wear – but it is not).

I guess I’m just utterly disgusted in the fact that another woman would choose to pick on the girls when clearly more young women today seem to be pimping themselves for Facebook or Instagram likes as a confidence booster. Every young woman goes through a period where they are dissatisfied with their body image and I think Ms. Lauten was just being a bully. Heck, it’s now being reported that self-esteem of teenage girls has fallen significantly in the last few years. Why be part of the problem?

You all know that one of my greatest joys is being a parent and I don’t tolerate bullying of any kind. But, before I was a mother, I was an aunt and I know how social media can affect a young woman’s self-esteem. My 16-year-old niece told me last week, “Auntie my Twitter game is off the chain”. WTH? Yes, she actually said that. Getting over 2500 shares on a photo or 500 plus likes on a tweet is important to her. Why?  Because like many young women, it validates her social existence and is seen as a confidence booster.

I had to remind her that it is just social media and that I’m proud of her accomplishments and the mere fact that she is my beautiful niece more than those people who like her posts or share her photos. I constantly tell her that I am so proud of who she is and I want her to know that her body is just that. Hers. Love you first because we do and we don’t want you to change. I would hate if an internet troll became a bully and decided to affect her self-esteem by saying that she is dressed like she should be at the bar instead of supporting her parents. I would be livid and unleash an enormous amount of anger on that fool. Thankfully, she hasn’t had to experience that and prayerfully she never will.

That being said, I am proud that the White House has not chosen to address Ms. Lauten’s comments because the village has already spoken. People were outraged and felt that she had no right to make comments about the girls on social media. As part of the village, I just want to remind Ms. Lauten and every one of the social media rules of etiquette: Children are off-limits!

Good Woman Down

I’m tired. I’m tired of being superwoman. I’m tired of being told that I need to be a hold it down woman for my man, family and business. Truthfully? It’s exhausting. I don’t want to wear my cape all the time. I get tired of trying to save the world. Whose gonna save me?

How many times do we have to convince ourselves that a good woman stands by her man? You are told that you have to be his ride and die and you have to have his back no matter what or you’re not a real woman. You’re not down. You’re not good enough. But, I have a question…should this apply to all men? Shouldn’t we be selective in our search of finding men who will love and want us without jacking us up emotionally, spiritually or physically?

Black women experience intimate partner violence at rates over 30% higher than white women. Yet, we continue to stay. We continue to say that “he didn’t mean it” or “I made him angry”. We make excuses for fear of being ridiculed in our own community because we left him. We convince ourselves that it’s okay because we’ve been told that “he’s a good man, he just has a temper”. But, it’s not true. Fact: He is a bully. He is our abuser. No good man will hit you.

I wanted to remind you that domestic violence affects everyone. It’s not an issue that we only need to focus on when a public figure is accused of a crime. It’s an everyday fight whereby we need to remember the numbers, educate our children and create policies that don’t allow for violence against women. Even in the private sector. I would love it if my employer could create a policy denouncing domestic violence and suspending employees who are accused of crimes. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? Wouldn’t it show that we’re serious about the health of our employees and their families?

I read this great article last week on the Huffington Post entitled “30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us that It’s an Epidemic” by Alanna Vagianos and cried. Why? Because the numbers were painful.

Did you know my favorite number is 3? Probably not. Many people don’t know that about me. I am one of 3 children. I was a family of 3 and my birthday is on the third. Three is my favorite number. Three is also the number “of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.” Sad huh? Three.

Read the article. Read the statistics. Understand that it is an epidemic. Long before the article, I heard “Good Woman Down” by Mary J. Blige and knew that I would never forget the lyrics to this song. Why? Because her words were truthful and illustrative. They were haunting. Mary sings…

“When I used to see
My daddy beat
My mother down
Down to her feet
I used to say
That ain’t gon’
Never be me
(Never be me)
Now look at you
Bruised up
From him
Girl recognize
You’re better then
Him tellin’ you
That he’ll never hit
You again
Girl don’t cry”

Powerful isn’t it? Mary is taking me back to my own childhood. Violence. 

Now that we are wrapping up Domestic Violence Awareness month, I don’t want us to forget. I want us to remember. I want us to do something. Like the NFL did. They created this video denouncing domestic violence and sexual assaults against women. I love to see strong men standing up for women and women’s rights. No more blaming the victims and making excuses for the aggressors. Hopefully, we can reduce some of these staggering statistics next year, because I believe that together we can make a difference.

 

Check out Mary’s video from the Essence Festival. Start at 4:35 to see her perform “Good Woman Down”