If not sisters keeper, perhaps daughters protector?

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Before the world heard the names Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis or Tamir Rice, little 7 year old Aiyanna Stanley Jones was slaughtered as she lay asleep on her grandmother’s couch. The victim of a police raid gone fatally wrong.

But even if little Aiyanna would have survived, given statistics she would have joined the legions of her peers…little girls who remain living in the grips of American injustice that overtakes their Black lives like a vapor one way or another.

Another way… the way it descended on the innocence of a 4 year old baby girl whose quick trip home from the grocery store with her mother and bonus dad left her witness to a heinous murder. One where she sat in the backseat watching the blood spill and the life leave her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, who right before her eyes had been pumped with three bullets by an  “officer friendly” impersonator.  Out from that unerasable, ugly scene baby girl’s voice comes as a saving grace. She consoles her mother, Diamond Reynolds, “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

This is our truth. Our baby girls are right here with us in the thick of this war declared by those who seek to maintain white superiority. It is a war that has left Black girls in urban America as collateral damage. It pronounced itself when four little girls were bombed in a Birmingham Baptist church on a Sunday morning in September 1963.

Now given our reality today, I wonder if the world, including Black America, is ready to make a proclamation regarding Black girls. Although many don’t find it imperative that the sisters need keeping, perhaps we can now resolve the obvious… that our daughters are in dire need of protecting.

Because they are right here with us, psyches devastated from witnessing police brandishing guns, savagely beating and massacring Black daddies right before their eyes. Right here attempting to experience girlhood in the stranglehold of communities suffering with economic dehydration. Right here, where their innocent childhood is abbreviated by poverty and chaotic violence.

And while summits and conferences around the country may tout achievements made by some women and girls, the war to maintain white superiority has been waged with take no prisoners gusto on marginalized communities leaving everyone in its path is affected. It’s methodical strategy annihilates the fabric of order and peace. Its contexture weaves and intersects safe havens. So much so that a 6 year old, like little Tacarra Morgan, sitting on her front porch in the middle of a Summer day is left fighting for her life after becoming the latest victim of a turf battle.  

What is this new normal we are allowing for our baby girls? This reality of war where they very much imagine their life to be shattered by violence, to be introduced without distinction to the real life bogey man…some with badges, but certainly all with guns. Some endowed with license, some sharing bloodlines. Some in white tees. Many in tailored suits slashing budgets with pens dripping in blood.

We know the bad guys. No matter their uniform, each one culpable in the demise of Black girlhood.

The question is who is protecting our girls?

When will government create/implement policies that ensure the safety in urban communities? Which institutions that have benefited from generational agony will devise an economic plan to fortify the development of our girls? What level of investment will the privileged make for our girls to realize the promise of the pursuit of happiness? What commitment will family and neighbors pledge to their well being?

Answers must soon come. There needs to be an infusion of all of the above right now. Our girls, who by no fault nor default of their own design have been the outliers. Born below the scratch line, their chances for success debilitated.

Can we all agree that irrespective of assigned zip codes or the configuration of their social security numbers, Black girls in America deserve to experience the full promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I make the commitment. Will you join me?

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PushOut Comes to Chicago

Flyer (1)Seems as if the weeks don’t pass when some form of schoolhouse trauma does not shake up the life of a Black girl. It is such a prevalent happening, and there seems to be no age limitations as babies as young as four years old are harshly reprimanded, punished, handcuffed, expelled, and at worst pushed into the criminal justice system straight from their classrooms.

From brilliant science projects to emotional breakdowns, Black girls are denied their right to experience their full humanity without becoming engaged with law enforcement. The most recent story we’ve heard is the case of 6 year old Madisyn Moore who was handcuffed for allegedly “stealing” a piece of candy from her teacher’s desk. And none of us can forget the atrocious sight of the video showing a “school resource officer” slamming and dragging a Black girl from her desk in Spring Valley.

Hard as we try, we can’t seem to remove from our consciousness the images of savagery committed against Black girls in classrooms across this country. And while those raw images replay in our minds like the latest cinematic thriller, sadly it is a reality far too many actually live through every single day. In fact, the African American Policy Forum released a report, Pushed Out: Over Policed and Under Protected which outlines the numbers of Black and Brown girls impacted by the systemic injustices that have stripped their humanity, leaving them to be treated like wild animals in the very spaces that are supposedly dedicated to their development and protection. This report gave way to the social media and online activism of #BlackGirlsMatter, which curates story after story of girls violated by the concerted efforts between school administrators and law enforcement.

My story is among them. Though my situations took place more than 20 years ago as a Black teenage girl, the trauma of yesterday connects me with girls like me who a generation later are further entangled in policy that  seeks to over-criminalize and under-educate them.

That is why when I learned Dr. Monique Morris would be visiting Chicago, I jumped at the opportunity to host a discussion and community forum for her book, Push Out: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools.

Girls Like Me Project, as a member of the South Side Coalition on Urban Girls, will host Dr. Monique Morris on Wednesday, March 30th at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, located 1060 East 47th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60653. Forum begins promptly at 6p. I am inviting you to join us!

Before we get the conversation going, check out the latest episode of Voices Of Advocacy Radio which discusses this very grave matter.

More about PushOut: Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Book overview: Black girls represent 16 percent of female students but almost half of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.

 

Black Girls: The New Road Kill

Shock. Awe. Horror. Silence. Indifference. Fade out….

This is the cycle that has followed the unGodly findings of dead Black girls left on the sides Iof interstate highways in America. Our America. Where Black girls can be found brutalized, tied up, decapitated, burned, and viciously beaten to death yet yield only hushed whispers of wonder and taboo talk.

Two summers in a row four Black girls have went missing only to be found mysteriously dumped like road kill, yet the mainstream media has been almost silent with mediocre mentions. Black activists have not seemed to remember to speak their names when proclaiming Black lives matter.

Perhaps it is the clandestine and controversy tied to their lifestyles that has pushed these lives to the margins of our outrage and mourning. Last September, Angelia Mangum and Tjhisha Ball were found naked and bound together on a Florida highway. Now this June, almost a year later, Kayla Ward and Jasilas Wright were found within a few weeks of one another in Louisiana. Their lives stripped of tomorrow’s promise, their stories buried under the outrage for cases with the obvious, menacing targets. Drowned out by the rallying cry for justice in police and racially-motivated killings.

***Publisher’s note:***

Since this blog was published, more tragic incidents have been shared with us. In May 2015, two sisters, Antquonette Hale, 20, and Tahnaizja Smith, 15, were found dead in a vacant lot. Their deaths were ruled homicide.

Yet another tragic case made headlines when Shakiyla Young, Ce’onta Cretter, and Laura Green (all acquaintances ) met the same fate on July 19, 2015. One of the young women was found in a dumpster along I-70. The other two found in a car and on a front porch.

Unlike the Atlanta Child Murders of the 80’s, these despicable killings do not seem to signal a trend…not for national outrage nor retribution. No cry to demand these crimes are solved. That even in death their lives have dignity.

Even in the media spaces and platforms hosted/published by Blacks, there has been a downplayed coverage… if any at all.

A crowd-fund was set up to cover the cost of Tjhisha and Angelia’s funerals. Less than $14K of the total $18K was raised.

My simple question is: why?

Do #BlackGirlsMatter when our girls are misdirected? When their lifestyles aren’t so pretty and poised? Do they matter when they aren’t poster children for scholarships and academic dexterity? Do they matter when they haven’t tapped into their Supreme self?

When? When do Black girls matter?

i hope we lift our Black girls in life before death steals them from us. I hope we speak the names of all we lose.  Today, my sisters I honor your life. I speak your names. May we all honor them and find the answers to their mysterious and cruel deaths.

 

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.