The one where we talk about Princess Truly…because representation matters

I don’t know any black parent who doesn’t struggle to find books with characters that their child can relate to.  So that’s why when I came across the book I am Truly.  I snapped it up. I picked it purely on instinct. I looked at the cover and saw a little black girl and thought, that looks like my girl…I am getting this book. It was that basic.  Never could I have imagined that the words on the inside would be just as striking, just as powerful, just as inspiring as the picture on the front cover.

I am Truly, ‘truly’ is one of my favorite books.   I actually enjoy reading it…(I am not trying to skip pages on this one).

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So that’s why I was so excited to speak to the author of the Princess Truly series, Kelly Greenawalt on this episode of the Woke Mommy Chatter Podcast.

We talk about how the book came to be, why she wrote it, how kids react when she reads it to them in school and we touch on her busy life as a mom of six children.

In the Episode 8 of the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast, Kelly and I will continue our conversation and talk Transracial adoption.

Visit Kelly’s website to find out how you can order your Princess Truly book and you can also follow her Facebook page.  You can also check out Amariah’s website and see more f her beautiful illustrations.

 

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

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

 

NO- I will never just ‘move on’ from Slavery.

Who the hell does David Cameron think he is? If I hear one more person say that black people should move on from slavery I’m going to loose my mind.

Would he dare say to a Jewish audience that they should get over the holocaust? Which occurred for a shorter period of time than slavery?

Black people were enslaved for centuries. And it wasn’t just a loss of liberty, we lost our languages, our culture, our religions, our traditions, our connection to family, our very sense of identity. All of these things were stripped from us and it’s these connections that new immigrants to the west are able to maintain, that allows them to thrive. That allows them to join forces with people like Cameron in saying, we made it- move on from Slavery.

The transatlantic slave trade took place over 300 years. 300 years. I’ll repeat 300 years. In the Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Barbados only got their independence from the UK in 1962 and 1966 respectively.

The Civil Rights Movement in the states took place in the 60s. In the Caribbean colonialism is entrenched in every aspect of life, in every system TO THIS DAY. In the UK, where I was born, they still refered to black babies as golliwogs until 25 years ago. (As an aside- A Golliwog is a black minstrel type doll- and you’ll never guess what I saw in the corner of my local ‘British shop’ in CaNADA a few years ago- u tim I asked them to remove it). And even though people like David Cameron would say there’s no proof, the UK is also the place where signs saying No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs hung. The proof is in the stories of people like my parents and many others. These things don’t exist in isolation. They are the product of a lifetime of colonialism and anti- black sentiment perpetuated from centuries of slavery.

We are living with the legacy of slavery and colonialism held up by the ancestors of people like Cameron. Today, Black children in the US, U.K. and Canada are being ripped from their homes, put in foster care or group homes or being made wards of the state and given to white families. THAT’s the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Black kids are struggling in schools, they are being suspended at higher rates, they are being over medicated and over diagnosed with ADHD and a host of other behavioural issues. THATs a legacy of slavery and colonialism. Black kids today are being locked up for minor infractions like marijhuana possession at the same time as white people build businesses and invest in marijuaa dispenseries. THAT is a legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Many people of all colours do not want to face or understand the history and sheer trauma that has been inflicted on black people across the world. This isn’t about victim hood- because black people have proven time and time again how resilient and strong we are. And that’s the problem. That resilience and the fact that some of us have ‘made it’ despite these insurmountable barriers allows people like Cameron to say ‘get over slavery.’

I will never get over Slavery and I will make damn sure my children never forget it either. Do some bloody research and actually read the accounts of slaves, read the horror stories, not the American fairy tale we see in movies. Read the accounts and then come back and say get over it. That trauma is in our DNA. It’s not going anywhere.

Cameron would do better to shut his mouth and open his eyes to the Libyan Slave trade or should they just get over it too?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/30/jamaica-should-move-on-from-painful-legacy-of-slavery-says-cameron?CMP=share_btn_fb

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 

The Opioid crisis is just another double standard

There’s an Opioid crisis across North America. There’s also a severe double standard in response to that crisis. It’s like a sick joke. The double standard is so palpable.

For months now outlets across Canada and the United States have been printing articles, doing tv and radio interviews and generally making efforts to humanize and discuss the Opioid crisis. I’ll admit that I’m having a bit of trouble trying to conjure up my usual sympathy. Part of me is grateful that we’ve come far enough as a society to be compassionate when dealing with addicts, but the other part of me, the Woke, part cannot get over the incredible double standard at play here.

For decades, black people have been incarcerated for drug related offences for at rates so high in the US that it has destroyed entire communities and raised alarm bells internationally as a human rights issue. (And let’s not even mention how the drugs got into the communities in the first place). Canada is no different, there are black children in Canada sitting in youth detention centres for possession of marijuana, which white kids purchase at store fronts in downtown Toronto.

And now without irony, the New York Daily news has posted an article titled ‘How Rikers Island, Justice System killed a young Opioid addict’, accompanied with a picture of an innocent looking young man a baby. Yes, it’s a sad story…but does no one see the irony here? How can they publish this with a straight face when there are ENTIRE communities of black men, and women sitting in prison for crimes exactly like what is being discussed in the article?

In the 80s and 90s, when it was a crack epidemic, the kids were known as crack babies, they were taken away from their parents, there was story after story about these babies born addicted to drugs me how it affects their behaviour. The problems we as a society would have on our hands in the future. Black addicts were fiends (which literally means a devil). Grandparents were raising kids and given no support or acknowledgement- unlike the article I saw a few days ago about white grandparents, praising them for being heroes of the epidemic.

When it was black communities ravaged by drugs and not rural white communities, there was no discussion about safe injection sites as there is in Canada now. It’s unbelievable to me, they want to create safe spaces for junkies to be junkies simply because now that a drug crisis has hit white communities, there’s an emotional connection and realization that criminalization doesn’t work. It wasn’t as if there weren’t black people with great jobs falling pray to drugs before either, like the story I read about a former lawyer who died in a New York alley recently from an overdose.

The undercurrent in all these stories is that these are VALUABLE lives being wasted and as such, understanding must be had, because this could be our kids, our sisters or brothers. But that was always the case. The only difference was colour.

This is also the reason that my kids will never have the opportunity to ‘experiment’ with drugs and why ill have to explain to them on Friday and Saturdays when they are in high school that it’s unlikely they’ll be going to those parties and hang outs, because for them consequences of using drugs- even just dabbling are very different. For them, there will be no understanding, no second chances no sympathy and no articles written about how the system has wronged them.

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/rikers-island-justice-system-killed-young-opioid-addict-article-1.3579406

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.

Diversity in the workplace matters

I’m so disappointed in Dove. I really am. I buy their products, I’ve been using #Dove for years. I loved the real women campaign. But this….this is unbelievable. Actually it isn’t. This is what happens when you don’t have a diverse marketing team and by diverse I mean black people.

I’m sick of people using diverse as a catch phrase to mean, hey look we employ women, or hey look, we have one Asian person on our team or we’ve got two people of East Indian descent they can speak for all people of colour.

A diverse workplace should be a reflection of your city. Employing more women than men does not equal diversity, that’s just a reflection of statistics.

A diverse workplace is a place where people of colour feel empowered to speak up. A diverse workplace isn’t one where you check the credibility of your images by comparing them to your black cleaner. Yes- that happened.

Dove missed the mark. But their acknowledgment shouldn’t just end there. What are they going to DO about it? The fact that this ad left their office and NO ONE saw a problem with it, no one at all, tells me all I need to know about who is sitting around the table making decisions at that company. I’m moving on. Someone message me with a list of minority owned soap companies please!

There’s nothing wrong with being proud to be black

So apparently black pride is a threat the FBI feels the need to name and deal with. I know some people hate the term Woke. It’s overused. It’s also used in the wrong context and yes it’s become commercialized. I’m sure you’ve seen the t-shirts. But despite that I still like it. And for me at least, it truly describes my experience. I’ve always been proud to be black. I was raised to know and appreciate my history, but even so I feel like I’ve spent most of my life apologizing for my blackness. And I don’t mean feeling bad about being black, I mean apologizing in the sense of toning down who I am so that other people (white people) feel comfortable around me.

That has meant code switching, speaking differently, talking about race, black issues and ‘keeping it real’ only with my black family and friends- for everyone else it was surface discussions, smile, don’t talk about politics, don’t talk about race, don’t get angry (you don’t want to be the angry black women), don’t conform to any black stereotype they may have. Don’t call out blatant or subtle racism. Ignore it, second guess it, maybe it’s not what you think. Smile and engage when they ask about your hair.

But having children has changed this for me. I don’t want my kids to live like that. I don’t want them to divorce their race from who they are in order to live in a mainstream world. I want them to be unapologetic in their blackness.

My Woke moment came last year, in the midst of all the black lives being taken by police force, my son was grappling with his own identity and I realized that we had to do things differently. We had to talk about race, because there was no getting away from it. There’s no transcending it- and that is OK. The point is you don’t need to transcend it.

I’m going to talk about being black, I’m going to surround myself with black people. Yes, on occasion I self- segregate and I do that for my own mental health, because dealing with consistent micro-aggressions can be draining. I want to build a career that will help improve the lives of black people.

I want my kids to have black friends, I want my daughter to go to a black dance school, because I want her to feel comfortable in her body, in her skin and I would like for there to be one place, where she isn’t different, where she doesn’t have to worry that her hair won’t be ‘flat enough.’ I want to find a black scouts group for my son, because I want him to feel confident in who he is and be around others that look like him. If I could, I would send my children to an all black school that can cater to their specific needs and build them into the resilient people that they will need to be to survive this world. Because in our society, there are so few spaces where they can truly be accepted as they are. That doesn’t mean I don’t like white people. It doesn’t mean I don’t like my white friends anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t value the friendships my children have made with kids of other races. It doesn’t mean any of that.

What it means is that I no longer care to make other people comfortable at my expense. What it means is that my comfort, my well being and that of people like me is now a priority. And that doesn’t make me an extremists. But my pride in being black is what makes me and others like me, whose eyes are open, who are unapologetic in their blackness…a threat. Because we are no longer playing the game. Because we no longer have the patience for understanding. Because we no longer care whether others feel comfortable with who we are. Because we are putting black first. Because we are betting on black and shopping black and rooting for black and living black proudly and loudly. And that’s a threat.

http://www.theroot.com/fbi-launches-cointelpro-2-0-targeting-black-identity-ex-1819222532?rev=1507315003716&utm_source=theroot_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

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.