An 8 Year Old’s Perspective – Part II

Continuing from yesterday’s post, Munch was feeling as though this new school wasn’t very friendly. After drying him off and getting him into bed I sat down and began to cry. Had I done right by my little boy by putting him into this Blue Ribbon School? Had I made the best decision for him? Can I transfer him to a new school?

I was overwhelmed. I wanted only the best for my son and I started to doubt whether or not I knew what that was anymore. I sighed.

I pulled out my laptop and I started writing emails. I needed to let everyone know my concern. Up first was the guidance counselor. I sent her an email and copied the principal, vice principal and his teacher. I needed them to know my concern and give them an opportunity to address it.

I was exhausted. Both mentally and physically. I needed a renewing of my mind and spirit. It became a restless night with lots of tossing and turning and little sleep.

The next day I received a call from the guidance counselor asking me to please come in so that they can address my concerns. They wanted to see me that day. Ugh! Didn’t I just tell ya’ll that I was off Monday and Tuesday and now I had to leave early to go to the school? My boss was very understanding and told me to just go.

The meeting at the school was very informative and encouraging. I really felt as though they were concerned about my issues and wanted to work with me to ensure Munch’s success. I explained that I’m afraid for my son and I know that friendships take time to develop, but if the teachers in the hallway, the lunch technicians and janitorial staff are not always happy and engaging the students, what is the perception of an 8 year old about your school?

They understood. They are going to partner him with a 6th grader who is at the school who is both shy and sensitive like Munch but also brilliant. This child will mentor Munch and just be his buddy. I liked that idea.

But, I still needed to be proactive. So, here’s what I decided to do to bridge this gap and help Munch….

  • I enrolled Munch into Les Petites Voix which is a chorale program for students in grades 3-5 to give him an opportunity to meet and interact with other children. He hated the idea, but I asked him to attend one class and if he didn’t like it he could stop. He asked “So, I have to sing and meet new people at the same time?” LOL.
    • Update – First class was yesterday and he loved it. He said that he wants to continue in it.
  • I got him in the Before and After care program at school so he is no longer riding the school bus and being bullied by the middle school girl. I called the bus driver’s supervisor and spoke with her about the situation and she was very comforting and concerned and said she would speak to the driver. She agreed that there was no way my 8 year old is bullying a middle schooler.
    • Update – He likes the Before and After care program and also he is meeting children who he may not normally come in contact with. I don’t have to worry about the BAK’s (Bad Ass Kids) that ride the bus and are trying to bully my son.
  • I’m scheduling a play date with mothers and their children from his old school to reassure him of his village. He may not have villagers yet at his new school, but I want to remind him of the village he does have.
    • Update – This play date has been scheduled for next month. I can’t wait. 

This is a trial and error situation, but I’m confident and prayerful that this will work out. I am going to be present and vigilant with the school staff and his teachers. I’m already scheduling the first parent/teacher conference for next month.

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Baltimore Blues

I am hurt over the destruction that is occurring in Baltimore. We have to be an advocate for change and nothing comes from rioting. I understand the injustices that occur in our community. I am a black woman raising a black son, but to sit here and destroy your community serves no purpose. I will not co-sign with someone who says it’s anger manifested and it serves a purpose. It does not. Because those same folks are sitting at home typing on their computers unaffected. They are not going to bring their happy butts down to Baltimore to clean up what you messed up. Stop fooling yourself.

I grew up poor. I’m not rich. Just because I don’t live in Baltimore doesn’t mean that I can’t empathize with your struggle, but burning down your community is not the answer. Haven’t we learned from the Detroit Riots, Rodney King Riots, Newark Riots and Watts Riots? What happens? The same issues you are supposedly fighting against still continue only you’ve brought down your property value and oops, no one vacations in Detroit. Money is lost. Everything in America is about economics. Will the 16 CVS stores that suffered reopen in the affected neighborhoods? Maybe or maybe not. What if they make a decision not to reopen? How will residents get their prescriptions? Not just the young people, but the elderly who walk to their local CVS? To assume people have insurance to rebuild, buy another car or fix their property damages in an already dilapidated area is to assume from the comfort of your home that they may not truly be poor. Because a lot of poor people are in essence “riding dirty” and don’t have insurance.

baltimore-riots-10People know better which is why I support the mother that whooped her son’s butt. I’m a mother. I didn’t raise you like this. Read a book and learn from our history. Are you a rioter or are you a social agent for change?

Note: To see the video, please click on the title of the post if you are viewing it in your email.

A Song for Brennan

Because I am a mother. Because I am black. Because I feel pain. I wrote this piece.

 

“A Song for Brennan”

Almost seven years ago, I birthed a king

Difficult conception, difficult delivery, but I had faith

You see I knew death from diseases that you weren’t supposed to get

I knew what it was like to see someone you love lying in a casket as people wept

Silently

 

But I prayed

I prayed for peace

I prayed for my seed growing in my womb

I prayed for you my son

 

I imagined your face being a combination of me and your daddy’s

I imagined singing you to sleep every night with songs I created in my mind

Why?

Because Rock-a-Bye-Baby scared the hell out of me

No way were you going to be up in a tree in a cradle

With the dang wind blowing?

What kind of foolishness was that?

Mess I said

Besides I knew I would never let you fall

 

My job was to protect you

Like wings of an eagle, I would always be there

You were the angel in my womb

God’s favor over my life defined

My chance at redemption

 

I changed

I became a fanatic

Reading everything I could get my hands on

I wanted to nurture you physically, mentally and spiritually

I vowed to protect you

Always

No greater love

 

It’s been an incredible journey my sweet boy

You’ve taught me how to love beyond measure

You challenge me

You inspire me

You love me

You question me

 

But I’ve lied dear sweet boy

Not because I wanted too, but because I had too

I couldn’t tell you the truth when you asked me about the police

I smiled away my tears as allergies when you caught me crying

I laughed and kissed you and said “Mommy loves you so much”

When you questioned the sadness in my eyes the next morning

 

“Is it me Mommy?” You asked

“Are you mad at me?” You questioned

“No baby” I responded

 

Truth is love

That I’m crying for all those mothers that lose

Lose their sons

For walking home from the store

For playing in the park

For walking to school

For

For

 

Being black

Because being black in this damn world

Is killing me

It angers me

That our children are dying

That you will never know

That in the midst of my tears for injustice

That I scream the names

For Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner

Michael Brown, John Crawford,

Jonathan Ferrell, Tamir Rice and the countless others

Who have lost their life

Because my dear sweet baby boy

I want you to know that

Black lives matter

You matter

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”

The History of Labor Day

It’s Labor Day folks!

What an incredible day to be off and just spending time with the family. That is what I did today. I headed to a BBQ thrown by my beautiful nephew’s mommy (Cameron). I had a ball. As I sat there enjoying both my wonderful nephew and my blended and interracial family, I was in awe at how blessed I am. My SILIT (sister in law in training) is not only a phenomenal mother, but a phenomenal person that comes from a great family. How awesome it is that we get to spend guaranteed time off with each other eating and making memories? But, why do we have a Labor Day holiday? I couldn’t recall from U.S. history class in high school where the true origin of Labor Day came from, so I hit the internet. I wanted to find out why the government recognizes Labor Day as a national holiday and you know what? It’s pretty interesting.

Labor Day originated in the late 1800’s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.  At that time, most people worked 12 hours each day for 7 days straight barely squeaking by. In some states, children as young as 5 or 6 worked in factories earning a fraction of working adult’s wages. Can you imagine that? My munch is 6 and I can’t imagine him working to support the family. Hard times. But, beyond the fact that we were working folks to death and illegally the workers often faced extremely unsafe working conditions.

As manufacturing grew, so did the labor unions. They began organizing strikes and rallies. They were protesting the conditions and arguing for new salaries and hours. Many  of the strikes and rallies turned violent. It was on September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in NYC, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country. However, Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later. Why did they wait 12 years to do it? Economics people! On June 26, the American Railroad Union (the union for all the railroads) called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. This boycott inevitably crippled the railroad industry nationwide. Now imagine only having trains and horses to transport your items and now you can’t use the faster of the two. What do you think would happen?

So, in order to end the strike, the federal government stepped in and released troops. This only made things worse because riots happened and more than a dozen workers were killed. So, the government attempted to repair ties with the workers and Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. Cool huh? Many thanks to labor unions for organizing and requiring better wages and working conditions and many thanks to Congress for recognizing our labor.

Happy Labor Day!

 

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Ferguson – Day 12

The community of Ferguson, Missouri is still experiencing civil unrest and my news and social media feeds are being dominated by all the activity. One of the things that I feel has occurred is that we keep forgetting the reason why we are protesting… The death of an unarmed young man. There are too many unanswered questions and journalists want to sensationalize the actions of a few misguided and misinformed protesters than focus on this issue. Ask the questions. Why did he die? Why did Officer Darren Wilson shoot him when he said he was unarmed? Why did his body lay in the streets for four hours? Why did the police chief release footage to try and discredit or taint this man’s reputation? Why did the governor allow tear gas and smoke bomb canisters to be deployed? Why did the governor issue a curfew? Why are people trying to say that because Michael Brown attended an alternative school he was somehow shady? Why haven’t the police interviewed Michael Brown’s friend that walking with him? Why are there conflicting stories about what truly happened?

You see? A lot of unanswered questions.

Please read the timeline by USA Today and watch the video below in which Jessie Williams, actor, discusses his outrage over the media’s coverage of Michael Brown.

And I think this tweet explains how I feel at the moment…

Is Ferguson a case of class warfare?

Ferguson, Missouri the scene of Michael Brown’s death last week has been put on the map. The New York Times reported that Ferguson has about 21,000 residents, in which 63% are black. There are 33% white and 3% other. What is interesting about this town (which is 20 minutes outside of St. Louis) is the fact that 92% of arrests are black residents and 86% of all stops are black residents. Astounding statistics, but I’m not surprised. In any small town populated by majority of blacks you probably will see the trend where the color of the police force doesn’t match the residents. With all the things that have happened and continue to happen in Ferguson since Michael Brown’s death, I’m left wondering is the bigger issue more of class than race?

The situation in Ferguson has escalated since the August 9th shooting. Last week the police chief released a video showing a “robbery” that the victim, Michael Brown, allegedly committed before he was shot. Michael Brown hadn’t even been buried yet. The police chief was trying to show cause for the officer shooting Brown. But, that video did nothing but escalate the tensions in an already ticking time bomb city. People were angry. The fact that the police chief seems incompetent has furthered their rage. So, in comes the governor trying to restore the order of things and he in fact makes it worse. He decides to set a curfew. He wanted to curb the civil unrest. But, tear gas and smoke into the crowds only made matters worse. On Sunday night, some protesters became violent and attacked the officers with firebombs and gunfire. Why? Don’t we need to focus on the issue? So, of course the governor announced yesterday that he will deploy the National Guard to restore order.

Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and I asked the question, what do you think about the situation in Ferguson? I told him, that I dread having to teach my son that he should always be respectful of others, but especially officers because I don’t want him “viewed as a suspect” and gunned down. His response…

“The problem with the “making sure our young men are respectable” argument is that Police target Black youth regardless. In fact they are targeting anyone they don’t think comes from wealth. While the media has made many of these incidents simply about race it points to a bigger problem of class warfare against lower income citizens. It just so happens that in this country the Black community for the most part is on the low end of the economic scale. This is why many Police have little regard for us. They’ll think someone White is more likely to have a higher income than a minority regardless of appearance. Go to any country and the citizens the Police abuse the most are poor people.

The only way Blacks can help stop these attacks and protect our civil rights is to have a greater economic base as a community that wields more influence on the Political Landscape and Legal system. The community is always so divided and selfish on so many levels that anything that would require cooperation and sharing is virtually impossible for us.

I just had a debate with a young guy on twitter. He doesn’t agree it’s about economics and thinks it’s just about skin color. I tried to explain that it’s deeper than that. If we had more power as a community then police would have to reform 1.Hiring practices 2.Police Procedures 3.Punishments for misconduct. A community only can push to get reforms through if they have economic weight. We don’t have any. We’re still the red headed stepchild of the US. We just have sprinkles of wealth among a few individuals but that’s it. We have trillions of dollars in spending power but it gets wasted on short term materialistic nonsense instead of being put to long term viable use. We’ve been playing Checkers for years and reacting instead of playing Chess and thinking steps ahead trying to proactively nip things in the bud.”

Deep huh? I thought so too. Another conversation with my girlfriends last night about Ferguson had me thinking that maybe my friend’s point of view had merit. She said, “The situation in Ferguson is being tainted by all the looters instead of the real issue which is the fact that this young man was shot. These people are not exercising their judicial rights of voting the people that they want in office. They can always write a letter to their attorney general for all the problems that they are facing with regards to the police.” I pondered her statement and then responded, “But how many black people know that?” I told her what my friend said, “This is a bigger issue than race, it is a class issue and how many of us in the middle class are doing enough to educate the lower class on their rights?”

Black people have gotten away from the grassroots efforts that we use to utilize in the 1950’s and 1960’s when we were fighting for Civil Rights and fair housing in our own communities. We began to create silos and sectioned ourselves from those who didn’t have as much as we did: money, education, connections. We became the haves and have nots. Our education became the fundamental difference between us and others. We moved into our big homes in neighborhoods that weren’t predominately black and started going to exclusive black clubs. We became bougie and disengaged from our brethren who couldn’t move out of the hood. Whether it be lack of economics or education, we didn’t try to bridge the gap of each one teach one.

Ferguson is not just a race issue but one of class warfare. Class warfare is defined on Dictionary.com as “the struggle for political and economic power carried on between capitalists and workers.” Isn’t this what my friend was just saying? Isn’t that the point of my girlfriend’s argument? Deeper than race. It’s economics and politics. Just last week, Peter Mccoy, wrote an article for Bloomberg Businessweek in which he said

“The map of St. Louis County, the home of Ferguson, looks like a shattered pot. It’s broken into 91 municipalities that range from small to tiny, along with clots of population in unincorporated areas. Dating as far back as the 19th century, communities set themselves up as municipalities to capture control of tax revenue from local businesses, to avoid paying taxes to support poorer neighbors, or to exclude blacks. Their behavior has ranged from somewhat parochial to flatly illegal.”

Class warfare right? But is there anything that we can do to change this? Probably not, because the issue is deeper than the poor blacks or poor whites in this country but one that unites us based on income levels. The richer have better opportunities to ensuring that their voices are being met because more money = more political power. I read this great article by Bill Moyers titled “The Great American Class War” whereby he talked about interviewing former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan about a documentary that he was doing for public television and how Justice Brennan worried about the “looming size of government”. This quote in the article about a speech that Justice Brennan made that went to the heart of the matter. He said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses… Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

So, can anything be done? Are we stuck in a class war that is brewing over and showing its ugly head in small town America? In an area, like Ferguson, will we continue to see the problems that America keeps trying to sweep under it’s rug because poor blacks don’t have the financial backing to ensure that their government elected officials are working for them? In an urban area, do we have to institute more grassroots efforts to educate the poorer classes on their rights and not just during election time?

We can’t let what we know and perceive to be true push us as a community to loot or be involved in illegal activities in spite of the misguided efforts of the elected government officials. Don’t resort to violence or you will forget that the point of the peaceful protests is to shed light on the injustices that occurred in that small town. The wheels of justice are slow, but they work as long as we are diligent and active and not combative to law enforcement. Remember, united as one, we shall overcome someday.

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