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

 

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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.

Provoking Violence

Today we found out that Stephen A. Smith, ESPN commentator, was suspended after his comments regarding Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend earlier this year. Smith said last week that women should avoid provoking men into assaulting them. The internet went on fire. Tell me Stephen, how does a woman avoid provoking a man into assaulting them? Are you saying that women are responsible for the assaults against them because the men are inadequate or incapable of controlling their tempers? We, women can prevent men from knocking us out? Please Stephen tell me how?

It was Smith’s own colleague at ESPN, Michelle Beadle, that called him out on his disturbing remarks by saying that “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abusers. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting”. Thank you Michelle! This is the basic premise that we are all trying to educate men on. Some men get it and sadly other’s don’t. ESPN took a firm stand in suspending Smith for his comments and for that I am happy. Does it take away the sting of his comments? No, but at least they are trying to stand up for women’s rights to not be abused.

This situation runs close to home for me. As a child I watched domestic violence in the form of my parent’s marriage. My first understanding of love and family came at the sound of fists flying and broken glass. I don’t wish that childhood on anyone. I felt helpless. As a mother to a young boy, his father and I stand united on the fact that he should never put his hands on a woman. He’s too young to understand our concern. But, even in his playing with his female friends, I watch his interactions and use it as a teachable moment when he gets too rough with the young girls. Not to hurt his feelings, but to remind him that we keep our hands to ourselves and that you should never hit a girl.

I’m tired of having to stand on my stage and scream that women matter too. I don’t deserve to be abused because I hurt your feelings and emasculate you. You’re grown. You know better. That whole “sticks and stones” nursery rhyme comes to mind. Words never hurt. I know some men will probably say that some women do “provoke” men into hitting them. I offer you this simple explanation: No, they don’t. Life is about choices. You chose to be violent when you put your hands on a woman. Walk away. Women aren’t responsible for your lack of self-control. We all have choices. You can choose right or wrong. I implore men to choose wisely.

Camp Chronicles: A Bullying Moment

Brennan is attending a new summer camp this year with more activities and less money than his daycare.  We decided on this camp because we liked the philosophy, price and of course the staff that run the camp.  Brennan is not alone because he has his god brother, Reilly, who attends the camp with him.  Reilly is a year older and this is his second year at the camp.  While I knew that change is always difficult and frustrating for Brennan, he has immersed himself into camp with a confident spirit.  For that I am happy.  
However, that happiness was short lived.  Last week he experienced his first bullying episode.  Brennan said, “Mommy, some kids at camp are saying I’m pregnant.” He lifted up his shirt and said, “But mommy I’m not pregnant. Look there is no baby in my belly”. I had to catch myself from “going off” out of anger. I was sitting here in agony over the fact that my baby boy was experiencing his first bullying episode and I wasn’t ready.  I know that violence begets violence and bullying should be handled through non-violent means, but wasn’t he too young to be going through this?  I could feel my son’s concern over their words in my spirit and I knew he was hurting.
So, I told him to scream at them in their face at the top of his lungs.  I told him to scream: “That is not nice and you have bad manners!” and let the teachers know when they say something like that to him.  I promised him that I would handle it.  The next day I talked to the camp’s Director with Brennan and he was understandably concerned and promised to address it directly with the children immediately.  I explained to him that I understand that children would get teased, but this is ridiculous and questioned whether I should I have to teach my six year old how to “joan” on the other kids? (Joaning is when you make fun of someone.  It’s an urban term similar to playing the dozens)
But, how do you teach a six year old how to play the dozens or to joan on someone to try and hurt their feelings and embarrass them?  Was I perpetuating the cycle of creating a bully while disguising it under teaching him how to fight back with words instead of his fists?  This was both puzzling and perplexing to me.  Brennan’s dad and I differed on how bullying would be handled, but I wasn’t ready to teach my son bad habits that could in effect change his life.  I have always had a plan on how Brennan would defend himself, but I never thought I would need to do it this soon.  My plan has always been to put him in martial arts and allow him to take boxing at the age of 9.  I want him to understand that violence is never the answer unless there are no more options, but am I wrong?  The Director replied, “No” and assured me that he would handle it. 
I started to seek advice of men who had boys to gauge their thoughts around bullying and one parent told me, “I have resounded myself to the fact that I will have to stay home a few days because I told my son to fight back if someone puts their hands on him.”  I teach him that “you punch the bully in his face and even if he beats you up, he won’t punch you in the face anymore.” He told me that, “You have to address aggression with aggression sometimes to avoid further conflict.   That is why wars work sometimes.”  He further went on to say that “I learned that you can be nice but you also have to have a mean streak because there are mean people in the world so you tell him to say that they are mean, but he can’t cry. He can’t whimper.” He was the one to tell me that Brennan may have to learn how to joan on people to keep them off of him. That piece of advice moved me into thinking maybe I need to teach my son how to adapt in the community in which he is a part of.  Survival of the fittest and such.

But, I can honestly say that I am lost.  I don’t know what to do.  I wake up every day kissing my son telling him that he needs to rise and shine and give God the glory.  I tickle him, kiss him and tell him I am proud of who he is just because he opened his eyes.  I struggle with this bullying epidemic that has affected our society.  It breaks my heart to hear stories of children who are committing suicide because they are being bullied and it broke my heart to hear the story of the child that killed his bully a couple of weeks ago because he was tired of being a victim.  I don’t want my son in either of those situations.  I just pray that we get serious with ways to combat and avert this bullying crisis and not just tell kids to toughen up or say that kids will be kids.