Holding the Line Against Hate

How do you talk to your kids about racial tension?

In an alternate universe down south in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bellamy Shoffner is writer and photographer struggling with the same issue.  She wanted to start a discourse on social justice issues issues facing many marginalized people and so she did what writers do, when they are impassioned.  She picked up the pen.  Bellamy started Hold The Line magazine (due to launch in December) to ‘support people of color and LGBTQ+ communities,  people defying gender norms, working to combat  mental health stigma, and the abhorrent d uprising of white supremacy.’

In Episode 6 of the Woke Mommy Chatter Podcast. I am talking to Bellamy about her magazine, advice on how to talk to your kids about racial tension, the power of words and why you should never touch a black child’s hair.

Listen now and Subscribe to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast anywhere you get your podcasts.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/po…/wokemommychatter/id1293971353

 

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When your village gets in formation…

‘It takes a village to raise a child’

Today I spent the day with my extended village at the Alliance of Educators for Black Students​ Family Conference.

It was an amazing. There’s something really inspiring and uplifting about being surrounded by fellow black parents all trying to learn how to support and advocate for their kids…and black teachers trying to guide and do what they do best….’teach.’

There where parent workshops on how to navigate the hidden curriculum, family health and round table discussions on how to be involved and more importantly ENGAGED in your child’s education.

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Part of what I love about this conference is the priority and care they take in involving the children. This day is as much for them as it is for the parents. And for my little madam and for the boy child it’s one day where they are NOT different. It’s one day where they sit in a classroom with a teacher and students who look exactly like they do.

There really is comfort and power that comes from having a ‘village’. It’s not easy being a parent, particularly a black parent- when the odds are so stacked against your kids. You are ALWAYS questioning if you are doing the right thing, are you being too pushy, are you not being pushy enough. It’s wonderful to feel like you have people who understand and can carry you when you stumble, when you are unsure and when you need a little guidance.

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On Homeschooling…

The face of homeschooling is changing across North America as more and more black parents choose to educate their children in order to give them the best possible schooling possible.

On episode 5 of the Woke Mommy Chatter Podcast, I am talking to Eva Greene Wilson author of  the blog  socamom.com and Yolanda Newton, Director of EducationRevolt.org.

We talk about the reasons why homeschooling works for their family, why black families in particular can benefit from homeschooling and what some of the limitations of the public education system are.

Last week, I wrote my own  piece for Today’s Parent magazine on how and why black parents to advocate for their children in order to help them succeed.  We’ve had great teachers so far and the education system seems to be working for my kids, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about homeschooling, especially after talking to these amazing homeschooling mothers.

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Listen to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast….Episode 5 – The one where we talk about homeschooling.

Subscribe to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast anywhere you get your podcasts to get automatic downloads of new episodes every Tuesday.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/po…/wokemommychatter/id1293971353

 

There’s more…..Want to know more about Charter Schools?  Listen to 

Getting real….talking black lives, Trump and parenting

As an outsider looking into to the mess that is the United States, more often than not I am left speechless.  Beyond that though, as a mother, as someone with family in the US, there is a deep sense of solidarity with black folk and the struggles that they face, because although to a lesser extent, these are the same struggles of black people in nearly all western countries.

Whether it is a President whose disdain for black people and black lives is evident in his daily comments, attitudes, policies, silences, or the Flint water crisis, or the consistent use of deadly force against black men, women and children by police, or the crisis in inner city schools, or the fact that this lists could go on and one, the fact remains that despite the multitude of black millionaires gracing our screen daily, black people in America are not living a life based on equality.

As a mother, I can’t imagine the stress that all of this places on your existence and that of your children.

Black bodies are continually exploited in America, even by those who claim to do good.  In episode 4 of the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast, the Clinton Foundation is referenced as trying to steal breast milk from black women.  This sounds like a conspiracy theory right…but it’s not, there is truth here.   With breast feeding rates already very low in the black community, the Clinton Foundation’s apparent misguided approach to increasing rates was to encourage black women to sell their breast milk. It makes no sense. Based on the fact that:

  1. black women are having a hard time breast feeding already
  2. there’s already a history of exploitation and forced wet nursing in the African American community
  3. who has the money to buy breast milk anyway, likely not the black women who aren’t breast feeding, more than likely white women.  So what is really going on here?

I think I’ve said a couple of times. Anyone with an interest in African American history, contemporary history…read the book Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington.

It details the medical experimentation that has taken place on black bodies throughout American history- right up until present day, nearly always without consent. If you read anything in the next few months. Read this.

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In this episode of the Woke Mommy Chatter Podcast, we get real and talk Black Lives Matter, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin.  We talk about what it’s like to tell your child they will not be allowed to walk to the store alone and how you protect your kids, and your mental health in a world where you are under siege.

Listen to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast….Episode 4 – The one where we get real, talking Trump, black lives and parenting.  

Subscribe to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast anywhere you get your podcasts to get automatic downloads of new episodes every Tuesday.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/po…/wokemommychatter/id1293971353

 

NEW PODCAST- The one where we talk about chocolate milk….

  • Wet nurseOn episode 3 of the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast we are talking breastfeeding and exploring some of the reasons why black women aren’t breastfeeding at the same rate as women of other races.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79 percent of all newborn infants in the US started out breastfeeding in 2011. Only 58.9 percent of Black women initiate breastfeeding, while 75.2 percent of white women and 80 percent of Latina women initiate breastfeeding.

What’s stopping black women from breastfeeding is something that many organizations are trying to figure out and on this episode of Woke Mommy Chatter, I talk to two fellow black mom bloggers who are advocates of ‘chocolate’ breastfeeding.

Hadassah is a mom living in Atlanta, originally from Haiti and creator of the Brown Mom Rising, Inspiring and motivating moms of color   and Afrykyan Moon owner of the Chocolate Milk Gear   store and Infinite Possibilities of a black woman blog.

We talk about the history of wet nursing and the real stigma that comes with black women using their breasts to feed babies that originated in slavery.  ‘That  “slavery sh*t” as one woman referred to it, in the linked article above.

We also talk about the origins of formula and our own stories from the trenches of breastfeeding.

Listen to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast….Episode 3- The one where we talk about chocolate milk. 

Subscribe to the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast anywhere you get your podcasts to get automatic downloads of new episodes every Tuesday.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/po…/wokemommychatter/id1293971353

 

On Black Mom Groups

Yes, I belong to black only moms group. They have been a sanctuary for me. Before I found these groups I was struggling. My son was struggling with identity issues. He didn’t want to be ‘brown’ he hated his hair and waited ‘straight yellow hair.’

I knew what was missing….his village. We have a huge family, but they all live in far flung places of the globe, so aside from my immediate family, my kids really don’t have many other black people around. We live in a PW (predominately white) town, they go to PW school. Everything in their world is PW and that is a struggle because for them, there is never representation, they are always different. And if you think kids don’t notice differences then you are not a parent, because they do.

So, I did what moms of the digital age all over the world do. I turned to the internet and I started a group called the Afrocentric Kids Club, I was hoping it could become a place where black kids could get together and socialize with other kids that look like them. Once i had made the group, I needed members so I turned to local moms groups to advertise. I explained why I had created the group and needless to say the response was not well received. The pair filled up with comments about reverse racism, and kids not seeing colour and all sorts of other misnomers. In fact I was kicked out of the group that I had posted in. I sat at my kitchen table crushed, upset, crying, feeling alone. Somehow between all that I stumbled across the Black Moms Connection group. This group has been my lifeline and I am grateful everyday that I’ve found a moms group where I can discuss the specific issues that come with raising black children in a safe place. The founder of this group (which is 9000 strong) wrote an article for Today’s Parent recently, and the comments reacting to the article are just so ignorant.

The bottom line is that mainstream Facebook groups are not safe places for women of colour. All moms need a space where they can ask questions, raise concerns and discuss their issues with a group that understands them without feet of prejudice or racism. I’m now a member of a number of black moms groups and I love them. I don’t care if it’s self segregation, these groups have been a life saver for me and my mental health and the tips, advice and support I receive in these groups is helping me raise confident, loving, proud and resilient black children and I’m grateful for that.

I Don’t Need Therapy. I Need Help.

I don’t have my ‘ish together. I’m a hot-mess mom and I’m OK with that…sort of.

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“You should talk to someone, if you are having trouble coping.”
I had just had lunch with a friend, I was there to support her, through her own trauma, and had innocently mentioned how I needed a break. From everything. How little things that I could normally laugh off were enraging me. How I was feeling completely overwhelmed.
And then she said it…the words that smacked me in the face like a wet sock and turned the conversation on its head, reflecting a mirror right back at me.
“…having trouble coping.” Her words floored me, I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t say anything, and there, in the front seat of my car, sitting beside someone going through her own real struggles, I burst into tears.
Was I really having trouble coping? What does that even mean? How could I be having trouble coping. Yes, I’m a mom, yes I have a full time job, but I’ve only got two kids and I have a husband. It’s not like I have three or four kids or like I am a single mom. I at least have support.
I love my kids, I want to be present and active in their lives. I attend my son’s parent council, I take him to ball hockey, my daughter is doing gymnastics right now, both kids do piano and Kumon. I’m there. I drop them off, I pick them up, I go to work, I make my sons lunch, I remember when he needs to bring a shoebox to school for art, whether it’s pizza day, if he needs money for a bake-sale. I am not special. My life is not difficult. We are financially stable, we both have good jobs, and we have family support. How can I not be coping? Of course I am coping. Doesn’t everyone feel overwhelmed sometimes?
But as I drove away, I thought about our conversation, about my life. The dishes in the sink, the dishes in the dishwasher, the bundles of dirty laundry, the clean laundry pilled in the corner of each bedroom waiting to be sorted, my office desk, piled high with all sorts of papers, school papers, bills, random kids drawings, all things that need to be sorted through, filed, saved as keepsakes. I thought about the nights I wake up at 3 a.m., unable to get back to sleep unless my earphones are in my ear, the sounds of re-runs of Veep or Scandal, the only options able to quiet my mind. The knot in my chest each morning I wake up, knowing I have to go to work and face another day with a long to-do-list that I won’t get through.
And yes, my husband helps. He does what he can, he’s the one who will silently pick the clothes off the floor and hang them up, he’ll clean the bathrooms, vacuum the house, he’s does his part. But he also works long shifts, meaning often it’s just me, ferrying the kids, waking them up in the morning, while they cry because it is too early, picking them up and everything in between. He’s also not the one panicking about childcare for the next school year. He’s not calling daycare’s, and after-school programs. He’s not trying to organize summer camp and swimming lessons and trying to figure out how we can fit swim lessons into an already over-scheduled summer and wondering if the kids will grow up without that very necessary skill. All that mental ‘worry energy’ is left to me.
And I know I am lucky. I know there are moms who are on their own, who have it worse. I am lucky…I have help. There’s a daycare worker who picks my son up off the school bus, my daughter is in daycare all day, my parents help out when they can. And still, even with my village, I am sometimes immobilized with anxiety.
I can’t be the only mother feeling like this? I feel like I’ve been duped. I feel like someone should have told me this wouldn’t be easy. I grew up in the 80s/90s. I was raised to have a career. The challenges that came with being a mom never occurred to me.
In my social circle, there are many highly educated, accomplished women, choosing to leave the workforce. They are becoming stay at home moms and picking up businesses on the side. They are working as at home travel agents or selling make-up, or handbags, to pick up extra cash. And although I don’t think I could make that choice, I really get it.
I want to work, I like my job, but I also want to be present for my kids. I don’t want to be stretched so thin. If you don’t have access to flexible working, I completely understand why many women make the choice they do to drop out of the work force completely.
My parents both worked full-time. I went to daycare and later I was a latch-key kid. I wasn’t harmed by that experience, but I can’t help but want something a little different for my kids. I want to be able to be there to drop them off, or pick them up at the end of their school day. I want to hear about their little worries on the way home and the little wins they’ve experienced. I want that, but I also want my job. And still I want something just for me. I have interest outside of work and kids that I would like to pursue, that take time to purse.
Maybe I ‘want’ too much? Maybe that is my problem. Maybe my issue is that I’ve realized that I can’t have everything I want. My children can’t have all of me…all of my attention the way I would like them to, and neither can my work, or my husband…or me for that matter.
What I realized on that car ride home, is that I am not that mom that can work full time and complete a master’s degree in under two years, while being a mommy to three kids under 6- and that is ok. I am not that mom who can train for a 5k race, while running her own business and raising two teenagers. I champion these women, I support these women, I admire these women, but these women are not me. I am not together, I am a hot panicky mess.
I am the mom who doesn’t return emails. I am the mom you text and get a reply a week later if at all. I am the mom, who collapses in front of the TV exhausted at the end of the day. I am the mom, done with being a mom by 8 p.m. I am the mom with the messy house, and the self-doubt, and the half started ‘projects’ and the flaky schedule. I am the mom who occasionally cries in the front seat of her car, because sometimes it gets to be all too much. Am I having trouble coping? Maybe, but who isn’t? Should I speak to someone about it? Probably. But when? Where will I fit the time in for mental self-care when my days are packed to the brim already?
The bottom line is, this hot mess mom is trying. I am trying to be the best I can be for my family, for my job and for me. I’m taking it one day at a time. And that’s all I can do for now.

WASH DAY MADE EASY?…YES PLEASE!

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I have to share the goodness that is the wash-day visor. Why didn’t anyone tell me about these before?  Essentially they are plastic visors that sit at the front of your wriggly child’s head and prevents water from falling into their face or eye.  I need one of these. NOW!

Washing the little madam’s hair is a real struggle. We attempted a salon style sink wash, with her lying on the kitchen counter. That resulted in my kitchen looking a bit like a wading pool. I moved on to shower her hair and having her tell me when to stop.  I ended up more wet than her. Now we’ve come to an amicable agreement where she will allow me to through a basin full of water over her hair, because she thinks it’s hilarious, but I can’t wash her hair as thoroughly as I’d like doing this. So this visor is looking pretty good.

YouTube black hair tutorials have really become my hobby.  One of the sad legacies of slavery and colonialism is that we (black people) have forgotten how to care for our hair. We’ve retained some of our wonderful traditional styles, like twists or cornrows, but we’ve forgotten how to really care for our hair.    In the last 10 years or so, there’s been a rediscovery of natural black hair and a push for black people to use natural products and re-learn how to take care of our hair.

My mother swears she would never have permed my hair so early, but I distinctly remember getting my first perm (as in permanent press/burn your scalp-hair straightener, not the 80s crazy curl) at 7 years old.  So, like a lot of young girls, I never really learned how to take care of my natural hair and the chemicals, meant it didn’t grow properly, was super brittle and unhealthy.  Looking back I can’t believe I spent so many years and so much money, literally frying my scalp so that my hair would conform to a socially acceptable standard of straightness. It’s just insane.  Even today, when we know better, I still see little kids running around with obviously permed hair. I want to cry when I see this and I want to shake their mother.

That said, my hair might be natural, but I’m still working my way up to taking the twist extensions out. As the little madam and the boy child get older, I want them both to see me loving and wearing my natural hair, the same way I am teaching them to love and wear their natural hair.

That means I have to embrace my hair, shed the negativity and the fear and wear it proud!