If you’re available and in Atlanta this Saturday, come out to my chapter’s economic security workshop about money and relationships. It is free and open to anyone who wants to attend (whether single, engaged, married, etc.).
For more information about this and other community events, please like us on Facebook!
And I’ll be back soon posting. I have lots of updates to share. 🙂
It’s 2:15 AM and I’m still up just thinking about all the implications of the Zimmerman verdict. I watched the trial waiting for some major points to be made: Trayvon Martin had the right to be in a public place without being stalked, he had the right to stand his ground and fight back, and he had the right to get home safely.
Of course, all I can think about is how scary it is to have brought my precious son into a world where the Voting Rights Act can be gutted in the 21st century with the logic that it’s no longer needed because it has worked (never mind that it has worked THIS very year). I’ve brought him into a world where when a man shoots an unarmed teen, the murdered teen has to stand trial, not the shooter. I’ve brought him into a world where the family dynamics of the murdered teen is a key part of the story (just imagine if he was raised by a single mother like me). I’ve brought him into a world where although I don’t immediately leave a movie theater when a weird looking white person comes in for fear that he will shoot the place up, it is considered acceptable testimony to listen to a woman talk about how she was robbed by a black boy, even though that particularly black boy had nothing to do with the case. I’ve brought him into a world where wearing a hoodie in the rain is suspicious. I’ve brought him into a world where even as the unemployment rate continues to decrease, the unemployment rate of blacks continues to increase. I’ve brought him into a world where you can go to jail for firing a warning shot when someone who admits to abusing you is approaching you and threatening you, but not for murdering an unarmed boy who wanted some Skittles and tea.
I pray that I can instill in my son a strong sense of self worth. And I pray that others will respect his worth. I pray that my child will not be seen as a stereotype, but as the bearer of light he is. I don’t even know how to approach preparing him for a life in this world. Do I make sure he wear galoshes and a plastic poncho any time it’s raining? Do I drive him around the corner no matter what? Do I stock my pantry with snacks for a lifetime? Do I tell him to defend himself or to run or to just take whatever is thrown at him JUST in case he’s murdered and he needs to be clearly the victim? Of course, there is NO way for me to adequately prepare him in a place where people are justified in jumping to irrational conclusions.
So, Friday, as I was thinking about the possibilities the verdict could bring, I tweeted this:
So what are we going to do after today? Regardless of the verdict? My issue with marching is that I don’t always see forward movement after the fact.
Can we commit to joining a mentor group and giving back to our kids?
Can we agree to start writing and calling our legislators and staying vigilant about new laws that adversely affect our communities?
And I added these tonight:
Can we agree to start/continue educating ourselves about local and state politics and voting accordingly?
Can we agree to start focusing on building up our communities and knowing our neighbors so we can look out for each other? We are obviously all we got.
Can we stop making excuses for grown people who choose to not contribute to our children and start holding each other to higher standards?
Can we begin to invest in our own businesses and communities and watch where we circulate our dollars?
We can’t afford to be two day/two week warriors. We have to protect our kids through civic involvement and community engagement.
Now is the time to rediscover our own worth and wield the economic power we all know we have but don’t use.
I guess I’ll try to sleep now. But I’m sure it won’t be as restful as I need it to be. Another sad day in America. It’s becoming a norm. What’s next, people?
So I know I’ve been ghost (being a single mother is consuming!) and I know I usually try to only publish positive posts, but I’ve got to share this:
I already think about this regularly since every now and then, I hear comments or see slick pictures about single mothers being their own reason for their plight. Let’s be clear. Yes, I made a mistake: thinking that the guy I cared for would care for me. But it’s not a woman’s fault if he makes a conscious decision to be a suck ass father, especially if she’s tried to bridge the co-parenting gap. People can say or think what they want about me being a single mom, but I’m slowly but surely learning that the only person I can control is Ranada. And my job is to make sure my son knows he is loved, secure, and taken care of. I sacrifice daily and nightly for him, and if people can’t understand that raising a child alone is not a cup of tea, so the freak what? The only people that matter are the people who care about and love me and my little family and support me, not try to tear me down. Ok, now moving on. In the words of Beyonce, any questions?
This really hit home this week because the asswipe across the street has threatened me twice in a week. A grown ass “man” who doesn’t even know me bringing his ass outside to scream and curse at a single woman with a 20 lb dog. Am I supposed to respect this person who is beating on his chest in front of someone who clearly couldn’t take him physically if I had to? But no worries, I’ve reported him to my HOA and I plan on filing a police report later today. It makes no sense that I can’t walk my damn dog without worrying if this lunatic is going to come outside acting crazy. After the first threat, I really was just pissed off. But after the second, I’m kind of alarmed because of stories like this. People are crazy!!!!! And with this guy, I feel like if you really think it’s okay to harass a single woman just because you think she doesn’t have anyone to back her up, YOU SUCK. And you’re not a man. You’re a punk ass bully.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, back to the regularly scheduled positive program. If you’re missing me, please like my Facebook page or follow my Twitter page–I post on there often. Just remember, the black community will NEVER be strong if men don’t cherish and respect women and vice versa. Women weren’t put here to be doormats–we were put here to complement our men and help build our communities up. So if all else fails, use the golden rule. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated. Happy Thursday!
BTW – the Hindu question in the picture means “Do you have any idea whose son I am?” (disclaimer: according to the internet!)
I’m in a really upbeat mood. Despite the fact that it’s the end of the month and my money is dwindling. Despite the fact that there’s one person who has a hopefully not permanent spot nagging the back of my brain. My mood is because I am so blessed that I simply can’t give more than a few seconds of thought at a time to what’s not awesome. In the last couple of weeks alone, I’ve gotten reassurance and encouragement from my mom, pastor, and friends. I’ve had friends give Frederick clothes, more and more books, and a box of diapers, treat me to dinner, help me with my baby scrapbook, and spend time chilling with me and the munchkin (giving me some adult time!). There was even an older sorority sister, who remembers me from college when she was a middle school teacher who helped me and my committee for a couple of years host science fairs, who called me out of the blue (or should I say out of the pink? 🙂 ) to check on me and get my address so she could send me a little something for Frederick. I hadn’t talked to her in YEARS, but she still has fond memories of me and was happy for me when she heard I’d had a little one.
I wake up every morning to a little boy who grins every time I kiss him. Smokie is still my sweet (and spoiled) honey baby who is getting used to sharing his attention with a manchild. My job has been the best at helping me transition back to work, and I haven’t had any problems tending to my mom stuff, like pumping. My son is with someone I know all day so I feel confident he’s ok. I have tons of pictures and videos to look at when I’m missing him. And the highlight of my day is seeing his face when he recognizes me when I pick him up in the evenings. We read books, have fun bath times, and he’s been going to sleep without fussing when I put him down at the end of the day. I have a groove in the evenings and a semi-groove when I start over again each morning. I’m eating well, and I’m even starting to enjoy cooking like I did years ago.
Truly, I am blessed. More and more, I believe it when people tell me I’m doing a great job as a new mommy. More and more, I know and can trust that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh and will provide even when I can’t see how. And more and more, I am able to be positive for others when they need it. I can’t adequately express how grateful I am to those who “loved me back to awesome” when feeling like crud was a normal part of my routine, and I am equally grateful to be able to return the favor and even pay it forward.
Ok enough gushing–here’s some seriousness:
–Praying for safety for all who are dealing with Hurricane Isaac
On Saturday, a group of us went to see Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, and I’m telling you, if you’re in Atlanta, you need to make your way over to Midtown Art Cinema during its limited run. I may go see it again. This is a film I’d love to have in my DVD collection.
This film is the culmination of footage shot by Swedish journalists who came to the U.S. to get a first hand look at the civil unrest that was going on during that time. It was amazing to see that there was an article in a Swedish newspaper that questions the U.S.’s stances on several issues, particularly racism and war. In response, the editor of TV Guide wrote an article calling Sweden anti-American. This was of the highlights of the film for me (of MANY) because it just shows how the media was then and still is connected in various ways and can sway the reader if the reader doesn’t care to try to get a full perspective. This same guy who wrote this article for TV Guide was President Nixon’s right-hand man. There was another journalist, an American, who was interviewed who said that television is just a way of distracting people and it’s a useful tool. Isn’t it amazing that the some of the same things we say today were being said in the 60s and 70s?
That’s one reason I really enjoyed Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. Seriously, so many of the same issues that are going on now were issues then too. They were talking about the working class and the need for living wages, about equal opportunities, about the need for health care for all, about the need for quality education, about resources being wasted in war, the conditions of prisons, and the list goes on. The difference is that over that 30 year period since, somehow the powers that be have made some of this stuff seem like an afterthought–or like Erykah Badu said while narrating, that we should just be happy to have what we have and not focused on what injustices exist–or like Malcolm X said in the film, like people who respond to mistreatment are the extremists. The film also reinforced in this brain o’ mine how important community and organizing is. One of the things that has always made me sad about the portrayal of the Black Panthers is that so many people don’t know about the programs they created to help the poor communities they represented. They were the ones that started the free breakfast program for kids. They had community schools for students whose parents were fed up with subpar conditions. They had free clinics for people who couldn’t afford basic medical care. But they rarely ever get credit for that because people focus on the gun toting, on the most wanted lists parts. And most of the time you hear rumors that they were anti-anyone who wasn’t black, yet in almost every interview, they said they were for the disenfranchised, no matter what color they were, and were willing to work with anyone who had similar goals–but it’s so easy to put people in a box in order to downplay who they are and the influence they might have. YOUNG people got this done. And had such an impact that America’s favorite gangster J. Edgar Hoover ruled the free breakfast program a top threat to the country and launched COINTELPRO, which we know derailed the organization. Now, let’s think about this. How can a free breakfast program be a threat, let alone a TOP threat?? Because they were feeding and educating these poor kids. Starve a kid of food and knowledge, and you don’t have to worry about them ever questioning their position in life. During our discussion after the film, someone raised a really good question–what ever happened to those kids?? I’d love to know.
Other parts of the film that really stayed with me were seeing people I’ve heard about in different settings than usual. Stokely Carmichael speaking out of the country. Even more moving, Stokely Carmichael with his mom or just chilling. Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers–I’ve so often heard about Panther leaders being exiled or moving overseas, but I’ve never really known what it was like for them or what they did after they moved, so hearing him interviewed while exiled was like whoa! Also, y’all know I love me some Angela Davis, just because she is so unafraid to say what’s on her mind and because even when she was on the America’s Most Wanted list, she stuck to her guns. She was interviewed in jail, and she connected her childhood in Birmingham, which included knowing the four little girls who were killed in the famous church bombing, and her interviewer asking about violence. If I were to cry during the movie, this would have been one of the moments–she told him how crazy it was to ask her about violence when she grew up in violence that was almost unquestioned.
It made me really sad to see the last couple of chapters focused on the War with Drugs that later turned into the War on Drugs. It’s so crazy how our neighborhoods were flooded with heroine and later crack. And it’s amazing to know that there are people overseas who have seen what this nation has put black people through. It’s amazing to me to see all this footage and know that we’ve come a long way, but there’s no way anyone in this country should ever think that we’ve overcome our past. Black people collectively are where we are–little to no wealth esp when compared to our counterparts, still disenfranchised, still suffering–by design. But we have people like Herman Cain who really believe that if you are not wealthy it’s completely your own fault, and there’s no institutional component on the other side of the personal responsibility coin. And at the same time, we’ve lost some of our gumption to act collectively for a solution to our own issues. It’s sad, but I still wonder what we can do now together that can impact this world the way our predecessors did.
Last weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Jackson, MS to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and to Tougaloo College to perform my annual national alumni board duties as the Atlanta alumni chapter president, Southeastern Regional Representative, and Assistant Secretary of the Board (and yes, I had to take minutes for a three-hour meeting, lol).
Every time I go back to campus, I’m reacquainted with my memories of “coming of age” at Tougaloo. A pretty precocious 16-year-old, I was pretty sure I was making the correct decision by bypassing my senior year to enter college and start pursuing further education in my passion–mathematics–as well as an education in life and an advanced education in black history. Growing up, I was exposed to lots of heritage because my parents were very determined to ensure that I knew about where we’ve come from and what I would endure to get to my future. Attending HBCUs, for summer academic programs and for college, solidified all of that–by showing me that there were lots–i.e. a campus full–of young black scholars with different backgrounds and goals that were still very much like me. This was important to a kid who grew up one of a handful of black kids in the gifted program, the accelerated classes, the AP classes, the academic organizations at a majority white school. I kept wondering–is it really diversity if I’M the diversity? It meant volumes to me to see that I was not an anomaly. In addition, as a math student, it was important that I had professors who made a conscious choice to teach at my institution–not because they had to, but because they cherished the meaning of it–and who made a concerted effort to push students to the cliff and made us jump into our unknown greatness. First, Dr. Raffoul, who was the dean of the math department when I got to Tougaloo, sat down with me in his office and told me that although I hadn’t taken AP Calculus (since I hadn’t been a high school senior), he was confident that I could take Calculus I with a bunch of upperclassmen and excel. It was tough at first, but with help from mentors and my professor, I aced it, setting the stage for several more semesters of pure math training. Fast forward to my sophomore year midway through Differential Equations when Dr. Fahmy, whose opinion I cherish until this day, challenged me because I had been slacking off. We had a conversation that I’ve never forgotten because it shook me to the core. He told me that when I came into his class as a freshman, I was something special–I was going places. But lately, I had been merely mediocre. And if I wanted to settle for mediocrity, that was fine, but surely he wouldn’t be spending so much time supporting me and helping me to find opportunities to shine and prepare for my future. I didn’t cry in front of Dr. Fahmy, but as soon as I passed through his doorway, I bawled from Kincheloe Hall to my room in Berkshire Hall, and I got my stuff together immediately. I got my first B the semester before, but that was the only B he gave me for the rest of my college career–and do believe that I worked for those As.
The other thing that made Tougaloo so special is our tie to black history. Tougaloo was vital to the civil rights movement, and it was nothing extraordinary to have a conversation with someone who was right there in it. As an example, just last weekend, I got history lessons while touring the new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Center. First, while giving an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Thompson, class of ’68, told us about his time at Tougaloo and how he met while on campus not only his wife, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.
Then, while looking at the beautiful photos that adorn the hallways of the building, Dr. Doris Browne, class of ’64 and the VP of the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees (and my Gamma Omicron soror), told me about her time at Tougaloo–she graduated at 18–and her academic decisions after she left! She was friends with the Tougaloo Nine, and she told one of my classmates and me the story of what they did and why. She then pointed out Joan Trumpauer, the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta, who she still knows today (and they both live in the DC area), and Anne Moody. Now, my eyes got big when she said Anne Moody because I read her book Coming of Age in Mississippi when I was in junior high, and she’s always been a historical figure in my head–but not a real person. It really means so much to me that those kinds of conversations are commonplace if you’re interested.
Finally, the connections are invaluable. I meet someone new every time I visit the yard, and more often than not, seasoned alumni are happy to give encouragement and advice to students and younger alums. After the TCNAA meeting on Saturday morning, I met Eddie Irions, class of ’60, who is the Memphis chapter president. He told me how he’s revived the Memphis chapter and gave me suggestions on how to meet my goals with the Atlanta chapter. He gave me this quote, that I’ve been chewing on ever since:
Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… By the yard, it’s hard.
Simple, but so resounding because I’m the queen of wanting to get it done NOW. But I’m learning that some things just take time and small steps, and I’m happy that a fellow math graduate took the time to have a 30 minute impromptu conversation with me because he wants to see us succeed.
This is the testimony of an HBCU graduate. Despite the advice of my high school counselors to stay my senior year and see who else offers me money (simple answer–any school to which I would have applied) and the advice of people who thought a 16-year old on campus was a bad idea, I absolutely made the right decision. The time and dedication and effort put into students at HBCUs and maintaining ties to our values while forging ahead with 21st century initiatives (omg, Tougaloo has so much in the works!!) are truly noteworthy. No, HBCUs aren’t perfect, but what institution is? It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just a place to fill our brains with more information (although Tougaloo, for one, does a very spectacular job doing so, ;))–but it’s also a place to fill our hearts and spirits with motivation, self-confidence, a strong identity, and meaningful connections.
Now, it’s just up to us to support our institutions–it’s up to us to make sure that they maintain viability and that we encourage continued relevance. Alumni giving and community support are imperative to ensuring that our institutions are able to train our children for the world–building and expanding networks, encouraging entrepreneurship, finding more and more avenues for research and innovation, but most of all, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge that are necessary for critical thought and good decision-making. They’re our schools and our future. As President Bevery Wade Hogan said this weekend:
If the people who know you best don’t invest, why would anyone else?
Yesterday, I attended the Many Voices, One Goal conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, where public and private stakeholders came together to discuss ways in which North Carolina can continue to work together to achieve the ambitious goal of preparing ALL children for college or career. North Carolina was one of the states awarded federal Race to the Top funds in the second round of competition. Governor Beverly Perdue, who holds a Ph.D. in Education Administration, announced in January 2010 her education agenda: Ready, Set, Go, which has a goal of making sure every child in North Carolina is college or career ready. Gov. Perdue, plans to achieve this through four pathways: great teachers and principals, quality standards and assessments, new data systems that track students from their first day, and a turnaround of lowest-achieving schools.
During her address, Gov. Perdue stated what we at Market Street believe: “You’ve got to have a skilled workforce, purely and simply… Jobs and education are inextricably tied together for a common goal.” After giving more details about each component of reaching the goal of preparing ALL students in North Carolina, she left us with this: “The history of North Carolina is still being written. This chapter belongs to us. It’s our opportunity to transform a child’s life…” This is what took me from saying that her goal was lofty to ambitious. She gets it. She KNOWS that she has to reach those kids on the margin to improve the lives of everyone. We can’t continue to ignore those “doomed to fail” if we really are looking at our long-term future. As Whitney Houston said, the children ARE our future so we have to prepare them all, not just some.
Dr. Uri Treisman, a professor of mathematics and public affairs (MY kinda guy!!) at UT-Austin and considered an expert in education innovation, gave a keynote that highlighted America’s strengths in education. He said that although we have a ways to go to improve, that we should give ourselves credit for the progress we’ve made. Dr. Treisman stated that when it comes to the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) educational metric, the US performs better than all European countries. Minnesota and Massachusetts, who have chosen to be ranked along with the nations, both outperformed Japan, and Massachusetts did just as well as Singapore. However, the United States ranks 25th of 30th in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The difference, according to Dr. Treisman, is the TIMSS focuses on procedural knowledge, or how to follow rules, while PISA focuses on the ability to use knowledge in unfamiliar situations. He asserted that in order for our students to have the ability to solve creative problems, they need an education that balances both of these. *Lightbulb* The second part is critical thinking–something we’re constantly complaining about, esp with the Millennial generation. Education reform can’t just be about passing tests and getting through school. It HAS to be about preparing students for LIFE. This discussion of policy from a mathematical and statistical perspective, just my cup of tea, was really interesting, and I think the folks in the audience got some great ideas about how to approach reform issues.
I then attended a workshop entitled Innovative Models for School Transformation: Learning from the Many Voices of School Innovation across North Carolina during which I tweeted about how misty I was getting. In this workshop, the presenters were the students of three innovative school models across the state and an administrator for a fourth:
EE Miller Elementary in Cumberland County, which is a part of the Global Schools Network – the third graders presented a powerpoint presentation about insects entirely in Spanish, which they’ve been learning since Kindergarten. The group was multi-cultural, and about 4 of them were black. It was something else to see these little people grabbing for the mic, not shy in the least, to show off their science and Spanish skills.
For my teacher friends who will appreciate this: the principal of a school in a small, rural, county told us about The Collaborative Project, which is sponsored by the NC Public School Forum and the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center to provide quality staff development. The program has greatly increased the success of teacher recruitment and retention in these areas by providing teacher financial incentives and hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year.
A student from KIPP Institute in Gaston told us about how the school has turned a peanut field into an innovative school that expects and prepares each student to attend college by engaging families and the surrounding community. Their students have been accepted to schools all over the country and have seen very positive results. This student has already been accepted to several of the schools, including Morehouse, to which he applied and is waiting on a few more responses. He was a great public speaker–you could tell he was nervous, but he held his own, with great volume and clarity and not reading from his slides.
A group of students from Anson New Tech High School split up and spoke with each table in the room about their school’s programs and opportunities. The school, which promotes “trust, respect, and responsibility,” focuses on project-based learning and a wide array of technologies. The students work on oral presentations, team work, and individual learning, while weaving in technology in all facets of school. An afro-wearing kid came to my table and chatted enthusiastically about the projects he’s worked on and how in team situations, they could fire someone not pulling their weight. Armed with his Macbook that each student has but has to earn the right to take home, he let us listen to a song he created, beats and all, for a math project.
There was a panel about public ed in NC featuring Bill McNeal, Leslie Winner, and Dale Whitworth, and one important idea came up for me–education is a public good–not a private good. Ding ding ding. Public education shouldn’t be a free enterprise system that doesn’t support all children. Education is not just about individual benefit–it’s about collective benefit–bringing up our entire community, not just one child. It’s about preparing kids to meet the challenges of ALL of our futures. Leslie Winner made the point that there have been four reasons for public education that still apply today:
“If we’re going to have a successful democratic society, we have to have a well educated and healthy citizenry.” — Thomas Jefferson. Now y’all know I think some people are a-ok with uneducated folks because then they don’t question anything. If we want kids who will be engaged in what’s going on in our communities and nation, we need them to be able to think critically and ask questions–not just go along to get along.
In the early 1800s, education was a means to ensure social order. That still applies. When you’re prepared for a good job, you’re less likely to get into mischief. When Jackson was off the chain crime-wise, I was telling folks that crime fighting wasn’t the sole answer–economic development is important too. You have to give folks something to do. Idle minds are a devil’s workshop, right?
In the late 1800s, as the country was moving away from farming and such to manufacturing, workers and leaders needed training to make that transition. The same applies today as we move into the “New Economy” that is so intertwined with technology and innovation.
Finally, education was necessary to enable to the South to face the future as a part of the country. Well… many southern states at at the bottom of so many of the rankings lists. Again, we need to pull up the margins to pull up competitiveness.
The final keynote of the day was from Dr. Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation, which was launched in 2010 after President Obama reached out to the leaders of Xerox, Kodak, Time Warner Cable, Intel, and Sally Ride Science. Change the Equation is a nonprofit, non-partisan initiative to solve America’s innovation problem. Their goal is to improve STEM education for every child, with a particular focus on girls and students of color, who have been underrepresented in STEM fields. Dr. Rosen told us that although corporations give a half billion dollars in philanthropy in STEM learning, it hasn’t been as effective in return on investment and her organization plans to reroute those funds to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. They are currently developing design principles for philanthropy—ensuring that organizations who receive the money fit within criteria that are most likely to see results. They also plan to release this spring STEM Vital Signs, which will start with a compilation of existing state STEM data and evolve to include new data not currently available.
North Carolina is positioning itself to become a model for other states, and I applaud their efforts. They’re reaching into rural areas and low-income areas to try to figure out how to bring everyone along. I hope that other places (ahem, Georgia, ahem, Mississippi, ahem, keep naming states until I start forgetting them) get the idea asap and follow suit.