The Light

I can smell him before I see him. He enters my room looking for me. First, under the bed and then in the closet where I’m hiding. I can hear him coming towards the closet door. I close my eyes and wait. I don’t want to do it again. I don’t like it. I know that if he finds me he will make me do it again. Tony. I hate Tony.

Tony or as he tells me to call him “Uncle Tony” is mama’s new boyfriend. He is big, dark and strong. He stinks. He smokes and drinks dark colored things out of a red cup. Tony comes to the closet door where I am hiding and grabs my hand. He pulls me to the bed and makes me lie down. “Lift your gown up girl” he says loudly in my ear.  Tears roll slowly down my face. I lift up my gown and he smiles. Uncle Tony has crooked teeth. I hate Uncle Tony.

“Yeah, I like that. You’re so pretty Cassie. You look like a princess.” I hate princesses. Princesses are evil. Princesses get bad things done to them. But, I hate a lot of things. I hate princesses, dolls, the boogey man and police officers. I pretty much hate everything, but Jacob.

Jacob is my only friend. No one knows about Jacob.  Jacob says I have a light and I must let it shine. Jacob tells me that he sees me and God is going to help me. Jacob goes to church. I don’t. Jacob taught me a song about my light.

Mama tells me I don’t have friends. She says that Jacob is not real. She says no one likes me and I can’t have friends because I’m not allowed to go to school or play outside.  But, I know Jacob is real. He teaches me things.

Uncle Tony starts to touch me. Slowly. I cringe with disgust and turn my head. I wish that he would hurry up and leave me alone.

I start to sing. I sing slowly and in a low whisper. The only song I know. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” The smack is hard on my face, “Shut up gal! I can’t concentrate!”

My face hurts and tears begin to fall down my cheeks. I can’t see. I can’t see through the tears. The door opens and I hear a loud bang. I jump. I scream and cover my ears.

I see Uncle Tony hit the floor. I close my eyes hard to the sight of the red ring forming on my floor. Uncle Tony’s eyes are open. I cry harder.

Jacob comes to my bed and shakes me. “Cassie, it’s me! It’s me, Jacob. You’re okay Cassie. I got him.”

I open my eyes and Jacob is smiling. Jacob reminds me about my light. I smile and start to sing. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Loudly.

I look down and see my mama’s gun in my hands and continue singing at the top of my voice “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

 

© Tikeetha Thomas

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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.

Parental Privilege: Spanking or Not

I’ve read many posts on whether or not you should spank children. Not just in light of the Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings player), whose case unfolded last week, but in general. My opinion is simple….YOUR CHOICE. I can’t tell a parent how to raise their child or how discipline should be handled in their home. The reason is that I am not in your shoes and I know for a fact that you have to find what works for you and your child. Now, before you start thinking I’m an advocate for child abuse. Let me be clear….I’m not. I don’t condone violence of any kind and especially towards children.

There is a difference and in my opinion, a big difference between child abuse and spanking. Child abuse is defined as:  mistreatment of a child by a parent or guardian, including neglect, beating, and sexual molestation. Spanking is defined as: to strike (a person, usually a child) with the open hand, a slipper,etc., especially on the buttocks, as in punishment. Now that we are all clear on the definitions, I want to reiterate that I don’t condone child abuse or violence in any form. As a parent myself, I think it is imperative that we find forms of discipline that work to mold healthy and productive citizens. However, I hate the argument that because I believe in spanking that I am destroying my child and he will grow up to beat on others. That statement in itself is flawed because I don’t beat my son. I spank him if it is a spankable offense. 

What is a spankable offense? An egregious offense where he knows better or running in traffic. Not much would ever be considered spankable because he’s only six. However, I implore the 3 warning rule in my parenting. This is where I give munch 3 chances to correct the behavior on his own before consequences are handed down. This is not a spankable offense. This means it is timeout in his room with no television, an hour of French work, no Ipad, etc.

As a child growing up, my mom employed the same techniques. Altering the punishment to fit the crime and not spanking out of anger. Did I get whopped with a switch (absolutely! I’m from the south)? Do I do it? No. Do I believe her spanking me has damaged me? No. There were other things that were more harmful than her spanking. But, I never believed that she enjoyed spanking me or my siblings or assumed that her spanking was detrimental to my psychological or emotional health.

I grew up in an era of spank first and talk later. I can’t judge Adrian Peterson on the crime he’s accused of, but I can tell you that it breaks my heart to see the photos of a four year old boy who was whopped with a switch and it left marks. I’m heartbroken. Too much force was used on this child. No four year old child should ever have to endure the feel of a switch. It’s obvious that Adrian is strong, so I question whether or not he could have used his hands instead of a switch. But, he didn’t. So, he has to know that his choice was poor.

Adrian has a right to discipline his son. Society may so no. We want people that spank their children to go to jail. Some punishment should happen, but I ask you about this child (also from Minnesota) that was 9 year’s old that was suspended from school and boarded a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada last year. Apparently, the parents have asked for help with their child and never got it. He had prior trouble because he had stolen a car. A 9 year old stealing a car? Wow!

The parents were told that he was a minor and hadn’t done enough bad things to qualify for the help that they were requesting. The father sobbed as he recounted how he asked the officer to watch him spank his son. The officer said if he saw him hit his son he would be arrested. He sobbed saying that it was a double jeopardy damned if I do damned if I don’t situation. The father said,  “If I whoop my son, I will get locked up. If I keep on letting my son do what he’s doing, I get in trouble.”

I felt the father’s pain and I ask you, what do you do when you know you can’t spank your child and no one is helping you? There are rules to everything in society. How are we taught these rules? What are the consequences of those rules? Even adults make mistakes and don’t learn the rules, but spanking a child to help enforce the rules that you are teaching is acceptable. But, child abuse is not. We may not agree on how to raise our children, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want chaos in our society because no one can follow the rules.

Child Abuse Photos from Peterson case
Child Abuse Photos from Peterson case

Raped Again: When Fools & Social Media Mix

The story of a 16 year old girl named Jada came out last week.  Have you heard about it?  Well, if not love, sit back and let me tell you how our society continues to have no sympathy for our young women and girls that are raped.  It is an atrocity when we as a country have an attitude of not believing the victim of rape and supporting the rapist.  Where does that happen?  In America. The home of the free and the brave.  But, is it brave to post and ruin a minor’s life by raping her and posting it on social media? Is it brave to make fun of a rape victim and strike a #jadapose on twit videos?  How about saying that you only gave her Ciroc and you have bail money?  Isn’t the legal drinking age in this country 21, not 16?

Are you disgusted yet?  Mortified?  Me too.  Here’s what we know…Jada went to a house party with some friends from school a few weeks ago.  Someone handed her a cup with something to drink and she didn’t remember anything that happened next.  She fell unconscious, was stripped naked and allegedly raped. Then pictures of her naked, unconscious and laid out on the floor began to appear on social media.  It of course went viral which is where the hashtag #jadapose came in and people began to mimic and mock her assault.

When is violence against children ever acceptable?  So few women ever report their crimes.  It is sickening to know that in this country alone, 60% of sexual assaults are unreported each year. Why do women not report their sexual assaults?  Mainly because who would believe them.  Fear?  Fear of being assaulted and raped all over again.  Fear of having to replay the nightmare that you’re trying desperately to wake up from. Fear of being called a “whore” or being told “she asked for it”.  Our bodies are not our own in a country that allows women and girls to be victimized with no action that is taken.  What’s worse is that in a day and age where we have social media, you’re being forced to relive your worst fears while people mock you in ignorance.

Jada is trying to reclaim her life after this horrific incident.  She wants her rapist to be brought to justice and arrested.  This video surfaced last week on World Star Hip Hop that showed one of the rapists admitting to taking the pictures of her naked, but he stated he didn’t “hit it”.  Apparently, he had a threesome with two other girls who were 14 and 15 at the party.  I pray that it is enough to get this foolish young man arrested and into some counseling.  It really is tragic.

I don’t ask for much out of this world.  I guess decency is too much.  Commentators have said that she was doing something she shouldn’t have been doing and it’s her fault.  Wow, really?  I am heartbroken to know that Jada has to endure this kind of pain over and over again in the media for the rest of her life.  But, I am prayerful that she knows that she can now turn this situation into a healing one for herself and many others. She was a victim, but her taking back her life shows that she is a survivor.  I am a mother and I feel for Jada and her family, but I vow to stand with her and let the world know too, that #IAMJADA