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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 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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To Say or not to Say?

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

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.

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Tags:  abc  actor  autism  FaceBook  freddie highmore  friend  good doctor  injustice  post  racism  Tiffany Bargeman  truth  white privilege 

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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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All of Us

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Friday, August 4, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

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.

 

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Tags:  advocacy  Alton Sterling  Black men and boys  civil rights  CK LeDaniel  Depelsha mcGruder  I have dream  injustice  integration  intersectionality  law enforcement  legislation  mass incarceration  Michelle Alexander  MLK  MOBB United  Philando Castile  police brutality  Queens  racial alliances  The New Jim Crow  white supremacy 

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