MyBrownBaby http://mybrownbaby.com Where Black Moms Matter Tue, 28 Jul 2015 20:46:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Homeschooling Black Children: This Is How (and Why!) This Mom Does It. Plus: a Book Giveaway! http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/homeschooling-black-children-this-is-how-and-why-this-mom-does-it-plus-a-book-giveaway/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/homeschooling-black-children-this-is-how-and-why-this-mom-does-it-plus-a-book-giveaway/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 04:56:50 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13258 Homeschooling Black children took a whole 'nother meaning after this white mom of brown children saw Black history ignored in her children's school.

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homeschooling black children

By RACHEL GARLINGHOUSE

Homeschooling often evokes mental images of White ladies wearing long skirts with their hair badly permed. They drive big vans, carting their herd of children around town to places like the library. But today’s average homeschooler is a far-cry from what many of us think of. You might be surprised to learn that many of today’s homeschoolers are parents of Black children. (This article from The Atlantic does a great job explaining the phenomenon of Black homeschooling.) As a mom of three, I didn’t really get why homeschooling Black children was important until I had an ah-ha moment.

It was an October day when my oldest daughter, then four, came home from her afternoon at preschool and excitedly reported that she had learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at school. She had already learned about Dr. King here at home, and she was thrilled to have been familiar with him being mentioned at school.   I did find it a bit odd considering most teachers don’t introduce Dr. King until January.

A few weeks later, at teacher-parent conferences, I told the teacher how excited my daughter was that Dr. King was discussed in class. The teacher looked confused for a moment, and then pointed to a nearby display board featuring Martin Luther, the theologian who started the Protestant Reformation.   Apparently my daughter was so excited to simply hear “Martin Luther” that she failed to listen to the rest of the lesson.

Black history wasn’t focused on at all that year, not even in February. I realized that if someone was going to teach my child her history as a Black person, it was going to fall on me.

The following year, my daughter started kindergarten, and I had higher hopes. My daughter’s class did learn and recite a poem about Dr. King, and the teacher did spend a lot of time in February highlighting different individuals who had made a difference. However, as is the case in most public schools, the teachers were limited by district and state guidelines. There’s an overbearing emphasis on state testing and meeting goals and standards. Art, music, PE, foreign language learning, and, of course, history (particularly anything beyond White history), were last in line in terms of importance and emphasis. Despite my daughter’s teacher and her principal being Black women, their proverbial hands were tied. Black history was relegated to February.

This didn’t and still doesn’t sit well with me. As a former college teacher (of eight years), my Black students knew about as much about Black history as my White students: the people and events that were highlighted and glossed over throughout their public or private school educations. They knew a little about Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, and slavery. They might have read To Kill a Mockingbird or some of Maya Angelou’s poetry. And they knew when Dr. King’s birthday was, because most schools honor it by establishing a three-day weekend.

This made me incredibly sad. So many individuals and groups had put their lives on the line (some losing their lives) for the freedoms that my students and children have…yet my students, both Black and White, knew so little. I wanted my kids to have more. To know from a young age about past and present Black world-changers including artists, musicians, inventors, politicians, athletes.

After the Martin Luther incident, I unintentionally fell into homeschooling. When my oldest was in half-day kindergarten and my middle daughter was in part-time preschool, we’d spend each afternoon reading a few books, doing some workbook pages, listening to Black musicians, and memorizing Bible verses.   They LOVED it. They begged me to homeschool on the days I was too tired or busy.

As a former college teacher, children’s ministry leader, and writing camp teacher, I was no stranger to curriculum planning and teaching. It came naturally to me. And so it began. Homeschooling my children. And nine months into my adventure, a friend said, put this in a book. You NEED to write this book. So I did. black homeschooling

I’m often asked why I homeschool my kids part-time. The answers are that I want my kids to know their history as Black people, I want them to have racial pride and confidence, and I want to strengthen my bond with my children, letting them know that I am their first teacher. Homeschooling has also bonded my children to one another as they work cooperatively on a floor puzzle, explained a worksheet to the other, or giggled over a funny book I’m reading them. We have time to work through their learning struggles, move to more challenging work when they are ready (vs. when the entire class is ready in a school setting), and we can focus on the kids’ interests.

My kids already know far more about Black history than some of my college students did. My girls have written letters to Ruby Bridges, thanking her for her bravery. They have created art featuring Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space. We wrote a letter to President Obama and received a response that was over-the-moon exciting for my daughters. We sent a letter and artwork of support to the first Black mayor of a small Missouri town (who had most the police force quit when she was elected, allegedly because of her race). We read and talk about the most incredible books like Underground (Shane Evans), listen to incredible Black musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, and examine Black photography books like Dark Girls (Bill Duke). We talk about current events and past victories. We talk about struggles and triumphs. We have watched Marian Anderson sing, Bree Newsome removing the Confederate flag, and listened to Dr. King’s share his I Have a Dream speech. We’ve learned about Michaela DePrince, Misty Copeland, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, Jamie Grace, Darius Rucker, Lecrae, Mo’ne Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Madame C.J. Walker, and many more.

In essence, I couldn’t NOT write the book on Black homeschooling. In just a short year, my daughters taught me just as I was teaching them. We are just getting started! We absolutely love learning outside the “box” that society tries to put us in: a box that tries to limit learning Black history to a single month.

* * *

GIVEAWAY!

Today’s essay was excerpted with permission from Rachel Garlinghouse’s new book, “Homeschooling Your Young Black Child: A Simple Getting-Started Guide and Workbook.” Want a copy of “Homeschooling Your Young Black Child”? Drop something clever in the comments section, and two winners will be selected randomly for a free copy. Tweet or Facebook this article and drop the link to your post(s) in the comments section for extra chances to win. Giveaway ends Tuesday, August 4, 2015, at midnight. The author will send one copy each to two winners (addresses in the United States only, please). Good luck!

* * *

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. She mothers three children, all of whom were transracially and domestically adopted at birth. Rachel’s written more than 70 articles and has appeared in ESSENCE magazine, on The Daily Drum National Radio Show, and on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.   She blogs about all-things-adoption at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com.

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Dear Walmart, Where’s Black Barbie? http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/dear-walmart-wheres-black-barbie/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/dear-walmart-wheres-black-barbie/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 04:01:06 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13260 When a Black mom can't find a Black Barbie in her local superstore, she's forced to have conversations with her toddler she's not ready to and doesn't want to have. So she's penned a letter getting Walmart together.

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Black barbie

By YANIQUE CHAMBERS

I love shopping at Walmart.  Their Supercenter saved my sanity because they have everything I need in ONE location.  This means I only have to go to one store to re-up on groceries and supplies after schlepping the kids from sporting event to sporting event.  Plus the cart elevator amuses my children and puts them in a trance as they watch the carts go up and down from floor to floor.

Despite my love affair with Walmart, I do have one major gripe.  Barbie.

Dear Walmart,

Yesterday I took my Barbie loving three-year-old to your establishment in search of new dolls to add to her collection.  See, she got a Barbie Dream House for Christmas and already has a collection of blonde hair blue-eyed Barbies. Since she is Black, naturally we wanted to add a Black Barbie to the collection.

I was beyond excited when I saw your shelves packed with summertime Barbies all for five dollars!  A good deal on Barbies means that when my daughter chops off Barbie’s hair or my son breaks off her leg, I won’t have to give the “I’m not made out of money” speech.  I tend to lose my cool during these speeches and to my horror begin to sound like my mother.

Would you believe that after searching through all the Barbies on your shelves, endcaps, and the hard to reach shelf where the overstocks go that I did not find one Barbie of color?  I know this is not a big deal to many of your customers, but to me it’s a freakin’ big deal.

See, because it’s so hard to find a Barbie that is Black, and by Black I am not referring to the caramel colored Barbie that is meant to represent Latina, Black, and bi-racial people.  I mean a Barbie that actually has a dark Lupita Nyongo complexion.  Anyway, because it’s so hard to find that shade of Barbie, my little girl colors her doll with crayons to make it look more like her.

I know not many three-year-olds are concerned with the complexion of their dolls, but my child is.  She wants to know why the ONE single doll of color I was finally able to find was light brown and not regular brown like she is.

Now Walmart, I know that you don’t manufacture the dolls, but you do decide which dolls to order for your store. I’ve heard, and I don’t know how true it is, that many stores won’t stock a lot of dolls of color because they are not a hot ticket item.  I get it.  You’re in business to make a profit.

But as a mom, I’m in business to raise children who love who they are and can appreciate that although they might not look like everybody else, they are just as worthy.  I also like being able to bribe my child with a toy to not throw a colossal temper tantrum in the middle of your aisles. Therefore I would appreciate having easy access to a damn plastic doll that my child can relate to.  I spend enough money at your store to at least get that.

I’m going to share with you something that you might not readily know. Many Black girls (and grown women) struggle with colorism and have this idea that the lighter their skin, the prettier they are.  I tell my daughter to love the skin she is in EVERYDAY and that beauty comes in all different colors.  However, this has not stopped her from asking if she can have peach skin like her Barbie.

I don’t want to have these conversations with my daughter, at least not when she’s three. I already had to try and explain to her why Princess Tianna was white when we saw Disney on Ice this past December. Trying to figure out this whole parenting thing is hard enough.  I still haven’t mastered how to get my son to pee in the toilet AND flush.  I would like to get a hang of this first before tackling issues with my daughter that I’m still struggling with as a 35-year-old Black woman.

And yes, something as simple as having a Black Barbie will make a difference.  No, it won’t solve the problems of colorism or the lack of representation of children of color in popular kid shows. However, wouldn’t it be nice for Walmart to be a place little girls of color can go and feel like they matter as they walk down the doll aisle and are met with an array of Barbies that look just like them?

* * *

Yanique Chambers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker turned stay-at-home mom.  You can find her on her blog, kiddiematters.com, discussing creative ways to teach children valuable social and life skills.  Check her out on twitter.com/kiddiematters and facebook.com/KiddieMatters.

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How to Talk to White Children About Race: Here’s How To Avoid Raising Another Rachel Dolezal http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/how-to-talk-to-white-children-about-race/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/how-to-talk-to-white-children-about-race/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 04:01:49 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13252 Want to avoid raising a delusional kid who thinks being Black is "cool"? Consider these tips for how to talk to white children about race.

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how to talk to white children about race.

By JASMINE BANKS

While the nation was demanding justice for Sandy Bland, the 28-year-old woman whose jailhouse hanging is the latest police custody death to have us screaming #BlackLivesMatter, Rachel Dolezal managed to weasel her way back into the news, this time with a profile and photo spread in Vanity Fair magazine. This white woman from Spokane is still proclaiming she’s Black. She is still delusional. And she is still confusing the hell out of those adults who are bothered enough to listen to her explanation on why she tried to pass herself off as African American and benefitted from her lies. And I am over here wondering, “What will we tell the children?”

If you’ve spent any time in the comment section of the articles about Dolezal, you’ll find “colorblind” ideology.  I keep thinking that surely these commenters know better. But as it turns out, many Americans still have no clue how to approach discussions of race and racism.  While parents of children of color spend a lot of time educating their children on how to navigate the world as “other,” there are swaths of parents of white kids shrugging and saying, “We are all part of the human race.”

But if you are teaching your child to be colorblind you are doing those children and their future communities a disservice.

The good news is that it is never too late to start shaping (or re-shaping) belief systems. If you aren’t already educating your child about colorblind politics, it is time to start. My children have a Black (multi-ethnic) momma and a White daddy. We have been intentional about instructing our children how to navigate the difficult discussion around their identity. So if, like me, you wonder, “What will we tell the children?” I’ve created a list to help you start teaching your child how to be an ally to children of color.

1. Recognize that even if you teach your child about race, he’ll still need help understanding how to respond to racial experiences.

You have to give them a context to assist in how they conceptualize race, one involving their peers, otherwise they’ll be taught by the status quo. The status quo, in case you need a reminder, is a society that says people like President Barack Obama isn’t even “technically Black” and Rachel Dolezal was “helping Black people” with her lies.

2. Teach your child about empathy, not sympathy. 

Yes, race is a social construct and we are all part of the human race, but life isn’t that quaint. Minority social experience reflects the opposite of what the colorblind ideology preaches. We experience being marginalized, not included. We experience a systemic invalidation of our lived experiences. If your child is an ally, she will need to learn to be present with her friends of color as they experience the discomfort and also extend kindness and empathy. But be mindful: this isn’t an invitation to become or raise a “White Savior.” Sympathy is couched in pity and pity comes from feeling separate from an experience.

3. Teach your children that being colorblind actually means you’re not acknowledging people of color.  

Functioning under the guise of colorblindness means that those who experience difficulty due to their race and ethnicity don’t have the support they need. If you are teaching colorblindness you are teaching people to not acknowledge the historical, social, and cultural experiences of a people. By saying “I don’t see your color,” we also say, “I don’t see your struggle, your strength, or your beauty.”

If your child is a white ally, impress upon him the importance of historical figures throughout history who helped the cause, like Harriet Beecher Stowe.

4. Teach your children that multiculturalism is better than being “colorblind”.

What makes us stronger is an acknowledgment of what makes us different. We know from nature, that systems that thrive have a wide range of diversity. This is also true for our communities. The Color of Us is a great conversation starter for younger children.

Let me go on record and say that if you are a transracial parent (meaning you parent a child that is not the same race ethnicity as you) who is not covering the subject of race with your child, you are hurting your child by not doing the work. Do the work. Being colorblind (and teaching your children to be colorblind) is a luxury that is afforded by your privilege, and can only lead to confusion, deep harm for your child and is, frankly, racist.

* * *

Jasmine Banks writes about everything and nothing at all at JustJasmineBlog.com. You can follow her obscure cat and kid pics on instagram http://www.instagram.com/djazzo or tweet her at @Djazzo.

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The Importance of Happy Birthdays: Celebrations Aren’t Just For Kids http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/mahogany-birthday-greeting-cards/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/mahogany-birthday-greeting-cards/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 04:01:45 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13247 Everybody deserves recognition on their birthday, but I didn't realize how important this is until my daddy turned 75 and made this stunning revelation.

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Surprise Birthday Party

My first inclination was to reach out to a travel agent to arrange an incredible vacay for Daddy and his brother, my Uncle Berk. See, they’d had an epic cross-country bro road-trip almost a decade earlier—a jaunt the two of them still talked about fondly—so I figured what better way for my father, my heart, to celebrate his 75th birthday than on the shores of Hawaii with his best friend? They could chill in a part of the world they’d never seen and create memories they’d always cherish, all centered around Daddy’s milestone birthday. But my brother, Troy, had a different, more involved celebration in mind: a surprise birthday party.

I admit, I didn’t see the value in spending thousands of dollars on securing a venue, hiring a caterer and bartenders and figuring out the addresses of all his friends in his Virginia hometown—six hours away from where I lived with my family. Still, my brother was insistent. It became crystal clear, though, when my daddy, under the impression that he was making a quick stop with my uncle before going out for a small birthday dinner, strolled nonchalantly into his own party and got the shock of his life when 60 friends and family members yelled, “Surprise!”

My father, strong, funny, at times rather no-nonsense and brash, put his hands over his mouth and burst into tears.

I will never, ever forget his reaction in that moment. Neither will my father. See, later in the party when he made his “thank you” speech, Daddy revealed this one simple truth that I hadn’t considered: he’d never had a birthday party. Can you believe it? Three quarters of a century on this earth, having survived the Great Depression, Jim Crow, The Great Migration, Reaganomics, a wife and two kids, and the wonder that is The WuTang Clan, and no one had ever thrown a party in his honor to celebrate his birth. He’d been given gifts, of course, and a few birthday cakes and taken to dinner for his birthday, of course, but a party? Never. mahogany birthday greeting cards

But life is worth grand celebration, isn’t it? So many things can happen during the course of a year: babies are born, get their first teeth and learn how to walk; 12-year-olds mature and get themselves set for high school and teenage status; 17-year-olds finish up school and make the transition to college, where they make their first steps toward total independence and adulthood; some folks go from engagement to just married, some go from long-time worker to retiree, some go from healthy to incredibly ill, some make the transition from being on the land of the living to the forever slumber. Every moment between is filled with life—laughter, sadness, anger, bliss, depression, good times, wonder and so much more. And surviving it, thriving in it, dancing in it, crying in it and making it through for another day, well, that’s a pretty good reason to gather up all the people you love and who love you back and invite them to give thanks for your making it through another year.

Though I’ve quite shamelessly organized and thrown some pretty over-the-top birthday parties for my babies—one of these days, I’ll tell you all about the white party we hosted in the “secret garden” on Mari’s first birthday, or the time we had a backyard carnival for Lila, or that time I turned our living room into a massive Parisian-styled dessert and candy salon or one of the many other themed parties we’ve thrown every year of our daughters’ lives—these days, with family that is close, we make a point of doing something even more special, more personal: we’ll meet up for cake and champagne at one of our homes and spend the evening raising a glass and toasting the person of honor with heartfelt words that express exactly why we love and appreciate her or him. They are intimate affairs with just the immediate family; we hold back nothing, and rest assured that the birthday girl/boy knows that, above all things, she/he is… loved.

Enough, certainly, to get them through another 365 days.

So I get it now: everybody deserves a party. Even and especially 75-year-old daddies, who should hear often just how special and loved they are.

* * *

Make a point of telling the people who mean something to you that you appreciate them. That you love them. That you’re grateful they’ve been around for another year. Can’t find the perfect words? No worries—Hallmark’s got you covered with their stunning line of Mahogany birthday greeting cards, which always seem to find the most perfect, authentic words to express yourself to the ones you love and care about. Check out the beautiful Mahogany greeting cards here, as well as the location of stores where you can purchase them.

Mahogany Logo

 

This post is sponsored by Hallmark. I shared my story here on MyBrownBaby to help the company spread the word about its Mahogany greeting cards. Of course, all opinions are mine.

Photo credit: Lila Chiles

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An Open Letter to Sleep (From an Exhausted Parent) http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/sleepless-nights-with-newborn/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/sleepless-nights-with-newborn/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 04:25:11 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13238 A new dad to twins realizes that he may never have the relationship with sleep that he used to have. At least he has a sense of humor about it.

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sleepless nights with newborn

 

By SAM AVERY

Dear Sleep,

My oldest, dearest friend.

Where have you been?

We had it all, me and you. We never left each other’s side—eight hours a night, more at weekends and even the occasional get-together in the afternoon. Sunday’s were our special day when we’d overdose in each other’s dreamy company until we both felt able to start the new week afresh.

Recently you started seeming distant and cold. Was it my fling with Coffee that pushed you away?

You know damn well I was only with her because I was missing you. The more you rejected me the more you pushed me into her beany bosom. There wasn’t a gulp of espresso I took where I didn’t think of you.

Last night you didn’t come home at all. Where the hell were you? I needed you today.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just so…tired. I can’t think straight. I know what the end of my wits look like now, in graphic HD detail.

I need you here. You can straighten this all out.

Instead you’re out there, cavorting with my friends, the ones without kids. I can’t go on Facebook without reading all the disgusting, sordid details. ‘Lovely lie in today!’ ‘Can’t believe I slept for 10 hours straight!’

You used to do that with me. I feel sick just thinking about it.

I took you for granted, I understand that now. I realize we’ll never have what we used to but please, please come back into my life.

All my love and desperation,

An Exhausted New Parent

Sam Avery is a new dad to identical twin boys and a stand up comedian. He wanted to be a rock star once but didn’t have the right hair. You can follow his blog at www.the4amfeed.blogspot.com. He also hangs out online on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

The Good Men Project Logo

 

Originally published on The 4am Feed and reprinted, with permission, from The Good Men ProjectRead more awesome The Good Men Project stories here.

Photo by CherieJoyful for Flickr

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Father Daughter Beat Box Battle: Watch Her Take Him Out (VIDEO) http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/father-daughter-beat-box-battle-watch-her-take-him-out-video/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/father-daughter-beat-box-battle-watch-her-take-him-out-video/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 04:01:16 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13233 Baby girl has the skills to take out her daddy, but this proud papa is anything but a sore loser when he peeps his daughter's game. Press. Play. Now.

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The Attack On Black Single Mothers: Outrunning Stereotypes, Carrying the Burden http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/the-attack-on-black-single-mothers-outrunning-stereotypes-carrying-the-burden/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/the-attack-on-black-single-mothers-outrunning-stereotypes-carrying-the-burden/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 04:01:29 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13227 Black mothers are forced to expend energy trying to outrun the idea that they are bad mothers who birth and then neglect bad kids with uninvolved, bad daddies. And that's a sin and a shame.

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single black mothers

By TAMARA WINFREY-HARRIS

Excerpted from “Motherhood: Between Mammy and a Hard Place,” a chapter in the new book The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America

More than 70 percent of black births happen outside marriage. From Tea Party candidates to black clergy, folks will tell you that statistic is a sin and a shame. For a society that is mistrustful of sexually active, unmarried women and wedded to the superiority of male-led households, those numbers demonstrate unchecked aberrance and are used to confirm stereotypes about black women’s femininity and sexuality. This statistic is positioned as the reason for every social ill plaguing the black community and, once again, very likely the fault of black women.

Conservative columnist George Will said on ABC’s This Week that single mothers present a bigger threat to African Americans than the loss of voting rights. Jimi Izrael, frequent contributor to NPR, wrote in his book The Denzel Principle that high rates of black divorce and single-parent families “really reflects less on black men and more on black women and their inability to make good choices.”

Dr. Sarah J. Jackson says that black women’s sexuality and motherhood have been part of public discourse since slavery, when our reproduction was an integral part of the economy, like the livestock that kept the agricultural engine going. People were as inclined to talk about black women birthing babies as they were cows bearing calves. And, like those cows, black women were viewed as uncivilized and unintentional breeders. The institution of slavery required a voluntary blindness to the idea of black family. “If you’re treating a group of people like animals, you have to believe that they’re not capable of making the same emotional bonds with their children that you are. Otherwise, you might feel bad about selling their children off down the river,” Jackson says.

Here again, the Moynihan Report and its support for the stereotypes of the Matriarch, Sapphire, and Jezebel play a role in ensuring that the public discussion of black motherhood is relentlessly negative.

“If the male isn’t the primary breadwinner of the family, then the children of that family are forever deviant. It’s right there on the page,” says Jackson.

Ronald Reagan, in his 1976 presidential campaign, abetted this idea with his bogeywoman, the “welfare queen.” His frequently repeated anecdote about the Cadillac-driving Chicago woman who swindled government programs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by using disguises, fake names and addresses, and possibly a stolen baby, cemented the idea that black female reproduction is unreasonable, tied to lasciviousness, and reflects a desire to leech off the state rather than to be a loving parent and contributor to the future of society.

As with marriage, the structure of family is undeniably changing all over—most American women under thirty, regardless of race, will give birth outside marriage; across the Atlantic, in Iceland, 66 percent of children are born to unmarried women; and heterosexual marriage rates are falling and divorce rates rising in the United States and abroad. But black women and their families are still seen as dysfunctional, and uncommonly so.

Opponents of single motherhood say they have black children’s best interests in mind and point to decades of research that indicates that children do best when they’re raised in healthy two-parent families. But, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, research results related to the offspring of single-parent households are often oversimplified and exaggerated. Most children in single-parent families grow up just fine, and it is still unclear how much of the disadvantages to children are caused by poverty or family structure or whether marriage itself makes the difference or the type of people who commonly marry. The Sisters Are Alright

Demonizing single black motherhood does not improve the lives of children. On the contrary, the idea that 70 percent of black boys and girls are congenitally damaged stigmatizes them.

“It’s messed up that we have to figure out how to keep our kids from being negatively impacted by generations of misinformation about the way that our households are run,” says Stacia Brown, thirty-five. “I don’t want my child to feel that the way we live is something that we have to defend to the world.”

Stacia herself was raised by a single mother. And she learned from her mother to protect her own daughter from the stain of so-called illegitimacy.

“We didn’t use stigmatized language around our family structure when I was growing up,” she says.

And when a young Stacia was confronted with condemning language about her family, it felt foreign. “I thought, ‘We’re happy here.’ It didn’t feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t have a dad and my life is definitely really bad because of this.’ I mean, I do have a daddy, he just lived in another state. I have a lot of things that felt like bigger barriers to my long-term success than fatherlessness or whatever.”

Stacia, who co-parents with her child’s father, says, “We need to, in our households, set our standard for how we’re going to feel about ourselves. When your kids hear you say, ‘I don’t want to be a statistic,’ they feel like their household is…. There’s something wrong with it. You’re bringing that into your house. “Even if somebody at school dogs them about it, when they come home, you’ve got to be able to say, ‘Nah, we’re not accepting that.’”

The negative focus on single black motherhood is also not about helping black communities. If it were, those who rail against unmarried mothers would spend at least equal time calling for affordable family planning and reproductive health care, universal access to good child care, improved urban school systems, a higher minimum wage, and college education that doesn’t break the banks of average people. And they would admit that the welfare-queen image is a distortion and a distraction.

Heidi Renée Lewis, thirty-three, says condemnation of single-parent families also unduly shames mothers trying to do their best. She tells a story about attending a neighborhood outing with her oldest son and his father while she was pregnant with their second child.

“Our kids are only nineteen months apart. This one woman that I grew up with said to my cousin, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe Heidi is having another baby. Didn’t she just have a baby?’ My cousin said, ‘Well at least they’re both by the same man!’”

Heidi’s cousin had three children with two fathers. “She was kicking herself in the face to defend me,” she says.
“I grew up with more examples of nontraditional than traditional. Women on welfare, struggling. All the women I knew on welfare worked, just like most people on welfare work. There was still this ‘don’t be like them’ narrative. Why would I want to be like people who weren’t being affirmed? People hate to feel ashamed.”

Heidi’s parents were married when she was born. They grew up together and were high school sweethearts. When they married, her father built a house for his young wife, across the street from his in-laws in a small Ohio town. But it was the eve of the 1980s crack epidemic, and Heidi’s father became addicted. Her parents divorced.

Heidi always wanted to get married, in part to prove that she could do what her parents could not. A child of the ‘80s, she was partly influenced by popular culture—“[Whether the families were] piss poor like Roseanne and Dan or upper middle class like Clair and Cliff, we were being indoctrinated with that traditional family model” — but she was also guided by her beloved grandmother’s conservatism. “My grandfather, even though he was minister, was more forgiving than my grandmother. My grandmother was not for the shit like out-of-wedlock babies! Oh my God, no!

“What I really think I wanted was to have kids and for my kids to not have the family trouble that I had. They would not have to go through divorce, and they would not have to have a drug-addicted parent, and they would not have to have parents who married other people and made life uncomfortable that way.”

In graduate school and unmarried (though in a committed relationship), Heidi became pregnant.

“I was devastated. . . not devastated, but I was scared…. I’ll tell you how respectability crept its way back in….
I was like, ‘Well, I’m not married, but at least I have a bachelor’s degree!…I finished school, and I’m halfway through a masters. Damn! Can I get a break for that?’”

Though she and her husband have been together for eleven years, they married only five years ago…or was it six?
“I can’t even remember. What is this, 2014? I think we got technically married in 2009? I don’t know. Yeah, 2009. You know what? Our wedding anniversary is the same as the day we first got together. We didn’t change the day cause we felt like we wanted to honor the whole eleven years. Who gives a shit that it’s not on the official paper?”

If America were having an honest conversation about black motherhood, the screeds about the scourge of baby mamas would also note that birth rates among African American women are lower than ever before in recorded history and that part of the explanation for the high percentage of out-of-wedlock black babies lies with the fact that fewer black women are marrying and many of those women are deciding not to have children. Married black women are also having fewer children.

No. The conversation about black single motherhood in America is driven by gender- and race-biased moral panic and is primarily a means to exonerate systemic inequality for America’s problems, while leveraging age-old stereotypes to scapegoat black women and their children. The reduction of black motherhood to concerns about indiscriminate fucking, emasculating black men, draining the public teat, and releasing frightening, no-daddy-having offspring onto beleaguered American streets stains every black mothering experience, no matter how much individual realities differ.

Despite their decades-long marriage, Michelle Obama was derisively called then-candidate Barack Obama’s “baby mama” in a Fox News graphic. Yvette Perry, a married mother of twins, found her swollen fingers uncomfortable in her wedding rings after giving birth. But she wore the rings anyway to avoid being stereotyped as a single black mother. It didn’t help. “A new graduate student in my program, who had seen me at a couple of welcome/orientation activities with my babies, kept going on about how much respect she had for me. It took me a while to figure out that she assumed I was a single mother.”

When life experiences collide with stereotypes, drawing a distinction can be even tougher, the burden heavier.
Thirty-four-year-old Brandee Mimitzraiem is not the woman people imagine when they hear about single black mothers. She is working on her PhD in theology and philosophy and is a member of the clergy in the AME Church. She gave birth to two sons, becoming a single mother by choice after realizing at twenty-six that marriage would never be for her.

“I do see myself reflected a lot in the stereotype and it bothers me,” she says. “You know, I’ve had to go on food stamps. My babies are on Medicaid right now, because I cannot afford insurance for the three of us.

“People say, ‘You’re getting a PhD. It’s not the same. You’re not like them.’” But I am, and my kids go to school with ‘them.’ I take those issues of class very seriously. I’m not going to look down on somebody else because they don’t have the same education as me. I don’t have a baby daddy, but at the same time, I’m a black single mom, whose kids are on Medicaid. And I get talked about horribly for actually raising my kids, too.”

All black mothers are forced to expend energy (as if being a parent isn’t hard enough) trying to outrun the idea that they are bad mothers who birth and then neglect bad kids with uninvolved, bad daddies.
Now, that is a sin and a shame.

Excerpted from the new book The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America. It is available on Amazon.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates new book ‘Between the World and Me’ and Other MyBrownBaby Fresh Links http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/ta-nehisi-coates-new-book-between-the-world-and-me-and-other-mybrownbaby-fresh-links/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/ta-nehisi-coates-new-book-between-the-world-and-me-and-other-mybrownbaby-fresh-links/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 04:12:01 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13222 This week's MyBrownBaby fresh links include an excerpt of Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Between the World and Me, plus a new tribute album to Nina Simone.

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Coates

 

1. You already know I’m a huge fans of Ta’Nehisi Coates’ work over at The Atlantic. Now comes his new book, Between the World and Me, hitting stores on Tuesday. Check out this stunning excerpt.

Between the World and Me

 

2. Hollywood’s diversity problem isn’t a new story, but the web series “Every Single Word” addresses the issue in a scathingly brilliant way.

 

3. Wondering what ‘privilege’ is? This Buzzfeed video has some answers for you.

 

4. It’s one thing to risk self-expression as a grown-up. A whole ‘nother thing entirely when you encourage your tween to do the same. I’m loving Radical Selfie’s Akilah Richards’ message for parents on how to encourage self-expression in our girls.

 

5. Meet the Muslim student who’s raised $30,000 to repair Black churches destroyed by fire.

 

6. Check out these powerful, beautiful images Africans are sharing of their continent to combat stereotypes.

 

7. This pastor breaks down how the entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.

 

8. Check out this free stream of Nina “Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone,” courtesy of NPR. It’s delicious. Buy a copy of your own here.

Photo credit: TheAtlantic.com

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Bless Your Heart: Turning 40 as the Mother of a Pre-Schooler http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/bless-your-heart-turning-40-as-the-mother-of-a-pre-schooler/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/bless-your-heart-turning-40-as-the-mother-of-a-pre-schooler/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 04:42:33 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13208 Turning 40 has put a lot of perspective in this mom's journey—and made her appreciate it all the more.

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turning 40

By TRACEY MICHAE’L LEWIS-GIGGETTS

I remember thinking it even if I was too polite to say it aloud.

When I graduated from high school in 1993 and a few of the girls who were graduating with me were pregnant with their first child or would be within a couple of years, I remember thinking, Why would they do that? They are ruining their lives. Or, at the very least, it’s going to take them soooo much longer to reach their goals.

And maybe some of that was true. Not the ruining their lives part, of course. That was just my ridiculous shortsightedness at work. But my mom had me at 19, so I think I was fully aware of the sacrifices a younger mom had to make in order to care for her children. Particularly as it related to education and career-goals; the pursuit of passions and dreams. My mother waited until she was 30 to go back to school for an Associates degree and didn’t finish her Bachelors degree until she was 46.

That was never something I wanted for myself. Or so I thought.

In the vision I had for myself, my twenties and early thirties were to be about the pursuit of dreams and passions. Getting all the education I could stand. Falling down and getting back up. Meeting people and traveling the world.

And I did exactly that.

And it was amazing.

But… as I’m a few days from turning 40… I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, my high school and college girlfriends might just be having the last laugh.

Because as I scroll through my Facebook timeline and see them all taking fabulous cruises to the Bahamas, having a blast at the Essence Music Festival, and road-tripping to to spas in L.A. or New York City, what am I doing?

Arguing with an almost-4-year-old about why wiping well and washing hands is mandatory.

Desperately calling people I trust—which, at 40, is exactly two people—to see if K can spend the night, so Hubby and I don’t implode because of a lack of adult “interaction.” Ahem.

Meanwhile our friends who had children early are “interacting” all over the house. Lol.

And of course, as an older mom who doesn’t run fast and hates to sweat, I couldn’t get the standard issue preschooler. God, that great divine comedian, selected one of His uber-gregarious, fearless, let’s-see-what-it-is-like-to-jump-off-the-deck varieties.

In the words of my side-eying, spicy-tongued elders back home in Kentucky: “Bless Her Heart.”

Please. Bless. My. Heart.

See, I spent my young adulthood doing wonderful, fabulous things. I wrote books and plays and lived in four different cities. I traveled and acquired three degrees. I fell in love with amazing and not-so-amazing dudes. Unfortunately though, like most twenty-somethings, I was long on courage and short on wisdom. But my 40+ girlfriends with kids who are teens, in college or out of the house? These chicks are now experiencing all those same awesome things with the added benefit of the wisdom and life experience to make it more enriching. They can pursue dreams and passions with the advantage of having a clearer picture of who they are, the nature of their gifts, and the knowledge of what they will and won’t tolerate. The margins of error are smaller, I think.

And yet, in spite of this reflection, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. The loving and losing, the falling and getting back up, the fearlessness and the unwise decisions, all of it has shaped me into the woman I am today. And most likely, I hope, it has made me the exact variety of mother my K would need for her own life’s journey.

So I didn’t get it wrong. And neither did my girlfriends. Sure, there are always ideal circumstances but at the end of the day, I got it right for me. They got it right for them. God designed us for a specific purpose (our own and our children’s) and our choices can all feed those purposes—if we allow them to. If we release ourselves from that nasty shoulda, coulda, woulda disease. Reflection is one thing. Regret is entirely another. I can reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of having a child later in life (or someone else having a child early) without regretting my (or their) reality.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. – Philippians 4:12 MSG

So I suppose the lesson here is to be content in any and every season we as moms find ourselves in. This is true whether you are a 20-year old new mom, with minimal support, who has to cultivate patience and endurance as you put school off a few years to spend time nurturing and providing for your baby, or you are the free-spirit, artist mommy who has children in her later years and now has to shift herself out of the oblivion of self-centeredness while acquiring the ability to run like Flo-Jo and dive for a ball like Serena.

It really is all good.

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Show This To Your Daughters: The Five Mentors Every Teen Girl Should Have http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/show-this-to-your-daughters-the-five-mentors-every-teen-girl-should-have/ http://mybrownbaby.com/2015/07/show-this-to-your-daughters-the-five-mentors-every-teen-girl-should-have/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 04:01:35 +0000 http://mybrownbaby.com/?p=13198 The five mentors every girl should have—an excerpt from Famous! How to Be the Star of Your Show: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Embracing Her Fabulous Self, by Taiia Smart Young.

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By TAIIA SMART YOUNG

After reading Jessica Hagy’s dope post on forbes.com about “The Six People You Need In Your Corner,” I was immediately hooked on this idea that none of us survive our big, fat juicy mistakes and get to Awesomeville without a ride-or-die crew.

The fake ones wanna be down after you become successful. The real ones—as our auntie Oprah Winfrey said—will ride the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

Inspired by Jessica’s list, I’ve whipped up a remix called the Fave Five. In business, the FF or Six People are considered your board of directors. They’re a body of elected/ appointed folks that collectively oversee a company or organization so that things don’t fall apart.

You have questions and they have answers. You have problems and they have solutions.

This group of gals and guys isn’t comprised of your besties. You need folks who are who’ve lived a little, been tossed around by life, failed and succeeded and bought the T-shirt.

At least one of them has earned a reserved spot in the limo when you go big time. And because she’s patient, believes in you, and understands that the universe won’t be rushed, she carries bus fare for the both of you—just in case it takes three years vs. three months for your Big Idea to pop off.

Where do you find these special people for your list? They’re right in front of you, being underutilized. They know your goals, know where you’re headed, and can motivate you to keep on moving. They’re adult friends and family who fit into the go-getta column. So your ol’ camp counselor who started a nonprofit to empower teen boys qualifies, as does your aunt who hosts cool events like swimming in the San Francisco Bay to raise money for her favorite charity.

Let me introduce you to your Fave Five.

Code Name: The Social Butterfly
Specialty: Making Introductions
She’s mixxy, attending everything from a Detroit Lions football game to a museum opening to an exclusive Sunday brunch with members of the city council. The Social Butterfly air-kisses the cheeks of royalty, but more important, she’s friendly with the gatekeepers too. This means she can get your résumé to the right people for that important first internship, or even set up a time for you to shadow a power player.

Famous! How to Be the Star of Your Show: A Teen Girl's Guide to Embracing Her Fabulous SelfCode Name: The Deadline Diva
Specialty: Tough-Love Reminders
This one lives by her calendar and is all about sending reminders so that there aren’t any excuses, only results. If your application to a summer arts program is due in two weeks, expect The Deadline Diva to call five days early to hit send on the electronic form. She’s constantly checking in—which can be annoying—but it’s all out of love, because she understands that time is an undervalued commodity.

Code Name: The Coach
Specialty: Focused On Solutions
She has the popcorn and juice ready for a strategy session to launch your graphic design business. The Coach listens intently to uncover holes in your blueprint and pushes you to find solutions. For example, if your current computer is on life support, she’ll ask: when can you get a new one, and do your parents have the funds to buy it? Can you offer to pay half of the bill with that birthday stash tucked away in your dresser? Don’t think about wasting her time, either. Come prepared with a list of questions and be ready to execute at least two of her suggestions.

Code Name: The Treasurer
Specialty: Investing Time And Money
Sometimes it comes down to needing a few extra dollars for that senior trip, or additional cash to buy supplies for your budding cupcake business when unexpected orders roll in. She understands that eight dozen sweet treats for a kids’ birthday party is a good problem. No matter what, The Treasurer, who saves more than she spends, admires your hustle and considers you a worthwhile investment.

Code Name: The Seer
Specialty: Enhanced Vision
She doesn’t possess a crystal ball, a third eye, or tarot cards, but she’s definitely all knowing. The Seer is a fan, but she isn’t about blind worship. She knows that you’re capable of organizing and raising serious cash at the basketball fund-raiser, so her advice is useful and practical. She also zooms in on the details, like reminding you to ask parents to sign photo and video release forms for their kids before game day.

Now it’s your turn. Decide how to fill up your Fave Five draft card. Which adults can share information, help make a connection, hold you accountable, and support your goals? Make a list. Then edit it down to the core group that you can really depend on when it’s crunch time.

Excerpted from Famous! How to Be the Star of Your Show: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Embracing Her Fabulous Selfby Taiia Smart Young. It’s available via Amazon.

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