Hell No! You Can’t Touch My Fro!

That’s right, I said it.

Any well-educated Black man, knows it’s a no-no to touch a sistah’s hair. Especially, if she just got it done. Well, I’m here to tell you that the idea of my being natural opposed to “whipped, fried and laid to the said,” as my mother used to say, doesn’t give you license to act the same way – not touch!

When one person a prominent man in the community constantly complimented commented on my natural locks, I was flattered - sort of. After the third of fourth comment, I was annoyed by his insistence. Once or twice is enough, thank you! But when I walked by him and he proceeded to take his hand on my hair and pat it, I thought I might lose all of the poise and grace I’d learned over the years. THANK GOD! I’m lady.

I recall my formative years where students would be in awe and wonder with my locks. “Can I touch your hair?” they’d say.

“No.” I’d answer. I’d explain to them that just because I was different (I attended predominantly white institutions grades K-12), I wasn’t an animal in a zoo whose mane you could pet if you came during the right hours.

So for all of you who are in awe of my hair – thank you! For those of you who want to compliment me on it - your words are greatly appreciated.

But that doesn’t mean I want you running your fingers through petting or patting my hair!

Now, I must say that every now and then, a woman will let her man run his fingers through her strands – if the moods right. But unless you’re a licensed stylist – WITH a cosmetology degree OR a string of clients that would put Dwight Eubanks, Derek J AND Lawrence Washington (The Real Housewives of Atlanta) to shame. Then, keep yo’ damn hands to yo’ damn self.

Yeah, I said it.

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Conquering the slide

It’s an interesting thing when you witness your child conquering his fears. Case in point – my boy and “the big slide.” There’s a small playground located around the corner from our house. We go there from time to time because it’s good exercise for me – and for him.

The other day was like almost any other day. I pushed him in his trike – across the street, down the sidewalk and to our destination – the playground. It was there where he remarked in awe and wonder, “Oh wow! The slide!”

Yes, I thought to myself – the slide. I will have to coax him down or slide down with him. There are actual two slides – a little one and big one. Of course, the little slide has never been a problem, but it was “the big slide” that always gave him grief. But not today. He climbed up the equipment - jumping from landing to landing – and reached the tallest height and base for “the big slide.” 

“Oh no,” I thought to myself, “he’s stuck.”

But my boy surprised me. Down he went – down the big slide – on his bottom, on his tummy, feet first, head first – and at the bottom I was there to catch him. Although he didn’t need me.

No, as you can see, he rather face plant in the rocks and give himself a gravel bath. It’s the little things that I’m learning to not let bother me. Of course, it’s going to be a mess cleaning the rocks out of his hair. Yes, we’ll have to dump his shoes before he can walk in the front door. And NO!, he can’t thrown, kick or EAT the rocks.

But, that’s just a boy’s life. Doing boy things – even the ones that seem so simple - like conquering “the big slide.”

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – A Day On; Not a Day Off

Yesterday, someone asked me if I had today off.

“No,” I said.

“Oh that sucks!” They responded.

Without hesitation, I proceeded to tell them, “No it does not suck.”

It means I have a decent paying job in my field of expertise. I work in an integrated newsroom and lead a group of people who don’t say they won’t take direction from me because of the color of my skin or my gender. I have the ability to speak freely about injustices – if there be any – against me or any of my peers.

There was a time when I too would have thought working on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day did “suck.”I’d stay home, sleep in or maybe take in one of those good MLK Day sale events. As I have gotten older, I have realized the importance of doing my part in society – making a change – doing what I can to make this life better not just for me – but for those who come after me.

That is the true spirit of not just this day, but everyday.

I appreciate the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday. But what would be best if it would not just remember his dream, but keep it alive buy showing service to other and continue to fight for the equality of all Americans.

I have a dream.

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My Son’s Life is in Imminent Danger

PhotoGrid_1374543277421I am a mother raising a Black son, and as of Saturday, July 13, 2013, his life was placed in imminent danger.

That day, a jury handed down a verdict of not guilty to George Zimmerman, a man who admits he killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He his defense – self-defense. He stalked followed Trayvon Martin, down the street of his own neighborhood, assumed he was a robber and confronted him because he looked how the suspects who’d previously robbed homes in the neighborhood had been described – young Black males. But it was George Zimmerman who says he feared for his life. How ironic, because now, it is I who am fearful for my son.

You see, we live in an affluent, upperclass neighborhood. My son and I go on walks in the neighborhood, we swim in the community pool and he loves playing at community playground. He likes going to the lake looking for fish, and he enjoys running up and down the street – his street – at his own leisure, as all children do. You see, my son is only four.

Fast forward 10 years later – he’s fourteen. We no longer go on walks together. He walks on his own – in his own neighborhood, wearing common attire – a hoodie. One night, he’s walking home alone and someone seems to be stalking following him. I would hope that he would call me. But, knowing myself and knowing his father, I am sure he would think, he could handle the situation. But the truth is – as he gets older – I will tell him – that he can’t.

Because just when he feels threatens by someone who is stalking following him; that person approaches him, and threatens him – I am sure he will feel cornered and want to fight back. But two weeks ago, it was revealed that fighting back – when you are the “perceived threat” – could result in your own death. Moreover, your death will be reduced to nothing – an accident, something you could’ve prevented – by a group of people who can’t empathize with you because they’ve never been in your shoes and never will be. Oh the hardship of being a Black male.

I would like to believe this is all hypothetical – but the truth is it is today’s reality – one that I hope I never have to realize. I hope to never feel the pain of not only Trayvon’s family, the family every victim whose life was taken senselessly. Still, to know that my son could be in danger – walking alone at night – in his own neighborhood puts knots in my stomach. Tell him to tag along with some friends, you say? My answer what better way to insight fear in a community that already fears one unarmed Black man, then to see a group of them.

On Friday, President Obama said had Trayvon become a statistic, having fallen victim to violence committed by a “peer,” it would have been easier to for “the Black community” to digest. While it’s definitely not right, there may be some truth in his statement. I mean, before now, I never feared my son would lose his life to random gunfire that troubles inner city streets. Because now I know the real threat, one that has always existed, and one I can no longer ignore, is the random profiler that will mistake my Black son for the criminal he is not – just because he is Black.

As protests and rallies continue to take place – even in my hometown – calling on the justice department to bring federal charges against George Zimmerman, I am not confident that much will change between now and 10-15 years from now. You see, laws don’t change prejudice, people have to change their way of thinking. And to change a mindset of a people will take a generation, better yet, generations.

Therefore, my son and I will continue to take walks in our affluent, upperclass neighborhood, he will continue to play on the community playground, and swim in the community pool – but I will also continue to teach him that his actions will always have consequences, not because he made the wrong decision or because he become the antagonist, but because he is a Black man who lives is in America – a country where he will insight fear even when it is his life that is in imminent danger.

Sad, but true.

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{Relationship Wednesday} My special hidinig place

I was once asked, “You’re young, intelligent and attractive (beautiful would’ve been nice, but I digress). So, why are you still single?”

My answer was quite simple, “I don’t put myself out there.”

Let’s see, I spend 75% of my time at work, where % of people meet their partners. But at my job, 50% of my co-workers are already married, 25% are women likeme – so involved in their career that a relationship wouldn’t matter or searching for that serious relationship…that they won’t find at work and the other 15%, well let’s just say, they’re not my type.

Then, there’s church. Some might be surprised when they read this to know that I’m in between churches. I go to multiple churches to appease my denominational obligations as well as fulfill my son’s spiritual needs. So far, no one at churcb number 1- ofh everyone there is already married too well almost. And the singles’ group is well, I really don’t know what it is…Ive never been.

And lastly, there’s home. Home consists of my son, my parents, my grandfather and my little cousin. No potential lifelong partners there.

So, I say this to say, it might sound like I have a negative outlook on my meeting my future husband. But the truth is my path is almost certain tbat it take, not a magician, but someone who truly does their research to come by me.

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Hair Policy

After reading an article about a Pennsylvania school banning braids and afro puffs, I couldn’t stand by idel and not tell my son’s story. Now, it may not siund like much, but in 2010, I tried to enroll my school. We’re Catholic, so instantly,  I walked into our parish school office and asked for an application. At the time, he was two, but three was just around the corner. After gettign evrything filled out, and submitting his application, I was informed that he wouldn’t make the age cutoff date because his birthday wasn’t until October. I was a little  bummed. These days, kids start school right outof the womb, what was I going to do with my boy. Through the help of several co-workers and my own research I found my son’s current school. Hewas accpeted with flying colors – and no adjustments to his physical being needed.

You see, had he gone to Catholic school, his hair (specifically, the ponytail he’s grown to love would’ve only been a momento of his past). We would’ve been forced to give my boy the BC (an un-elected procedure).

The funny thing is, before being accepted to the current school, I was prepared to chop off my boy’s hair. Having gone to Catholic school for three-quarters of my life, I’d become accustomed to such outlandish policies in my former years. I can remember a friend, who was Black, having her hair “wgipped, fried and laid to the side” for prom. Then, on Monday, at school she was called to the office.

“That’s against school policy, ” the principal told her.

“What my hair?!?” She asked, shocked and surprised.

“Yes,” he insisted. “We don’t all of those colors.”

“But what about the other girls?” She insisted.  She was speaking of the White girls, who’d gone to prom and still had remnants of the ‘dos.

“They shouldn’t have it either,” the principal replied. But my friend made an instant observation.

“But, I’m the only one who is in your office.”  Without hesitation, she aked to call into her mom, who called her old principal who then called our parish deacon.

After a series of calls and conferences, it was determined that she could keep her hair up for the remainder of the week, but any further violation woukd result in disciplinary action.

Yes, I’m serious and no, I kid you not.

I have another friend who works for a corporation that doesn’t permit braids or facial hair for it’s male employees. He thinks the rules are fair inplace for professional reasons.

Back to my boy, his ponytail is growing into a great little puff that he wears on a daily basis. On a morning, when I try to give his head a break from the stress of pulling, I’m normally met with one question, “Where’s my tail?!?”

His hair is now as much of him as any other part of his body as any other and getting ri of it, at least t this time,  is just not an optional.

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{Toddler Tuesday} Stress & Pressure

176682_4830764771435_232596918_oThey are the two things that we warn our children about – when it comes to their friends.

“Don’t let them pressure you into doing something you don’t want to.”

“Don’t get stressed out about being popular.”

But in the end – it is parents who contribute to a lot of the stress and pressure that children deal with. The issues tend to do with how well we did in school, how we turned out and what we want for our children. And while we think we always know what’s best (Mother’s always right), sometimes our added nagging, badgering and need for control can be just as detrimental to our children as any outside force.

It was brought to my attention one night at home. I was helping my son review his letters. He needed to know letters A-I (I’ve written about my alphabet strategy before). We sat down on the floor and I laid out his flash cards. One-by-one, I would ask him to identify the letters. He’d get so far, then say he didn’t know the letter. I began to get frustrated because I knew that he knew the letter but in all of her toddler stubborness, he refused to budge and tell me it’s name. Finally, we had an all out learning war complete, with a tantrum, me screaming and time out.

Then, came his breakdown. After timeout, he burst into tears and told me he was sorry. Normally, I’d accept his apology, but I wanted to know why.

“Why are you sorry, J?” I asked.

“Because,” he sobbed. “Because, I just don’t know.”

I took the time to explain to him that I wanted what was best for him and that I had confidence that he knew his letter. Therefore, I wanted to instill that confidence in him. Of course, he’s only four, so I didn’t use these exact words. Ultimately, I urged him with two basic principals – 1) always do your best and 2) never say, “I can’t.”

I was reminded of the learning showdown only a day after it happened, when I learned that a child (a late teen) who attends my son’s school had taken his own life. I was never given specifics on the boy’s death, but it was rumored that parental stress – bullying of a different kind – was the main factor.

And then comes the story of a Roderick “RJ” Arrington, a 7-year-old Las Vegas boy beat to death by his stepfather, while his mother watched. The reasoning behind the beating – RJ lied to his parents about doing his homework and reading a Bible verse. Pressure and stress.

Let me make it clear, this post is not about not setting goals, benchmarks and having dreams and aspirations for your child(ren). It is merely a reminder that while our children look to us for guidance and discipline, they need our love, compassion and mercy just as much.

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{Toddler Tuesday} My Boy Makes Me Laugh!

ImageWhen my boy was smaller, he’d make me smile – a lot. I’d smile at his smile, I’d smile when he cood, I’d smile just knowing he was mine – all mine sleepless nights and all.

My boy will never stop making me smile, but as he’s grown older, so has his ability to make me laugh. There are the times when he repeats things I’ve told him – things I think that he’s ignored. There are times when he says words (good words) that I never thought he knew. There are times when he’ll just say something funny (he can be very funny) and we’ll both just start laughing.

Laughter is a welcome emotion/reaction when it comes to raising little ones. There are days when you want to cry; days when you want to scream; days when you just want to runaway (don’t tell me you’ve never had that thought). But no matter what those feelings evoke, they can never replace the love, gratefulness, happiness and laughter that comes with raising a child – that come with raising my son.

I’m grateful every day for him – especially on the days when we can share a big belly laugh!

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{Maternal Monday} #1 Job – Keeping My Boy Safe

“You gotta keep me safe!” My son cried as we backed out of our driveway.

“I always keep you safe.” I responded somewhat numb to his whine. He’d been whining all morning.

“No, mommy, keep me safe!” He started to shout, “put my seat belt on!”

I turned around to find him – sure enough – not buckled up.

In my morning haste, I had told him to get in the car. Then, forgetting something behind, I ran back into the house to reclaim whatever it was that I was missing. I still can’t remember what it was. He can shut his own door – so he did. When I came back outside, I jumped in the car, started it up and we were off to school. My mind had skipped over the fact that my child needs help to buckle up. Thanks to the warning from his teacher, he was demanding that I keep him safe.

Realizing my forgetfulness, I put the car in park, jumped out and buckled up my son. He’d done a good deed of reminding me to keep him safe – and I was grateful.

I’d forgotten all about the small, yet most times life-saving task, until the other day.
I came into work and learned of an accident involving five children – two had been critically hurt.Later that day, when I called police to get an update on the children’s condition, I learned that a three-year old – only a year younger than my boy – had died.

As of right now, we don’t know if the child was in his car seat – or wearing his seat belt – but police did say the boy flew though the side window of his family’s van. Moreover, his mother was driving the van when the accident occurred.

My heart still drops every time I think of that mother mourning the loss of her child, probably replaying the incident over, and over, and over again in her mind and trying to figure out what she could have done to keep her son safe.

This story, like the many that we cover about children, will stick with me. But, that’s not such a bad thing. That’s because this story will remind to not let my businesses get in the way of the most of important person in my life – my son. It is and will always be my job – to keep him safe.

 

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