A chat with Black Moms Connection founder Tanya Hayles

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Tanya Hayles, Founder, Black Moms Connection

When the boy child was 5 years old, he called me ‘Blackie’ and proudly told me that his friend from school told him that ‘Blackie’ was another word for Black people.  To say I was shocked, upset, angry was an understatement.

That moment, that time the boy child called my a racial slur, was my awakening.   Aside from the racial slur, this was the period when the boy child decided he didn’t want to be black, that he wanted blond straight hair. It was the time he would cry anytime I came near his head with a comb.  It was also the summer I had to explain to a crying six year old that no, he couldn’t have the toy gun that someone had bought him for his birthday, because a little boy named Tamir Rice had just been killed, playing with a toy gun in a park.  And, it was the summer that I was kicked out of a mainstream moms group because I was looking for support and asked if any other Black moms wanted to connect. Despite all this…it was the summer I found my village…Black Moms Connection.

In the season 2 finale of the Woke Mommy Chatter podcast, I chat with the founder of the Black Moms Connection group, Tanya Hayles about all things Black Motherhood….and Black Panther…just because.

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

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

Libsyn: http://wokemommy.libsyn.com

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/wokem

 

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

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

 

Don’t let John Kelly re-write History

I’m pretty sure it’s blatantly obvious that I’m no conservative. So typically, when I see the asinine, ignorant and tone deaf comments made by some conservative politicians, across the western world,I generally roll my eyes. Needless to say, I’ve been in a perpetual state of eye-rolling since Trump has been elected. But some things just defy eye-rolling and lead to a general mouth drop. John Kelly saying that a ‘lack of compromise’ led to the American Civil War is one those mouth dropping occasions.
I like to think i’m a bit of history buff, it was my minor in University, American History in particular. But you don’t need to be a history buff to know that the American Civil War was fought over slavery. Slavery…as in the ownership and enslavement of an entire race of people for hundreds of years. Slavery…as in the routine practice of separating families, working people to death, ripping babies from their mothers to be sold, whipping people bloody, raping women, essentially doing whatever you please to an entire race of people. Slavery. The civil war was fought over that. Over slavery. So where exactly in the narrow republican world was the compromise supposed to be?

Oh you can whip your slaves but don’t kill them? You can own these groups of people, but let’s free these ones? Where was the compromise? What exactly were the North and South supposed to compromise about? I’ve heard many people over the last year or so say that slavery could return to the US and honestly, I roll my eyes at that too. But the fact that the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States gets on national TV and justifies and defends the slave owning south and states that slavery was something to compromise over is scary as heck. You don’t need to ask him twice what he thinks of black people. Unbelievable.

Dear Apple- no 12 white men in a room does not reflect diversity.

No. No no no no no no. Apple’s new VP of diversity and inclusion is All Lives Mattering her new role. She was on a panel discussing diversity and basically said that her focus will be on everyone and that you can have 12 white guys in a room and they will be diverse as well. Ok lady. Let’s take a breath.

No, 12 white guys in a room does not equal diversity. Of course you don’t need to be Einstein to understand that the human experience is a diverse one because we are all unique all come with different experiences, but when people complain about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, when you type in ‘black women’ in a google search and come up with pictures of poodle dogs, or sexually explicit images, that’s not because the 12 white men in the room are bringing their wealth of diverse experience to the job. That’s because there are 12 white men in a room and no other voices to counter act their biased BS.

I hate when people in roles like hers are to cowardly to say it like it is. If Apple felt that their current employee was in fact diverse, would they hire a VP of inclusion and diversity? Focus on the issue. There IS a diversity problem in Silicon Valley. It’s dominated by white, Indian and Asian men. What about everyone else? That should be the focus for Apple…not placating white men for their valued diverse experience. Please.

https://qz.com/1097425/apples-first-ever-vp-of-diversity-and-inclusion-says-she-focuses-on-everyone-not-just-minorities/

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.