Munch & Black History

My munch is in the first grade and decided that he would like to participate in the PTSA’s Annual Black History Month program. The conversation about participation went like this…

Me:  Munch, would you like to participate in the black history month program at school?

Munch: What does participate mean?

Me: You get to stand on the stage and recite facts about someone who is black.

Munch: Yes.

Me: Are you sure munch?

Munch: Yes.

Me: How about we talk about Nelson Mandela? You seem to be fascinated about his life and the fact that he’s dead.

Munch: Okay, mommy. You know Nelson Mandela died because he was old and sick right?

Me: Let’s work on this program.

As I sat there helping him work on reciting “Seven Facts About Nelson Mandela”  I started to get nervous. I prayed and relaxed. I told myself that it’s okay and to go with the flow.

But, in his performance last night I realized the following:

  1. He’s 6. He can remember a paragraph in 3 days. Wow!
  2. This is his first solo performance. No back-up of other children on stage. All him and he owned the stage. Go munch!
  3. He can’t fill 3 minutes. Next, we will work on public speaking and presence on stage. I will pull out my Toastmasters manual to help my munch.
  4. He will make mistakes and it’s okay. Even our President makes mistakes. It’s life. He talked really fast. He gets it from me though. LOL!
  5. He will forget something. He forgot a line,  but he is the only one who didn’t use a paper to read about his character. Again, 3 days folks!
  6. We may need to go back to speech therapy. I truly couldn’t understand some of what he was saying. Is that a lisp?
  7. I was truly proud of him because he’s smart as a whip and he showed real courage by standing on a stage reciting seven facts that he learned in three days with a crazy mom pushing him. For that, I’m truly honored to just be his mommy.

Even though I was like a maniac helping him to rehearse (I cut story time each night to focus on reciting and memorizing) he loved me in spite of my persistence. However, his dad did ask me to ease up on him because I was acting like one of the women on Dance Moms. I’m sure that wasn’t meant as a compliment, so I relaxed and was excited to see that he was #3 in the program. No time for nerves, munch. Let’s do it!

Check out these photos!

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Check out the video of his presentation on my Facebook Page: Post by A Thomas Point of View.

 

Why I Vote

Today is election day. I love election day. Always have. Maybe because my mother instilled a strong sense of racial pride, politics and history that I always knew that voting was something I wanted to do. I was devastated that I couldn’t vote for President Bill Clinton in the first election. He was my hero. He was a cool white guy, who played the sax and loved black people. So at 17 I knew that I wanted him to represent me as an American. Didn’t take much, but I think his election resonated with African Americans and we felt like we had a “black” president. He was concerned about us as a people and we elected him.

I remember standing in line when I moved to Nashville to attend Fisk University at the city hall registering to vote. I was 18. I wanted to exercise my right in the electoral process and couldn’t wait. I filled out the forms and received my voter registration card. I was official. Although I didn’t cast my official ballot in Tennessee, that didn’t stop me from registering when I moved back home to Maryland and yes, I’m a Democrat. Do I believe in one party over the other? No, not really. I’m probably somewhere in the middle, but I feel as though Democrats genuinely like black people which is something I don’t quite experience in the Republican party. Doesn’t mean I dislike them, I just want them to find educated brown people that look like me and maybe I will be persuaded to change lines. Maybe.

Today is a great day because it is an historic time for African Americans. More than 100 African Americans will be on the ballots across the country. I’m loving it. How about the fact that 83 black Republicans and Democrats are running for the U.S. House and of that 83, 30 of them are women?Yep, I am still smiling. How about the fact that in Georgia, 5 black women are making history and running for statewide offices? They are known as the Georgia Five.  This is change. This is progress. This is what happens when people step up and exercise their right to vote and make change. They believe that they can make a difference.

Voting changes things. This is true:

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I’m encouraging you to get out and vote today. READ the issues affecting your county and state and vote.

Why do I vote?

I vote for me. I am a woman. I matter.

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I vote for those that marched.

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I vote because up until the Voting Rights Act I couldn’t vote. I’m from the south. This Act gave me the right to vote.

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I vote because of him.

Because he needs to understand that people died for our right to vote.
Because he needs to understand that people died for our right to vote.

I vote because it matters. Get out and vote!

The Stigma of Being Poor

We were poor growing up. There I said it. I qualified for reduced lunch because I was being raised by a single parent who was working three jobs to make ends meet. No child support from my dad. Even then it was only reduced lunch at 20 cents. Was I embarrassed? Sure, but the need to eat won out over the embarrassment. You would think after the “No Kid Hungry” Campaign that things have changed in this country, but no it has not. It broke my heart to read this article the other day on The Huffington Post called “That is the Poor Kids’ Line”.

We are a country of haves and havenots and yet we keep applying the stigma of being poor to everyone. Why?  I live in a predominately African American county and the number of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch is 57%. More than half our county children. There are a number of things that can contribute to this number: unemployment, low paying income, number of household residents, etc but does it make it okay to look down at folks? No.

My son doesn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch because his parents make over the threshold to qualify. Do you know how much you have to make? For a family of two you would have to make less than $30,000 a year before taxes. The exact amount is $29, 101 a year for reduced lunch. Guess how much you would have to make in order to qualify for free lunch? A family of two would have to make $11,670 a year. How can you survive on that amount? Is it feasible? Not in this area. The average 2 bedroom apartment in a low income neighborhood is $1,100 a month. That doesn’t include utilities. They charge everything from gas, electric and water nowadays.

Do you have a car to get you back and forth to work and the kids to school? Yep, well deduct your car note and car insurance. No car, public transportation is really expensive in this area. It’s based on distance. What about food? Food prices and gas prices fluctuate, so that can hurt you. What about health insurance? It’s a lot. Here’s a chart to help you get a big view picture.

Expense Monthly Amount Yearly Amount
Rent  $                   1,100.00  $                     13,200.00
Electric  $                      120.00  $                        1,440.00
Gas  $                         20.00  $                           240.00
Water  $                         25.00  $                           300.00
Car Insurance  $                      135.00  $                        1,620.00
Car Note  $                      258.00  $                        3,096.00
Before/After Care  $                      312.00  $                        3,744.00
Food  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
Health Insurance  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
 $                   2,370.00  $                     28,440.00
Yearly Calculations
Annual Salary  $                29,101.00
25% Federal Tax  $                21,825.75
Maryland Tax  $                   1,743.04 $50+4%over the excess of $2,000
Take Home Before Expenses  $                20,082.71
You need  $                28,440.00
You make  $                20,082.71

You see how you are $8,000 short a year? I didn’t include your PG County taxes or the reduced lunch at .30 a day for breakfast and .40 a day for lunch. There are 180 school days for the children so that is an additional $126.00 a school year to feed your child. Relatively cheaper than packing their lunch and feeding them breakfast at home. You’re already short over $8,000 so what about food and childcare during the summer months?

No wonder so many of our children go hungry in this country. We are making it impossible for parents to be able to work, live and provide the basics for their children. You see why my mom worked three jobs to even be able to give us lunch money? When there is more money that month what do you do? Look down on those that can’t afford it?

It’s hard out here and I pray that people will learn to be more compassionate. I don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch and it is expensive as a working parent. If I didn’t cook him a full breakfast each morning and pack his lunch it would cost me $738.00 a school year. Breakfast is $1.50 a day and lunch is $2.60. You see the expense? Thankfully I only have one child. Imagine having more than one.

That is why I’m a champion of the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) program. This program provides breakfast in every classroom each morning. No one pays to eat, regardless of family income. The only requirement is that Under state law, any school that participates in the federal School Breakfast Program and has at least 40% of its enrollment approved for free or reduced-price mealsI reached out to his Principal this year to see if this is something we can get for Brennan’s school in the Fall of next year because it gets time consuming and expensive to get breakfast on the table, him dressed and out the door in order to drop him at school and fight rush hour traffic to be at work on time. We need more programs like this. We need programs that aim to feed children.

Let’s have an attitude of gratitude and understand that it is a blessing to be able to feed your children, but we should never look down on those that can’t afford. We have to stop stigmatizing those that are less fortunate and see it is an opportunity to invoke change in our school districts and states. Look to see if your state has this program because no child in America should go hungry.

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