It was mostly her eyes.
Doe-eyed, some would say. My granny would’ve said, “that baby done been here before.” They were wide with wonder. Framed with eyelashes that waved at me like fans in slow motion. It was like she could see me. Really see me. And I saw her.
She was juicy in a way that only babies can be. With cheeks that made you want to kiss them forever. Only a few months old when I held her the first time, I felt an ache in my heart. I wanted to take her home with us. Adopt her if it was possible. She was the god-daughter of my husband’s best friend and his wife. The mother was a struggling teenager facing a tough life.
I suppose I didn’t realize how tough.
We didn’t take her in. Although I firmly believe that God placed that baby girl in my heart, I listened to my circumstances instead. I’d just had my first miscarriage so “maybe I was just feeling emotional because of that.” Hubby and I were newly married so “could we really afford to take in someone’s child?” And given the issues, “maybe the mother didn’t want to leave her baby.”
I listened to every other voice but the one I knew was true. Read more…
By AYA de LEON
I would have held my breath if I’d known. A couple weeks ago at preschool my daughter made an art project where she had to choose between paper doll forms of several colors.
I was at work that day. Perhaps I was standing in front of my students talking about racism, or gender bias, or the craft techniques that make a poem dazzling. I was oblivious to the fact that my daughter was taking a massive race/gender test at her preschool. What color doll to pick. They had beige, tan, light brown, dark brown.
So many of us are haunted by those studies in the sixties of black children, quoted for decades in literature and captured on video. Which is the pretty doll? The smart doll? The good doll? The loveable doll? Time and again, the children picked the white doll.
I’ve been vigilant. I don’t allow her to play with white dolls. Dora the Explorer is the lightest the dolls get in our house. Her books are heavily weighted toward stories of African heritage girls. I have even written a children’s book with photos of kids, adults and families with natural hair called Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity. Read more…
Cristy and Kylie Austin
A biracial teenager in Kansas has put her own name on the line in the long-raging debate in the African-American community about whether black-sounding names do our children a disservice: The girl legally changed her name from Keisha to Kylie.
We’ve talked before on MyBrownBaby about the conflicted emotions many African Americans have about these names. It’s an issue that can turn a polite dinner party upside down: Are they giving a child a handicap right out of the gate, ensuring she won’t ever get called in for the interview? Are they a sign of racial pride that should be celebrated—white folks and uppity Negroes be damned?
And how about the names derived from liquor or designer labels, like Courvoisier or Nautica? Is it okay to laugh at them, or should those parents be applauded for their creativity and freedom from pretense?
In the case of the former Keisha Austin, 19, of Kansas City, the freedom she sought was to escape the bullying and ridicule that she says has been directed at her by her mostly white classmates since she was a little girl. Read more…
Let me tell you, it’s so good to know I’m not alone in my hatred for what Black radio is serving our kids (and us grown folk!): A new group out of Chicago is going after radio stations and their advertisers for filling the airwaves with misogynistic, violent, sexually-explicit music.
The Clear the Airwaves Project, led by founder Kwabena Rasuli, says the music being played on radio should be for adults only, and inaccessible on free, public radio that our kids can access at any time. But instead of protesting outside Chicago’s Hip Hop stations, Rasuli’s group is getting gully: they’re protesting the advertisers who hawk their products between songs whose lyrical content make hardened criminals and porn stars blush.
For the past two months, The Clear the Airwaves Project has been standing outside black-owned McDonald’s restaurants on Chicago’s South Side, holding placards with warnings about the music being played on the station and its easy access for kids. Their thinking: if radio stations refuse to stop playing music that consistently disrespects Black women, celebrates illicit drug use and refers to its audience as nothing more than a bunch of broke niggers who can’t keep up with their rampant excess, perhaps taking away their money source will make the radio station’s listen.
“We feel that the music being played on the radio is influencing our children and is detrimental and should be for adults only,” Rasuli told the Chicago Sun Times, noting that in about 90 percent of the songs, artists are dropping the “N bomb” and in about 80 percent, “they are calling our sisters the B-word.” “This is music that encourages girls to be strippers and young men to kill each other, to pop mollies or Ecstasy pills, and to be unrealistically materialistic.”
Say that. Read more…
Hell. Yes. A federal prosecutor is reopening the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, the teenager who was found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his Georgia high school gym.
Michael Moore, The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced he’ll be conducting a “formal review” of KJ’s death, with the FBI helping him get to the bottom of how, exactly, the beautiful, multi-sport athlete ended up dead and so incredibly disfigured that when they found his body some 23 hours after he went missing, he looked like Emmett Till 2.0.
Moore said he reopened the case after reviewing police documents and interviewing specific people involved in the initial investigation, which ended with Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine insisting KJ’s death was nothing more than a freak accident caused when he fell into and got stuck upside down in a 700-lb, 7”-tall gym mat he may have reached into to retrieve a shoe. Prine made that pronouncement not even a day after KJ’s body was found at his Valdosta, Ga., school, sans an autopsy and coroner report. Read more…
The best books are written in such a way that the reader becomes totally engaged in the story. We identify with the characters. The plot is suspenseful. We laugh, cry or both.
Such is life.
Everyday we breathe, we write another page in our personal books of life—through every season or major event, more chapters. And just as an author quickly establishes in the first chapters who a character is and what the reader should believe about that character, we parents establish character in children, helping them and everyone around them understand what they should believe about themselves. Author and psychologist Irene Kassorla says that the “pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand,” I submit that this is only the case when you become an adult.
The truth is, we aren’t the only writers of our stories. As children, the “story” of our lives was likely begun by our parents, or whoever was responsible for us at the time. Some of the writing was good: there are intriguing intros with just enough good stuff to keep those who “read” us wanting to learn more. For others, the writing was bad. Real bad. With missing pieces and everything. Yet regardless of whether our early lives were good, bad or somewhere in-between, we still got stuff on our pages. And it impacts us even when we’re grown.
Now granted, characters and people certainly change. Especially when there are big events, conflicts and changes in their lives. But even then, if a character is firmly defined at their core, then that’s what’s going to come through as they face new scenarios and circumstances. Otherwise, the story—the life—feels inauthentic. Read more…
Editor’s Note: I penned this piece in January 2010, when analysts were exploring the expansion of the federal food stamp program. The running consensus then was that more and more, Americans of all ages, races and backgrounds were increasingly depending on public assistance to feed their families. Now, three years later, that expansion is going away, leaving children vulnerable to hunger here, in one of the richest countries in the world. So I figured I’d dust this story off. It is still relevant, if not more, as rhetoric over the food stamp program reaches fever pitch.
* * *
It’s the cheese I remember—a congealed, yellowy-orange block in non-descript paper, with, I think, blue writing. You needed the might of Solomon to cut through it, it was so thick. All I could manage were chunks—never firm slices. Read more…
We all know them – they are sold in stores everywhere now: antibacterial wipes that promise instant sanitization and destruction of all germs, when you have no soap and water handy. But despite their popular use, are they really doing their job? Are antibacterial wipes really effective?
There’s an antibacterial wipe to suit all purposesSuch is their popularity that antibacterial wipes now come in all shapes and sizes, suited for a range of different functions. They are often packed in a roll in a dispenser which allows you to pull out a single wipe at a time – especially convenient for use in the car or when out and about, especially with a young child or handling animals or just the general outdoors. Some are even designed to be used around the home, such as sanitising countertops in the kitchen.
While all antibacterial wipes are embedded with an antibacterial solution that is designed to kill most bacteria on impact, there can be differences in the formulation, depending on the intended surface. For example, wipes that are intended for the hands and other parts of the body will usually have a milder antibacterial solution and will often incorporate moisturisers into the formula, so that the skin can be soothed at the same time. On the other hand, antibacterial wipes designed for cleaning around the home will be impregnated with much harsher solutions, as household surfaces are far less delicate and sensitive than human skin.
But are they killing germs or spreading germs? Read more…
You’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve even been them.
They are who I call the “SUPERsaved.” They spiritualize everything. And when I say everything… I mean, errr-thang.
It rained today? “God sent the rain to stop my husband from speeding.” (No, He didn’t.)
That extra five dollars the cashier accidentally gave in change? “The Lord knew my need.” (Lies you tell. Give it back.)
A former pastor of mine used to say “some of y’all are so spiritually minded you are no earthly good.” And it’s true. Even Facebook and Twitter posts are evidence. Instead of getting on the phone to their congressman or senator, the super-saved will post something all witty-ish like, “Unlike the government, God never shuts down.” And no, He doesn’t. But really?
And yet, on the other other hand, I totally get it.
No judgment (and only a smidge of snark) here. I mean, what’s the point of having faith and believing in someone greater, higher, and stronger; someone who is a redeemer, if we can’t apply that faith to the everyday circumstances of our lives, right? (But you still don’t get a pass for that five dollars. Give it back.) In fact, nowadays, we all need to encourage ourselves. We all need to remind ourselves that God is. Period. This is especially important when the not-so-great effects of life and living come knocking at our front door. Read more…
When married couple Joe Brewster and Michelle Stephenson decided to turn a video camera on their kindergarten son to chronicle his journey through New York’s prestigious Dalton School, it didn’t take them long to realize they had something on their hands rarely seen in American media and popular culture: a real-world depiction of middle-class African American life.
Brewster, a psychologist, and Stephenson, an attorney, kept the camera running over the course of 12 years, recording moments painful and sublime, joyful and sorrowful, as their son Idris and his best friend Seun grew up on camera from 5-year-olds to high school graduates. The couple, who also dabbled in filmmaking, sifted through 800 hours of footage to create a groundbreaking documentary called “American Promise” that’s been racking up awards and rave reviews ever since it debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the special jury prize.
The film opens today in New York, next Friday in Los Angeles, Nov. 8 in Atlanta, and throughout the fall in other cities around the country.
The filmmakers also collaborated with writer Hilary Beard on an accompanying book, Promises Kept: How to Help Black Boys Succeed in School and in Life—Lessons Learned from the 12-Year American Promise Project, that offers many surprising and important findings about the raising of black boys, as discovered by Brewster and Stephenson during their odyssey at Dalton and in consultation with a slew of experts. I spoke at length with Brewster and Stephenson earlier this year while I was working on a series on black boys that I wrote for Ebony magazine. Read more…
The little girl had to be about two, not much more, and she had this little purse thingy that she was absolutely fascinated with—much more so than the high school football game her mother had dragged her to. I noticed her waving it in her mother’s face, an attempt to get her mama to play with her. The mother? She wasn’t having it.
“I don’t want to play with that,” she snapped, without even looking at her baby.
When the little girl gave another feeble attempt to get her mother’s attention, the lady was all sharp edges and thunder: “I said, I don’t want it,” she seethed through gritted teeth. “Sit it down, shit.”
Now Nick missed all this, but my heart just sank when baby girl wandered away from her mother and her two friends, and started trying to get my husband’s attention. He happily obliged her attempt to join her in playing with the purse. I chimed in with compliments on her shoes and telling her that I loved her afro puffs—something, anything, to make her smile. To deflect from the fact that her mother was acting the donkey toward her baby girl, who was looking for some motherly attention on a Friday night at 10 p.m., when she should have been home in her pajamas, in her crib, sleeping in Heavenly peace.
Peace wasn’t on her mother’s mind. Neither was kindness, particularly when it came to her daughter. Still, though I was disgusted by her behavior, it wasn’t at all surprising. I know Black moms love our babies and that we care for their every need just like any other mom—even and especially when we have to make a way out of no way. But my God, the cursing, the beating, the emotional abuse that I see some Black moms unleashing on their children in the street, at the mall, on public transportation, in school, out in public, hurts me to my core.
Now I’m not stranger to the mean mom. Y’all need to ask about my mom; she’s legend with “The Look” and, yes, the switch. With her, children were to be seen, not heard, and any misstep, no matter how slight, might incur the wrath. She was a great mom. But mean as all get out until I got older and had babies of my own. And she wasn’t alone: I grew up surrounded by Black mothers—women I loved and who loved me back—who were just plain mean. For no good reason. Read more…
Adrian Peterson’s son is gone from here—the 2-year-old victim of a senseless beating, allegedly at the hands of Joseph Patterson, the boyfriend of the little boy’s mom. And I can’t get that baby, the circumstances surrounding his death and especially his mother off my mind.
Details of what happened last week are scant; no one is even 100 percent certain, as news organizations have reported, if the toddler’s name is Ty and the mom’s name is Ann “Ashley” Doohen, or if it’s true that Patterson beat and choked the child after the mother left her son in the boyfriend’s care at her Sioux Falls, SD, home, or if there’s any truth to the rumors that Adrian Peterson, an NFL MVP running back who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, didn’t even know that child was his until three months ago or that he saw him for the first time on Friday, while the baby was on life support, fighting for his little life. Read more…
When should your kid start dating?
If they start as early as 11 or 12, they are more likely to engage in unwanted behaviors during their teen years than students who start dating later, according to a new study to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Adolescence.
The group that researchers classified as “early-starting”—those who began dating at 11.6 years old, on average—reported twice as many acts of abnormal or delinquent behavior as the groups classified as “on-time” teens (those who started at 12.9 years) and those classified as “late bloomers” (those who started at 14.9 years). Those behaviors included lying and cheating, picking fights, truancy, disobedience and running away.
Researchers said they also had increased risk of unsafe sexual activity and alcohol use, according to the study.
As the father of two girls, ages 14 and 11, I crave this sort of information about the possible effects of my daughters getting involved with the opposite sex. In our house, there’s no way in hell that either one of them would be allowed to engage in something that could be classified as “dating” before age 16, but that’s just us. I’m aware that the rules are different in other households, and I don’t pass judgment on those who choose to handle this differently. Read more…
Miriam Carey, 34, was not armed and apparently was suffering from postpartum depression when she sent Washington, DC, police on a car chase yesterday afternoon that resulted in Carey dying in a hail of police bullets.
We will never know why the 34-year-old tried to use her black Infiniti as a battering ram and attempt to drive through barricades into the White House, or why she turned around and flew down Pennsylvania Avenue at 80 miles per hour—all while her one-year-old baby was in the car!
The reason we’ll never know is because when she emerged from her car, unarmed, after hitting a barrier outside of the Capitol building, she was hit by so many bullets that authorities said it was difficult to identify her body. The police fired a hail of bullets at her—all while her one-year-old baby was in the car!
It is true that two officers were injured by Carey’s out-of-control Infiniti, but I’ll never understand in these situations why police officers found it necessary to empty their guns into the unarmed woman’s body after she emerged from her vehicle. Was that really necessary to subdue her, particularly since she was no longer in the Infiniti, which was actually serving as her weapon in this case? It would be akin to opening up on her after she dropped her weapon to the ground.
But as these cases go, we can predict that we will never get any answers to these questions, not when officers were hurt and she was aiming the car at the White House and the Capitol building. Not when Washington was already tense from the spectacularly stupid government shutdown. Not two weeks after Aaron Alexis killed 12 inside the Washington Navy Yard and apparently died himself in a hail of police bullets. Read more…
On this much, I am very clear: when I had my first baby more than 14 years ago, I was blessed to be working at a time when the economy was strong, a good job with benefits could be had, and a decent maternity leave was still possible. Between a year’s worth of vacay and sick days, the federally-mandated 12-week maternity leave and a few more months unpaid maternity leave I coaxed out of HR, I managed to scrape up a full nine months worth of leave with my Mari—time off with my baby that I could afford because the hubs and I had some money saved. I recognized that what I pulled off was huge, even in those prosperous times, particularly for a Black mom. But it’s clear that had I needed maternity leave today, I’d probably be in the same boat with 40 percent of new moms, taking one to four weeks of maternity leave or worse, none at all.
From Today Moms:
About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more, figures showed.
But a closer look shows that 16 percent of new moms took only one to four weeks away from work after the birth of a child — and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to job duty almost immediately. Read more…
After months of worrying whether my baby girl would “stick” or not (because of previous miscarriages) and finally settling into what ended up being a very uncomplicated pregnancy (despite the hedging of my doctors), I sat down a few weeks before she was born and wrote down the top ten things I wanted her to learn from and through me. It wasn’t easy to narrow them down to ten. There are so many things that I still desire for her that didn’t make this list. But at the end of the day, if my daughter can get these ten lessons rooted way down deep in her spirit, then I believe she will be alright. And I’m learning now as a mother that this is the simplest, sincerest, and most powerful prayer a parent can pray: Lord, please allow my child to be alright.
Lesson #1: You can certainly be whatever you want to be but I encourage you to strive to be what God intended/designed/purposed you to be. They are not always the same thing.
Lesson #2: While it’s natural/human to desire validation, you must not allow that validation to be the source of your self-esteem. Do not define yourself by what others say or think about you but by what God says and thinks about you (He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made).
Lesson #3: You should love everyone. But you should know that there is a WAY to love everyone. Love hard and long and wide and deep. But most of all, love wisely. Read more…
Every woman who has been there remembers the symptoms: the hurt, the possible appetite loss, the self-torture thoughts that you’re up having and he’s…well…probably not. Maybe you reread some text exchanges; flip through old pictures; stay awake with seething anger with responses you SHOULD’VE had in the moment, but didn’t; feel the pinch on smelling his cologne on a strangers or seeing someone who looks like him. When great love ends, it leaves its indelible mark.
Funnier still, it doesn’t matter how long the love lasted or whether you were married or just in a relationship, living together or apart – heartbreak gives no fucks about status or time spent. “I shouldn’t be this hurt! It was only…” That’s the human brain’s department: trying to rationalize a very irrational thing. Pain is pain.
Who’s to say how deep a love is compared to the time we spent in it? A two year affair can hurt more than a ten year love sometimes. Each heart is different as to how much they put in, but when they suffer…ohhhh the suffering is great. You can’t tell hurt when to stop hurting, even as you try to steel yourself against it. Read more…
Somewhere inside every mom is this desire to share her heart with her children. Not just the basics on life and living but the real scoop without filter. This is especially true with a girl-child because we often want to spare our young girls the negative experiences we may have had or the bad choices we may have made. This need to speak frankly to our baby girls is often born from the wish we all have to talk to and advise our younger selves. Because in a way, when we speak to our daughters, that’s exactly who we are talking to: our younger selves.
Here’s my shot at bringing the past and future together:
My Sweet MaKayla:
Many times we make things more complicated than they have to be. We entangle ourselves trying to “figure” out God’s will for our lives. We search through hundreds of self-help books and blogs for our “purpose.” And while I believe He appreciates the effort, I sometimes feel like God is shaking His head at us and saying, “Child, be still. Go with what I gave you.” LOL! Like he told Moses when he questioned how he was going to free the Hebrew people, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses had a staff and that staff was an integral tool—not the only one, for sure—used to gain their freedom.
You have many gifts, my love. And I will ensure you are educated. These, at least initially, will be the resources you will need to accomplish your purpose. Go with that. Read more…
by Davey D
Miley fatigue is in full effect, but we feel it is important that we as white people speak up, and hold our folks accountable to their racist behavior. The burden far too often falls on people of color to respond, to explain, to teach, to protest.
This year’s Video Music Awards were yet another historical moment where whiteness reigned supreme. Black and Brown cultural creators and innovators were for the most part invisible, or worse, used as evidence of acceptance or racial progress. Jon Caramanica highlights how the VMAs were a window into a larger history within American popular culture: “Mr. Timberlake was on trend in way, though: this was a banner year for clumsy white appropriation of black culture who were recipients of three awards, including best hip-hop video.”
In this context, the question of appropriation matters – power, privilege, stereotypes, and centuries of racism play through both the appropriation and the resulting responses. To be clear, we are not against white folks embracing the art and culture that speaks truth to their hearts and souls, as hip-hop culture is still our first love, rather we are advocating for acknowledgement, accountability, and action. We are calling for examination of how stereotypes and blackness within the white imagination are often present within these moments of appropriation. Read more…
By Nida Khan
Freelance Journalist Nida Khan
On Wednesday, President Obama, former Presidents Clinton and Carter, and many others will honor the 50th anniversary of the legendary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They will pay homage to the preeminent civil rights leader of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and reflect upon his character and sacrifices for the greater good of humanity. But in the midst of the commemoration, one central foundation to King’s teachings will likely be ignored: his intense opposition to war. As the rhetoric against Syria gains momentum this week, perhaps everyone should pause to remember what King would say and do were he here with us today. Chances are, he’d be the first one protesting Read more…
By TRACEY MICHAE’L LEWIS-GIGGETTS
Sometimes you just have to check yourself. I know I do. And when I don’t, sometimes God does the checking. For instance, I can easily find myself making snap judgments about people without any consideration of them and certainly without the compassion I profess to have. This very thing happened to me last year. Hubby and I were finally enjoying one of our first dates since having our daughter. We’d chosen to go see Tyler Perry’s “Madea Gets a Job.” Say what you want about TP, but hubby and I needed to do the whole laugh, cry, wave our hands thing and we knew that Madea would not disappoint in this regard.
As we were walking into the Liacouras Center here in Philly, we were approached by a woman who looked to be in her late 40s/early 50s. She wore jeans and a tank top and her hair was freshly twisted into neat Shirley Temple curls. She came up to my husband with her hand out and asked if we could spare any money. “I’m homeless,” she announced. Now my husband has a huge heart when it comes to this kind of thing so he pulls out a couple of dollars and hands it to the woman. She says “Thank you” and moves on down the line. Me? I’m afraid to say that I wasn’t so generous of heart in that moment. Skeptical, my first thought was… “Umm, lady. Your hair is perfectly curled. You look as though you just walked out the beauty salon a couple hours ago. Maybe you could’ve used that money to eat.” Read more…
Why, why, WHY is Ava DuVernay so doggone dope? After blowing us away earlier this year with The Door, a breathtaking short film she created to showcase the designs of fashion house Miu Miu, the Sundance Award-winning director of Middle of Nowhere is at it again with Say Yes, a bubbling brown sugar jewel of a film she created for Fashion Fair.
There are pretty black folks. Lots of them. Having a glorious time. Lots of it. In a fly house, in awesome clothes and pretty make-up, living, loving, laughing, dancing and doing what we do when we are happy and in a safe space that is warm and inviting and uniquely our own. Fashion Fair describes Say Yes, inspired by its lip color of the same name, as an exploration of “the power of the affirmative, and the beauty that blossoms from embracing life,”—a vision of what happens when “you welcome the unexpected.
Indeed, there is a heart-warming surprise in Say Yes, one that made me say all the way out loud, “Awwwww!” And I spied quite a few folks I admire in the party scenes, including Hollywood “it” girl Issa Rae (who has some pretty amazing projects of her own firing up!), Daughters Of the Dust director Julie Dash, soul crooner N’Dambi, and a host of others. I’m not going to give away any more of the surprise; click play for yourself. You’re welcome. Read more…
by Denene Millner
This is what I did for fun when I was a kid: I read. I cornrowed my doll’s hair. I read some more. I annoyed the crap out of my brother. And I waited anxiously for Fridays, when my Dad would let me ride shotgun while he drove around town, paying his bills. When we got back home, I read. Again.
Going outside to play wasn’t an option. Not that I grew up somewhere nefarious where little black kids had to negotiate dope boys or gang warfare to play in the park; I was raised in Long Island, in a nice house, on a nice street, with a really nice backyard. And I refused to play in it. There were bugs out there. And nobody wanted to play with me, anyway. And I took it really seriously when my parents said that I should avoid playing in the sun because it would only make me blacker. Heaven knows I didn’t want to be any blacker. At least that’s what my parents used to tell me.
Come to think of it, that was the general line of wisdom from the ‘rents whenever there was discussion of doing outside activities. You don’t want to go to the pool—you’ll get blacker. Why on Earth would we go to the beach? You just get black there. Play kickball? Outside? In the sun? Don’t you know you can get black doing that?
I got so used to them coming up with excuses for why they didn’t want to accompany me to outside adventures that soon enough, staying inside became the modus operandi—a lifetime one, really. Several decades, three kids, a dog, and a mortgage later, I still don’t do backyards or bikes or parks or beaches too much. I sit out on the deck overlooking our expansive back yard and immediately start swatting at invisible bugs—toss the ball around with the girls and then find at least five reasons why I need to be back in the house. Alas, enjoying nature is not natural to me.
I never really thought about why that is until last week while Nick and I were watching the Today show and Nick was reminiscing about how he used to see the celebrity who was being featured, Kevin Bacon, out in Central Park a lot, playing with his superstar wife Kyra Sedgewick and their kid. And I remember thinking, really? A celebrity in Central Park? Just playing with his kid and stuff?
I pondered this for quite some time and got to thinking about how many times I saw my parents just, like, playing. And it dawned on me that the last time I saw that was, um, well, never. I’ve never in my many years on this Earth felt my father’s hands on the small of my back, pushing me higher and higher on the swing as the air swirled around me, kissing my face. I’ve never seen my parents curl their toes in wet, salty beach sand or splash in the rush of seawater slamming against the shore. I’m quite sure that I’ve never seen my father’s hand in a baseball mitt, or his sneaker booting a soccer ball toward a makeshift goal, or his fingers lining up against the stitches on an oval-shaped piece of pigskin.
It wasn’t natural for them.
Wild stab at it, but I’m going to guess that they didn’t like being outside because they both grew up in the South, on farms, where being outside was all about work, hardly ever play. The two, longtime factory workers when I was growing up, also worked ridiculously long hours and, to be fair, spent their free time trying to rest up for more work on the job, or church. Not much else.
Thank God and my sporty husband that the great outdoors is much beloved by my girls, even if their mother is a total lame. They think nothing of tumbling out of our home, tennis rackets, soccer balls, basketballs, bikes, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, and hoola hoops spilling from their arms, for the great driveway/backyard/front yard adventure. They erect humongous chalk cities replete with cafes and movie theaters and gas stations and malls on the concrete, and perform Olympic-worthy somersaults and back flips on the trampoline, and duel to the end in front of the soccer goal, sometimes with their bare feet digging into the dirt and grass while our dog, Teddy, looks on lazily. Sometimes, they hang upside down on their humongous Rainbow swing set, talking about everything and nothing. They dig in the dirt and make seven-course mud dinners and pile rocks and study bugs, even as they scurry across their little fingers. Neither finds any of this gross.
I do. But I don’t try to steal their joy. I just watch them from afar, wondering if I would have been a different, more outdoorsy girl if I had neighbors like them to drag me outside (a few of mine were forbidden by their mothers from playing with the niggers—another post, for another day, promise), or parents who just, like, made the time a few minutes or so to enjoy the backyard they’d worked so hard to have.
My Daddy lives in Virginia now, on the land he tended when he was a young boy helping his father with his burgeoning wood business. My father tends to his grass like a mother does her newborn; the greatest of care is extended to practically every blade. He’s always been a stickler about his lawn, my Daddy. Except now, he encourages his grandbabies to run circles on it and cartwheel across it and dance in the rain of his sprinkler until they are drenched and giggled out and all shriveled up. Occasionally, my girls talk their Papa into taking them to the local park, where the walking trail stretches so far you can walk from Virginia to North Carolina without leaving its bountiful borders. He walks with them slowly, steadily, tossing bread toward the ducks and geese and pointing out the beauty of the great outdoors.
He doesn’t point his face to the sun—you can get blacker that way but he doesn’t stop my daughters from doing it.
I don’t judge him.
And I promise myself to try to do a little better.
["The Sun Will Make You Black" appeared originally on MyBrownBaby in December 2008.]
The Kinsey Collection: Jordin Sparks Introduces Black Girls to the Fierce Courage of Phillis Wheatley
By NICK CHILES
As the father of two talented young black girls, I know that sometimes the most important thing I can do to spark their ambition is to simply tell them that they are capable. I can see something click in their brains: if Dad thinks I can do it, that means that I can. The trust and the encouragement from someone who loves them are incredibly powerful tools of motivation.
I couldn’t help but think of the act of instilling bravery in my little girls when I watched pop star Jordin Sparks talking about the incredible legacy of Phillis Wheatley. Wheatley, a slave who was eventually freed before her death at age 31, was the first published African-American poet and the first published African-American woman.
The folks at Wells Fargo chose the talented and adorable Sparks (Watch her video BELOW) to help them publicize the incredible treasure trove of African American history that’s been gathered over the years by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey in what is now internationally known as The Kinsey Collection—what the remarkable couple call their “35-year life of collecting the African American experience and culture.” The Kinsey Collection is touring the country this summer in an exhibit sponsored by Wells Fargo to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. (At the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina from June 27–September 14 and at Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture from November 1–January 10, 2014.) Read more…
By Eva Said It
July 14, 2013 – Today is so heavy. My lower back hurts, my heart hurts, my contacts sting my eyes. Advice: don’t cry with your contacts in and then sleep with them in and then wake up to shed a couple more tears. Just don’t. You’re welcome.
I’m plagued today for the same reason so many black parents are: we just watched a jury in the lawless state of Florida acquit George Zimmerman in the senseless and blatantly racial murder of Trayvon Martin…and we have children that by now we’ve had to explain it to. We’ve spent a night and a morning in difficult conversations meant to help our future generations understand what just happened…when we don’t yet (if we ever will?) have answers for our own understanding.
We have sons that will grow to be black men…and we cannot take for granted the assumption that they will even get to grow up. The Martin family surely pictured a college graduation day that will not come, a wedding day that will not arrive, and grandchildren that will not be born. I’m choked up just typing that. I’ve pictured all those days for my son.
I did NOT picture this day. Or last night. Read more…
By NICK CHILES
I had a Kennedy-Nixon 1960 debate moment as I monitored the George Zimmerman murder trial on Wednesday. After reading the published online reports on the testimony of Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who was speaking on the phone to Trayvon just before Zimmerman killed him, I got the impression that the 19-year-old Jeantel had delivered a legal slam dunk, offering irrefutable testimony that Zimmerman was stalking Martin that night and was clearly the aggressor in the confrontation—putting huge holes in Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. But then I ventured onto social media and started reading commentary from black folks on Jeantel’s performance. Across the web, people were tearing into this teenager, saying she was ill-prepared, inarticulate, attitudinal and downright awful.
It was similar to the vastly divergent impressions television viewers and radio listeners got of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, the first televised presidential debate in history—with folks listening on the radio thinking Nixon had won the debate while folks watching a sweaty, pale and uncomfortable-looking Nixon (who refused make-up) on television thinking Kennedy had won. Read more…
by Denene Millner
Chatter about exactly what Affirmative Action does.
Chatter about whom it’s helped and who it’s affected.
And especially the chatter about how awful and ineffective it is.
I readily raise my hand to say that those who argue against it are either clueless, blind or straight lying about how Affirmative Action affects mainstream America (read: white folks), and certainly how it changes classrooms, our workforce and lives.
This Affirmative Action baby’s story? My parents were by no means rich or educated: we lived a middle class existence financed by my parents’ factory jobs, and by the looks of it, we were living the American dream: Mom and Dad had a nice house with a yard and two decent cars to get them to work and church and bowling on Saturdays. But they were only a few paychecks off of having to ask for help, and, on a few occasions when my dad couldn’t find work, they did get that help. There were no fancy family vacations. New clothes came on special occasions—the start of the school year, Easter and Christmas. And extracurricular activities we take for granted today—eating out, taking in a movie or a concert, throwing a fancy birthday party—were rare because money and time were at a premium. Basically, money was tight. Read more…