Image campaigns to change perception of Black boys and men (photo, video, books, theatre, etc.) Educational seminars for members and the community at large (13th, Bullying, Legal Equalizer, Know Your Rights, Trauma, isow.com, Vision Board session, etc.) Forums and panel discussions Quarterly or monthly image campaigns Driven by Communications Committee Monthly virtual seminars with guest speakers Driven by Education and Engagement Committee in coordination with other committees for content and speaker ideas.
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!
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!”
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.
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.
If you'd like to participate in this series, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Moms of Black Boys United - Ensuring that our SUNs Survive and Thrive
M.O.B.B. United aims to provide information and support for moms of Black sons while promoting positive images of Black boys and men. Our goal is to influence policy impacting how Black boys and men are treated by law enforcement and society.