Letter to My Daughter: Salvaging Your Sweetness

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(I wrote the following in honor of my daughter last year some time and found it on my abandoned tumblr page. I decided to share with you so we can honor our beautiful babies together, while they ARE our babies!)

You blanket my cheeks with innocent kisses, as you wrap your arms around my neck and you say “I love you, Mama”. I kiss your forehead, hold you tight and say how much I love you more and that you truly are the sweetest girl I know. Its true. You are so sweet, so much so that I worry for you. I see myself in you, remnants of what I used to be. And now that I have the honor of being your mother, one of the most uncomfortable truths I must face is that I have to prepare you, as much as I can, for heartbreak and disappointment. I have the painstaking task of helping you to build your character as well as your resiliency; preparing you for what can be an angry, opportunistic world, and how I wish it wasn’t necessary. But here’s why it is:

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I Expect Better…

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Yesterday was my 12-year old daughter’s award ceremony. A notable occasion, worthy of my effort to be there, I took a few vacation hours from work and picked up my son from school to go and support her.

Days prior to the event, I asked her what award(s) she will be receiving. She shrugged her shoulders and said “I dunno”… this should’ve been a dead giveaway.

So I fought school traffic, circled the tiny parking lot a few times before I found a space, only to enter the school area that was standing-room only (in 4 and 1/2 inch high heels!!). I took a seat on a back bench (could barely see the podium) and soothed myself with the thought of all of this is worth being here for my child.

Shortly after going over the award categories in the program, I realized what’s she was being honored for. Her school participated in the “Sista Keepers” program, a (Black) youth-centered mentoring program that uplifts and inspires young girls to “be all they can be.” While this is quite a commendable 8-week program, my disappointment rests in the fact that this was the ONLY award she received. A friggin’ certificate of participation.

Now since this category was second to last, I was forced to listen to various faculty members rattle off a bunch of names for awards in other, more important categories. My heart not only ached from the pain of my daughter not receiving an award in any of the academic categories, but also at the fact that NONE of her Black peers were honored in these categories as well.

I sat there, going through a cycle of emotions: anger (for the trouble it took to get here for this), guilt (could I have pushed her more??), sadness (for other Black parents who took the time to notice the same thing I did) and shame (for our children and their bleak and plighted futures if they, if WE, continue to ignore these educational resources).

Who owns the blame: The parents? The kids themselves? The school? Perhaps all three. I don’t always check homework like I should. And although I keep in touch with teachers via email on her progress and behavior, I know I could put a little more effort into actively participating in her education. I shouldn’t have to wonder what she is being honored for.

I think back on the times we would go over homework and how she would haphazardly rush through it just to watch her favorite TV program or to jump on a social media site. She was perfectly willing to turn in homework containing wrong answers, along with spelling and grammatical errors until I drilled it into her thick skull that what she turns in is a reflection of her capabilities. I angrily scolded her about consequences of not caring about her work… Still, I’m not sure if she even cares.

I remember getting calls from her guidance counselor encouraging me to allow my child to participate in this “Sista Keeper” mentoring program. I never got the call encouraging me to have her sign up for the math, geography or spelling clubs. An equal amount of effort should be made to encourage students like my daughter to entering academic-centered clubs, not just the  social ones.

So we are all accountable. I won’t point any more fingers than I have to point back at myself. And while I expressed to her my delight for her receiving the certificate (I even pitched in an ice cream cone afterwards) I expect better… She will NOT be a statistic. She will NOT be lazy and/or incompetent. She WILL be able to compete with her Indian, Asian and Caucasian counter-parts. And I WILL be a better parent…

Have Children? Not Married?? Where Is Your Shame???

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As I prepare to co-host an upcoming “Battle of the Sexes” event (which I absolutely LOVE! You must come if you’re in the area. See the flyer on the facebook page for this blog), one of my impending subjects we will challenge is the “issue” of single motherhood.

This topic is important and deserves continuous discussion because this particular demographic needs all the advocacy it can get. Every question, from “do single mothers deserve to be highlighted on television?” to “do single mothers deserve their own “father’s day” cards?”, exposes us as the shameful underbelly of this otherwise pro-marriage, patriarchal society. It is inferred, or at times even blatantly stated, that WE are what’s wrong with the children of today. No fathers around. No education. Low morals. Too independent to keep a man. Too incompetent to raise productive and capable children.

What’s even more troubling is that although single mothers are not confined to one specific race or class level, White single mothers are often lost in this conversation.  Carolyn Castigliac, a comedian and writer, sums it perfectly in her recent article Please, No More Articles About Single Mothers (Except This One)”  how society differentiates White single mothers from the mothers of color.  This White, divorced woman writes:

….We don’t seem to really exist in this phantom world where single mothers are [either] White teens or poor Black ladies who can’t get their Black baby daddies to marry them because (haven’t you heard?) there’s a “problem” in the Black community where Black people don’t seem to be marrying each other or barely literate Latinas who came here (probably illegally) and crapped out a bunch of anchor babies. Trash. Welfare Queens. This is what the world thinks of these women…”

Certainly, there are mothers that are absolutely unsuitable for the procreation of humankind. ABSOLUTELY (and I know a few). But perhaps too much criticism and not enough praise for our constant work and sacrifice is what keeps me riled up. And quite simply, the lack of respect from our male counterparts, who can assemble their own football team with just a few strokes, and yet are never really held accountable for actually RAISING the children.

Cheers to single mothers who do it and do it well! Everyday should be a day in your honor…

My Top 5 Young,Gifted and Black

Now I have 3 children and they’re all in different developmental phases. There’s the “Almost Grown (and Gone)” 19-year old,  The “tween” 12-year old and an 8-year old, the only boy. Being in three different phases in life, their musical tastes vary; while the 19-year old has been around long enough to sample some of everything music has to offer, the other two are Pop kids, all the way.

But the other night, while helping the tween with her homework, she started to hum a tune.  She said it was a song called “Bandz A Make Her Dance“.  WTF??!!

Understand, my children don’t have virgin ears… I cuss like a sailor. No. Really. But words like “shit” and “damn” are really not my issue. Its the messages, glorifying stripper/pornographic behavior. Its the messages about drinking, partying and using drugs. Its the message that our little girls only serve a purpose when they’re bent over, with their ass cheeks spread open, picking up nasty one dollar bills from the floor.  Its the message that our little boys only care about how many “hoes” they can get and how much they can “make it rain” and how many pills they can pop. The urban radio stations continue to play songs like this. The “artists” take virtually no accountability for their influence. And while I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t control everything my children have access to, I’m not happy with not knowing just how exposed they really are to these types of messages. The above-mentioned song in particular is… is just… STUPID.

So, I’ve decided to do a little research and compile a list of kid-friendly music that’s not only good, fun music but also made by little brown kids, just like them. It’s my hope that with alternatives like these, our children will get some sort of balance:

5. Miss Mykie

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You may recognize her as one of the new faces of BET’s ” 106 & Park”  (if you watch that show. *insert MAJOR side-eye if you do*) but Mykie started her career as a YouTube sensation. She has an incredible voice and really good, empowering songs. Parental Plus:  She’s a college graduate and never misses an opportunity to let the world know she’s an AKA.  She reps higher learning very well!

4. Chloe and Halle

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Meet Chloe and Halle Bailey. Also known for their Youtube views, this sister duo is amazing, having been featured on “Ellen” and are recent winners of Disney’s “Next Big Thing.” This talented team also act and have been featured in several movies and TV shows (according to their website). Parental Plus: They’re really talented and not half-naked.

3. Diggy

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Son a rap legend Run of Run DMC, this little cutie reminds me of LL Cool J, the 2.0 version. He’s sweet enough for the girls and cool enough for the fellas. I know what you’re thinking… your kids wont like him. But he’s actually good. Like really good. Check him out. Parental Plus: In the footsteps of  LL and Will Smith,  he’s very good at getting his point across and never having to spit a profane word.

2. Mindless Behavior

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I don’t get it but I’m kinda old so I’m not supposed to. Apparently these little cuties cause pandemonium where ever they go. My daughter had a brief, very brief love affair with this pop quartet. She’s since moved on but maybe you’ll have better luck with your tween. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard any new music from them. Hopefully this kid-friendly group haven’t lost their edge. Let me know what you think. Parental Plus: Umm….I’ll get back to you on that.

1. Lupe Fiasco

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This socially conscious rapper has always had my support. He uses profanity, yes, but you can’t deny his creativity and desire to bring attention to real social and political issues. His latest effort “Food and Liquor II” contains the hit “Bitch Bad” which talks about the very problem with songs and videos that our children are constantly exposed to. Pick the clean version but make sure your kids understand the difference between real hip-hop and the garbage that gets all the airplay. Parental Plus: You and your children can appreciate his message. Its about Black greatness…