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

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

By Kara Higgins

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Following are a few resources for further empowerment:

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

     For more resources, contact our Education and Engagement Committee Lead, Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, at education@mobbunited.org.

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Tags:  Advocating  African-American  Black  Children  Color  education  Gifted  Higgins  Kara  Learners  Referral  school  Screening 

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Moms Reaching across the Race Aisle: True Sisterhood

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017

By Kara L. Higgins

 

True Sisterhood

 

     My first Cabbage Patch doll was a little boy with dark, chocolate skin, and the first boy I kissed was a sweet, nerdy Black kid. My folks were both in education, voted Democrat, and believed that their actions spoke louder than words. I was the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, middle class teachers’ kid living in the suburban midwest; I think I must have fallen into that category of white people who think they aren’t racist because they have Black baby dolls and boyfriends. Writing that makes it cringeworthy, but I know that there are countless white people in the world who fall into that same category, believing themselves to be woke, yet practicing systemic racism or arguing for “color-blindness”.

     In college, I always preferred to sit with the girls in my nursing class who were African-American. I loved their transparency, and I could relate to their general skepticism toward most of our classmates. We were in a private, Jesuit University where many of the kids attending were there because their parents were alums. I was on a full scholarship, and I couldn’t relate to the other white girls who got excited about the newest J. Crew catalog and the next frat party. The African-American nursing students’ expressions glazed over, just like mine, when the conversation turned to cotillions or couture.

     Although my classmates always included me, although they saw me through some milestones, there always was this unspoken barrier. No matter how much listening I did, and I did a lot more listening than talking, I still couldn’t quite fit in. I know now, 20 plus years later, that of course, I could never fully connect on a heart level. They were inner city girls from St. Louis, and I was the white girl. Maybe their first token white friend? It always made me sad that none of them came to my wedding, even my dear friend whom I had asked to read a scripture. I understand now that it must have been uncomfortable for them, and that our friendship wasn't as equally special as I believed that it was at the time. Yet even as a bright-eyed 22-year-old, I think I was aware then that there was still an invisible line keeping us from being true blue friends.

     Fast forward 20 years, and I am mothering five kids. Two of my amazing children happen to be differing shades of Black. And as my sweet boys are turning into young men, America is killing its Black boys. Trayvon Martin’s case was the first to scare me. Initially, I didn’t recognize my own emotions; I believed I was relating to Trayvon’s mom as one mom to another. Then Eric Garner died, and as my husband and I watched in horror, I started to notice that a lot of people around us weren’t watching. The protests in Ferguson had both of us up late at night, talking about it together because the people, the white people, around us just sort of tuned us out when we wanted to talk about the horror of these deaths. I know that we both felt like the world was upturned. I know we felt betrayed that so many people didn’t seem to care about these senseless deaths. We began to realize that what was changing was us, not the world. My hubby began following Black artists, politicians, and media on Twitter. I began unfriending a lot of middle aged “Evangelicals.” Things were shifting.

     Then, Philando Castile died. That was it. I was almost unable to function because of my grief and anger. I typed #blm and that unleashed the hate. Men in our church reprimanded me; one even using intimidation and threats. We were increasingly convinced that this racism was our problem too, not just because we were raising Black boys but because we are all in this together. But it sure seemed like we were alone as white people feeling this way.

     In our community, a church hosted a prayer event, inviting multiple churches, faith-based organizations, and even law enforcement. Our whole family attended that night, and as we held hands and prayed for justice, one pastor challenged us to exchange phone numbers and share a meal with someone we had met that night. My little prayer group within the event was an ideal melting pot: our mixed transracial family, a Latino family, and a Black family. The Black woman, Candi, and I immediately took charge of the challenge and planned for a picnic the next month. Amazingly, everyone in our prayer circle showed up for that first dinner. We spoke honestly about what was going on in America, and our common thread was that we all were desiring to approach the issue of race as a sin problem. Our common thread was that we saw each other as family. And that changed everything.

     Shortly after our first picnic, my family decided to host a dinner for our prayer group. However, the momentum had seemed to fizzle out, and our group dwindled down to the Black family and us. Again, we broke bread together, and our conversation was real. I won’t ever forget when Candi told me that her whole married life, she never let her husband go run out for milk after dark because she feared he could be pulled over and killed. That was pivotal. Her whole life, she had a fear that I was now experiencing. It was new and overwhelming to me, and here my friend was sharing with me that that same fear was the norm for her. We grieved over that. I needed to tell her I was sorry that I never knew the depths of racism in America. It was important for all of us that we could apologize, even though my husband and I were never directly racist, we were a part of a system of oppression, and our ignorance to it was permission for it to flourish. Candi and her husband were gracious toward us and continue to be. Their honesty and willingness to be real and vulnerable paved the way toward a genuine friendship. My heart and my convictions grew that night in my dining room.

     After that dinner, Candi and I started talking mom stuff more. I deliver babies and take care of mamas for a living, and she needed some insight on both. Candi gave me a chance to be her real friend. I know that in her life, she has had experiences that have made her cautious to tell her relatives when she has white friends. I respect that, and I know I can’t ever understand it. It matters even more to me than it could have when I was in college, trying to fit in with my classmates. We continued to talk and text and share meals. After her son was born, I was able to care for and love her when other women didn’t “get it.” Now, we have a standing pedicure date every 6 weeks. The first time we went together, the ladies awkwardly asked us how we became friends, and I laughed at their attempt to be politically correct. “Do you mean because she’s Black and I am White? Or because she is younger and I am older? We actually prayed together once...” In the end, I think we both agreed it was a God thing that connected us.

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Tags:  African-American  black  castille  eric  friend  friendship  garner  Higgins  Kara  martin  moms  oppression  philando  race  racism  reaching  sons  support  systematic  trayvon  white 

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Strategic Financial Partnerships: Banking and Buying Black

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017

By C.K. LeDaniel

C.K. LeDaniel

BANKING BLACK

    In 2011, I moved my money out of a big bank and into a small credit union, one that serves the community of color in which I work. I did this on Bank Transfer Day, launched that November 5th by a woman in California who was annoyed by newly imposed ATM fees. Bank Transfer Day coincided conveniently with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I made the switch right around the time I was volunteering at Occupy’s encampment in lower Manhattan. It was a heady time of protest in New York City and around the country, which was still reeling in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. At least temporarily, our collective consciousness was raised as we were awakened to the nature of capitalism and its inevitable concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% at the expense of the other 99%. That was enough reason for me to get out of the big banks.
    Conceived initially as a Million Man March on Wall Street, because White people—I am one—are always ready to co-opt a good idea, Occupy was largely a White movement addressing White concerns (although one of its heroes was a Black Iraq war veteran, Sergeant Shamar Thomas). Flash forward 5 or 6 years, and the country moved from awakening toward woke, as the Black Lives Matter movement erupted, reminding us to transfer out of the big banks and into the Black banks, because hey, capitalism may be a disaster but right now, it’s the only game in town, and you have to pay to play.
For reasons of convenience, at that point my teenage children had their accounts at one of the big banks, one of the many that finances private prisons, and therefore mass incarceration, but my laziness regarding moving their money prevailed for awhile. That is, it prevailed until MOBB United’s Economic Development team, then chaired by Munirah Small, initiated its #MOBBUMoneyJar project, encouraging us to collect our household change into a jar and empower our sons and their communities by bringing them to a Black-owned bank to open an account.

    Well, first, we had to find a Black-owned bank and unfortunately, I learned that there are none in Manhattan! The closest thing to Black-owned is the majority Black-operated bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank, in Harlem, which is where MOBB United maintains its bank account! My kids and I did a little more research and decided to go with an online bank.

    If you are thinking about moving your money to a Black-owned bank but are reluctant to make the switch because of the onerousness of the task, I can promise you this—your experience won’t be as challenging as mine was. My kids wouldn’t do it without me, so we had to find time to sit down together and figure it all out. That was hard enough, but it ended up taking multiple meetings, emails, and phone calls to make it happen. Also, we made the classic mistake of closing the current accounts before we opened the new ones, which meant that things like direct deposit from their college employment and depositing those birthday gift checks from Nana were problematic, not to mention that they had no ATM access to cash and no debit cards during the transition. But what’s worse is that someone—maybe one of us or maybe someone at the bank—made the mistake of reversing my twins’ Social Security numbers. Those of us who have twins know that their Social Security numbers are the same but for the last number of each, and those two numbers are consecutive. It’s a sweet reminder of the proximity of their entries into the world and the fact that while they have much in common, they are still two distinctly different individuals. In this case, it resulted in both of their accounts being frozen until we could straighten it out and prove who was who. Like I said, I promise it will be easier for you.

    For a guide on how to make the switch, see consumerfinance.gov.

BUYING BLACK

    It’s the holiday season, and what better way to give back than to buy Black? Let’s invest in our sons by investing in their communities. Black buying power can have tremendous influence not only on our sons’ ability to thrive economically; it also signals political power. Advertisers, marketers, corporations, charitable organizations, and politicians depend upon and monitor revenue streams, and they listen to our issues and needs when we buy Black. Money matters. Money talks. Let yours shout from the rooftops this December. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • MOBB United! Who doesn’t need a Woke Mom T-shirt – or a Woke Auntie, Woke Grandma, Woke Dad T- shirt? And what about an I Am Your Future onesie for your baby? Buying your gifts from the MOBB United store invests directly in our sons by empowering MOBB to empower them.
  • Fresh from our National Call on December 2, 2017, with Katie Ishizuka-Stephens and Ramon Stephens, is a curated list of books for children up to 18 years old from The Conscious Kid Library, because “Black Books Matter.”  The books have Black characters and heroes and are written by Black authors you will be supporting. You can also join https://www.theconsciouskid.org and have books delivered monthly for a nominal fee.

  • For online one-stop shopping, check out https://www.buyblackmovement.com/About/.  From their website: “TAG TEAM Marketing International, Inc. operates the powerful Buy Black Movement program. We are a Black-owned and operated company that specializes in marketing and distributing the products and services of Black-owned businesses to Black consumers.”  They have gifts in every category you can think of, from clothing and cosmetics to dolls and DVDs.

    *For a list of Black owned banks, visit blackoutcoalition.org.

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Conscious Kid Library

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Tags:  account  Alycia  Banking  Black  BLM  buy black movement  Buying  capitalism  Carver Federal Savings Bank  Chapter  Committee  conscious kid  consumer  Development  Economic  finance  Financial  financial partnership  Grace  Million Man March  MOBB United Store  MOBBUMoneyJar  Occupy  Overview  Partnerships  Sergeant Shamar Thomas  Strategic  tag team marketing international  Wall Street  Woke 

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Special Needs Committee Overview

Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman, Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017

By Kimberley Alexander

Special Needs Committee

     The ability to experience profound worry is almost a prerequisite for motherhood. When you’re the mother of a Black boy born into this American society, that worry increases exponentially. Then, imagine being a mom of a son who is both Black in America and has a disability that changes the way he interacts with society. When you experience that as a mom, you know a new level of fear, a new level of concern, and a new level of anxiety, but you also know a new level of fight. It is the birth of the Ninja Mom. The Special Needs Committee of Moms of Black Boys United Inc. is the home of that Ninja Mom!

     Special needs run a long spectrum from the most mentally challenged to the most exceptional and from the most physically impacted to those mildly affected. No matter which end of the spectrum your son falls on, you have a place here.  

     The Special Needs Committee offers support and resources to every mom who has a son who is special. There is assistance with Individualized Education Programs (IEP), 504 planning, and accessing the rights and responsibilities associated with such. There is assistance with navigating medical appointments and understanding diagnoses, and a safe place to go in which the community understands the day to day frustrations of interacting with all of those systems. The committee supports its members in anything else that arises while we work to keep our most fragile sons safe. But the thing I love the most about this community is the empowerment that has been birthed from the sisterhood created in this committee. Support is only one aspect; the Special Needs Committee aims to end the unfair treatment of our most fragile boys.

     That is why we advocate! We are standing in the trenches for our sons who cannot speak for themselves in a partnership with the Policy and Advocacy Committee to help affect change at every level. We know it is not enough to be angry -- we must move out of outrage and into action. This is where you can help. If you have a passion for special needs advocacy work, contact me, Kimberley Alexander, at specialneeds@mobbunited.org. Be a voice for the voiceless.

 

Special Needs Son

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Tags:  Alexander  autism  autistic  black  boys  care  Committee  database  develop  IEP  incarcerated  Kimberley  medical  men  moms  needs  overview  prison  resource  Special  special needs  support 

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Young, Black and Incarcerated

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

By Natasha Marie

Natasha Marie     Being in the right place at the wrong time could cost you everything! Just picture it:  You’re a single mom who’s faced with the daunting task of paying all of the bills with little or no help. You must work hard to support your family and make ends meet. You’re trying to be the best role model you can be for your son, but often you wish there were strong Black men in your life or his who could positively impact him and encourage him to make wise choices. Your son is an only child growing up in your home, so you desperately want him to have friends his age. Truthfully, you’re not happy about the friends he’s selected lately. You want him to make sound decisions without ‘mommy’ being too overbearing, so you decide to cut him some slack.

 

     One day you head off to work and pray for the best, just like you do every other day. Little do you know that this day wouldn’t turn out to be just like any other normal day. As a matter of fact, this day would permanently alter the very course of life as you know it... for you and your child!

 

Nicole Cade and son, Nikell

     Nicole Cade, also known as “Nikki”, is the 42-year-old mom of one son, Nikell. She is an upstanding, law-abiding citizen. She is a believer in God. She is a faithful employee, and most of all, she’s a mom -- just like many of you who may be reading this. She is heartbroken that her son, Nikell, was recently incarcerated.

     Nikki describes her son as kind-hearted, loving and respectful. Her son is very intelligent and enjoyed school as a young child. He didn’t have very many teachers who took him under their wings, but he never had problems at school. He wasn’t a troublemaker. He was the type of child who showed remorse when he made mistakes. Often times, when he did something wrong, he would apologize and then question why he had displayed such actions.

     One day, Nikki kissed her son goodbye and headed out the door. She never expected her phone to ring later that day with news from a stranger that her son was in jail. She had every reason to believe her child was safe and sound at school. When you’re focused on making ends meet and just getting through another work day, the last thing you expect to receive is a call from prison informing you that your only child has been taken in for questioning.  

     On the day he was arrested, Nikell did what many inquisitive and curious 16-year-olds do.  He opened the door open to his private life and allowed someone to walk in -- someone he viewed as a friend. The company of this ‘friend’ caused Nikell to end up in a vehicle that was tied to a crime. Because he was present, an arrest was made. As if the arrest weren’t enough, there also was an interrogation that took place before he was given an opportunity for legal representation. Because of his age, Nikell had to be tried as an adult in the state where he lives. Then he had to wait patiently for his sentencing -- a process that took almost an entire year.

     As a mother, Nikki always has felt obligated to protect her son. Now that he is in the hands of  the judicial system, she often feels helpless. Seeing her son in jail has been one of the most difficult experiences for her as a mother. Recently, she had to go to court and face the judge who would sentence Nikell. The maximum sentence for the crime was as much as 15 years. In July 2017, on the day of the sentencing, Nikki was a ball of emotion again, much the same way she was when she found out Nikell had gone to jail.

     Nikki could feel fear trying to rise in her heart that day as she and her beloved son waited to hear how many years this young man would stay in jail. Somehow, this was around the same time she stumbled across the MOBB United Facebook page. The details of her son’s story were purposefully excluded from a post that she shared there, as well as from this article to protect his privacy. Still, it took a tremendous amount of courage for her to post in the group that she needed prayers for her boy. Nikki says she was not only shocked but completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, prayers and support she felt in response to her post. “The presence of a very supportive MOBB family is what allowed me to go into Nikell’s sentencing and stand -- with confidence!” says Nikki.

     Nikki’s local community poured out their love also -- in the form of many letters -- to prove this young man’s character. Thankfully, the judge decided to give him 2 years instead of 15. But sadly, the story doesn’t end here. Nikki told me, “My son is in there with grown men and will come out of jail knowing way more than he did when he went in.” The question is, where are the resources that will help to rehabilitate our young Black men once released from the justice system? The level of difficulty they face when trying to assimilate themselves back into society is startling. Nikki went on to explain that although her son will get out of prison in 2 years, “my fear is him being institutionalized!”

     This young man was swept into the system. He may or may not have had positive Black male role models to properly influence him. He may or may not have had the kind of friends who had his best interests at heart. He now is faced with the very harsh reality of a criminal justice system that will force him to grow up faster than his mom ever wanted.

     The power of a positive mother has the potential to change any negative situation! As a supportive mom, Nikki is dedicated to visiting with her son weekly. She has embraced MOBB United and all the support from fellow moms that she so desperately needs right now. This organization is dedicated to providing just that and will continue to support moms and their sons in this way. In due time, Nikki and Nikell will have the resources they need to beat the “system,” and they will end up just fine. With MOBB United, no mom ever will stand alone again. There is so much work to be done for our sons, so please consider joining us in this fight to protect them.

 

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Tags:  arrested  assimilate  Black  citizen  fear  Incarcerated  institutionalized  jail  justice system  Natasha Marie  Nicole Cade  Nikell Cade  prison  rehabilitate  right place  single mom  son  support  wrong time  young 

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