Hair We Go…Again. Open Letter to our Babygirls

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I’m tired. Sick and tired, really. It is rather exhausting to constantly debate the value and beauty of girls like me, whose very basic existence from our names to our physical traits (hair, skin complexion, facial features, anatomy) deviate from the european standards of beauty and respectability. Whose melanin and pigmentation seem to cast a shadow of doubt about our worth in this society. Every month, it seems we are confronted with yet another viral, insensitive, and highly offensive incidence of degradation aimed at Black girls. From the curious case of Gabrielle Douglas twitter chatter, to the unforgivable Quvenzhane Wallis verbal cuts, to the shaming of Willow Smith, to the sickening Rachel Jeantel reactions. I could go on and on. And these are only the highly visible cases, no way to capture the thousands of shaming episodes Black girls endure in classrooms, doctors’ offices, sports arenas, media messages, and households on a daily. I swear, if we added up all the hours of blogs, commentary,discourse, debates, rationales and confrontations dedicated to fighting misconceptions and narrow perceptions when it comes to our little girls’ hair and image, we’d have a year’s worth of classroom instruction.

In case you need to revisit, here’s how a historic moment became a trigger of pain for an innocent Gabby Douglas

I have devoted a huge chunk of energy doing combat work, trying to get folks to acknowledge our girls. And while I feel strongly about resisting the stereotypes and stigma as I did on CBS Atlanta, d.i.v.a Downloads, Perri Small Show WVON, Lady Dee Mind Magick Radio, it is so draining.

It always makes you wonder how much more we can take, that is until the next time we hear an atrocity such as the recent cases of 7 year old Lamiya Cammon whose teacher had the audacity to cut her braids in class and 12 year old, Vanessa VanDyke who is facing expulsion because she chooses to wear her hair in its natural state.

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How can one even begin to give voice to the anguish and defeat of the young lady who could no longer own her name, because it was not acceptable in her environment. Now one Keisha has become Kylie.

Sigh…

So here’s what time it is.

It is time to stop draining ourselves and fighting a losing battle. No more of the Kanye West outcry for validation in places we will never gain acceptance or respectability. From now on, my energy will be spent affirming our girls. Teaching them and empowering their agency. I will speak to their power, their beauty, their legacy, their heritage and their future…their life.

And so I penned this letter…

Dear Babygirl…

There is so much I want to share with you. So many things I wish you could truly know and believe. All the things us as your mothers and aunts tell you make us sound like we rode dinosaurs to the homecoming dance, and kind of make it hard for you to trust that we understand. I bet you believe we don’t have a clue what your current situation is like.

And you are right. We did not go through puberty last month. We didn’t have our first kiss last week. It wasn’t just yesterday when we were trying to study for the U.S. Constitution or ACT exam. Nope.We didn’t do our homework on a computer while texting our teachers if we had a question. Most of all, we are not sitting in our rooms trying to think of a way to get permission to go hang with our friends without cleaning the dishes.

Still, there are some things that are just the basics. You know, that stuff that never gets old.

The stuff of life that every girl child in your family, dating back to at least 6 generations, has had to navigate her way through.

1. You are the most special, most important person in your life.

You are a gift who was pre-ordered and given a due date much like your favorite album. The universe waited for your arrival on your birthday. That’s right, everything shifted and fell into place just for you to get here. When you were on your way, during your mother’s labor, nobody in that hospital/birthing room mattered as much as YOU. You were the center of attention. The doctors, nurses, midwifes/doulas, your mommy…everyone in that room focused on you, your safety and survival. Listen, honey, Rhianna, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, and any other famous person you can think of could have been in the hallway outside of that delivery room, and they would have not mattered. So you must remember and hold on to that truth everyday. Remember you were born with a purpose and the older you become, the more power you possess to live on purpose.

2. The media is NOT your mirror

You are bigger than an image. And you are not in competition nor have any need to conform to a standard of beauty which exalts your silky-haired, narrow nosed, purt-lipped, nasal-toned counterparts. There are some forces in the world that would have you turn down so they can turn up trying to BE like you. There is no need to pretend or exaggerate your worst behavior to be recognized. Be your best self. That is what will make a lasting and powerful impression.

3. Love yourself

Take time to pause all the static and noise from your iPod, TV, smartphone, magazines and even your friends. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. Write it in a journal.

4. Move beyond the block

Remember your zip code does not define YOU. Even though where you are from, city or neighborhood, can be a simultaneous badge of honor and shame, you must understand what you were born into is not who you were born to BE. Your current situation is just that…At this point, it is more than likely due to your parents choices/decisions. Your future depends on what you see for yourself. Visualize yourself in the space you want to be. Then everyday believe in your heart you are already there. Let every thought and action be considerate of that space. Step into it fully. Set the intention to grow there and blossom to your fullest.

5. Love your sisters.

“Girls keep up too much drama.” Heard it a million times and have to admit I have said it before, too. But that was before I realized what I speak of “girls” is what I am speaking of myself. So no more of that negative talk about other girls. We attract what we give to the universe. Stop the competitive behavior, do not believe that anyone can take any opportunity from you, what is for you, you will receive abundantly. (That goes for the cutie you are dating) Recognize in other girls the same good things you like about you. I promise you will get along much better.

6. Speak your name.

Say it LOUD. Think for a second of how special you were when your mother took the time to think of a phrase/name that would pour all her love into you, her precious gift. And no matter what ANYONE else says or thinks of YOUR name, you own it. It is the first thing you will ever own. Honor and respect why it was chosen for you.

7. Celebrate yourself.

I know you love to talk about your favorite celebrity. You follow them on IG and watch their YouTube channel all the time. You root for them to win all the awards. But it’s time to focus some of that energy on you. Standing in the mirror, honor yourself for all the good choices you made today. Take this moment to clap for yourself.

8. Game recognize game

Adults get it wrong. And we don’t have all the answers. But there are many of us who love and care about you. We want the very best for you and will use all our resources to get what you need. Look for mentors all around you whether it is a teacher, neighbor, librarian, church member, or coach. And when you see an adult who appeals to your ambition, it’s okay to ask questions about their life journey…what were some of their challenges and successes. On the other hand, when you see adults acting the fool, in real life or on TV, find another example to follow.

9. An Educated mind is the key to the world

Inquiring minds want to know! Ask questions about EVERYTHING. Why? How? You can find out anything you want to know just by reading credible and factual sources. (Books, Articles, etc). It’s fun to watch music videos, but look at some documentaries and read some historical fiction, too.

Each day you are alive and breathing the air of this earth you will hear and see messages that take your mind off of celebrating you. From the ads on the public transportation to the sounds coming from your iPods and smartphones, to the images bouncing before your eyes on the screens, it will all try to turn down your applause for that girl in the mirror. But if you practice the above, you are winning the game.

Summer Hot Reads

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Whether a parent or teacher, if you have had to spend more than 30 minutes in the presence of an adolescent girl, I’m sure you’ve heard these words…”I’m bored…” or “It is soooo boring…” or “It’s nothing to do…”

Well, there is no better time than the “nothing to do” days of summer to encourage our girls to lose themselves in a book adventure.

If getting them out of our hair is not motivation enough to put a book into their hands, perhaps realizing how an unfocused summer can pose a threat to their development will be the reason.

While it is certainly a time for leisure and relaxation, summer is also the season when children from disenfranchised communities experience a detrimental loss of learning. In fact, The Center for Summer Learning shared a report which states young people can lose up to 3 months of learning during their summer vacation.  Irrespective of income level, if young people are not as academically stimulated during summer as they are during the school year, they will not retain what they ended the school year knowing.

That alone is reason enough for me to compile a Summer Hot Reads reading list for Girls Like Me… that and my absolute love of reading. Now I admit, I have a selfish motive, too. I mean, for me there is nothing more appealing than sitting curled up with a book in my hand. I want so desperately to inject the reading bug into all girls…after all, I truly believe reading is power.

Still, not every girl will independently choose turning pages over uploading pics to Instagram, creating dancing vids for YouTube, giggling on stoops and porches with their friends, or hanging at the air conditioned malls. Yet, I am confident if we add some engaging, culturally relevant titles to their reading elixir, they’ll be captivated by stories that hold a space for characters they identify with and connect to.

So without further ado, here is the GLMPI Summer Hot Reads reading list (updated June 3, 2015):

5-8th grade

One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia 

The Skin I’m In, Sharon G. Flake

Standing Against the Wind, Traci L. Jones

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Misty Copeland

Last Summer with Maizon, Jacqueline Woodson

Girls Like Us, Gail Giles

8-12th grade

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rayla 2212, Ytasha Womack

Ship of Souls, Zetta Elliott

Cornered, an anthology edited by Rhoda Belleza

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanan

Assata: An Autobiography

Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

On the Line, Serena Williams

The Other Side of Paradise, Staceyann Chin

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

To make sure girls are getting the most out of their reading experience:

Have girls perform scenes from their book! Or record an video summary and upload to YouTube like like this one:

  • Reading is a great activity to share with you the girl you mentor! Make visits to the library a part of your engagement time.
  • And be encouraged to start a book club with a few of the girls on your block, or youth members of your church/community center.

Happy reading!

P.S. Please share any other hot read recommendations in the comments. Thanks a million!

The Red Nose…not quite Rudolph. New X-Rated teen dance

Sitting in my hairstylist’s chair discussing the state of girlhood and the double plight of not only mentoring, but raising adolescent /teen girls, our parenting chat took a left turn that left my mouth hanging wide-open. Simply aghast, I sat listening to her hip me to the latest teen dance craze gone viral. It’s called the “Red Nose.”

Now I thought, surely with a name like that it had to be something innocent…you know considering Rudolph playing reindeer games with his red nose self.

Uhn Uhn. No such luck. This has nothing to do with Rudolph. Think more like a red nosed pit bull which is a breed of a dog, which in turn lends to the “doggy-style” inspired dance.

First of all, the fact that teenage girls as young as 13 know anything about “doggy-style” is just too problematic for words. Secondly, that some would be so bold as to record themselves and post videos on YouTube for the world to see all this stank is further proof of just how influenced they are by the ratchetness they see in music videos and reality TV.

Now, I simply refuse to post the videos…and there are plenty out there. But in my opinion it is child pornography. I ain’t going. You’ll have to find them for yourself.

What I will do is encourage you to have conversations with your girls…constantly. Don’t get caught slipping. Ask questions. Listen to their “girl talk” with their friends when you are around them. Monitor their media intake. And most importantly, talk candidly about media messages, find out why she is interested in certain content and how many of her friends share the same interests.

Just last week I conducted a media literacy workshop during the Girls On Fire 2013 Conference hosted by the SouthSide Coalition on Urban Girls (SSCUG), an alliance of girl-serving organizations on the south side of Chicago convened by Demoiselle 2 Femme. In three classes comprised of 45 mostly Black and Latina girls, they shared their top television programs. They were Bad Girls Club; Love and Hip Hop; Real Housewives of Atlanta; Guy Code; and Spongebob (seriously).

When I asked what were the main themes for each; fighting, sex, alcohol consumption, competition, confrontation, and more violence seemed to be common across the board (not as much with Sponge Bob although they broke it down that he and Patrick have disagreements…I was lost. lol)

Still, I shared with them some findings from Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children. They were shocked. they felt cheated and angry. They couldn’t understand why some things so accessible to them are intentionally monitored for their white or higher income counterparts. Why no one is standing vigilant over the messages that influence their development and socialization.

It’s true, no amount of advice, wisdom, parental sentry will keep our girls from being exposed to the red-nose nor all its kindred pop-culture funk. They’ll see videos, hear deplorable and degrading music, pore over high-glossed sexist magazines.

Yet if we equip our girls with the tools they’ll need to critically examine those things, while also providing positive alternatives, they will resist the stereotypes and reject media norms that promote bad, self-desructive behavior. More importantly, if we, adult women, set out to BE who/what we say we want our daughters and the girls in our lives to be, the less likely it is for them to use the media as their mirror.

I know it’s heavy stuff raising our baby girls. Here’s a little help for you:

Bring a Girls Like Me Project media literacy workshop to your girls

Common Sense Media provides tip sheets and latest family media research

Watch this powerful documentary with your girls Missrepresentation the film

Mentor a young girl in your city

So please share, had you heard about this Red Nose? Ask your daughters and share their reaction to this new dance. How do you monitor your child’s media intake?

Shutting Down Rape Culture and Chief Keef at CPS Proms

Delivering 522 signatures  to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Delivering 522 signatures to CPS to ban rape culture from proms and school functions

Girls deserve to BE and FEEL safe. That’s it. That’s all. Especially in spaces that are sanctioned by adults. Especially in institutions whose primary purpose is to advance their development and well being.

So moving the needle forward, my initial utter disgust and shock at the heinous lyrics of yet another Chief Keef song prompted a petition to ban his music from Chicago Public School proms and other school events. We were very successful in exceeding our target of 500 signatures. Not only did we get those signatures, but local and national media helped facilitate the discussion. The petition had amazing support from Moms Rising, a vanguard in issues that pertain to mother’s rights and issues as well as policy.

In the midst of the momentum of growing support for this particular petition, CPS made an unprecedented move  to become the first district in the nation to mass-close 50 schools, a move that will surely affect safety, academic pursuit, and socialization of Black and Brown students. This politically charged turmoil almost daunted our focus. But with wisdom and encouragement from Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka (a Mom’s Rising Fellow) we pressed forward and delivered the signatures; trusting that for this cause, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett along with other CPS officials will take heed to public opinion and yield to moral obligation to ensure girls are safe; safe from verbal assault, safe fro the threat of rape and sexual violence, safe among male students.

Our timing could not be better, because it appears Chief Keef is hell bent on publicly threatening any woman/girl he comes in contact with sexual violence and battery…His latest was a violent rant against pop celebrity, Katy Perry. Clearly he is a socio-path. Yet while it may be a slow battle to get his songs removed from radio airwaves, we are taking the small steps to disempower he bravado, and mic check his dangerous platform. Not only are we demanding all of our children not be exposed to music that promotes rape culture, we are also emphasizing the need to implement cultural programming in schools that allow students to become media literate…to provide a critical lens by which our young people perceive media messages.

While our students have to navigate treacherous streets on their way to school, we affirm it only right they be kept safe inside the building and spaces occupied for CPS functions.

  1. We want media literacy programs in schools such as programs facilitated by Girls Like Me Project, Inc.
  2. DJ/Audio entertainers hired by school administrators must adhere to policy developed for & in collaboration with students which outlines SPECIFICALLY what rape culture encompasses
  3. CPS must adequately support music/arts programs which foster positive outlet of creativity for its students
  4. Parents and adults must take an active role in understanding how to manage their child’s media intake
  5. Schools should host forums to discuss social implications behind music that promotes rape culture
  6. Join national campaigns against rape culture in media, like Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now Mail (FAAN Mail) Talk Back movement 

We know CPS can shut down anything it puts its mind to…it is time they shut down Chief Keef and all music that promotes sexual violence against our girls… for all of our babies.

Ladies, let’s go to the Black Women’s Expo Chicago

19th Black Women's Expo Chicago

19th Black Women’s Expo Chicago

The McCormick Place is set to transform into a 21st century innovative power-play ground for high minded, forward-thinking, women influencers at the 2013 Black Women’s Expo, April 5-7.

It’s been a minute since I’ve attended, in fact I think the last time I went was way back when Angie Stone performed hits from her debut album on the main stage….what was that, more than a decade ago? Pretty much. I didn’t return due to either scheduling conflicts, or the programming content wasn’t too compelling. This year things seem to promise more. So I’m proud to promote as a blogger/ambassador.

The three-day weekend expo will feature purposed presentations on empowerment, business moves, and enterprise.  It sounds guaranteed to sizzle with hot topics and conversations lead by some of the most influential entrepreneurs and coaches. Highlights in the 2013 lineup include a keynote by Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine and founder of National CARES Mentoring Movement (as chair of Windy City CARES affiliate, she’s sorta like my boss lady);  Kim Coles dishing her own brand of funny; Dr. Ian Smith is delivering his ultimate Shred Challenge; Sherri Shepherd dishes up close & personal on her juicy life; finally attendees will be treated to an intimate conversation with the living legend, Mr. Dick Gregory!

And in this season where women are being cheered on to lean in and sharpen their business minds, I’m super excited to see next level workshops like the one lead by Donna Smith Bellinger, Advance U: Advance Your Business and Your Brand! Plus, for those getting their entrepreneur feet wet, Women’s Development Center is sponsoring Small Business Start Up.

It’s a weekend of business, wellness and all things women in between, relationship talk is also in the mix. In fact, Ms. Da-Nay-Rockmore Macklin fidelity coach and author of Love After Adultery, is leading “Where Do We Go From Here?”an audacious panel discussion on conquering relationship challenges.

The full schedule is online…

For me, I’m most overjoyed to see that the organizers recognize how imperative it is to include our young girls and teens in their power movement! There is plenty of  programming dedicated “Just for Teens.” In fact, on Friday at 11a, young Girls Like Me can celebrate their sister-girls in a showcase of local teens who are “going above and beyond the norm to rock community service, entrepreneurship and innovation.”  I hope every adult woman who attends will bring the girls in their lives for that one!

Simply put, there is a lot of rich information-sharing and corporate goodies to be had at the 2013 Black Women’s Expo Chicago! Ladies let’s go!

*I’ll be joined by other bloggers who will live tweet throughout the event. Those who can’t attend can watch live online. Now how cool is that?

Tell us, are you going to the Black Women’s Expo Chicago? What panels/speakers are you excited to hear?

Shawty Lo’s Baby Mamas ain’t the problem…You are!

all-my-babies-mamasI’d been debating with myself for weeks whether or not to write this post. But then in the middle of the night the entire post  came to me fully written out…it was concise. It had the most perfect transitions and its prose rang with clarity. Of course this was all in my head sans pen and paper or laptop. So here I am trying to serve up something remotely as good to express my two cents on this Shawty Lo fiasco…and all the damnation that is Reality TV.

Early last year, along with Bessie Akuba of the She is Me Program, I co-founded #girlsmediachat. It was to be a Twitter chat to dissect and dialogue about the media images portraying and shaping girls’ identity. A few weeks in and it was the same…passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sisters would tweet to death all that is wrong with media. Invariably reality TV was our angst. For obvious reasons. But if you need illustration, please reference any episode of Basketball WivesReal Housewives of AtlantaLove and Hip Hop or any variation of the aforementioned. There’s this trending word that the kids label it… Ratchet. Yes it is quite appropriate.

Well. I grew a bit weary of pointing out the ratchet on television. I’m so beyond it. It is taxing on my nerves, and makes me want to act out in ways that are so not befitting a passionate, ambitious, creative and conscious sister. Hmph…so I simply refused to watch the witchcraft. Thus what I am tagging the latest travesty to hit the airwaves titled Baby Mamas, and all ratchet forms of reality TV…it is witchcraft.

And seeing that I cannot realistically reach through my television, put a hex on their spells of ignorant pageantry nor shake some sense into any of these characters, I will do what my life assignment calls for. That is to lift up the ones I can touch, show them affirmative ways to communicate with other girls; be an example of how to honor their bodies and beings; and present tools that help them navigate the weird world of relationships sans mental manipulation, patriarchal oppression, misogyny, or physical abuse. Because my investment and energy moves beyond getting a show pulled. The bigger picture is to interrupt the behavioral patterns little girls are exhibiting today that lead them to become implicit in the witchcraft….go from girls to women behaving badly. We must touch the ones within our reach daily: that means the young sisters riding beside us on the buses/trains, baby girl who lives next door, your daughter’s playmates…and some of us need to check the little girl still inside of us. Ahem. Yes. I went there. Truth is what is on “reality TV” is played out live in living color in many homes with young girls as audience to adult women acting stupidly and making foolish, misguided decisions. I promise you I attended an event just last weekend with women who are college educated, many members of sororities with successful careers and who are MOTHERS refer to each other (out loud) using the B word as a term of endearment. For real. Who does that? Still in the midst of this was baby mama drama to boot. For real.It was all quite fascinating in a Discovery-Channel watching sort of way. But, sadly it was not a television show. It was indeed real with no cameras.

So again, I’m less frustrated with the tube these days. I want us to fix the everyday sister who believes its okay to address another girl/woman in any derogatory fashion. It is reckless dishonor to share a boy/man and engage in unprotected sex…no SEX PERIOD, knowing he shares his goodies with another. It is outright flagrant indecency to put your hands on another to express your anger or insecurities. Geez. The list of ratchet behavior is much too long…and quite frankly unproductive.
If the objective is to transform lives of our girls, this must be our priority. If not, we have only our real life selves to blame for what they see/hear in media.

Change the Game:

Sign the petitions like this one to get shows pulled from the air
Support organizations like Girls Like Me Project, Inc. book the workshops for your school/org.
Join the #notbuyingit movement to let advertisers really know how you feel about their endorsement of such foolishness

And on the last note, I have heard many people excuse the “entertainment industry” and “celebrities” of all accountability for being role models or accurately portraying the complex telling of the Black American experience, especially as it relates to our women and girls. Well. That is arguable, for some. What I do know for fact is that the “entertainment industry” is  yet a politically correct misnomer given to what we know is an exploitation monster. Given that, we should only expect the entertainment industry to exploit our lowest lows for profit. It is simply time we raise the bar.

How do you think we should raise the bar for our girls?

Babies Having Babies: Preventing teen pregnancy for Girls Like Me

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Doing our part, we are featuring a guest blogger to spread awareness and prevent more Girls Like Me from entering motherhood too soon.
Teen Pregnancy: Decisions, decisions and your support system
Becoming a parent, exploring adoption, or thinking about abortion are all issues of complexity for adults. Imagine having to make one of these decisions as a teen; it becomes even more frightening and complex. That was and is my reality still today. Growing up in Gary, Ind., girls like me didn’t get stimulated by schoolwork. As a matter of fact, I was an ‘A’ student. So in the midst of “kickin’ it” and doing what I viewed as no big deal, I found myself in a tight situation. Pregnant at 16.

While teen pregnancy has decreased in the past decade, the numbers haven’t dropped enough. Recent research shows that 39.1 of every 1,000 births are to that of teen mothers. Additionally, three out of 10 young women become parents before the age of 20. I became a part of that statistic several years ago when I found myself a teen mother twice by the age of 18. At that age, one should be focused on furthering their education, finding employment and gaining the tools necessary in order to function in the real world. National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month focuses on the need to continue to increase the awareness of both teens and adults during the month of May.

One of the most vital parts to increasing awareness is to offer teens real-life examples and experiences such as mine to nurture the thought process of understanding that SEX HAS CONSEQUENCES! While pregnancy is not the only risk associated with having sex, it is one that I have learned has one of the greatest impacts. Becoming a parent at 16 left me with an array of decisions to make. For starters, how would I be able to provide for myself and a child at such a young age? As a teen parent I had to learn through trial and error. One of the most important elements in being able to have a chance at successful parenting is your support system. A strong support system can better equip you in making the right decisions. At the time, I had a weak support system. My parents did very little to help me. However that lack of strength in my support system motivated me to do more to help myself and my child.

Times change the same as societal views. It’s no longer taboo to be openly sexually active. Teens are usually misinformed by friends, television, music and so on about sex or just don’t take time to acknowledge the repercussions that exist. Dealing with the decisions that arise if one becomes pregnant requires a level of maturity, so does the choice to have sex. But why create such a burden for yourself when there are so many alternatives? It is unrealistic to believe that teens aren’t having sex, hence the need to continue to promote and strengthen awareness among our teens. I lacked the maturity level, the education, and resources to effectively handle the situation. With that being said however, once it’s done, it’s done. You have little time to think of what to do and explore options. The bottom line is that the choice to engage in sex is a decision that has to be made with a level of maturity. As a teen you usually are not equipped to make the right decision. My advice to all teens is to educate, educate and, educate some more. Educate yourself and your peers. Be your own person. Never do things because your friends are doing it or out of fear of being rejected by your peers. Succumbing to peer pressure is for lames. Remember, only you will be left with the consequences. Familiarize yourself with healthy alternatives to sex. If you decide that you are ready to have sex, make sure that you educate yourself on ways to protect yourself. And in the event that you are faced with becoming a young parent, use that as tool to motivate yourself to succeed and build a better future for your child. That’s what I did. I love being a parent; it is one of the primary motivators for me becoming a better person every day. Life’s challenges and experiences help shape the individuals we become.

Don’t just increase teen pregnancy prevention in the month of May, increase awareness every day.
PhatPhat writes on her blog, phatphatmemoirs.blogspot.com, regularly and continues to learn and live each day while sharing her experiences to help us all become better people. The PhatPhat Memoirs book series will be published Fall 2012.
You can do your part to help in the cycle of teen pregnancy.

Love Taps: A Game that never was

Photo credits: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

Do you remember those old ladies from long ago? You know the ones who butted into your business and corrected you even though they didn’t know you or your parents? They sternly, but lovingly, gave you their unsolicited two cents about your words or behavior, daring you to go and tell your mother? Those nagging old ladies who you wished would just mind their own business and let you act a fool out in the streets away from your parents’ watchful eye…remember them?

I have to admit…I have turned into that nosey, nagging, old lady.

Maybe it’s because I spend an exorbitant amount of time surrounded by young people. Could be because I’m a mother myself, and so my antennas (in my Katt Williams voice) are sensitive to certain mannerisms and behaviors that somehow are adopted by children as proper behavior.

But when you spend so much time with children, you watch…and listen. You’ll see them mirroring behavior that if allowed to become habit will lead them to less than desirable lives. Not on my watch. I refuse to let a child slip through the cracks and BELIEVE it’s okay to be wayward and wild.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Ms. Crabtree-nitpicking at every little thing kids are doing. For instance, my 8th grade son was in front of his school talking to his buddy whose back was to me. My son saw me walking up, and a sly smile slid across his face. I wondered what nerdy conversation they were having (I proudly believe my son and his friends are nerds. Cool nerds, but nerds nonetheless. That is a wonderful thought to me, but I digress). Lo and behold when I get within earshot I hear the most explicit language coming from this boy’s mouth. I mean he used the worst racial slur, he had a couple of four-letter words in there and some multi-syllable ones for good measure. My son at this point is cracking up when his friend turns to see me and is totally shocked. I just give him a look as he throws his arms around me and tries to play it off. Awkward moment for sure.

In this instant, I don’t nag or lecture. Cursing, while definitely not actions of prideful gentlemen, it is also not a gateway to the penitentiary. Heck, when I was their age I could curse better than any tavern-goer. I was a pro. So that offense called for a mere reminder to choose words that you would be proud for your mother, friends’ mother, or any adult to hear because you never know who is near. Besides, I told him, use words that tell people how smart you are, that language is for small minds.

See, I’m not a meanie.

But there are some things I absolutely have zero tolerance for. Because let’s face it, some of our babies demonstrate behavior (the PC term is “at-risk” behaviors) that you can scope out their future in just six short years. Baby momma; juvenile ex-offender; recipient of a restraining order… you get the picture.

One thing I absolutely do not tolerate is physical “play” between boys and girls.

For some reason, hitting, pushing, pulling, slapping, and choking are passing as “play” among the children. When I see it, I can’t help myself, I pounce into action to redirect and point out how detrimental that type of “play” can be. I know where it can lead to: someone gets hit and then gets serious. The playing is no longer funny because hits become “real.” Also what I know is that most domestic violence cases start from situations like this.

Yet here is the real jaw-dropper. More times than not, the incidents like this that I’ve witnessed have been girls hitting boys. Almost all the time. This incenses me. For one thing, where are they learning to use their hands to communicate with the opposite sex? I rarely see girls hitting each other or slapping their girl friends, they save that only for “playing” with boys.

In fact, what prompted this post was a recent scene at my children’s school. An 8th grade girl (13-14 years old) turned toward the young man she was walking beside and landed a real quick slap to his face. I wasn’t sure if her hit landed or if my eyes were deceiving me, but sure enough she did it again, and again. The boy’s reaction was disturbingly reserved. My mind was racing with all the things wrong with the picture. Why is this child hitting this boy like she is manic? Why is he allowing her to hit him in his face? How is this acceptable behavior less than 50 feet from your school in broad daylight with teachers, parents and classmates around? And more importantly, what will happen to both of them if he decides to retaliate?

From the look on his face I knew my worst fear wasn’t unfounded. I jumped from my car and stepped in. The young lady (or maybe more appropriate to call her little girl) caught much attitude and tried to front me off (I’m giving away my age, I know). I didn’t go in on her, but I def let her know her behavior was NOT cool. That it was completely unacceptable. I also intend to follow up with the administration, as chair of the school’s community engagement/school climate committee, I’ll propose workshops on teen dating violence for students AND parents. Oh, baby girl should trust, it’s not over.

See my biggest issue is 1.) girls get trapped into this cycle of violence simply from a place of seeking emotional validation. Being hit (for some crazy reason) is seen as showing affection or love. It only escalates as they get older so they are involved with boys who also have the idea of affection twisted 2.) boys are taught not to hit girls, that that is a most egregious offense. Yet when they are being hit, no one steps in to advocate for them or to reprimand the girl.

My mind gave a lens into a potential future for this child who hit this boy, left on the side of a road in the dark of night with black eyes and busted lip abandoned and victim to her boyfriend who she has played hitting games with since she met him. The residual shame, physical and emotional wounds will not heal easily and could follow her into every relationship she ever has. It will reach her children, and the cycle continues.

I also see the future of the boys who play these games. That rush of adrenaline and aggressive testosterone will over take him while his buddies tease him about being hit by a girl or a girl fronting on him, the need to “check” his playmate/girlfriend, until his actions have him spiraling out of control in a rage that leaves his play mate in serious condition and him locked away in a jail cell.

This is real.

This is why I do not tolerate anybody, male or female, putting their hands on others. It is not the way to play.

Hitting games…homegirl don’t play that!

Am I being too extreme? What are your non-compromise zones for youth/teens?

Did you know:

  • Across CDC studies, 15-40% of youth report PERPETRATING some form of violence towards a boyfriend/ girlfriend
  • Perpetrating dating violence in adolescence increases the risk of perpetrating violence toward a partner in adulthood

Are you around teens? Recognize the signs…

Click here for research and stats

Check out more teen dating facts from CDC

Raise awareness- February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Awareness Month

Finally…Girls Like Me Blog

I have been blogging over at iWritethewrongs for almost two years, before that on Blogger and before that on Myspace. Yet, none of the blogs were dedicated to my heart, my very reason for being; Girls Like Me.

But, Alas, finally a blog dedicated to the nuanced reality of girls like me. Dopealicious posts complete with vibrations from funky fresh videos and smooth pictures coming soon…

Are you ready?