Quarterly or monthly local chapter meetings / recruitment outings; MOBB United connections; MOBB United Business Directory; special interest groups (e.g., special needs); driven by Chapter Development and Health and Wellness committees with support from Education and Engagement and Eco Dev committees for the directories; quarterly or monthly local chapter meetings/recruitment outings.
Moms of Black Boys United aims to be a resource for Moms everywhere. This month, we'd like to bring awareness to our boys with Autism. We've created an online toolkit with autism specific resources and tips, not just for Moms with autistic sons but for everyone.
In addition, Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. brings members of the private Facebook group a speaker series from MOBBs across the country sharing their journey raising their Black boys. No stories are alike as we delve into the joys and pains of being a parent of a child with Autism throughout the month. Whether you're a parent, a loved one, caregiver or just a curious mom, this conversation is for you.
My son, Ezekiel, is never without a book in hand and a backpack full of reading on-the-go. As the youngest of five, he probably got read aloud to a little longer and a little more often than his siblings, with me not quite ready to let go of that sweet stage of snuggles and bedtime stories. So, it was no surprise when he was reading early and often. His descriptive storytelling, broad interests, and vast vocabulary are encouraging and impressive.
Yet my avid reader is not in the talented and gifted program at his school, and he has never been screened. English is his second language, and he despises numbers (like his mama!). However, as a 4th grader, he reads at a 9th grade level, and his standardized test scores are well above average. Although I should know, I did not realize until recently that children across all state lines undergo IQ tests and gifted screenings at the teacher or parent request. Shame on me!
Our student population nationwide has become increasingly diverse. However, African-American students are ⅓ less likely to be enrolled in any talented or gifted program in public or private sectors. There is an overrepresentation of White and Asian students in gifted and talented programs, while Black and Hispanic students are typically underrepresented. However, research does not support the notion that any one group is more intelligent than another (Renzulli, 2004). So how does this make sense?
Students from underserved populations, of all races, may not exhibit characteristics that are stereotypically “gifted”. Some gifted individuals with exceptional aptitude may not demonstrate outstanding levels of achievement due to environmental circumstances, such as limited opportunities to learn as a result of poverty, discrimination, or cultural barriers. Other obstacles include physical barriers, emotional challenges or behaviors resulting directly from outside stressors. Hence, school faculty and administrators may overlook the child's aptitude and high ability learning because of these other factors. Moreover, with ample evidence that our Black sons are often over-targeted as disciplinary problems from a very young age, it’s easy to assume that their gifts are therefore being overlooked.
Brown vs the Board of Education was a step in formally attempting, as a nation, to achieve educational equality. The reality is still quite different; and we all know equality does not always equate with quality. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a Congressional Act of 2001 that attempted to keep lower level learners from falling through the cracks, is a good example of equality, but not quality, impacting the children who are exceptional learners. Since NCLB, many teachers are forced to more or less ignore gifted children, instead teaching to a one-size-fits-all curriculum that caters to the lowest common denominator—the average classroom student—with the thought being that our gifted students don't need the extra work or attention. We as moms all know very well that the ignored or forgotten child often resorts to behavior and actions that will draw attention, whether good or bad.
What can be done? Like anything else, knowing is half the battle. Be an advocate for our Black sons and for all kids who are more likely to get missed. Know that you can request for your son to be screened. Show up to all the parent-teacher conferences, no matter how much your son may be excelling. Bring this up in conversations with other parents and ask your child's teacher if she knows the statistics.
Following are a few resources for further empowerment:
Parenting Gifted Kids: This blog is written by a fellow mom and covers information for several ages and stages of childhood.
Unfortunately, a literature review revealed very little specific support or information for families or children of color. The National Association of Gifted Learners does have a web series written by a black student, regarding advocacy and experiences in academics. Check out this great blog post.
For more resources, contact our Education and Engagement Committee Lead, Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, at email@example.com.
March’s live reading was with Dr. Irene Okoronkwo-Obika and her book, Chisom the Champ Meets the World, which teaches children that self love is key to overcoming bullies and interpersonal obstacles.
On April 22 at 7 p.m., we'll host our next Facebook live reading with Corey Richardson and his ebook, We Used to Have Money, Now We Have You: A Dad’s Bedtime Story. This story from a dad’s perspective uses wit and pragmatism to remind children that a parent’s love is infinite, but patience and finances are not.
MOBB United Book Club’s latest selection, Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, has generated great discussions over the past few months (January 6, January 15, January 23, March 5). The Book Club’s posts sparked conversations around how our boys’ black bodies are viewed through the lenses of others; how race is the child of racism and not the father; and how being “White” is a made-up social construct. We hope that you will stay tuned for our next book, which we will announce soon. Please feel free to comment on the posts from this fascinating book described as a “letter from a father to his son”. You can search for posts using the hashtag, #mobbunitedbookclub.
MOBB United also has partnered with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) to offer workshops, conferences, and/or forums with lawmakers, parents, and their children in cities across the country. Retired and active duty Black law enforcement officers will talk with participants about how we can work together to keep our communities safe and how law enforcement can become more involved in keeping our children alive in their jurisdictions. They have connections to police chiefs and those in command all over the country, so please join us in this fight to keep our sons safe. We are really excited to get these workshops scheduled between April and June of this year and we need your help to get these informative interactive forums scheduled.
Looking for a great way to reward your son for a fantastic school year? Give him the gift of inspiration by sending him to the “From the Fire” Leadership Academy. If you are interested in hosting a forum or workshop in your city, please connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Have an awesome month!
*The aforementioned book club posts were shared originally in the Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. private Facebook group,
and Education and Engagement Committee Lead Kumari Ghafoor-Davis gave us permission to share them.
If you are a mom of a Black son and member of that group, you can read and/or respond in the comments by clicking the links.
I sat in a Black SUV along with four others I had never met before. We got to know each other on the ride over to the peace walk/peace talk, and by the time we were there, we had formed our pack. It was hard to believe I had just landed in Miami, Florida, just 3 hours earlier. Though the excitement in the air was intoxicating, my mind was elsewhere as I thought about missing our second MOBB United National Call of the year. The energy of the crowd, those who knew and loved Trayvon Martin and those who came to know of him after his death, was ripe with anticipation. I tried to share what I felt, but I’m not sure it could truly be captured adequately. Today was the day we would celebrate Trayvon!
Wearing t-shirts bearing Trayvon’s face, we began to move up the street with his mom, Sybrina Fulton, with Tracey Martin leading the way. “No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!” I marched along with the young lady with whom I had ridden to the walk. We’d never met before today, but we were connected in our mission for that day. We had both been impacted by the death of Trayvon. Trayvon would have been 23 yrs old on February 5th, just 2 years older than my son, had he lived.
A sea of red shirts pushed through the streets of Miami asking for change, not just in that community, but in the country. The tone turned from somber to celebratory as we all filed into the neighborhood park. Esteemed sororities and fraternities called out to each other while community leaders and youth organizations prepared to pay their respects and share a message of hope for the future. From local officials to interns, school drama clubs and entertainment celebrities, everyone had a positive sentiment. Even the 5th grader who brought everyone to tears when he delivered a poem about losing and missing his best friend to gun violence prayed for a better tomorrow.
Music piped through the amphitheater, driving police and citizens to move in harmony. And while everyone was grooving to the sounds, a familiar voice came through the speakers, filing our ears and driving everyone into a frenzy. Jay-Z surprised everyone by making an appearance! Along with Trayvon’s parents, he shared that the world would get a glimpse into Trayvon’s life with the upcoming Rest in Power documentary. Sybrina Fulton closed out the beautiful day sending a message to everyone that she was here to not only commemorate Trayvon’s life, but to fight for future children. Her words rang heavily in my ears as we left the park that day.
The next day, MOBB United Founder, Depelsha McGruder, and I, gathered for an evening of remembrance. As we entered the expansive hall, pictures of Trayvon were everywhere. Images of every kind greeted us: an image of Trayvon made up of dozens of pictures of men and women donning hoodies like he did, and another image of Trayvon wearing a crown—beautiful reminders of the promise of life that is now gone. Dinner was accompanied by a video montage of Trayvon, stories from loved ones, and promises from local officials who continue to seek change for their communities.
Throughout the evening, we met other moms who had lost their sons, like Sybrina. Their stories we had only heard in the news, and now we were face to face with the women that loved them most, their moms. As Depelsha and I retired for the night, the gravity of our experience was overwhelming. With unspoken words, it was understood that our commitment to MOBB United was forever.
Please share some of the experience with us through these videos (Video 1 and Video 2) and photos below.
For the second year, Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. was out and about with our sons on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and Remembrance, January 15th. The goal was to give back to those in need while honoring Dr. King’s legacy, and changing negative perceptions of our Black boys and men. Please enjoy these pictures of MOBB United moms and their sons doing what matters.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.~
Lisa Spriggs: “Monday January 15, 2018 is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Holiday, which for some means a "Day Off" from school or work but for many others it is a "DAY ON" for service. We are here to change the perception of our young boys and men and want the world to see them doing great things! What do you have planned for the weekend and/or Monday? Share your plans and see if other MOBBs in the area will join you! Tag a friend!” Points of Light
Peggy Bruns: “In keeping with the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. we served at the City of Arlington Mission, where we unloaded, unboxed, sorted, reboxed and reloaded a truck of toys for their Christmas Store. Thanks for coming out Rhonda Tharpe, Kim Stockman, and Tiffanie Tinsley! ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?’ ‘Everybody can be great as anybody can serve!’ MLK Jr.” (Dallas/Fort Worth MLK Day of Service)
Kimberley Alexander: “Today I visited the Lorraine Motel. Now a museum, it is the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I was there for 4+ hours reading, touching, talking and witnessing the evolution of the Black struggle. If there were one sentence I could use to summarize my thoughts: FIND YOUR PURPOSE! Each of us owes it for every sacrifice, for every martyr, for every scar, for every right we have obtained on the backs of those who set aside fear and stood tall when death was almost certain. In 2018, we owe it to our SUNS! Join us on the frontline...www.mobbunited.org. Remember the dream!”
One of the initiatives of the MOBB United Connections Committee is the Aunties Program. The Aunties Program connects sons who are away from home at school, work, or in the military, with moms across the country. This program provides a village for our sons that ensures that they have their basic needs met, provides them with support from an adult who is nearby, and reassures their moms that their sons are doing well while away.
Mom Teri Silar (top left, bottom middle), son Jahmansa (top right), and Auntie Harnette (top middle)
Mom Teri Silar (top left), Auntie Kathei (second from left), son Jahmansa, and Auntie Deirdra (right)
I have the privilege of being one of the MOBB United Aunties to a young man named Jahmansa, who attends Seattle University. Jahmansa’s mother, Terri Silar, was instantly concerned when her son decided to attend Seattle University because they live thousands of miles away in Tampa, Florida, and she didn't know anyone in Seattle. In fact, she'd never visited the city. Teri didn't have a soror, a colleague, a friend, a relative or anyone she could entrust with checking in on her son from time to time.
She was invited to join MOBB United, and according to Teri, it turned out to be the best invitation she'd ever received. She submitted a post in the MOBB United private Facebook group to share the success of her son being accepted into Seattle University and the fact that she was a nervous wreck that he would be that far away from home all alone.
After her post, she was contacted by several women, including myself, from within the group, who assured her he would be taken care of. Teri was in shock! Before she knew it, women were asking for phone numbers and arrival dates. “These Aunties have been true to their words. They have fed him, taken him to the store, and mothered him in ways only MOBBs can,” said Teri. She went on to say, “They have shown me and my son how wonderful people can truly be. My son loves them so very much and often thanks me for my desperation in sharing his story. He said to me, ‘Mommy, these beautiful women are a part of my village.” Teri can sleep at night, not worrying about her son being in Seattle, as he's not alone and hasn't been since he first arrived.
“This MOBB connection has been the experience of a lifetime. I'm a better mom, and he's a humble and better son because of it. He's not just my son, he's theirs, too!” Teri shared. This is exactly what the MOBB United Aunties Program set out to do.
morning after Alton Sterling was killed, I went to wake my son for
work and found him sitting up in bed. His first words to me was "Mom did
you see how they just killed that man" I was too stunned to respond.
The very next morning we found out that Philando Castile was killed. No
words needed to be said. The words were on my son's face. He was scared,
and so was I. But as his mother, my only thought was that I MUST
PROTECT HIM. As I type this, with tears streaming down my face at the
memory, my determination is just as strong. I cannot sleep soundly until
I know that my son, Crys’ son, Vivian's son, Tasha's son, Depelsha's
sons, ALL OF OUR SONS are safe from the ones sworn to protect them.”
Where does she get the energy?! Vanessa McCullers has been going all out for MOBB United since July 2016, and she seems to be as fully charged as the Energizer Bunny. We know her passion is fueled by her love for her SONshine, Carlos. If you’re wondering what Vanessa does for MOBB United, the answer is well...everything!!!
Vanessa initially began as Co-Chair of the Communications Committee and shortly thereafter, became Chair. She now oversees all of Moms of Black Boys United’s (the 501c3 organization) activities, including Communications, Education and Engagement, Self Care, and the MOBB United Connections Program.
This means she manages a team of leaders and volunteers who handle everything from branding, marketing and PR, content development across platforms, social media strategy and execution, media outreach and op-eds, research studies, education and wellness programs, partnerships, and events.
Vanessa was instrumental in planning the first MOBB United Leadership Retreat in Bethany, PA, and in establishing our presence at the world renowned Essence Festival in New Orleans last year. She’s also brokered significant partnerships, including a partnership with Dr. Luke Wood of San Diego State University, on the “Black Minds Matter” virtual course. In addition, she has personally provided ongoing resources and support to moms who have lost sons to police violence.
Vanessa has a heart of gold and a battery that never seems to run out. Her mind and heart are constantly churning out new ideas of ways to build and grow the organization’s presence and impact. We honestly don’t know what we’d do without her, and we are so grateful for all of her contributions. Thanks, Vanessa!!!
Happy February, beauties! The Education and Engagement Committee has started reading another book, Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We have had three posts so far this month. If you haven’t already, hopefully you will begin reading the book with us and join in the discussion on Facebook by searching #mobbunitedbookclub on your MOBB United Facebook group search bar.
We will also be holding another Facebook Live reading that will take place on February 25th at 7pm with the author of Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe. Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games, in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork that echoes Basquiat’s own, introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean—and definitely not inside the lines—to be beautiful. We will have giveaways for the first ladies who log on to the live reading that evening. This will be the second Facebook Live reading; our first live reading was in December from Derrick Barnes, the author of Crown.
Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
*The following posts were shared originally in the Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. private Facebook group, and Education and Engagement Committee Lead Kumari Ghafoor-Davis gave us permission to share it publicly. If you are a mom of a Black son and member of that group, you can read and/or respond in the comments by clicking the linked dates.
January 6, 2017
“Happy New Year, Beauties! It's that time again for another book club read!!
We are so excited about our choice for the next MOBB United book club read, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. We will begin reading on January 8th and will post our first question about the book on January 15th.
Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, Between the World and Me, and the new book We Were Eight Years in Power.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race," a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion.
Between the World and Me is Coates' attempt to address these questions and concerns in a letter to his adolescent son.
Coates has been hailed by Toni Morrison as "required reading”, a bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history by "the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States" (The New York Observer).
Order your copy of Between the World and Me today, so we can start discussing this awesome book together.
Thank you ladies.
MOBB United Book Club”
January 23, 2017
“Welcome to the second post for our current #mobbunitedbookclub choice, Between the World and Me, by TaNehisi Coates. One question that comes up for me as I read is, if so many people feel that the reality of race is a natural fact and inevitably leads to racism, how can we begin to heal this misconception within our own communities where we also have racism and hatred among and for ourselves? Please share your thoughts and your own questions with us in comments below.”
Ahhh, the holidays are here! For many of us, this is a time of joyful anticipation, warm fuzzy feelings, and memories of blissful family gatherings that may, or may not, include a heated discussion about who makes the best potato salad. All in all, the expectation is that the month of December should be filled with celebrations, good food, and time spent with our loved ones. For those who must endure this time of year without their loved ones, it becomes much more difficult to enjoy. People who have lost a family member or friend feel the empty space that is left and know it can never be filled by any amount of hot chocolate with marshmallows. The holidays can be equally as depressing as they are joyful, depending on your personal situation.
Imagine the pain of the holidays without a loved one, compounded by the pain of feeling robbed, victimized, and devalued by the very society you live in, work for, and to which you strive daily to contribute successfully. Every year, there are increasingly more moms of Black boys and men who will suffer through their holidays with an emptiness that only they can truly understand that of having lost a child to senseless police brutality. This is a pain compounded even further when law enforcement has gone undisciplined and is never brought to justice.
This holiday season, we acknowledge those for whom our organizations Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. and MOBB United for Social Change, Inc. (MUSC) were founded: the moms, wives, sisters and caretakers whose SONshine has been eclipsed forever, who have lost someone and are trying to find their new normal in this dark new place.
MOBB United was formed based on the intrinsic connection that we all have with each other, as we raise Black sons and love the Black men in our lives. We are collectively hurt and burdened by the egregious injustices so easily cast upon hundreds of victims in our communities each year. We are the village that it takes to raise our families and support each other through the process. We are the backbone of society who painstakingly, and without hesitation, help, heal, and endure untold levels of despair and disappointment in order to try and make it all better for our loved ones.
In the spirit of community and support, we will spotlight moms going forward in our newsletter. We will update their current status as information is available and note how we can be of support to them. Most heartbreaking is that with so many victims, including those widely publicized like Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, et. al, we hardly have space to cover them all. There are many who don’t get the national media coverage that some of those mentioned have received. There are grieving moms everywhere that you may or may not have been following in the news. This month, we have chosen to spotlight Reshawna Myricks and Shainie Lindsay of Southern California.
Reshawna Myricks lost her 15-year-old son Darius in May 2017. He was a scholar and an athlete—a normal teenager who liked to hang out with his friends and cousins when he wasn’t at football practice or a game. Darius was killed when he and his cousin were riding home on the train. Darius, at only 15, was the oldest of four children. The abrupt and unbearably painful loss is now a reality for all of them, who will grow up with their own perceptions of law enforcement and the issue of simple fairness in our society as a whole. Reshawna continues to battle heavy depression and grief over the loss, compounded by the fact that she has no real answers to the basic who, what, where, and how of the circumstances surrounding this case. She has not been able to stay at the home they all lived in prior to Darius’ death and continues to stay at her mother’s home with her other 3 children, Derek, 9; Deshaun, 7; and Deijanae, who is only 4 years old. As the holidays approach, it is increasingly hard for her to get into the spirit and create the festive atmosphere that most of us moms are buzzing around creating for our families right now. She welcomes and asks for our prayers and support while she tries to muster up the strength needed to get through the next few days with so much pain weighing on all of them. What gives Reshawna hope and purpose is plans to establish a scholarship fund for young athletes through MOBB United. She is also committed to being a full participating member of our organization and continues to do what she can to contribute. Most recently, she participated in the pink postcard campaign in Los Angeles.
For the second year, Shainie Lindsay is facing Christmas as a widowed, single mom. Last year this time, she was days away from giving birth to her baby boy and still reeling from the tragedy of losing her partner in life. The depth of her sorrow was buried in the routine of being a mom while preparing for new responsibilities. Friends and family were there to help get her through those first few months: her partner’s birthday, the holidays, and then the birth of Eli. But Shainie knew then that Christmas would never be the same.
Her life took a significant shift, as Shainie struggled to make the adjustments needed to provide for her children. That included cutting her hours at work so she could be with the kids to help with homework after school, the way their daddy used to help. It also meant finding odd jobs here and there to make sup for the financial losses, even as she was exhausted from the trials of being a single parent to 6 children.
This holiday season has presented its own set of readjustments as the family recently moved away from the home that held the memories of their father’s death. With all that she’s had to endure, Moms of Black Boys United provided some Christmas cheer early one morning this December. We surprised Shainie with ornaments for her kids to decorate and a gift of a spa day. But the surprises didn’t stop there. Recently, Shainie and her family were awarded a holiday brunch for the family with Ms. Vivica Fox along with $1000 holiday spending cash when a fellow MOBB submitted her story in a Christmas cheer giveaway.
Happy holidays to all of our Moms of Black Boys United sisters. We are here for all of you!
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.