More than tears for Heaven


I cried today, as I seem to do many times when watching local news here in Chicago. But today the sorrow is deep and far-reaching as news outlets around the country report on 7 year old Heaven Sutton, shot from a coward’s bullet while she played near her family’s candy stand on the city’s west side.
This hurts.  And it should hurt us all. Yet it does not as many have become desensitized.I think of what this young girl’s mother had in her heart for her baby girl to give her such an intentional name…Heaven.

Many will hear the story and not recognize their connection to little Heaven. Some will distance themselves from the tragedy either by virtue of their zip code, occupation, race and/or class. So often we believe if we just “avoid” certain areas and types of people, we will live to see another day. We believe that. Maybe there was a time when that was true…not today.Perhaps this is what pierces my spirit the most: The saved and sane amongst us have done such a thorough job of maneuvering the maladies of the ghetto like an elusive NFL  running back. We move out to suburbs; keep to the “safe” part of town; disassociate from neighborhood folks; enroll our children in “good schools”; socialize in trendy leisure watering holes; lock our car doors and roll our windows up then avoid side streets, taking the expressways to navigate point A to B.Still, left behind are the innocent ones just trying to live life they were born into and play where they live. You know, just being kids.

When I heard the headlines stating the victim’s name, age and neighborhood, I prayed it was not the precocious child I met just two days ago who’d enrolled in my summer program on Chicago’s west side, also named Heaven.  Even after seeing it was not her, no relief came to me. Only tears for Heaven.

Like my own daughter whenever we head to our home in Englewood on Chicago’s south side, little Heaven begged her mother to move from her neighborhood because of the violence. See she too wanted a life of affirmation. I can imagine her “when I grow up…” declarations. Not surprisingly, she had the dream of most children to visit the magical world of Disney. But we have robbed her, and so many other little girls and boys, of that possibility.

How are you included in the “we?”By simply ignoring the cancer eating away- infesting our community and families.

At times like these you want to sympathize and pity the victim’s family.  Spout visceral language, wishing ill-fate to befall perpetrators who snatch lives and run to hide like spooks. You want to point the finger and give blame a face and name, look anywhere but at ourselves.

Yet it was while watching the news, to my utter amazement I found myself nodding my head in staunch agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who audaciously asserted, “This is not about crime, it is about values.” When further pondering who could shoot into a crowd near innocent, playing children, he searched out “Who raised you?”
That’s it. Here’s our mirror moment. Nobody is helpingraise our precious babies any more. Too many are “minding their own business.” Not long ago, even as late as the crack-pushing Reagan 80s our community raised us. It is not airing dirty laundry to tell how people of African descent (Blacks are included for the new post-racial folks) were nurtured and raised in the village concept. Nosey neighbors existed to tattle and correct wayward children. Present fathers and uncles rounded up all the knuckleheads for sports. Sassy mothers braided any little girls hair and doled our freeze pops to any child within 50 feet of their home. Cool aunties taught us how to dance. Experienced big sisters kept us safe. Teachers set expectations and vehemently reinforced them. Dedicated church deacons disciplined like biological parents. The Mother’s Board and church ladies emphasized decorum. And dignity and values were common practice.And I’m not romanticizing. Was there deviant and criminal behavior back in the day? Most definitely. But bad behavior knew its place, and it certainly was not to be demonstrated out in the open near children and innocent by-standers. Nobody said, because little Kenya’s mother is working late it’s okay for her to run up and down the street with no supervision. Even if little Chris’ father wasn’t around, the fathers who were did not exclude him. Everyone took responsibility for everyone. There was and remains a role for each and everyone of us.  Without any of us ever pulling a trigger, if we continue to deny and shirk from our roles and responsibilities in this fight for our community’s values and ultimate existence, little Heaven will become an inexhaustible statistic.

Speaking of statistics, according to the Chicago Tribune, Heaven became the 20th child under 17 to be killed by gun violence. Let me instagram that visual for you… that would be an entire classroom of students. Get the picture?

Also included in the number is 16 year old Shakaki Asphy who was shot in the chest while visiting a friend earlier this month. She died. Unarmed. Sitting on a porch. 
Are you outraged about that? Don’t we owe it to our children, those born into circumstances through no fault of their own and with no resources to change their present reality, to live free and unharmed?Hate to admit it, but generations before dropped the ball in some aspects, many succumbing to drugs (using and selling) or that integrationists’ all-mighty, ever intoxicating American-Dream that if only you become a success  you can escape the hood that raised you and prosper…
Still, no matter what has or hasn’t happened in the past, it’s time for my generation and beyond, the Xs Ys whatever you tag yourself, it’s time to  take it back to the block. Attending to our professional development and networks is a beautiful thing, but when senseless violence stifles the dreams and makes life a nightmare for the children coming behind us, we can’t side step that.

I’m fed up. I really am. Time to take it back to the block. If you’d like to join Windy City CARES Circle of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Girls Like Me Project, Inc. to organize a peace movement here in Chicago, please email your contact info.

Other ways you can help end the senseless violence are:
  • Become a mentor to youth in your community: So many are involved in self-destructive lifestyles due to lack of positive engagement. Your experiences and interaction can offer a life-saving alternative.
  • Report Crime: Time out for the “no-snitching” creed. Criminals are brazen because they are confident no one will tell.
  • Fight against gun violence
  • Educate: Share history (personal and universal) that gives young ones some cultural context and relevance. When you know better, you do better.
  • Dedicate your blog to gun violence prevention
Let’s not only shed tears for Heaven. We owe our lives to all those lives trying to survive the America they know and we want to forget.
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It takes an Extraordinary Father to raise up an Extraordinary Mother

There have been many a song written about our mother’s. Our sweet mothers. Called by many names; Mommy, Mama, Ma, Sweet Sadie, the terms of endearment are e dless. Our love for our mothers is so deep; so intrinsic to our very being that this world feels wrong side out when we lose our mothers, after all Mama is the queen of our heart, her love feels like tears from the stars. Mama’s love is food to our soul. We honor them with our words and deeds, especially giving them the first credit for our success and accomplishments.
Every published author has dedicated a book to her. Watch any awards show and you could make a 50 minute mashable of all the mother shout outs.
Mothers are placed on pedestals, sprinkled with love and covered with loyalty. The caring and nurturing spirit feeds us. We seek her sage advice, always looking up for her approval, striving to make her proud. And so on Mother’s Day, as we do on her birthday and just about any day and find ourselves feeling carefree with some extra pennies in our wallet, we aim to please with tokens of our love. That’s our mama’s. And we’d do anything for her.But what about other people’s Mama…like your daughters’? Are you honoring her? It amazes me how many men turn over the earth for their own mothers, but on Mother’s Day begrudge the other mothers in their lives. They love, honor and respect their own, but then give the critical, judgmental side eye to the mother of their children.

Little girls today grow up to be the mothers of tomorrow. The kind of mother they will be highly depends on their fathers today. Having a strong father is a guiding force in supporting our girls natural maternal instincts. And when I say strong fathers, I don’t mean the man who just happens to live in her home. It takes much more.

A strong father brings his A-game to the fatherhood court. He is a team player and practices fundamentals so he can get better. He honors the game and demonstrates good sportsmanship. He recognizes that by giving it his all, he will become MVP in his daughter’s life. And he’ll know he has the championship ring when his game provides his Babygirl with:

  • Confidence to show up and reach for dreams
  • Discernment to recognize good men and make affirming choices
  • Healthy self esteem to be okay with herself
  • Respect for herself and others
  • Love to recognize and honor its power


Did you know that teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, domestic violence are just a few of the areas fathers can guide their daughters away from? Check out more stats and ways you can influence positive outcomes for our mothers of tomorrow.

You are not winning if you see yourself in any of the following scenarios:

M.I.A Daddy
Some of the young ladies I work with express such yearning for their fathers. A few see their fathers sporadically throughout their lives, many others can’t remember the last time they have seen or spoken to the man who contributed to their existence. It is heartbreaking to witness, crushing to live it. It is crazy how this manifests itself in motherhood. That mother who over compensates for her children’s missing dad, she probably had an M.I.A daddy. The mother who makes excuses and believes any daddy is better than no daddy for her children… Yep, she was most likely the daughter of an MI.I.A daddy.

Present Dad
On the flip side of the M.I.A daddy, we all are familiar with the daddy who pays all the bills but spends little time. He’s the dad that spends more time at work than in his home. Our daughters need fathers who are present and intentionally engaged. Otherwise she grows up to be the mama who expects nothing from a man (the father of her children) but a check. She won’t expect, nor welcome, input on how she raises her children, not even from their father.

Daddy’s Little Girl
There is nothing in the world a Daddy’s girl fears that she does not believe her father cannot fix, no dragon (bullies/abusive boyfriend/mean boss/slum landlord) he will not slay to protect her. When little girls grow up knowing they are loved and protected, it gives them permission to go out into the world standing tall with confidence and security.

Spoiled Rotten
Daddy’s little girls take special pride in how much their fathers love them. They get giddy knowing with the right pout of the mouth and tug of the arm will make her daddy do anything to please her. His love and affection for his princess is expressed with material gifts. A strong father recognizes balance is a must or else he is raising the girl who he calls a “gold digger” who also learns to use motherhood as a ploy to get more tokens of affection. She’s the mother many are today begrudging Mother’s Day, that selfish mother who takes child support and purchases designer bags.

Spare the Rod
In our society, fathers have gotten the reputation as disciplinarians. Justified or not, strong fathered understand the difference between discipline and abuse. Strong fathers know often times, the best discipline comes from example and a good conversation. Still if you are the dad who takes the belt off his pants, the situation had better be assessed and resolved with love leading. Your daughters future could hold an abusive man whom she allows to harm her and her children.

Do Right Man
There are little girls who stay on the lookout for their Daddy. But Daddy is slow to show up. When he come around he’s got the I can’t get you those new shoes/glasses blues and a package full f excuses. Seems like he disappears into the room with mama and spends 15 minutes being daddy. This little girl will more than likely grow up to be that bag lady type of mama, bitter and distrustful. She will tell her children not to depend nor trust any man…you know what I’m talking about. Do right by being a dependable and respectable father who gives his best self to his daughter.

Rolling Stone
This one needs no explaining, after all The Temptations made it plain. We all know that father that has children in everywhere part of the city or spread all over our country town. I swear I have heard from young girls who say they met a new friend at camp on in their new school who turned out to be there sibling. For real. There’s a lot to say about this, but that’s another post for another day. Today just know this type of father maps the path for his daughter to be a “Baby Mama.”

Honor thy mother(s)
This is last but belongs at the top. Of course little girls want to see their Nana’s and Grannies honored and respected, but they too are watching how their fathers treat their mothers. This dynamic informs them how they should expect the father of their children to treat and interact with them. If nothing else is key, it is in the example. No child wants to hear you berate her mother, your little girl does not deserve to be a pawn in grown folks’ business. This is a team sport and you and her mother are the franchise owners, coach and teammates. Sometimes you will also need to be the bigger person and referee, yet with love.

How are you  loving your daughter right today so you can honor her on Mother’s Day in the future?

Ladies, how do you think your father shaped your motherhood?