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  • published Gifted Sons: In the Shark Tank in Content (c3) 2024-02-10 07:01:22 -0600

    Gifted Sons: In the Shark Tank

    By Rebecca Palermo

     

    Shark Tank

        When the critically acclaimed reality show, Shark Tank, called Ryan Diew in the spring of 2017, his mom, Danine Manette, was not surprised. Ryan’s budding mobile app, Trippie, was in its infancy, but he had garnered recognition from a variety of authorities on entrepreneurship. Further, he had displayed ingenuity and ambition since his early childhood, impressing family and friends from a young age.

        As a child growing up in Oakland, CA, Ryan developed a fascination with the way things work, studying trains and becoming familiar with mechanics and engineering. While other boys enjoyed sports in the backyard, Ryan would focus on the inner workings of mechanisms around him. He would pull remote controls and other devices apart and attempt to reassemble them, and occupy his attention with multiple objects at a time, holding one item in his left hand and another in his right hand. He was an early reader, and eventually transferred to a school with a more rigorous academic focus, so that he could study physics at a more advanced level than other children his age. Despite early auditory issues which impaired his hearing greatly before improving, and an ADHD diagnosis, he continued to excel.

        As he grew older, of course, he developed the same interests as his friends, taking up basketball while he continued to excel at his studies. A well-rounded young man with an eye toward the future, Ryan enrolled at the prestigious Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. At Colgate, Ryan endeavored to help students with learning challenges similar to his own. He founded a learning differences group at Colgate, living in the dorms with other students with learning challenges, and supporting them as they coped with a competitive academic environment.

        Ryan juggled this responsibility with his role as a Google ambassador on campus, aiding Google in its recruiting efforts at Colgate. He also played Division I basketball at school, traveling with the team while holding down excellent grades in his classes. During his junior year, he was in an airport, on a layover on his way home to California. He was hungry, but wasn’t able to find a restaurant in his terminal, so he searched his phone for an app that might be able to help him locate a nearby spot to grab lunch. When his search failed, he decided to build an app himself that would link airline passengers in airports around the world with restaurants and services they need. Trippie was born.

        Ever ambitious, Ryan conceived Trippie as an airport mapping device that would outline exactly which restaurants were in proximity to passengers’ location in airports, even calculating the amount of time it would take for passengers to obtain food before their next flight. He learned how to code, and refined the product continuously, until he and fellow Colgate alumnus, Samantha Braver, pitched the app at Colgate’s 2016 Entrepreneur Weekend, receiving over $22,000 in funding. In 2017, Trippie was selected as a recipient of Colgate’s Entrepreneurs Fund, which offered Diew an additional $15,000 in startup funding and workspace located in an incubator space in Hamilton. Trippie then went on to be featured in Inc.com’s Coolest College Startup competition.

        Inc.com’s list drew the attention of ABC’s hit reality show, Shark Tank, whose producers contacted Ryan, asking him if he would like to be a part of the show. While other contestants generally must audition in order to be on Shark Tank, the producers reached out to Ryan proactively. At first, Ryan was unsure. Trippie was still in its earliest stages of development, and he had not begun to seek out the type of funding which Shark Tank contestants generally have under their belts by the time they appear on the show. He wasn’t sure that Trippie was ready for the intense competition. But the opportunity could mean publicity for his fledgling app, so he accepted the offer and flew to Los Angeles after graduation to tape a segment for the show.

        His mom, Danine, who had been waiting behind the scenes, was invited onto the set, and was told when Ryan’s segment was finished taping, she could greet him to either celebrate with him or lift his spirits, depending on how well the segment went. As she waited patiently throughout 45 minutes of taping, unable to see on the monitors what was unfolding, she felt uneasy. As the national viewing audience found out months later, when the segment aired, Ryan pitched his idea confidently and awaited the judge’s feedback. The feedback he received was difficult to hear, and much of it was not aired. After getting his hopes up and gearing up for this enormous opportunity, his spirits were temporarily dampened by the criticism of the judges. When he came backstage to see his mother, he was understandably emotional, but Danette said that she was impressed by how quickly he composed himself and accepted the words of the judges.

        “As soon as the camera stopped rolling, Ryan picked himself up, dusted himself off, and told me that he viewed this as a learning experience and an incredible opportunity.” She was relieved to see that while he was knocked down for a few minutes by the tough judgment of the panel, he quickly resolved to make the best of the situation, which was in his nature to do. “I just wish that the audience at home could have seen how proud he made me when he accepted the words of the judges and decided to use their criticism and the show’s reach in order to better himself and push himself even harder to develop the best product possible. When the camera stopped rolling, he hadn’t yet had a chance to overcome his initial reaction to the judge’s critique, and they made that emotional moment eternity.”

        After the show aired, for every bit of negative feedback on social media, Ryan received several more positive pieces of feedback. He was able to tune out the negativity and focus on the potential that had earned Trippie so many awards and so much recognition thus far. He continued to develop his app, and has been meeting with other incubators, developing new partnerships with airports around the nation, and is even releasing Trippie gear. Trippie now has thousands of new downloads and followers, and is poised to grow exponentially.

        Danine is extraordinarily proud of her son and is optimistic about the future. “As a mom, I know that, despite what the world may think about our boys, my son is incredibly focused and determined, and will achieve his dreams.” Just as Ryan overcame early health issues and ADHD, and juggled an intense schedule devoted to service to his fellow students, sportsmanship, and academics, he is also poised to take the positive accolades his venture has received and the challenges he faced on Shark Tank, and turn every bit of these experiences into fodder with which he can pursue and eventually achieve the goals to which he aspires.

  • published If You Build It, They Will Come in Content (c3) 2024-02-10 06:46:21 -0600

    If You Build It, They Will Come

    By Pamela Wood-Garcia

    Pamela Wood-GarciaP. Diddy and Colin Kaepernick

     

       Many celebrities have used their positions in the spotlight to make small gestures that made huge statements and brought major progress in civil rights. For example:

    • Nina Simone used her platform as a singer to produce songs that contained lyrics congruent to her beliefs on civil rights. Not only did these songs empower the Black community, but they provoked a new thought process in the White community. She also set an example by being present and accounted for during many domestic and international civil rights marches that sparked major change.
    • Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of his time, used his celebrity status to protest the Vietnam War in 1967. He refused to fight in a war against a country that had not done him or the Black community any harm. His focus was on fighting for justice for Black people in America. He is quoted as saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong…They never called me niggah, they never lynched me, they never stripped me of my nationality…” 
    • John Carlos and Tommie Smith followed suit and did a Black Power fist salute at the 1968 Olympics. Each man wore no shoes and black socks to represent poverty in the Black community, and black gloves  to emphasize the power of the Black community. 
    • Fast forward to 2014. Beyoncé took the stage to perform at the halftime show during Super Bowl 50. Fans were expecting one of her sexy, sultry performances, and she gave them that—with a revolutionary twist. All of her dancers came out dressed in black berets, black gloves, and black leather jackets; a reference to the Black Panthers of the 1960s and 1970s. As she belted out the lyrics to her controversial song, “Formation,” the crowd went crazy. “Ok ladies, now let’s get in formation!” During this time, the urban community of San Francisco was seeking justice for Mario Woods, a young man killed in firing squad fashion by the San Francisco Police Department. With the stigma of the killing looming over the city, news of her performance flooded headlines. The Black power fist was held up by Beyoncé’s backup dancers alongside a sign that read “JUSTICE FOR MARIO WOODS”. Conservatives were appalled, liberals were inspired, and the whole world was captivated.
    • A few months later, Jesse Williams stepped up to the podium at the BET Awards to give an acceptance speech for his humanitarian award and shared words that uplifted organizers, activists and Black women. He spoke out against the unjustified murders of Black people and a system that feeds on Black culture and discards our bodies “like rinds of strange fruit.”  Conservatives called for the producers of Grey's Anatomy to fire Williams, while the Black community was uplifted.
    • Most recently, Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest has persisted in causing controversy and capturing the attention of the public for well over a year. On August 16, 2016, Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in order to protest the numerous slayings of unarmed, non-combative, Black men, women, and children brutally slain by law enforcement in the United States. During this time, the Black community was in an uproar over news of the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Alfred Olango. Demonstrations were taking place all over the nation. Kaepernick made the conscious decision to sit during the national anthem in order to show his disdain for the lynching of innocent people by a system designed to work against them. He also pointed out to the country that the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner made reference to the killing of African slaves. He eventually took a knee during the anthem after learning from fellow NFL player, Nate Boyer, a Green Beret U.S. veteran who has supported Kaepernick’s protest, that soldiers knelt at the graves of their fallen comrades as a show of respect. Kaepernick took a knee at every game he played in thereafter.

       With football being one of this country’s greatest pastimes, people from all walks of life saw Kaepernick’s protest. This landed him at the center of one the deepest dialogues in American history.

        In NFL Owner, Roger Goodell’s, first statement to the press in the 2016 preseason, he said this about Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, "Players have a platform, and it's his right to do that. We encourage them to be respectful, and it's important for them to do that...” One month later, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made this statement to Katie Couric, “I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful…I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag-burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.” She expressed regret a few days later, stating, "Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh.” 

        Filmmaker Spike Lee caught wind of the protest and caught Kaepernick’s back. He very passionately gave Anderson Cooper an enlightened perspective on how Kaepernick was following tradition and did not just “pop out of nowhere” in using his platform as an athlete for protest. He went on to give the prime examples of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.

        President Barack Obama gave the brother his props as well. In one of his early statements regarding the Kaepernick controversy, he said, “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.”  

        Since each of these statements was made, Kaepernick became a free agent as an NFL player and is now an unemployed quarterback. Some debate whether it was Kaepernick’s drooping stats or good old American racism. Those of us who believe the latter are boycotting the NFL this season. Many say they will not watch NFL football until Kaepernick is back on an NFL team. Hundreds of NFL players, Black, White, Brown, and other shades are still taking a knee during the national anthem in support of Kaepernick. Marshawn Lynch and  Seth DeValve are at the top of the list of players who have kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick. Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has not stood for the Star Spangled Banner since he came out of retirement. He was even spotted at a game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City sitting for the United State’s National Anthem and standing for the Mexican National Anthem. Cleveland Browns’ tight end, Seth DeValve, who was documented as the first White player to take a knee during the national anthem did it based on the fact that his wife is Black and his children are biracial. He also kneeled to pray for the events that took place in Charlottesville. This was done with 5 other players in a circle with each players hand on another players shoulder. The real controversy in the grand scope of Kaepernick’s protest is that we are in 2017 and there are people like the current president and his administration who still have a distorted view of the racial disparities and the injustices that take place in the Black community at the hands of the establishment. Trump and Pence both demonstrated how they feel about Kaepernick’s brand of protest. Trump made a speech where he referred to players who kneeled during the national anthem as sons of bitches. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

        He later suggested that the NFL make it mandatory to stand during the national anthem. He stated that anybody who does not stand should be fired. The NFL commissioner passed on his idea. Mike Pence found himself smack dab in the middle of the controversy when he walked out of the Colts versus 49ers game this season as the 49ers kneeled during the national anthem. Pence stated, "I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence tweeted.

        He could not see that the flag wasn’t being protested, the violation of civil rights that takes place when one of our sons is gunned down like a hunted animal was being protested. Most conservatives don’t have the vision to see past their world of privilege to understand this. What’s even sadder, in my opinion, is that the Black community has perhaps not banded together tightly enough to ensure that our children and grandchildren don’t have to live within a system that was designed to keep them enslaved. I believe that if Spike Lee, President Obama, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey and any other number of wealthy Black celebrities and citizens came together with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Kaepernick and created a new football league instead of fighting to get our young man back into a league that has proven to us repeatedly that it does not love us but our talent, we wouldn’t have these problems. If every Black player in the NFL went on strike, it would shut the NFL down. But if they did that, they might end up like Kaepernick. There is an energy about ownership that is untouchable.

    Tweet by P. Diddy

    Tweet by Colin Kaepernick

     

        When Beyoncé took the stage at Super Bowl 50, she walked up there knowing that nobody could pull her contract, nobody could fire her, and nobody could blackball her because she owns her name, her talent, and her record label! The same is true for her husband. If Beyoncé and Jay-Z want to go to Cuba, all conservatives can do is drop their bottom jaws to the floor and watch. Why? Because they own their stuff! While it is great that Kaepernick and P. Diddy are in meetings about buying the Carolina Panthers, they should consider teaming up with other people in communities of color to start a new football league with fresh new talent and a more liberal stance on the issues that directly relate to communities of color. If they purchase an NFL team, they will still be under the scrutiny placed on Kaepernick by the NFL; only this time, an entire franchise might feel it.

        People tend to forget that there were the Negro Leagues (baseball), The Big Five (basketball), and Club Football before Black men started getting recruited by White leagues. The White leagues were looking to benefit from the talent of Black men and they did. When men like Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington, and Charles Henry “Chuck” Cooper entered White leagues they brought about a new standard in sports and increased the earning potential of athletics in America. Football, baseball and basketball make billions of dollars each year. NFL Football alone is a $25 billion a year industry and Blacks contribute a huge chunk of that $25 billion dollar paycheck. Overall, the Black community contributes about $1.1 TRILLION into America’s economy each year. It’s about time we bring some of that money home. It’s about time for us to run our own football teams and anything else we’d like to run that will keep us paid and entertained. The goal here is not segregation, but financial empowerment by way of profiting from our own talents.

        P. Diddy said he would have the best halftime shows, the best players, and the best team in the NFL. It would be great if he applied that vision to starting a league. P. Diddy has run Bad Boy Records, Sean John Clothing, and Revolt TV successfully. A man with the vision to successfully found and run a record label, a clothing line, and a television network surely has the vision to start a football league. Colin has proven that he is dedicated to the process of social justice and is willing to do whatever it takes to see it through. We have two men with proven track records of dedication and follow through and the hearts of gods. These men have proven success in everything the world has seen from them. These men don’t just draw crowds, they move them. They build empires. A new football league would be a brick in the foundation of each man's empire. If you build it, gentlemen, they will come. If you build it, we will come, and we will bring $1.1 TRILLION with us. 

  • published Black Sons in Military Service in Content (c3) 2024-02-10 05:59:23 -0600

    Black Sons in Military Service

    By Natasha Marie

         James Weldon Johnson said, "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Here now we stand at last, Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast."

    Francis Scott Key posed this question, "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave; O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

        Two very different cultures will clearly have differing perspectives of what it means to live in this land...of the free?

        The real test of freedom in our country rests with our soldiers who unselfishly serve in the Armed Forces. But what happens when a soldier realizes that the very country he’s “serving” might not be returning the favor? Are men of color feeling slighted when they put their lives on the line for those who have sought to discourage, discredit, devalue, and dishonor them?

        The “land of the free” is a place where people of color are bound by institutionalized racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Social injustice continues to plague people of color, while the armed forces continue to solicit their help with defending a country that in many ways has failed them.

    We reached out to “a few good men” (sons of mothers who belong to the Moms of Black Boys United private Facebook community), as well as to their moms, to get their take on this noble career and how they perceive their own “fight” for justice while serving this country in the Armed Forces.

    Enjoy reading and hearing some of their thoughts! (Interviews have been edited for space.)

     

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    MichaelKyle

    Mom: Kyra Ayres Jones
    Son: Michael, 23 & Kyle, 19
    Military Branches: ARMY, AIR FORCE
    Listen to Interview

     

    Question: What do you want the world to know about your boys?

    I'm so proud of both of them! Michael started off in the Reserve, and his plan was to go to Reserve and then go back to college and finish his degree and later enlist as an officer. He is in Georgia now and very determined to finish his degree in Physical Therapy. (Currently a Dental Assistant.)

    Kyle came home one day and said, “I’m joining the Army,” and I didn’t believe him! He had done 3 years of ROTC and decided in his senior year that he didn't want to do it anymore. So when he told me he was joining the Army, I said “Boy, go sit down somewhere!” He called me from the recruiter’s office and asked me to sign the papers, and I told him not until we talk. I had him talk to my brother to make sure he knew what he was getting himself into. So 3 weeks after he graduated from high school, he went right to Boot Camp. I was a complete basket case because they both left at the same time.

    Question: In our society today, we see racial tension in the news and the police are murdering our young men in our world. What is your take on this and has this impacted either of your boys while in the military?

    It has not impacted Michael in the Air Force. I was very nervous about them leaving home, especially Kyle because he is so young. I think people tend to prey on them (young boys) because they’re young and inexperienced. I am constantly talking with him about things they encounter. I think people tend to take advantage of the fact that some of these kids are on their own and they don’t have any experience so our lines of communication are wide open (while they're serving), and we talk about everything!

    Question: What has been your biggest fear with two sons in the military?

    That they won’t come home.

    Question: Have you found the MOBB United Facebook community to be helpful to you?

    Yes, especially while they were in basic training. That was the first time they were away from home, and I couldn't pick up the phone and call. That was very rough for me; like I said, I was a complete basket case. It was helpful to know there were other moms going through what I was going through with their children who could relate to me. So we comforted each other.

    Question: What are your thoughts about your sons serving a country that isn’t always fair to Black males?  

    I would rather that my boys had chosen a different path. I know that's selfish, but I do feel that this country does not value our young men. They don't appreciate them, they don’t value them, and they’re definitely not going to protect them. So I have to stay in prayer daily because this is the path they’ve chosen. I understand that they’re looking at it from a financial point of view, as well as they don’t have to pay for school and they won’t have debt from student loans. I understand that, and I support everything they do to better themselves, but I just feel that this country doesn’t appreciate their sacrifice.   

    Question: Do you think your sons would agree (with you that this country doesn't value/protect them)?

    Yes, I think to a certain degree; I believe they would. They’ve both been blessed that they have not been victims of racial profiling. They've not experienced racism first hand, thank God; so I don't know if they would fully understand how I feel about them serving this country.

    Question: Have either of them had any encounter with the police prior to serving?

    Kyle was pulled over while he was in the military and because he was in uniform the Caucasian officer was very polite; he thanked him for his service, told him to be careful and sent him on his way. I was on the phone with him when this happened, and I immediately went into panic mode and told him to put me on speaker. It's so sad the people who are supposed to protect us...that we're afraid of them!

    Question: Have you thought about what might have happened if he was not in uniform that day?

    I have. I was so glad he was (in uniform). Once the officer saw him in uniform his approach was completely different! He was speeding, so I’m pretty sure that if he had not been in uniform, the officer would not have been as cordial to him as he was.

    Question: Any final encouragement for other moms whose sons are serving?

    Keep them lifted up in prayer. As long as they have God with them, they’ll be safe, so I pray every day, and I encourage them to pray as well. I would say keep your sons lifted up, talk to your son(s) about everything, and keep the lines of communication open because they experience things that we don’t think of because it’s not part of our day-to-day lives.

    Question: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?

    When my brother left home, he was like my son (age 19), right out of high school. He had done 2 years in the National Guard and then decided to enlist. I believe my mom was nervous as well.  Our father passed away when we were young, so my brothers didn’t have that male role model. But I saw the difference, and as he got older, I saw the maturity level in him. I think he needed the discipline that the military provided for him.

    I also see that in my younger son. He was a little rambunctious, and he took every opportunity to go against authority, but I already see the difference in his attitude.

    In some instances, it does help them to mature. I see a difference in my son, and he’s been in the military for about a year and a half.

     

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    Nathan PenaNathan PenaNathan Pena

    Mom: Dianna Floyd
    Son: Nathan Pena
    Military Branch: NAVY
    No Audio Interview

     

    Question: Tell us about your son -- something that you wish the whole world could know about this special prince you brought into this world.

    Growing up, he wanted to be a Black history teacher, a sports coach, or a doctor. He was always fascinated with the human body and with blood. He is a considerate, loving, polite, well-mannered young man and always has been. My son works in Medical on a ship, and he inspects everyone as they enter and exit the ship. A few years ago, my son and I were on a flight to Houston, TX where we had to handle some family business. While traveling, Nathan was in uniform. It is customary for some airlines to bump military personnel up to 1st Class when they are seated in coach. That particular day, I was sitting in the row behind my son. The stewardess walked over to my son and said, “We would like to ask you to move up. We want to show you how we treat military personnel who serve our country. We appreciate you for serving!”  Nathan’s response:  “Thank you, but I will only move up if my mom can move up as well.”

    Question: What fond memories do you have of his upbringing?

    I had a village to help me raise this boy. My father, who retired as a Major in the Army, was so strict. We walked a straight line! He sparked fear in all the children and grandchildren. Whenever any kids in the family acted up, they were threatened with, “I’m gonna take you to your grandfather!” and quickly they straightened up!

    Every Saturday, all the grandchildren went to spend time at my parents’ house. It was a big weekly family gathering, and we would all sit around and listen to my father teach us all Black History. This was required learning in our family. One of Nathan’s teachers in medical school one day asked my son how he knew so much about Black history. He told the person he was taught as a kid.

    Question: How did you feel when your son told you he would be joining the military?

    As his mom, I was in the Army for 10 years but came out with honorable discharge. Nathan’s father was in the Army, and his grandfather was in the Navy. We are a military family, so it would have been strange if he weren’t interested in serving. I really wanted him to go!  

    Question: What kinds of conversations have you had with your son about interacting with law enforcement?

    I currently work several jobs to make ends meet. For one of my jobs, I serve court papers for a lawyer and a judge in Greenville, SC. They wanted me to take a class to teach my nephew, grandson, cousin how to handle themselves (what to do and not to do) if pulled over by the police. Here’s what I had to teach them:  

    Always say ‘yes sir, no sir’; be very polite; don’t be a smart (butt)! I got a baseball card holder for each of them so they could use it to contain their driver’s license and registration. I told them to always keep this in their sun visor when traveling. I taught them that if they get pulled over, to grab the license and registration from the sun visor with one hand; keep that in one hand and rest both hands on top of the steering wheel; when the officer approaches you, already have your window down. DO NOT move your hands. When they ask for your license and registration, hand it to them slowly and then put both hands right back on the steering wheel.

    It’s scary we have to teach this...to our sons AND daughters too.

    I tell my children I want to see them (come home)!

    Question: As a final thought, what advice would you give to our young men in today’s society and the fact that we’re seeing so many fatal shootings of our black men at the hands of police officers?

    Dianna took a deep breath and said: Be careful...be cautious...pray…come home safely! I wish they (police) would get more training. The military should train the police force; I believe things would be better.

    The military trains you how to hold your anger. They teach you the right way to do your job. A lot of these officers are not getting the proper training and I wish we had more black male and female officers out in the police force!

    Why are they (White officers) so afraid? The way they walk up to the car and approach Whites is so different from the way they approach Blacks; their body language and voice tone is just different.

    Question: What can we do to make them change those perceptions?

    Have them come in our inner city; have programs. The police should meet the young people in the schools and get to know who they are. They should take more time to learn about our culture.

    One thing about the military, when you must travel to foreign places, you’re made to learn about the culture and the laws of the people in the land you’re visiting. And while there, those who are in the military are like a family. Police officers can learn from this.

     

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    Charles, Jr.BrianQuintinChristian

    Mom: Alicia Arroyo Wilson
    Sons: Charles, Jr., 29; Brian, 26; Quintin, 21; Christian, 18
    Military Branches: ARMY / MARINES
    Listen to Interview

     

    Question: What do you want the world to know about your sons?

    I have AMAZING sons!!! For one, being Black men, they are on the endangered species list. I have not had any of my children a part of the court system. They are all high school graduates.  They are using the military to help them get the education my husband and I couldn’t afford to give them and do even better.

    Question: How do you feel about the issues of color we face?

    I’m afraid all the time for my boys. Even though I know they’re on the right path, especially for my son who’s a police officer. He’s called an Uncle Tom for being a cop but he’s a good cop and a good person. When he goes on his calls he doesn’t see Black or white, but he goes out to help people and make a difference. I worry about him more than my other boys.

    Question: Do you think diversity will help the police force?

    When I was coming up, I came up in the projects of New York City. The Black police officers there knew how to relate to us. We lived in the projects in NY and we were poor, but our children didn’t know we were. These privileged kids are coming into the police force and they can’t relate. I’ve seen police officers going into grocery stores and helping moms out, giving them food to take home to their kids to feed them.

    Question: What can we do to help our sons during racial tensions we face?

    I do let my kids know, no matter what I got your back. I support you 100%. I’m here for YOU, and I will go to war for my kids!

    Question: Have any of your children had an encounter with the police?

    Quintin was being harassed by a particular officer. He was the President of the Advisory Board and I was the Vice. Quintin looks older than what he is and he complained about an officer always messing with him. I told the cop to leave my son alone! The Police Department knows my family but Brian had an encounter.

    Alicia’s Son, Brian Wilson joined in on the conversation….

    My parents lived in a housing area frequented by cops. I had a concealed weapon permit, which I had since I was in the military. I rolled through a stop sign, so I was pulled over. As soon as he approached, I let him know I had a permit. They called for more officers to come over. I told him he could take the gun. He told me to stay in the car.  I realized he was nervous so I got out and let him take the gun. They played with it, but I always keep a round in the chamber.   

    Question: How do you think that would’ve gone had you not been in uniform that day?

    I think it would’ve gone differently.

    Question: What is your biggest frustration as an African American male serving in the military and now the police:

    Other African-American males automatically assume, when I’m in uniform, that I’m against them. It’s almost as if they think I’m being controlled by the White Man or something. What they don’t know is I grew up on food stamps.

    Question: (BACK TO ALICIA) Any final thoughts for other moms whose sons are serving?

    Thank you to the group (MOBB United). I’m on that page every day trying to encourage others going through stuff with their kids and then receiving encouragement back. We as moms have to find our support group! We are so busy supporting our husbands and children that we get lost in the mix of trying to make sure our families are good. I don’t care how much more or less you have than me, I will treat everyone the same. With the way things are going now, we need one another. Us as women in general (all colors); we need one another!

    I wasn’t going to join the Facebook page initially. It wasn’t until last month that I posted a picture of my son Brian and his wife, who is white and I thought let me see how this group will respond to this. The love that came from that post let me know this is a real group here! I am definitely going to stick with following this group. I try to go in and respond to the posts but there are so many!

     

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    Marcus McKenzieGwendolyn and her son, Marcus McKenzieMarcus McKenzieMarcus and Gwen McKenzie

    Mom: Gwendolyn McKenzie
    Sons: Marcus McKenzie
    Military Branch: ARMY
    Listen to Interview
    Watch Homecoming Video

     

    Question: What would you like the world to know about Marcus?

    Gwen: He’s positive, loving and he strives to do the best. He’s well rounded. He can pretty much fit in anywhere! He doesn’t like to just be sitting. He’s helpful. He’s just a great kid, polite. He always shines and I thank God for him. At the time I was carrying him I wasn’t ready for a second baby. It was prophesied that this baby was special and he is special. He’s got this special aura about him and his smile lights up the room. I have very helpful boys and they’re loving. They care about people and any time they can help someone they’re ready!

    Question: What’s your greatest aspiration for your son heading into the military?

    Gwen: I’ve always told them (my sons) to live and follow their dreams so they don’t have too many regrets in life. I don’t push them to do anything (specific). I want them to pursue their own goals. I feel Marcus is following his goals. I know he’ll be successful no matter what he’s doing.

    Question: What went through your mind when you realized your son was going to the military?

    Gwen: Panic fear and everything else, but I remember one time Marcus asked me: “If I went to the service and something happened, and I died, would you be mad?” I answered, “YES!” (Laughing out loud.) I felt silly after I answered that way, but I know he’s prepared and I know he’ll do well. I have to put my thoughts and feelings aside because it’s about him. I don’t want him to think he could have done something that I kept him from doing. I know he will be fine.

    Question: Final thoughts?

    Marcus: My personal belief is that not everyone will have it easy here on Earth. This isn’t necessarily our home. Some are prosperous, successful but they may be doing bad things along with getting that success. You have others who have it hard; Black people are that group that won’t have it easy. We still have to be strong as a people and know eventually we will be home one day. We all just have to be on the same level of respecting one another as humans.

    Even if you have animosity toward someone, just know if you were in their shoes you’d want to be treated differently. If someone who’s racist told me something out of character, if they were in my shoes or I was in theirs, having that mindset kind of makes me think.

    Gwen: In life you’ll have ups and downs. Life is not always going to be easy but you can’t give up - you gotta keep pushing. Those struggles make you stronger. For those who are ready to commit suicide, it’s just sad because they don’t know what was on the other side of that problem they were going through.

    Me, growing up without my real mother and being raised by relatives, I was treated differently. But I believe there was a reason I had to go through that.  Otherwise my boys wouldn’t have turned out the way I did. There’s good and bad (in life), but you gotta push through—to get to the good!

  • Black Sons Abroad - Part 3: Bothers Jace and Merl

     

    By Tiffany Bargeman

         How many travel writers under the age of 10 years old do you know? Well, I'm excited to introduce you to 9-year-old Jace and his little brother, 8-year-old Merl. They are authors, travelers, and young Black princes making their way across the miles and making their mom proud.

         This is the third part of our Black Sons Abroad series. We've been to Beijing, China with Bryson, 15; the UK with Kamsi and Noah, both 4; and now to Cuba, with Jace and Merl. Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. aims to reverse negative perceptions of Black men and boys. One of the best ways is to tell the stories of the big things they're doing and of their hopes and dreams. We are also learning from their own innocent mouths what they know and how they feel about police brutality against Black men and boys, a serious issue that has plagued Black citizens for centuries.

         Jennaye Fennell, a school teacher raising her sons in Atlanta, Georgia, was very excited to allow her sons to share their experiences with Moms of Black Boys United. She believes that one of the best ways to change negative perceptions about our Black sons is to tell the world about their adventures while letting them live life to the fullest. Since she shares the school vacation schedule with her sons, they've traveled since they were babies. Their most recent trip was to Havana, Cuba.

         We talked a bit about differences in how Black boys and men are treated in America and Cuba. Jennaye said she believes there is probably more crime in America, and she worries about her sons here in this country. While she and her young sons were in Havana, they didn't see many Black boys and men there, but they did observe police presence in Customs and on the streets. Because Cuba is a Communist country—a dictatorship where people cannot do things they want as easily as in democracies, like become authors and speakers—she appreciates the opportunities that her sons have in America to live life to the fullest.

         Jace, 9, took a notepad with him on his excursions in Cuba because he's planning to write another book in their travel adventures series, “Fennell Adventures.” He wrote his first book to tell others about his travels to Hawaii, titled "Journey through Hawaii with Jace.” The book, which was released this past Spring, is a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, which allows the reader to decide how the story begins and ends, depending on the scenario. Soon after Jace's book was finished, his little brother Merl, 8, was inspired to follow in his footsteps and wrote his first book, “Journey through Texas with Merl,” which was published in the Fall. It's full of vivid, colorful images that take the reader right to the scenes.

         While I talked to the boys about their travels and books, I also asked them what they know about racism and police violence against Black men and boys. I wasn't surprised at how thoughtfully Jace described racism as “unfortunate.” Though he has yet to live even a full decade in America, he has a clear understanding of the concept and said that it makes him sad that some people judge others simply by skin color. Jace said that when he sees stories on television about shootouts and robberies and thinks about how the bad guys may be arrested, punished really harshly or killed, he believes that Black men and boys are treated differently by law enforcement. He said there may be some police officers that think they are better than people who are a different race from them, and that those officers may be “...just bad people on their own.” When Jace first met a police officer at a book signing for himself and Merl, he said he wasn't scared or excited. And although Merl seemed a little shy, he let me know that he was a little scared when he first met a police officer because he thought he and his brother were in trouble. But then he learned that the officer was an author just like him. He knew then that he didn't have to be afraid. Merl eagerly told me about his love for swimming and basketball, speaking of a trip he'd very much like to take to the hometown of his favorite NBA team—the Boston Celtics. He wants to play for the NBA when he grows up.

         These busy brothers are an inspiration, and their mom is a vital influence, with her determination to ensure that they enjoy life to the fullest and get the opportunities they deserve. Take time to listen to the full interview with Jace, Merl, and Jennaye, who also is their booking agent. Watch Jace and Merl's video, check them out on their YouTube Channel, and purchase their books on Amazon, if you like. Visit www.fennelladventures.com to see Jace's CBS interview, and enjoy the photos that accompany this story, including pics from Cuba, Texas, Hawaii, and the Fennell Adventures Press Kit.

         This is just the beginning. How wonderful that they've gotten started so young, with mom encouraging and backing them all the way. Jace looks up to his mom because, in his words, “she always provides for us and makes sure we have everything we need. And that's how I wanna be for my kids.” Merl echoed his brother's sentiments. Keep setting that example, mom!

    Please enjoy these photos!

  • published Hopes and Dreams while Serving Time in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 07:47:10 -0600

    Hopes and Dreams while Serving Time

    By Natasha Marie

    Hopes and Dreams while Serving Time

         Nothing is more fervent than a mother’s love! It hopes against hopelessness and boldly dares to dream in spite of despair. When her son falls, a mom is always there to pick him up and dust off his every bruise. As he develops and matures, that same mom still is there to protect, defend, encourage and inspire! No amount of bad news can keep a mom from having high expectations for her son and praying that his future is bright. A mother never ceases to believe in the best for her son. Regardless of the circumstances, she is full of optimism. But even the best mother cannot shield her son from the severe consequences of a bad split-second decision; a decision that has the potential to shatter every lifelong goal and dream on a moment’s notice.

         Lynda Jones is the epitome of a mom with hopes and dreams for her sons’ future. Like any other mother, she and her husband, James, raised three beautiful children in the admonition of the Lord. She provided a value system with morals and standards to shape their beliefs and solid Christian principles upon which she built her home. It was customary for her to attend church with her children while they were growing up.  This was not a household where the parents were missing in action. She and James were vital contributors, pouring their efforts into the lives of their children. Jaylynn, Joshua and Josiah were properly cared for. Like most families, they had challenges, and life wasn’t perfect, but their household was rich in love and filled with faith. 

         As a matter of fact, her middle son was quite serious about his faith. As a child growing up, Lynda describes him as a boy with a huge heart full of  compassion. He was always looking for ways to help anyone in need. Mrs. Jones goes on to explain that as a child, Joshua was a very tender hearted young man who found great fulfillment in helping others in distress.

         “I always believed that Joshua would use his life to serve the Lord. He was (and still is) a leader, with a giving spirit and a servant’s heart. I often refer to him as a gentle giant,” said Lynda.  All of her children were musically inclined and it’s likely they inherited this trait from their father, a gifted musician. Joshua loved to play the drums and was interested in the music industry. At one point, he was preparing to enroll in a top notch school to pursue audio engineering when everything changed.

         As he grew older, this helpful, kind-hearted boy began to evolve into an angry middle child. He wasn’t the oldest, and he wasn’t the youngest; he was the sibling right in the middle.  Perhaps if you’ve not been in this situation, it may be difficult to understand the frustrations of a middle child. It was impossible for even his closest family members to know exactly what Joshua may have been dealing with emotionally.  Somehow, he progressed to a point where he was inwardly unsettled; a condition that even loving parents cannot always detect or diagnose.  As most young Black men are prone to do, he bottled his emotions up and chose to keep his feelings to himself. Gradually, those emotions began to fester, and one day, a split second decision was made that put Joshua at the scene of a crime.

         In order to protect the family’s privacy, the details of his conviction have been intentionally omitted, but Lynda’s son now is serving a 20-year sentence. When I asked what she wants the world to know about Joshua, she said, “That my son is not a monster!” 

         Often times, as mothers, we wonder if there is something we should have done differently, but Lynda stated, “Children don’t come with a manual. You just do the best you can with what you have.”  She recalled times she possibly could have been more strict or maybe could have dealt more harshly with him. Thinking out loud, she said, “I have regrets, but the only thing I’m guilty of is loving my son. What I have learned though, is that tough love is the best love.” 

        I asked Lynda what her greatest fear is for her son right now. She responded, “My faith in the Lord allows me to not focus on my fears because I just believe he is called to do great things. I believe this situation is the avenue to get him to that place.”

         She went on to explain, however, that when he comes out of prison, she is deeply concerned that he may be rejected by society for one horrible mistake he made. Lynda fears that even after being remorseful and serving his time, he still may be shunned by society for his past actions. She is concerned about his opportunities for employment and how he will get beyond this and make the transition back into society. 

         Her Pastor declared through a prophetic Word in church one day that Joshua would be granted an early release. The Jones family remains positive as they hold on to that Word, as well as the hope and dream that all is not lost; Joshua’s life still has purpose!

         This young man has chosen to work as a tutor, helping other inmates learn how to read.  He was reminded of how ashamed students felt in school when they were called upon in class to read but were unable to do so. He has chosen to not only work while in prison but to use his skill and intellect in a way that promotes rehabilitation for himself while helping to eradicate illiteracy in others. Through programs and deep conversation, as well as anger management, he is a representation of the fact that a percentage of inmates are successfully rehabilitated in jail. He made a mistake that cost him everything, but he is remorseful and definitely a better man today than he was when he began his sentence.

         Statistics have shown that inmates who take up a trade, maintain work or obtain education while in jail have a much lower rate of rearrest. Also, respondents who participate in job training classes while in prison are less likely to be reincarcerated 1 year out. 

         For young men looking to re-enter society after serving time, please visit the Help for Felons website as a resource for programs and resources that are categorized by state.

         Lynda Jones is a mom, like many of you, reading this. She has a message that she wants to leave with you today. She said the pain of her son’s conviction was a torment and that there were times when her situation just seemed unbearable. “When this happened to me, I was embarrassed and wanted to hide. I’m sharing my story because I want to help. I need other mothers to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”

         Lynda hopes to one day write a book about her experiences with all three of her children. They are very distinct individuals, each with their own unique journey. For now, she is looking to connect with moms who share this same pain and know what it feels like to have a son in prison. In the near future, she plans to contribute her time and energy to Moms of Black Boys United to be an encouragement for moms with incarcerated sons. She has what it takes to be a part of a perfect safe haven where moms like her can openly reveal their shame or embarrassment and ultimately heal. We encourage you to go to www.mobbunited.org and join today, as support of Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. will help moms like Lynda Jones.

  • Black Sons Abroad - Part 2: Kamsi Eke and Noah Ryan, United Kingdom

    By Tiffany Bargeman

         As our series on Black Sons Abroad continues, I had the pleasure of talking with two moms who are raising their young princes, both 4 years old, in the United Kingdom (UK). I chatted with Uchechi Eke, a very dedicated and passionate member of MOBB United for Social Change (MUSC) and Moms of Black Boys United, Inc., about her experience raising her son in the small town of Braintree, part of Essex, in the South East of England, UK. "He's got a smile that lights up the world!" is how this Nigerian-born mom described her 4-year-old prince, Kamsi -- not the room, the WORLD. His full name in Igbo (the language of a Nigerian tribe and ethnic group) is Kamsiochi, which means What we asked God for, He granted. Uchechi told me that she and her husband wanted a son, and Kamsi is their resulting joy.

         Also, I had the chance to chat briefly with young Kamsi, a train and car enthusiast, who just started school. I didn't get much of his time, as he was about the business of squeezing in as much play time with his Legos as possible just before heading to bed at 8 p.m. But I did learn from his innocent lips that he believes police are good. "They catch bad guys, and they put them in jail," he answered, when I asked for his opinion of police in the UK. When I asked how he feels when he sees police officers, he said, "I'm real excited because of their uniforms." As I listened to him, imagining him squirming in mom's lap anxious to go back and play, I thought about his innocence and how wonderful it is to be young and oblivious to the many dangers and injustices that plague society.

         America is not the only place, of course, where prejudice, racism and police brutality are daily conversation topics. I knew this, but I was surprised to learned that it also is a problem in the UK -- on a smaller scale -- but a problem nonetheless. Though Uchechi expressed concern about her son learning about these unfair phenomena as early as secondary school as he approaches an age of accountability, she countered, "You can't cage a bird." She and her husband plan to use the power of affirmation to prepare Kamsi to function at his best self in society, filled with not only happiness, but joy, which overcomes the good, bad and ugly. My words simply cannot do justice to the conversation I had with Uchechi and her son. Please click here to listen to the full interview.

    Kamsi Eke, 4, UK

    "My son brings unspeakable joy to our family. He loves trains and cars. We have high hopes he'll be an engineer. He dotes on his sister and is the apple of his father's eye. He is generous, confident, loving and adventurous."

     

         Just shy of 30 miles (72.4 km and less than 1 hour driving time) from where the Eke family resides live Bianna Ryan, her husband, and 4-year-old son, Noah. They are Americans living near Cambridge, England. Like Uchechi's Kamsi, the youngest member of the Ryan family is too young to know much about the police, except that they take people to jail. Mom is not sure if he thinks the police are good or bad. He is their only child, and is therefore, very special to the family. Bianna describes him as a precocious boy who loves being outside. "He loves birds, and feathers, and picking flowers. He's the light of my life. The joy of my world," she said. She's not worried too much about him experiencing fatal violence at the hands of law enforcement. In fact, policing in Britain is so different; she's never seen a police officer in her village. This isn't a "gun country", and there appears to be much less gun violence than in America. Mom said she may not be concerned about her son being in physical danger of such a bad experience until he's at least 9 years old. Right now, he's learning to ride his bike and asking questions about nature; he's just doing regular things that 4-year-olds do. However, people already seem to perceive her son as older than he actually is -- by about 2 years -- though Mom's not sure why. There's something else on her mind these days concerning her son, and that's his experience in the UK's educational system. This year, the Ryan family joined thousands of families all over the UK in sending their 4-year-olds to "Reception", the British equivalent of pre-Kindergarten.

         When Trayvon Martin was murdered, like the rest of us, Bianna was traumatized. When the verdict was announced, her son was only a few months old, and all she could do was cry. She wanted to take action to affect change, but she wasn't sure exactly how to do it. One day, she saw a post by a friend in the private Moms of Black Boys Sons, Inc. Facebook group and was inspired to join. Bianna has found the community to be a helpful support system. Recently, she posted in the Facebook group about an experience with her son's teacher at his school, which raised red flags. I asked her why she felt comfortable sharing such a private matter within this group of moms, most of whom she does not know. Her response: "I just needed someone to check my thoughts." She welcomed the feedback that she received from the other moms -- not necessarily like minded, but with one thing in common: love for their Black sons. She had shared it first with her husband, of course, who reassured her that she'd done the right thing. But then, she wanted to know how other moms felt.

         Here's her original post:

    "M.O.B.B.,

    Am I overthinking this?

    We are Americans living in England. The school system here is very different. We also live in the middle of England NOT London. There is little to no diversity here. I have not seen any other black children in the school. Nor have I seen any black staff. I have counted two Asian children. Today is my only child's third day in Reception (American Pre-K). So, he's only 4 years old. Day One: the lead teacher tells me he has not been listening and he's being defiant. This is not really a surprise as my son will test you. You have to be firm with him at times. I personally do not think being defiant is necessarily a bad trait when channeled into determination but I TOTALLY understand how this can be disruptive in a classroom. Day Two: The assistant teacher shows me a note from the lead teacher that is used to "document behavior to determine patterns." The note said another teacher/bathroom monitor saw my son walk up to another little boy and kick him without provocation. I was very upset about this. So, I told the assistant teacher I would like to speak to the lead the next day. This morning I expressed my concerns.

    Momma: I saw the note about N and I am concerned about him being watched and monitored for what you think is anti-social behavior and that behavior being documented. The documentation is what bothers me the most.

    Teacher: We've had a chat with the class about deliberately hurting others. Right after that N walked up to another boy and kicked him. We try to teach our little ones not to hurt others. You would be very upset if N was hurt by other student. <-- This last comment was beside the point but I let her cook.

    Momma: I am bothered that my son might do something to hurt other people. I understand that harming others is not how he should behave. Aggression is really not like N. He's always been a gentle soul. I am also concerned about him being singled out or stigmatized as a problem student. I think it's very early for that and the fact that you're documenting his negative behavior and not his positive behavior leads me to believe this may be the end result.

    Teacher: It is standard practice for us to document student behavior both negative and positive. (She explains the Honor System for documenting and rewarding positive behavior). We document negative behavior to see if we can determine patterns and work together with parents to diffuse the behavior. I've found N to be a gentle as well and one who's eager to please. He's a lovely boy and we're happy to have him in our class. I had a chat with N after the incident yesterday. He was immediately remorseful. He was very upset about being put on the black cloud.

    Momma: What is the black cloud?

    Teacher: This is a system we use in the class to make students aware of their behavior. It is a rainbow. At one end is a white cloud and at the other is a black cloud. If a student exhibits bad behavior they're on the black cloud.

    Momma: 😠😠😠 I don't like that. He is Black. I am Black. The message is Black is bad and White is good.

    Teacher: Oh! I never thought about it that way.

    Momma: There is no reason you would. You're used to seeing the world through your lens of whiteness. I am Black and this is the first thing that came to my mine. N is Black and things like that teach children that black is bad. So, N is bad. N's mommy is bad.

    Teacher: We can definitely change that. I want to assure you that we do not discriminate. That was not our intent.

    Momma: I'm sure this was not intentional but the negative association with blackness is clear. You're not outwardly saying being black is bad but you imply this by making a consequence for bad behavior being placed on a black cloud. You also imply that white is right and therefore superior to black because the child wants to be on the good white cloud and not the bad black one. I look forward to seeing the changes. What about gray?

    Teacher: I like gray. Maybe I'll do under the rainbow and over the rainbow. Mrs. Ryan, I want to again assure you that we don't discriminate and we'll change the board. I'd really never thought about it that way.

    I could see that she was honestly troubled by what I'd said.

    We went on to speak in more detail about N and positive discipline.

    I don't think I overreacted but I have to admit I do care that I upset her. I know this is my fatal flaw. I don't like to upset people but when it comes to my baby I have no problems letting people have it. I will always be an advocate for my son and children everywhere. I do think "subtle" suggestions like this can be where discriminatory thinking starts. Again, these kids are only 4 years old."

     

         Bianna spoke of what she thinks was genuine ignorance on the teacher's part about the message she was sending to her class with her black cloud/white cloud behavior tracking system. She was surprised, first of all, that Bianna came to her directly with her concern. Mom thinks this may be due to her observations during the 2 years she and her family have lived in the UK that the citizens are less candid than Americans. They seem to be "polite to a fault". Secondly, the teacher seemed shocked at this mom's concern that because she was teaching her class of 4-year-olds to believe that the color black is bad and white is good, she ultimately was conditioning them to think that Black people are bad while White people are good. There are very few Black children in this school; actually Bianna has not seen any others, as she mentioned in her post. Because there are not many Black people in the surrounding community as a whole, the teacher may very well never have considered that the behavior system using colors had such a negative connotation, until Bianna intervened in her son's behalf.

         The good news is that the teacher expressed genuine remorse about the misjudgment; she owned up to it. The very next day, she changed the system in her classroom to reflect white and grey storm clouds instead. Not only was her class being taught to pre-judge based on color, but the rest of the students were too, since it is a school-wide behavior tracking system. Unfortunately, children who started attending this school at 4 years old have been conditioned through 5th grade to believe that black is bad and white is good. The teacher took Bianna's concern to the head teacher (equivalent to the role of principal at the school) and reported back that they system had been changed school-wide.

         When I read Bianna's post, immediately, I was reminded of the concept of the school-to-prison pipeline. Situations like this one, left unaddressed, tend to usher Black boys into an unfortunate pattern of labeling through biased documented incidents that can follow him through school, practically setting him up for failure. But I believe that Bianna's intervention, via this very frank conversation with her son's teacher, stopped that demon in its tracks. Left unchecked, the psychological impact of such an experience on Black boys can be detrimental. Direct conversation is just one wise way that moms of Black boys must advocate regularly -- from pre-K through college -- to protect our sons' futures. Her post also reminded me of how important it is that we affirm our Black sons so that they know their own worth. Starting at an early age, we should tell them that they are special, they are loved, they are handsome, that they'll be successful if they work hard, and that they are no less important than anyone else. Both Uchechi and Bianna expressed how important this is; affirmation from loved ones helps prepare our sons not only to navigate a racist society, but to survive in it. Bianna "nipped this issue in the bud immediately"; however, she is not sure whether or not her young son has already made a connection between the bad black cloud and his race because of this experience. Regardless, she and her husband have the priceless opportunity to continue pouring into their child's self-esteem before he encounters any overt racism. When she was pregnant, she admits that she was a bit worried about not being prepared to raise a black son in a racist society, but her husband reminded her that simply loving their son is the answer.

         If Bianna had a chance to speak to President Donald Trump about her son, she would try to appeal to him as a parent, since he has children of his own, including a young son. "We both want the best for our children, but the way he is leading America is making it hard for us to give our son the best future," she said. She feels her son has a target on his back and is being stigmatized. She added, "America is made up of all kinds of different people. We are all intertwined. This means my son's future is connected to your son's future, and vice versa. So, if we want to, as you say 'make America great again', then everybody living in the county should be living a great daily life. If you have a system of inequity, America can't be great because some people aren't living their best life." If Bianna could speak to Britain's Prime Minister, she would ask her to understand that because the world is becoming so much smaller, it would benefit the UK to treat all citizens well because it can only benefit Britain in global relationships. Lastly, she encourages moms to step outside of their comfort zones and have the difficult conversations that are necessary to advocate for our sons.

         So, we've been to Beijing, China (virtually), and learned of 15-year-old Bryson Berry's experience living abroad. Now we know what it's like for two moms and their young sons in England. Where to next? Japan maybe? Stay tuned.

  • An Interview with Richard Bryan, Co-editor of "Black Boy Feelings; Volume 1: Boyhood

    By CK LeDaniel

    every morning,
    I open my eyes
    & brace myself
    for the exploits
    of police branches
    in our neo-lynching;
    bruised fruit hanging from hashtags.
    ~ Andre G, Black Boy Feelings

    Black Boy Feelings, Richard Bryan

    Richard Bryan and Jeana Lindo
    Co-Authors Richard Bryan and Jeana Lindo, Black Boy Feelings

         Black boys and men are often perceived by the world as hard, impassive, impervious to pain or emotion. As moms of Black sons, we know our boys have feelings. I’ve been there in the trenches with my son’s feelings. It’s been my privilege to be there, to support him when he is sad or scared, to join him when he is joyful, and to help him unpack his anger or his hurt. As moms, we also know that the mistaken characterization of our sons as unfeeling is part of what allows for their callous treatment by the world. It plays a role in their being selectively targeted for the school-to-prison pipeline. It contributes to their being profiled, brutalized, and murdered by law enforcement, whether as children or adults.

        Not long ago, my son attended a book party for a friend of his. The name of the book? Black Boy Feelings; Volume 1: Boyhood. That friend, Richard Bryan, who is one of the two editors of Black Boy Feelings, along with Jeana Lindo, allowed me to interview him about their publication. I was surprised to find that much of their emphasis was on how Black boys and men themselves internalize their depiction as hard. What we know about how the world regards our sons, they know in even more nuanced ways. They know it in friendships, in intimate relationships, in the workplace, on the sports field, in their creative expression. They experience every day the expectation that they suppress and contain their feelings, deny their feelings, like all men do – only more so because they are Black. Because they are Black, they are subject to a hyper-masculinity. And ironically, they are sometimes forced to become dispassionate in order to endure the consequences of their misperception as such.

         In an effort to address this, Bryan, a multidisciplinary artist and journalist, and Lindo, also a multidisciplinary artist, solicited artworks and writings that addressed what it means to grow up as a Black boy. Here is an excerpt from my interview with him:

    Richard, can you share with me what you hope to achieve with Black Boy Feelings?

    Honestly, the hope is that we can shed more light on the infinite variety that exists within the spectrum of Black masculinity. We want Black men to think more deeply about their emotions and believe that their artwork is valid and valuable. Mainstream society is mostly only concerned with Black art when it has a directly quantifiable entertainment aspect and so the book is a means of displaying a wider spectrum of art and the Black experience.

    How does Black Boy Feelings seek to change perceptions of Black men?

    The primary way is as an internal change in the Black community by saying that not only is it okay to feel emotion, it is also imperative to find ways to properly express both positive and negative feelings. Black men are constantly under pressure and we want them to know that sharing their feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. Externally, Black boys and men are pretty much seen exclusively as either victims or perpetrators of crime, so ideally, the book can both soften and deepen the world’s perception of us.

    Did you get any submissions that related to experiences with law enforcement?

    We had a few pieces that related to law enforcement. All of them were negative, but that’s mostly because we, as Black men, tend to be disproportionately targeted by the police. For example, last year I was arrested and jailed for 27 hours for having a warrant on an unpaid $25 ticket for biking on the sidewalk, which is pretty absurd.

    Do you feel you have to make a conscious effort to remind people you are a person with a full range of emotions?

    Yeah, I mean even my parents are quick to fall into the “be a man” type of thing. Granted, they’re Jamaican, so a lot of that is deeply ingrained in their culture but it’s still not conducive to genuine emoting. Even amongst my friends sometimes, even though we tend to be better about it, I find that sometimes I have to remind them that we’re not robots and that we’ve gotta be careful what we say to each other. 

    What would you like a group like Moms of Black Boys United to take away from reading this book?  We are roughly 180,000 mothers who are worried about our sons.

    I think that it is important for Black mothers not only to raise their sons with the fear of how the world is going to treat them but to legitimately listen to them and allow them to be themselves. The world is going to look at us suspiciously no matter how much respectability politics we’re pumped full of, so a balance has to be found between preparing our sons to be able to survive and allowing them to flourish.

    What would you like Black boys and men to get from your book?

    It’s okay to express yourself to each other. Tell your friends you love them while you still can. Sharpen your swords.  Practice your craft no matter what it is.  Make more art.

    Will there be a volume 2?

    There will be! We’re currently collecting submissions for the upcoming volume Black Boy Feelings: Things My Mother Taught Me. Well then, I know around 180,000 mothers who will be looking forward to Volume 2! For those who would like to purchase a copy, visit blackboyfeelings.com.

  • published To Say or not to Say? in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 06:15:11 -0600

    To Say or not to Say?

    By Tiffany Bargeman

    Tiffany BargemanDo you ever wonder whether or not you should respond to ignorance, afraid that you may offend someone? Well, until just recently, I was that person. But then I watched actor Freddie Highmore (whom you may know as Norman in Bates Motel) in a new television series called The Good Doctor. It's about a young autistic surgeon, Dr. Shawn Murphy, who, because he has no natural filter, says what needs to be said when it needs to be said. I thought about the freedom that a person like him must have, whether he's aware of it or not. I'm not autistic, but I envy the freedom that the character has to say whatever comes to mind. I don't always feel that I have the freedom to say things that might offend people; I try to employ my filter of political correctness. I guess you can say I'm a little sensitive myself. But the older I get…the struggle is real!

    Some people prefer to communicate hard truth indirectly -- through sarcasm. I don't. And Dr. Shawn Murphy doesn’t even understand it. (“What is the purpose of sarcasm?”, he asked in the 2nd episode). So what does one do? Dr. Murphy just says the hard truth. I know a few real people who just say it, too. Quite a few of my friends, as a matter of fact, are bold and blunt with it. How do they do it with no worries of offending people? Do they just not care? Did they used to care, and at what point did they stop? One said around the age of 40. I can totally relate because when I turned 40, my patience for crap flew out the window. My late Aunt Ruth was the candid one in our family. She’d be so blunt sometimes, one might feel their ears bleeding once she got done with them. I told myself I didn’t want to be like her when I grew up; but now, I understand why she didn’t hold back. Why not just be real? No reason. I get it Aunt Ruth; may you rest in peace (and truth).

    I shared my thoughts on my private Facebook page with some friends about the new television show. My original post:

    ABC's The Good Doctor

    Later, as I was thinking about these bold friends and blunt aunt, I marvelled at them. It must feel good to not keep truth inside just because someone else can't handle it. I told them I love them for it and to never change. Their responses gave me life and emboldened me to speak on a matter that bothered me a great deal.

    I had been struggling for a couple of weeks with the decision to say or not to say how I feel about a certain Facebook post by a “friend” of mine, in which she posted her views about the state of America that's being discussed all over social media. She made an announcement that she was “Saying so long to Facebook!” and plans to focus on happy things like “pigs, pugs, and hedgehogs” because Facebook was too negative. At first I replied to her with a pretty neutral answer -- with all of the political correctness I could muster. I let her know that I didn't agree with everything she said. In other words, I let her get away with the ignorance spouted. But it bothered me for days -- not only learning that a “friend” of mine was so ignorant, but that I did nothing about it. She had posted something almost as ignorant just after the November 2016 presidential election, and I had let that slide, too. But, after discussing my sensitivities with my friends in my private post, I decided to give her my very real reply.

    Sometimes the truth has to be told. Will my “friend” change her views? No, but maybe God will change them for her. I'm leaving it up to Him. Unlike her, I cannot stick my head in the sand and pretend the issues do not exist. They impact moms of Black sons directly. But, do you know what I won't be anymore? Politically correct.

    Sorry? Not sorry.


    My “friend’s post” (which her other friends absolutely loved):

    “Saying so long to Facebook! I am beyond disgusted, sick and tired and fed up with all the negativity on here and the world. I know I can't take away what's going on everywhere but I can remove myself from the garbage on here. Too much politics, views, protests, feelings hurt, complaining over petty crap such as when sticks are being picked from the hurricane , and on and on. In the 10 plus years on this site I have never voiced my opinion but now I am.
    1) get your ass off your knees, legs, whatever your doing and honor this country! Men and women are fighting and have fought for you to even be able to stand on that damn field making millions throwing a ball.
    2) Trump is president and will be. Get over it! Move on. Put your efforts of bitching about it into maybe being kind to someone for a day. The bitching and complaining isn't going to fix our leader of this country. Just support him and pray he makes the right decisions.
    3) The shooting last night is awful! For a coward to take all those lives should have done us all a favor and taken himself out from the get go and been done.
    4) final thought is to just enjoy each day and thank God each morning is another day.
    Love to you all and please feel free to reach out anytime! I'm on instagram as bkryston. I'm sticking with that because following pigs, pugs, and hedgehogs makes me happy 😂”

    My first politically correct reply:

    “While I don't agree with eeeeeverything you said because we're different people with different backgrounds and very different a life experiences, I do believe in #selfcare. Do what you need to do, hun. I'm not on Instagram, but maybe our paths will cross later in life. Enjoy your babies!”


    My second REAL reply:

    “I'm sure you'll get this reply because no one really leaves Facebook for good. Offense or none, I have to say this, in love, but unapologetically.

    I understand that you may not be able to relate to people who have experienced racism and undue hatred simply because of the color of their skin. You're white with blond hair, and so are your daughters.

    You'll never have to worry that they'll not have fair opportunities in life because of that mere fact.

    You won't sit up at night worrying whether they'll make it home safely after hanging out with friends or coming home from work or walking down the street because people don't hate them; they are white with blond hair.

    You won't worry that a racist cop will decide their lives are not worth anything and KILL them after pulling them over for a minor traffic offense. You won't have to feel anger and betrayal about that cop being able to keep his job after committing murder.

    You won't have to get in an elevator with a white stranger and wonder if that person hates you for no reason. You won't have to stand in a grocery line and wonder if the person in front of or behind you hates you and your kids for no reason. You won't have to feel the hateful stares of people when you decide to not salute a flag that represents a country that hates you and your children. You never even have to make the decision to protest hatred. You won't even understand how big that single decision is, knowing that it could cost you everything.

    You won't have to worry about your white blond daughters not being able to go to good schools, eat in restaurants, shop in stores, work for companies, live in neighborhoods, etc. without being discriminated against. They won't have a reason to protest because it's more likely that they won't experience injustice. They can just be their white blond haired selves and know all is well.

    Thank God for that, Brittany. But while you're thanking God, ask him to open your eyes to understand why people WHO DO know what it's like to be hated for no good reason are hurt and mad enough to not want entertain you and your white blond haired daughters by running a ball down a field in a country where a President says it's okay hate people who are not white with blond hair.

    NOW, enjoy your babies! I do NOT say this with sarcasm. We were neighbors for more than 3 years. I shared milk with your baby when you ran out and didn't feel like running to the store. My Black daughter was your pet sitter who fed your precious pugs and no-tail cat, and she watched your daughter for a few so you could take care of some things. We laughed and enjoyed neighborhood parties together. My Black son showed you and your family nothing but kindness. All the while, this ignorance was in you?

    I'm going to enjoy my babies too, but I'm also going to have to work harder than you to protect my kids from hatred. I'll continue to teach them how to handle it when it does come their way for no good reason, from people - maybe like your daughters - who don't know how to empathize because their mom just wanted to watch a football game and enjoy her worry free white life.

    I still love you and your husband and babies, though. If I had not gotten this out of my system, I may not be able to say that with honesty. Your post planted a seed in me that could have been bitter, had I let it. I'm not writing this because I'm offended. I am writing it because I am in despair, like the other people in this country who have skin darker than yours and are expected to shut up and accept hatred.

    I hope and pray this makes you think so you can raise your daughters to not expect people who are not as privileged as them to "get your ass off your knees, legs, whatever you're doing and honor this country!" THAT HATES THEM BECAUSE THEIR SKIN IS DARKER THAN THEIRS.

    And leaving Facebook is not going to make the injustice or the protests against it disappear. It will be everywhere you go until the eyes of you and others who think like you are opened. Meanwhile, I'll continue volunteering my time to produce this newsletter for MOBB United for Social Change, Inc. (MUSC)/Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. so may I can affect change and not have to attend my own son's funeral one day because of racism and ignorance: http://www.mobbunited.org/general/custom.asp?page=Newsletter003

    When I see you again, I'll smile and love on you and your babies as I always have.

    But will you be able to smile at me and my children, Brittany?”

    (I shared this most timely image
    with her in my reply.)

    A long sordid history, slyngstad.cartoons


    I'm not 100% sure my “friend” will read my message, but maybe one or more of her friends will, and maybe someone will change their perspective. Maybe not, but at least I wasn't silent. I have a renewed resolve to speak out against racism, with love though. With love.

    This very revealing experience reminded me of why I volunteer my time with Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. I love my son. We all love our sons. Founder Depelsha McGruder has said many times that this fight is not a sprint but a marathon. While my written response to ignorance is not the solution to the problems of hatred and injustice that plague America, it does contribute to our goal of changing negative perceptions of Black boys and men. And so much work is being done to influence policy impacting how Black boys and men are treated by law enforcement and society. This work must be funded. To date, our organization has been completely self-funded; but to grow and expand, we need your help. Please consider donating to Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. this month at mobbunited.org/donate. Also, please learn more about fundraising efforts and what else you can do to help.

  • published Black Boy Joy! in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 05:58:42 -0600

    Black Boy Joy!

    By CK LeDaniel

    Our sons often are perceived by society and by law enforcement as hyper-masculine, violent, threatening, unemotional, hard, impervious. In fact, they sometimes are encouraged or obliged to be this way. But we moms know them better than that. We know their full range of feelings. We have dried their tears, calmed their fears, and shared their joys – at all ages. We have seen them be vulnerable and gentle and funny. Today, let’s celebrate some of their Black Boy Joy!  Let’s take pleasure in the smiles and giggles and excitement that show the world who they really are when their spirits are free to thrive.

     

    Please enjoy these photos!

  • published Black Sons Abroad - Part 1: Bryson Berry in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 05:25:08 -0600

    Black Sons Abroad - Part 1: Bryson Berry

    By Tiffany Bargeman

         Do you ever wonder what it's like for Black sons living abroad? Do you ask yourself questions like:

    • Would the police see my son as a threat in Germany?
    • How would regular folks in Russia perceive my son?
    • Would I be afraid to let my son go hang out at a mall in Sweden with his friends?
    • Would my son get pulled over by the police as often if he lived in Colombia?
    • Would I fear for his life the entire time he’s outside of the house if he lived in Taiwan?
    • If my son were walking home with friends after playing basketball in Peru, would he be stopped by police and become a hashtag?
    • Do other MOBBs think like me because I have been told I'm an overthinker, sooo...

         Well, I've asked myself questions like this. And I've imagined that surely, when it comes to police brutality and the fear that moms have for our Black sons here in America, it cannot be as bad anywhere else. Of course, things are better for Black men and boys elsewhere; or are they?

         I've had fleeting thoughts kind of hoping that my own son, who is almost 20 years old, will come to me one day with the big announcement that he'd like to leave the country. I imagine myself screaming in delight and relief, “Yes, Greg! Go! Be free! Fly away, son!”

         But wait.

         Would he be free? Would he be safer? Would I worry as much about him encountering the police and it going wrong, so terribly wrong? The more I think about it, the more I'm not sure.

         I've seen many posts in MOBB United’s private Facebook group by moms who say their sons are living abroad for various reasons, either with them or without them. Plus, I have a friend, Caneisha Berry (pronounced kuh-nē-shuh), also a mom, who lives in Beijing, China with her husband, Andre (a teacher at Beijing City International School [BCIS]); their daughter, Brianna, 13; and 15-year-old son, Bryson. I caught up with them while they were in the states this summer, just before they were to return to China, and took advantage of the opportunity to interview both mom and son, because I'VE GOT QUESTIONS.

          They graciously accepted my request for interviews. Listen to Caneisha describe her feelings about the difference of raising her son and daughter outside of America, as we sat with our daughters and her daughter's friend in a local Wendy’s restaurant (Brianna chimes in to answer a very interesting question). Then listen to Bryson's personal perspective on his experience as a Black son living abroad. He conferenced with me from his grandma's house in Ahoskie, NC. Bless his heart. Their interviews were eye opening.

         But wait.

         All countries are different right? And all families are different. And all Black sons are different. So their experiences must be different, and I think they are worth exploring. I've only just begun with Bryson in China. I've also seen moms’ Facebook posts about their sons in Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, and other countries.

         I’m going abroad -- well, virtually -- with my questions over the next several months, bloggin’. Stay tuned for more in this series, Black Sons Abroad.

     Mom Caneisha Berry and Bryson, 15

    Caneisha Berry, MOBB

    Listen to Mrs. Berry's Interview

     

     

    Bryson Berry, 15, China

    Bryson Berry, 15

    Listen to Bryson's Interview

     

    *Caneisha Berry is an International Relationship Life Coach within her own business, Berry Thoughtful Life Coaching.*

    If you'd like to participate in this series, please send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Black Sons Abroad Series”. Be sure to make this email address a safe sender so the spam box doesn't come between us! Then, please be on the lookout for a reply.

  • published Back to School in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 04:33:35 -0600

    Back to School

    By CK LeDaniel

     

         MOBB United moms are celebrating our scholars as they return to school this Fall. From Kindergarten to College, we are so proud of our Black boys! We know they face the challenges of the school-to-prison-pipeline that other boys don’t face, but they are succeeding, and we are behind them all the way. We have their backs!

     

    Please enjoy these photos!

  • published Meet the Graduates in Content (c3) 2024-02-09 04:19:28 -0600

    Meet the Graduates

    By C.K. LeDaniel

         MOBB United moms know that our sons often have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to achieve the recognition and successes afforded to their white counterparts. From Pre-K to Post-Grad, please enjoy the photos of our graduating sons. Let's offer our hearty congratulations to these boys and men and to the moms who have been behind them all the way.

    Cue the Pomp and Circumstance!

  • published All of Us in Content (c3) 2024-02-08 10:44:17 -0600

    All of Us

    By C.K. LeDaniel

    CK LeDaniel     I am the 56-year-old White mom of a Black boy. I can claim many other identities, as can my son, but bear with me for a moment. This is the identity that situates me, in a particular way, in an elementary school in Queens, New York, in the 1960s. That was back when Brown versus the Board of Education was being enforced, and it resulted in Black children being bused into my White neighborhood school. Once disembarked from their buses, however, the Black children were strictly separated from the White children into different classrooms by what was obviously arbitrary tracking. We were also separated at midday, when the Black children were sent to the basement cafeteria for hot lunch and the White children ate their bagged lunches brought from home in the auditorium. This internal, racial segregation was carried out even as we fulfilled the classroom assignment of making posters in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death: lots and lots of childishly drawn, differently hued handshakes with block lettering that read, “I HAVE A DREAM…” One day, some friends and I got the idea that we would ‘integrate’ by asking our unwitting parents to request hot lunch for us. We all sat together in the cafeteria -- integrated -- for a single lunch period before the administration caught on and prohibited the White children from ever purchasing hot lunch again. Children are finely attuned to injustice and hypocrisy; my friends and I were indignant, but also, we were defeated. As a psychotherapist now, I have to speculate that this may be one of the seminal stories of my interracial marriage years later. Just don’t ever try to tell an 8-year old girl she can’t do something unless you really want her to do it.

         I am sharing this story here now because, in 2017, integration is still a controversial, or at minimum, an ever-evolving concept in social justice movements. We see this clearly in recent criticisms of ‘White Feminism’ and ‘Pride and Privilege’ and in discussions of ‘Intersectionality,’ the term coined by civil rights advocate Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. In Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow (our first MOBB United Book Club pick), she tells us that historically, alliances between Blacks and Whites have been experienced as so deeply threatening to the ruling class, that White Supremacy, Jim Crow, and Mass Incarceration have been in great degree responses designed to drive wedges into these alliances. While Alexander insists that racial alliances are essential to the success of efforts to eradicate not only the new Jim Crow but any next Jim Crow, she actually goes much further. She takes a cue from the latter work of MLK, insisting that traditional civil rights organizations must move on from the temptation of seeking only top-down judicial and legislative wins, wins that pave avenues of success for Black exceptionalism within existing economic structures. Alexander says that such organizations must also mobilize grass roots movements that include “all of us or none,” underscoring the necessity of embracing the many intersections of race and class, and yes, caste. She says, in fact, with no holds barred, that social justice advocates must “adapt or die.”

         Founded a year ago in what I will call the summer of our sadness, as we reeled and grieved in the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, MOBB United’s rapid-fire growth took its founder, Depelsha McGruder, by surprise. She established a Facebook group to which she modestly invited 30 friends, seeking solace and solidarity. It exploded in days to 30,000, expanding exponentially to the almost 200,000 and growing that it is today. But like all ‘spontaneous’ movements, historical forces had set the stage for its creation, and I would suggest that its increasing emergence as a formidable force for change is in part due to its embodiment of much of Alexander’s projected formula for a successful social justice organization.

         MOBB United does, in fact, combine top-down and bottom-up activism. There is an ongoing flow and exchange between the two that continues to shape our identity. I was one of those early members possessed by the site and its voluminous postings, and I was a witness to the crystallization of leadership around Depelsha, which developed from the drive of volunteers, previously unknown to each other, raising their virtual hands in virtual space. I watched as committees and subcommittees sprang from posts that identified needs. And while the big picture thinkers, the laypeople and professionals of all stripes, emerged to harness the energy and hone the message of this massive group, that energy remains its high-spirited, grassroots backbone.

         As Facebook group members across the globe, we are there for each other’s trials and triumphs, for emotional and practical support, and we are there for each other’s sons in concrete ways. Moms send their well wishes and prayers to sons who are ill, as well as their condolences to moms in mourning. Moms can reach out to the Health and Wellness Committee and the Sub-committee for Moms of Sons with Special Needs. The MOBB United Connections program connects MOBB sons to families in other states when they have traveled to attend college. MOBB United Outreach has connected personally with and provided support to the families of those who have been victimized by law enforcement. While the Policy Committee researches and sets policy initiatives, inviting suggestions and volunteers, the Call Center rallies the membership to action on those initiatives that have been established. As a group, we have lobbied and advocated for raising the age of criminal responsibility and for bail and prison reform. We also have made calls to police chiefs, prosecutors, mayors, and community boards, urging action against incidents of police brutality. By the way, it’s pretty gratifying when the person on the other end of the line says, “MOBB United? Oh, we’ve gotten a lot of calls from your group.”

         In addition to this maintenance of a top-down and bottom-up approach, we also have empowered ourselves by embracing the intersectional identities of the moms of Black boys and of those Black boys themselves. MOBB United could have identified itself as a group for Black moms of Black boys, and it would have been above reproach for doing so. It also could have narrowed itself by highlighting any number of adjectives before the words moms or Black boys, explicitly or implicitly, but it chose not to do so. The only narrowing is in the name itself; there are no other modifiers.

         On its Facebook homepage, MOBB United defines itself as “an inclusive and safe space [for] all moms, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender origination, marital status or anything else.” I love that “anything else"! But while we are always bound together as moms – or primary caretakers – of Black boys and men, we go further and welcome all by extending membership to anyone committed to our cause with MOBB United for Social Change and Mobbunited.org. In this way, we cross those critical lines of class and race and further intersect them with a multiplicity of other identities.

         Finally, while recognizing the importance of changing negative perceptions of Black boys and men, something Alexander also notes as crucial to change, we claim as our own as well those who are caught up in the snare of mass incarceration. Yes, we post with pride beautiful pictures of our sons’ successes. Moms proclaim the achievements of their scholars and artists, their soldiers and world travelers, their businessmen, scientists, doctors, lawyers and engineers. We like an endless picture parade of our tuxedoed young men in their prom photos, and of graduates in caps and gowns from pre-k to post grad. We share portraits of our sons as loving and caring family men, fathers, brothers, and uncles. But we are not focused exclusively on success. We recognize the particular vulnerability of our sons to the school-to-prison pipeline, and we do not eschew those who are caught up in it. We recognize the unique concerns of our sons on the spectrum or those with mental illness vis a vis law enforcement. Also, we reach out to moms of incarcerated sons and to those sons themselves. It has been one of my greatest pleasures to write and send books to some of those young men along with hundreds of other moms and then to get feedback via posts that their sons are moved and gratified by the overwhelming support of strangers. This is truly an all of us or none of us community.

         As Alexander outlines her vision and posits her challenge to social justice groups, one can discern some cynicism in her words, a hint of hopelessness that movements ever will truly embrace the disenfranchised, or all of our intersectional identities, or the necessity of lawsuits and legislation along with grassroots advocacy. Surely the dismantling of economic structures and the sacrifice of what she calls the racial bribes that divide us and hold us back are ambitious and perhaps not within our scope as yet, but we have already begun by including all of us and all of our sons. And just don’t ever try to tell the mom of a Black boy she can’t do something unless you really want her to do it.

  • published Celebrating our Black Sons as Fathers in Content (c3) 2024-02-08 08:37:40 -0600

    Celebrating our Black Sons as Fathers

    JustTiff

     

    By Tiffany Bargeman

     

              The priceless relationship between a father and his children is to be honored and cherished. Fathers provide strength, safety, and stability; they have special bonds with their sons and daughters.

              The perception that most Black men don't step up to the responsibilities of fatherhood must be changed. It's just one more wrong generalization that leads people to devalue our sons’ lives. The term “baby daddy”, which originally had negative connotations, has been used so often to mock Black fathers that it has been adopted as a mainstream reference. It still carries a stigma. Let's get back to using the word FATHER when referring to our sons with children. The word FATHER implies not only strength, safety, and stability, but LOVE. Our sons love their children. Our sons deserve to live long and prosperous lives, and to LOVE and raise their children to do the same. They have the right to leave their legacies -- including beauty, talent, and values -- on this Earth as much as any other man. As one of our five platforms, MOBB United works hard to change perception of Black boys and men so they can thrive. As mothers, grandmothers and “aunties”, nothing is more precious than seeing our sons being fathers to their children.

              Let's acknowledge and celebrate them and the love they have for their children. We requested pictures of your sons with their children via the MOBB United Facebook group page. Thank you for sharing that #blackboyjoy with us! Please enjoy this beautiful compilation of pics of our sons with their children. This is just one of several image campaigns; check out #protectthem and #sayhisname images as well. Then please read this thought provoking piece on victims of Law enforcement violence and harassment and decide how you can be part of the solution.

     

    We hope our sons had an awesome father's Day!


     

  • published MOBB United's 1st Anniversary in Content (c3) 2024-02-08 08:26:20 -0600

    MOBB United's 1st Anniversary

    Order your Woke Mom t-shirt today

     

    By Vanessa McCullers

     

              Wow! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we first connected on Facebook! This has been a bittersweet journey that started when Depelsha McGruder decided to create a space for her friends to share concerns and fears. During that time, it has also become a place for us to celebrate our Black boys! We’ve lost more Black boys and men at the hands of law enforcement and have also made great strides to #ProtectThem. One thing that we learned about ourselves along the way is that WE ARE WOKE!

              Kicking off with the Essence Festival, MOBB United will commemorate our 1st anniversary from June 30 - September 30. We’re starting off with a MOBB United booth at Essence Festival June 30 - July 2. If you happen to be there, join us!

               The theme for our anniversary is #WokeMom, and during that time, we’ll encourage moms to join us on the front lines by hosting Woke Mom Meetups in several cities across the country, including: Brooklyn, NY; Staten Island, NY; Nashville, TN; St. Louis, MO;  Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Baton Rouge, LA; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; and Los Angeles, CA.

              These Woke Mom Meetups will give new members, and soon-to-be members, a chance to learn more about how they can advocate on behalf of our sons and become voices of change.

              For our anniversary commemoration, we have launched a Woke Mom product line in the MOBB United store. These Woke Mom themed items will make a fashionable statement at any summer gathering and beyond!

     

              If you haven’t done it yet, now is the time to WAKE UP and join us on the front line by becoming a registered member of MOBB United!

  • published Content (c3) in Early Days 2024-02-08 08:06:25 -0600

    Content (c3)

    Back to School
    Posted by · April 01, 2024 11:31 AM

    Tag Connor, you're it!
    Posted by · December 31, 2019 6:32 AM

    2018 Graduates and Prom Photos
    Posted by · July 15, 2018 6:33 AM

    See all posts
  • MOBB United Poetry: "Survival Tips for my Son" by Maryam Dilakian

    Survival Tips for my Son

    I say to my son–
    If a cop ever stops you,
    don’t argue,
    don’t try to reason,
    don’t contradict.
    Do nothing.
    Say nothing,
    except that you have
    the right to have your
    parents present.

    I tell him–
    Don’t run.
    Never run.
    Don’t reach into your pockets.
    Don’t try to explain you haven’t
    done anything wrong.
    (Knowing my son,
    that won’t be why they’ll
    ever stop him.)

    I say to him–
    Be polite,
    be considerate,
    don’t be loud on the train,
    be aware of who’s around you.
    Know who your friends are,
    choose them well,
    hold them close,
    give what you can,
    but remember to take,
    also.

    I tell my boy,
    soon to be a man–
    Stand up for yourself,
    when you must, but
    only when you’re facing a foe, and
    never simply because you’re angry.
    Throw your punches with words,
    and the intent to right wrongs;
    use your fists to defend yourself,
    only.

     

    Maryam Dilakian

  • Gifted Learners: Advocating for Screening and Referrals for Children of Color

    By Kara Higgins

    Kara Higgins     My son, Ezekiel, is never without a book in hand and a backpack full of reading on-the-go. As the youngest of five, he probably got read aloud to a little longer and a little more often than his siblings, with me not quite ready to let go of that sweet stage of snuggles and bedtime stories. So, it was no surprise when he was reading early and often. His descriptive storytelling, broad interests, and vast vocabulary are encouraging and impressive.

         Yet my avid reader is not in the talented and gifted program at his school, and he has never been screened. English is his second language, and he despises numbers (like his mama!). However, as a 4th grader, he reads at a 9th grade level, and his standardized test scores are well above average. Although I should know, I did not realize until recently that children across all state lines undergo IQ tests and gifted screenings at the teacher or parent request.  Shame on me! 

         Our student population nationwide has become increasingly diverse. However, African-American students are ⅓ less likely to be enrolled in any talented or gifted program in public or private sectors. There is an overrepresentation of White and Asian students in gifted and talented programs, while Black and Hispanic students are typically underrepresented. However, research does not support the notion that any one group is more intelligent than another (Renzulli, 2004). So how does this make sense?

         Students from underserved populations, of all races, may not exhibit characteristics that are stereotypically “gifted”. Some gifted individuals with exceptional aptitude may not demonstrate outstanding levels of achievement due to environmental circumstances, such as limited opportunities to learn as a result of poverty, discrimination, or cultural barriers. Other obstacles include physical barriers, emotional challenges or behaviors resulting directly from outside stressors. Hence, school faculty and administrators may overlook the child's aptitude and high ability learning because of these other factors.  Moreover, with ample evidence that our Black sons are often over-targeted as disciplinary problems from a very young age, it’s easy to assume that their gifts are therefore being overlooked.

         Brown vs the Board of Education was a step in formally attempting, as a nation, to achieve educational equality. The reality is still quite different; and we all know equality does not always equate with quality. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a Congressional Act of 2001 that attempted to keep lower level learners from falling through the cracks, is a good example of equality, but not quality, impacting the children who are exceptional learners. Since NCLB, many teachers are forced to more or less ignore gifted children, instead teaching to a one-size-fits-all curriculum that caters to the lowest common denominator—the average classroom student—with the thought being that our gifted students don't need the extra work or attention. We as moms all know very well that the ignored or forgotten child often resorts to behavior and actions that will draw attention, whether good or bad.

         What can be done? Like anything else, knowing is half the battle. Be an advocate for our Black sons and for all kids who are more likely to get missed. Know that you can request for your son to be screened. Show up to all the parent-teacher conferences, no matter how much your son may be excelling. Bring this up in conversations with other parents and ask your child's teacher if she knows the statistics.

         Following are a few resources for further empowerment:

    • Supporting Emotional Needs for the Gifted: Provides resources and support for families and students.
    • Acceleration Institute: Dedicated to research and curriculum that supports gifted students.
    • Parenting Gifted Kids: This blog is written by a fellow mom and covers information for several ages and stages of childhood.
    • Unfortunately, a literature review revealed very little specific support or information for families or children of color. The National Association of Gifted Learners does have a web series written by a black student, regarding advocacy and experiences in academics. Check out this great blog post.

         For more resources, contact our Education and Engagement Committee Lead, Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, at [email protected].

  • Education and Engagement Committee Update

    By Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, MSW

         Hello, Moms of Black Boys United beauties! Happy April! Spring is finally here.

         CrownOur Education and Engagement Committee has been working towards keeping moms engaged through our monthly Facebook live readings and our MOBB United Book Club posts:

    • January’s live reading was with Derrick Barnes and his illustrated book, Crown, about the feeling a young boy gets from his trip to the barbershop for a fresh haircut.
    • February’s live reading was with Javaka Steptoe and his book, Radiant Child, a beautifully illustrated story on the life of young artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat (additional info).
    • March’s live reading was with Dr. Irene Okoronkwo-Obika and her book, Chisom the Champ Meets the World, which teaches children that self love is key to overcoming bullies and interpersonal obstacles.
    •  On April 22 at 7 p.m., we'll host our next Facebook live reading with Corey Richardson and his ebook, We Used to Have Money, Now We Have You: A Dad’s Bedtime Story. This story from a dad’s perspective uses wit and pragmatism to remind children that a parent’s love is infinite, but patience and finances are not.

    Between the World and Me     MOBB United Book Club’s latest selection, Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, has generated great discussions over the past few months (January 6, January 15, January 23, March 5). The Book Club’s posts sparked conversations around how our boys’ black bodies are viewed through the lenses of others; how race is the child of racism and not the father; and how being “White” is a made-up social construct. We hope that you will stay tuned for our next book, which we will announce soon. Please feel free to comment on the posts from this fascinating book described as a “letter from a father to his son”. You can search for posts using the hashtag, #mobbunitedbookclub.

         MOBB United also has partnered with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) to offer workshops, conferences, and/or forums with lawmakers, parents, and their children in cities across the country. Retired and active duty Black law enforcement officers will talk with participants about how we can work together to keep our communities safe and how law enforcement can become more involved in keeping our children alive in their jurisdictions. They have connections to police chiefs and those in command all over the country, so please join us in this fight to keep our sons safe. We are really excited to get these workshops scheduled between April and June of this year and we need your help to get these informative interactive forums scheduled.

         Looking for a great way to reward your son for a fantastic school year? Give him the gift of inspiration by sending him to the “From the Fire” Leadership Academy. If you are interested in hosting a forum or workshop in your city, please connect with me at [email protected] .

         Have an awesome month!

    FaceBook Re-Post

    *The aforementioned book club posts were shared originally in the Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. private Facebook group, and Education and Engagement Committee Lead Kumari Ghafoor-Davis gave us permission to share them.
    If you are a mom of a Black son and member of that group, you can read and/or respond in the comments by clicking the links.

  • Trayvon Martin Remembrance Weekend Reflections

    By Vanessa McCullers

    Left to Right: Vanessa McCullers, Sybrina Fulton, and MOBB United Founder Depelsha McGruder     I sat in a Black SUV along with four others I had never met before. We got to know each other on the ride over to the peace walk/peace talk, and by the time we were there, we had formed our pack. It was hard to believe I had just landed in Miami, Florida, just 3 hours earlier. Though the excitement in the air was intoxicating, my mind was elsewhere as I thought about missing our second MOBB United National Call of the year. The energy of the crowd, those who knew and loved Trayvon Martin and those who came to know of him after his death, was ripe with anticipation. I tried to share what I felt, but I’m not sure it could truly be captured adequately. Today was the day we would celebrate Trayvon!

    Wearing t-shirts bearing Trayvon’s face, we began to move up the street with his mom, Sybrina Fulton, with Tracey Martin leading the way. “No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!” I marched along with the young lady with whom I had ridden to the walk. We’d never met before today, but we were connected in our mission for that day. We had both been impacted by the death of Trayvon. Trayvon would have been 23 yrs old on February 5th, just 2 years older than my son, had he lived.

    A sea of red shirts pushed through the streets of Miami asking for change, not just in that community, but in the country. The tone turned from somber to celebratory as we all filed into the neighborhood park. Esteemed sororities and fraternities called out to each other while community leaders and youth organizations prepared to pay their respects and share a message of hope for the future. From local officials to interns, school drama clubs and entertainment celebrities, everyone had a positive sentiment.  Even the 5th grader who brought everyone to tears when he delivered a poem about losing and missing his best friend to gun violence prayed for a better tomorrow.

    Music piped through the amphitheater, driving police and citizens to move in harmony. And while everyone was grooving to the sounds, a familiar voice came through the speakers, filing our ears and driving everyone into a frenzy. Jay-Z surprised everyone by making an appearance! Along with Trayvon’s parents, he shared that the world would get a glimpse into Trayvon’s life with the upcoming Rest in Power documentary. Sybrina Fulton closed out the beautiful day sending a message to everyone that she was here to not only commemorate Trayvon’s life, but to fight for future children. Her words rang heavily in my ears as we left the park that day.

    The next day, MOBB United Founder, Depelsha McGruder, and I, gathered for an evening of remembrance. As we entered the expansive hall, pictures of Trayvon were everywhere. Images of every kind greeted us: an image of Trayvon made up of  dozens of pictures of men and women donning hoodies like he did, and another image of Trayvon wearing a crown—beautiful reminders of the promise of life that is now gone. Dinner was accompanied by a video montage of Trayvon, stories from loved ones, and promises from local officials who continue to seek change for their communities.

    Throughout the evening, we met other moms who had lost their sons, like Sybrina. Their stories we had only heard in the news, and now we were face to face with the women that loved them most, their moms. As Depelsha and I retired for the night, the gravity of our experience was overwhelming. With unspoken words, it was understood that our commitment to MOBB United was forever.

         Please share some of the experience with us through these videos (Video 1 and Video 2) and photos below.