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Passover to Freedom

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Friday, April 20, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2018

By C. K. LeDaniel

C. K. LeDaniel     “Go Down, Moses” is commonly known as a “Negro Spiritual”, although it may have earlier origins as a rallying song for escaped slaves who joined Union forces in the Civil War. It is also reported to be a code song for slaves traveling the Underground Railroad out of Maryland. If you are familiar with this song, you may know more about Passover than you think you do. Here are some of the lyrics:

        When Israel was in Egypt's land
        Let my people go
        Oppress'd so hard they could not stand
        Let my people go

        Refrain:
        Go down, Moses
        Way down in Egypt's land
        Tell old Pharaoh
        Let my people go

     This song is the story of Passover, which is told annually as part of a ritualized holiday celebration. It is a story of liberation from slavery and retelling it on two consecutive nights every year is part of the Jewish tradition of never forgetting—and thereby never repeating.
 
     It also is a story of righteous women, like ourselves! The Talmud says that, “In the spirit of the righteous women our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.”  Who were these women? There were two midwives, Shifra and Puah, who were commanded by the Pharaoh to kill all male sons born to Jewish women. But the midwives defied the Pharaoh, claiming Jewish women delivered too quickly for them to attend the births. The civil disobedience of Shifra and Puah allowed for Moses to be born. Moses’s mother, Yocheved, in an effort to save his life, sent him down the river in a basket, entrusting him to God. Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya, found the baby Moses and rescued him. His sister, Miriam, who was waiting in the reeds by the river, persuaded Batya to allow her mother to nurse and raise him in the palace, without Batya ever knowing of Yocheved’s true identity. Thus these five women allowed for Moses to be born, to grow, and ultimately, to lead his people to freedom.

Passover to Freedom

     Another Jewish tradition is asking questions and engaging in discussion around the story of Passover. As my own consciousness has been increasingly awakened to the modern day slavery that is mass incarceration and how it impacts our Black sons, I have brought this issue to our Seder table. What is mass incarceration? Mass incarceration is a for profit prison industrial complex that has overwhelmingly targeted Black men. It is racial profiling by law enforcement officers inside and outside of our schools. It is so called “law and order” policies systematically designed to target and harshly sentence our sons. It is a legal system with biased District Attorneys protected from bias litigation. It is the pressure on innocent people without proper representation to enter into plea deals to avoid draconian mandatory sentences. It is cash bail that forces innocent poor people to languish in prison and be derailed from their educations and careers and families. It is correctional supervision that denies civil rights. It is free, or virtually free, prison labor. It is the 13th amendment, which states that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime...shall exist within the United States.” If we are to say never again at my family Seder, we must say it for all of us.
 
     Many people share at their Seders the words of Rabbi Hillel, an important Jewish leader from 2000 years ago:  "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”
 
     My fellow mom, Crys Baldwin—one of MOBB United's passionate volunteers—has been known to use a paraphrase of this quote to rally us to action. Passover is a fitting time to remind us all of why we righteous women are here: to help lead our sons out of the current iteration of slavery, because if not us, then who, and if not now, when

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Tags:  Black  C K LeDaniel  Crys Baldwin  freedom  go down Moses  injustice  Jewish  Mass incarceration  negro spiritual  Passover  racism  school-to-prison pipeline  seders  slavery 

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Black Sons in Military Service

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Saturday, October 21, 2017

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!

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Tags:  air force  Alicia  America  American  army  Arroyo  Ayres  Black  Brian  Charles  Christian  country  Dianna  die  fight  Floyd  Gwen  Gwendolyn  Jones  Kyle  Kyra  love  Marcus  Marie  Marines  McKenzie  Michael  military  Natasha  Nathan  navy  patriot  Quintin  risk  Sacrifice  serve  service  sons  Wilson 

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Black Sons Abroad - Part 3: Bothers Jace and Merl

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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!

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Tags:  Abroad  American  author  Black  book  boys  brutality  country  Cuba  fenelle  fennell  injustice  jace  jennaye  men  merl  nation  perception  police  prejudice  publish  racism  sons  travel 

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Gifted Sons: In the Shark Tank

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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.

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Tags:  ABC  ADHD  airport  app  black  Colgate  Coolest College Startup  Danine  device  Diew  Entrepreneur  gift  Gifted  inc.com  judge  Manette  mapping  Marie  Natasha  Oakland  Ryan  Shark  Sons  Tank  Trippie 

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Hopes and Dreams while Serving Time

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, October 15, 2017
Updated: Thursday, September 7, 2017

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.

     Moms of Black Boys United, Inc., the 501c3 sister organization of MOBB United for Social Change (MUSC), works hard to change negative perceptions of Black boys and men. Much of this work requires financial resources. 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 plans and what else you can do to help.

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Tags:  after serving time  arrested  Black  convicted  dreams  ex-con  felony  hopes  incarcerated  jail  Marie  misdomeanor  Natasha  prison  right time  son  trial  wrong place 

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Black Sons Abroad - Part 1: Bryson Berry

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Updated: Saturday, September 2, 2017

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, Carnisa 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 Carnisa 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 Carnisa Berry and Bryson, 15
Carnisa Berry, MOBB
Listen to Mrs. Berry's Interview
 
 

Bryson Berry, 15, China

Bryson Berry, 15
Listen to Bryson's Interview
 
 

     *Carnisa 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 mobbcommunications@gmail.com 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.


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Tags:  Abroad  Ahoskie  America  Beijing  Black  Bryson Berry  Carnisa Berry  China  country  fear  injustice  move  NC  North Carolina  police  prejudice  race  Sons  travel  worry 

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