If not sisters keeper, perhaps daughters protector?

photo-28

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?

Black Dolls: Holding up the mirror to society’s ugliness

 

Disgust. That is the most appropriate term for the video that captured the reaction of a White American child receiving a “Black doll” for a Christmas present. The fact that the adults recording thought it a funny “prank” to present a Black doll to their white children is beyond disgusting. And it is disappointing on quite a few levels.

First, let’s acknowledge that for decades, Black children have had no other option than to play with toys that were not reflective of their own inherent, magical beauty.  I myself can recall a girlhood which lacked options for my peers and I to see/be ourselves during playtime. Even when “Black” doll/toy options were presented, it was always some hue of grey-Black that I have yet to see on any living, breathing human from here to Africa. Features so  exaggerated, no wonder Black children refused to play with their “Black” dolls, which in turns prompts the explaining and cajoling yet again, this time to extol the merits of beauty found in all Black people. See how Black parenting is ever expansive and exhausting? We inherit teaching moments for what White parents take for granted. We don’t get a choice.

So while Black parents have had the onus of explaining, excusing, and teaching our children about diversity and the appreciation for other cultures, white parents have smugly presented the notion that “other” means inferior, ugly, worthless, and alien.

And it must be noted, that because of white supremacy’s elaborate design, historically most Black children rarely scoff at receiving white dolls. The disdain for one’s self and all things representative is the cost Black children pay to play…with dolls, with their history, with their own humanity. So much miseducation. Intense work to relearn and rediscover your value.

That’s the privilege of white supremacy…when YOUR identity is never in question as being the “other.” When everything you encounter reinforces your worth. Everything from toys to movie stars to marketing to policy dictates that you are the standard.

But you are not. Which is what has always been the problem. The problem for whites, really. People of color have no qualms with sharing the human spectrum. We buy into the ideal that beauty and value can be found in other races. Our children are taught to accept differences in others…heck the Church joins in the education of Black child identity and by age 4 everyone believes the words to the song Jesus Loves the Little Children, remember that? It went like this…

“Jesus loves the little children

all the children of the world.

Red and Yellow

Black and White

all are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the children of the world”

My concern is for the children. Working with Black girls, training them in media literacy and to be digital storytellers of their own experiences, my mission is to help them critically examine the messages that tell them they are inferior and stigmatize them. It is work necessary to help them move beyond the mental block of negative media and stereotypes that have been appropriated to them.  It is the work being done in communities of color all across this country; the repairing of girl magic and mending spirits broken by the ugliness of our society.

Yet, while we are tending to our girls, distinguished organizations and programs that claim to serve girls and fight for equality for all girls, seem to be avoiding an imperative teaching moment. I have watched the film Missrepresentation. I admire the writings of those claiming to build leaders amongst girls and end the “mean girl” behaviors. But what each of these have in common is 1.) A traditional white audience  2.) They negate the race conversation, refusing to deal with perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudice amongst those they serve 3.) When/if race is mentioned, it is an aside. The message is, the only change needed is to allow girls/women to be at the table… that is white women and girls.

In the times of Black Lives Matter, some may rebuff this as a tiny distraction to the overall liberation of Black and Brown people. Many may argue that this is just a play thing of no significance.

Well, I beg to differ. First of all, Black children need to love and value themselves beyond the lens of White people. There is no way they will be moved to join a movement for their liberation if they are not conscious to the truth. Secondly, if there is to be trust amongst allies, White adults must unequivocally point out this type of ignorance. There is far too much silence from those who claim to be fighting for equality and feminism. And thirdly, begin teaching their children at the earliest opportunities an appreciation for ALL peoples.

Blacks have gone far above and beyond convincing White America about our humanity. It is high time we tap out. Now it’s White America’s turn to look at their own instances of inhumanity and practices of dehumanization, then work to correct it. This is a prime teachable moment. I can’t wait to see the lessons in practice.

 

Teaching tips:

  • Expose children to other cultures
  • Foster authentic interactions that allow others to fully show up
  • Be honest with children about history
  • Provide cultural reading material, film screenings
  • Invite guest speakers to share their experiences
  • Collaborate for diverse programming
  • Follow #Blackgirlsmatter
  • Choose any of these culturally framed reads from this age-appropriate list
  • Make the Black Doll a conscious consumer choice

Community-based organizations doing the work across the country :

Girls Like Me Project (Chicago)

FAAN Mail (Philly)

Black Girls Rock (NYC)

Daughters of the Collective (Detroit)

WISEE Queen Dream Institute (Oakland/Bay area)

About the author…

keish 1

 

 

Treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered

All I know to be my truest, most accessible form of power is my voice…my written voice especially. So tonight I write. Tonight, after yet another American police officer walks away with no punishment for executing a Black life. No punitive measures. No penance or reparation for extinguishing the flame of life in a Black child…all in the name of the law.

 

Yet, so many of us stand in anger and shock that a grand jury has delivered a decision of “no probable cause” to indict Darren Wilson, an officer of the law, for killing Michael Brown in the middle of a street in Ferguson, MO. Anger and shock, even after sworn officers of the law have not been indicted for choking Eric Garner to death in New York less than 30 days BEFORE Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson. Even after a grand jury excused the police officers who shot down John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart just four days prior to Michael Brown’s murder in August. Even as the murder of Roshad McIntosh and those of more than five Black boys were ruled “justified” homicides at the hands of Chicago police over a six month period. And even as tonight’s decision was read matter-of-factly less than two days after police shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice in Ohio and Akai Gurley in New York.

 

Even still…

 

Our anger and shock is understandable…on some levels. On the human/intellectual level, yes a desire to receive justice and live a life of absolute protection under the law is a basic one. As a part of humanity, it is expected that all life will be regarded above animals and fowl that are shot for sport…or out of fear. And when life is not regarded above animals and is instead mutilated, terrorized and hunted for sport out of fear and hatred, well that confounds all human intelligence.

 

Same applies on an emotional level…same applies. It’s understandable the desire to be held in dignity, respected and cherished.

 

It’s all any human wants. So it is understandable that the Black experience in America often is undergirded with complexities of disappointing pain and agony. It is the reason why even after we have endured, and dare I say survived, the atrocities of chattel slavery, domestic terrorism and lynching at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, murders of our human rights change agents, and modern day criminalization, we still hold out hope for protection and validation under the same system that designed all of the above.

But there are other levels… levels we surely must get in tune with to help us navigate these very dark and tumultuous times. Our supernatural “spirit” mind understands that all is in Divine Order. That there is a lesson before and a lesson in dying. When we understand this, we will then come to the real questions…what is the lesson? How is my life complicit and accountable to the lesson? We each were born for this time. Each one of us could have come through this life journey in a different time and space as an entirely different being. Perhaps we were and this is our do over… How will you make this time count?

It is truly hard to articulate all the jumble of emotion pulling on my nerves and soul. Trying to get it all out before I allow the tears to fall. Because I really must know my tears are not for Michael Brown. Nor for John Crawford. Nor any of those whose lives were sacrificed for the wicked ways of this society. And surely I know my tears are nothing compared to the tears that have watered the way our ancestors came. The path we are moving forward on, however painfully slow, has been stained with the blood of MANY of our ancestors. It is in this knowing that I dare not act as if this is the worst for us. I had better not bow and cry, and become so blind with misery that I do not acknowledge this is NOT our worst moment. When we know we have been liberated far less time in this country than we were held captive slaves. Acknowledge that we cry out and speak the names of Michael Brown in global unison with our brothers and sisters on continents across waters, something that could have never been done 80 years ago.  How many have died torturous deaths never having their killer’s face identified? How many have died screaming into the wind heard only by howling dogs and their killers’ wicked ears? Ida Barnett Wells traveled by her lonesome pleading the case overseas about the strange fruit hanging from southern trees in America, one dead Black soul at a time with her humble newspapers and chronicles. I better know it. You had better know it.

The Negro National Anthem informed us quite succinctly. The cost has already been paid.

People are demonstrating and organizing, building coalitions to effect change. A delegation of young people from Chicago have recently returned from addressing the United Nations about police brutality. We Charge Genocide documented their presentation and experience, another piece to the lesson to be shared now and throughout history.

So I will cry. I will feel my pain. And you will too. But let us not get it twisted that just because this may be the cause célébre of our lifetime, it is progression from that which our ancestors knew. And it is because of that truth, that we hold fast to the Almighty universal truth: we are here for a reason. What will you do with this moment? How will we move the needle forward? Use our history as our guide. The chains could not hold us. The dogs and the bombs could not cower us.

May we live through our tears.

Let us use our tears not for righteous indignation, but to water the way across for our future children yet unborn. And when we wipe our tears may we truly see the shining princes and princesses who are living before our eyes daily. May we mentor them. May we acknowledge them. May we love them.

There is yet work we all can do. Join movements:

Dream Defenders

Black Youth Project

The League of Young Voters

 

Follow on OUR news:

Ebony Magazine

Final Call

 

Follow other independent news sources

Democracy Now

The Young Turks

Use social media to get out POSITIVE & INFORMATIVE updates

Document your stories and experiences

We Charge Genocide

 Register and VOTE

Teach young people African American history…ensure they are making their connection to our past and present.

Remember your history