I’m 24 years old. When I think about what my grandparents and great grandparents were doing at my age, there are three things that come to mind, getting married, having kids and providing for those kids by any means necessary. And although times have certainly changed and many of today’s millennials are tabling the idea of starting a family in pursuit of professional aspirations and personal fulfillment, talk of marriage and kids still finds its way into everyday conversation. Like each of you, I have my opinions on the matter, but I’ve found that it’s a shared fear, rather than the differences in opinions, that’s causing some to reconsider the idea of starting a family. It’s the debilitating fear of raising the next generation of black men and women in what’s a far cry from the utopian post-racial society that many argue exists today. With headline after headline describing the all-too-familiar scenario of an unarmed black youth dead as a result of racially-charged violence, it’s no wonder we’re not rushing to claim the responsibility and heartache that comes with parenthood.
One could argue that our parents — while denied many of the opportunities and luxuries we’ve been afforded — compartmentalized this fear well enough to breathe life and love into our very existence. But it’d be naive to think that this fear didn’t consume them anytime we left the confines of the meticulously-crafted environment they provided for us. It’s the unconditional love, learned trust and inevitable fear that makes parenting a non-stop rollercoaster ride of emotions.
But what do I know? I’m a single, 24 year old woman with no kids. So, I thought I’d ask a subject matter expert. Known for playing some of the most iconic black father figures in Hollywood, Delroy Lindo is also the loving and devoted father to a 14-year old son. Fourteen: the same age as Emmett Till when he was brutally murdered, three years shy of Travyon Martin when he was tragically shot and killed, and the start of the most informative and impressionable years in a young person's life. I sat down with Lindo to discuss the rollercoaster ride that is raising a young black man in today’s America — the excitement, the fear and everything in between.
| Children are the clothes of men. - Yoruba proverb |
Kayla Conti: You’re known for portraying some of the most iconic black father figures in Hollywood. Films like Crooklyn, Romeo Must Die and most recently This Christmas come to mind. Did your on-screen roles influence your outlook on parenthood?
Delroy Lindo: When I did Crooklyn and Romeo Must Die, I was not a parent. We found out we were having our son when I was filming Heist in 2001, so I didn’t have any context when doing those earlier films. However, since becoming a parent, I have indirectly applied the fact that I’m a father to my work. One immediately looks at the world in much broader terms — it is no longer about me, but rather how what I’m doing will affect my child. Becoming a parent has influenced the type of work I take.
KC: Would you say you’ve seen your approach to acting change since becoming a parent?
DL: Oh, absolutely! For instance, I was recently on location in Park City, Utah for about six months and I made it a priority to come home as much and as often as possible; almost every weekend. I needed to come home for my son’s school events and basketball games — it was a priority. Had I not been a parent, I’m not sure I would have come home as often. Being present is the issue, because when I come home, I have to be dad and disciplinarian. There’s the physical, the psychological and emotional aspect of being present and it’s the small things like taking him to school in the morning that really mean a lot. Projects that allow for that type of flexibility are important to me.
KC: When you and your wife decided to start a family, did you have any preconceived notions about the differences between raising a son vs. raising a daughter?
DL: I didn’t think about it beforehand, but when your child is born and in my case, when I had a son, I became increasingly aware of the differences. Going back to the fictitious father I played in Crooklyn, I remember telling Spike [Lee] years later that those kids scared me. I really wanted them to like me in such a way that we could work well together and create a believable onscreen family. But I did indeed, throughout our rehearsal process and particularly at the beginning of filming, have a certain kind of fear that the kids playing my onscreen children wouldn’t like me. And honestly, I’ve always felt that fear caused me not to be as free and relaxed in the work as I would have liked. When one becomes a parent, certainly there’s still fear, but it’s a different kind of fear. There’s no playbook [for parenting], so on some level you have to respond as fully and as competently in the moment as you can and hope to God that you’re making the right decision. I’ve been very aware of when I’ve made a mistakes and I quickly try to correct them — I know I’m not perfect.
KC: So when you found out you were having a son, what were you most excited about?
DL: When we found out we were having a boy, my wife said “he will be born in order to teach you something as a man.” I remember her saying that and accepting it, not knowing the nature of the challenges and tests that were ahead. Her statement has proven true. This has been an ever-evolving process of trial and error for me.
KC: Flash forward to the present. What keeps you up at night when you think about raising your son?
DL: I’m concerned about the world he’s growing up in. It’s open season on young black men and that terrifies me. If ever young black men have had to comport themselves in a way that allows them to represent themselves well, I feel that even more acutely for my sons’ generation than that of my own, and no matter how well he does this, he’ll always be judged. But that has nothing to do with him or who he is and everything to do with how outside forces respond to who he is as a young black man. But at the same time, I’m also very excited and appreciative of the man he’s growing up to be.
KC: Do you think he understands the weight of that concern?
DL: No, and why should he? He’s only fourteen. It’s unfair to expect a young person to understand these things. I think more and more he’s learning to understand it, but when I think back to when I was his age, I, too, had trouble processing and understanding the things I was experiencing.
|Give advice; if people don’t listen, let adversity teach them. - Ethiopian proverb |
KC: Given the unique role of black fathers in America, did any of the male figures in your family pass down lessons or words of wisdom as you got older?
DL: My father didn’t raise me. When I look back on the few times he did come into my life, the experiences generally were not positive. However, those encounters showed me and taught me very clearly what not to do with my own son. For that I am very very deeply grateful. And when I look at the differences in how I’m raising my son, the hole inside me that represents my father’s absence makes me doubly appreciative of the fact that my son will never have to experience that. It enhances my awareness as a parent and reinforces the positive things I bring to my son. Sometimes it’s the missing pieces that are the most instructive.
KC: What have been some of the most powerful lessons you’ve learned from your son?
DL: I’m trying to be about the business of reconstructing how I respond in given instances because I know he’s watching me. If I respond badly in a given situation, I try as frequently as I can, though admittedly not 100% of the time, to stop and say “what daddy just did was wrong and here’s why.” I’m not perfect, but that’s an example of how his presence has impacted me. I’m aware of certain aspects of my personality that I have to reign in and modify. I no longer have the luxury of responding to things a certain way because I’m now directly responsible for another life.
KC: Thinking about the role that technology — access to information and social media — plays in your son’s life, especially as a young millennial. How are you navigating this evolving frontier?
DL: It’s scary! I’m very much in the process of negotiating it as we speak. I understand clearly that his generation has more access to information and different kinds of information that I ever did. I have to try as much as possible to work in tandem with him, regarding his interaction with social media; because obviously, it won’t work for me to somehow try and withhold that access from him. In a perfect world, I hope to instill in my son a certain set values so that he will conduct himself as responsibly as he’s able, vis-à-vis the type of technology he will be exposed to and overwhelmed with. I hope these values will stand him in good stead as he develops in relation to this new technology. The values I instill in him are a large part of what I have to offer him as his dad. My wife and I tell [him] and his friends constantly that once you put it on the internet, it’s out there forever. Your technological footprint and how you interact with this technology will have major impacts on your future, personally and in your careers. That’s what we tell them. More and more, employers are checking into the technological footprints of prospective employees. Black kids are already going to have obstacles placed in front of them just based on who they are and how they’re perceived or misperceived. So it’s ever more critically important that they’re aware of the impacts of this footprint.
| We have to give our children, especially black boys, something to lose. Children make foolish choices when they have nothing to lose. - Jawanza Kunjufu |
KC: I want to switch gears and specifically address race, since that’s been the underlying facet of this conversation. What was the first conversation you had with your son about race?
DL: My son was called the n-word in elementary school by a fellow student — he was 6. That’s the first conversation I recall having with him. I was out of town when it happened and my wife called me, so I was hearing the circumstance of the story over the phone. I felt helpless. Initially there's the rage and anger, but it’s so much more than that. When I came home, that was when I had the conversation with him and it was heartbreaking. When these sorts of things happen, it’s often the parents that hold on to the anger more so than the child. He sensed that it was wrong, but even at that age his character allowed him to let it go and move forward. I’d like to believe that my son is aware that he’s eminently worthy — he’s educated, well-traveled — and while it may not be conscious at this point in his life, he has a broad understanding of the world. In part because of how my wife and I are raising him, but also the experiences we’ve afford him. I hope he understands that he’s worthy as a young black man and that he doesn’t succumb to any insecurities around that.
KC: How do you think today’s generation has to think about race differently from those of generations past?
DL: Some things have stayed the same and some things have regressed. There are some aspects of race and racial dynamics that are as entrenched as ever, and while they may manifest themselves differently, they still show up. We may no longer be hung from trees, but the murders and violence that we see today, against young black men in particular, are an outgrowth of this open season mentality I spoke about earlier. There’s a racial pathology behind why these things are still continuing to happen in the 21st century and while I recognize the progress we’ve made, I’m also very aware of the entrenchment of certain racial dynamics. Young people need to understand this cycle and remain extremely vigilant.
KC: When you think about your son ten or twenty years from now, what do you want him to remember and pass down to his children?
DL: To never ever ever forget the tenet that says, 'you have to work harder and remember to comport yourself in a way that allows you to be represented in an exemplary manner.' [This] will never not be the case for young black men and women and they will never not be critically important to your value and self worth.
|Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. - James Baldwin |
This post is dedicated to black fathers past, present and future. May you feel loved and supported, and most of all, may your strength and wisdom continue to uplift generations to come. Happy Father’s Day!
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Let's talk about our daddy issues. Come on, we all have at least one. Better still, let’s talk about fatherhood, because after this weekend and if the media has its way, the man who helped bring you into this world will no doubt fall back into the shadows once more.
During my childhood and that of many young, black males of my generation, the relatable faces we saw as we lay spread-eagled in front of the television were the likes of Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Desmond’s (Barbershop) and Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show).
From a young age I grew up without a father. He was unlawfully murdered when I was only a few months old. Male role models in our household were, unfortunately, thin on the ground. My mother had a limited support network due to migrating from Trinidad to England in 1969, so she turned to keeping us active through extra curricular activities such as school social groups, Scouts and football summer camps.
As Father's Day approaches, I am stepping out from the 'status quo' in that we not only celebrate fathers but we evolve a little and celebrate all male role models, godfathers, uncles and men who actively provide guidance, support and teach these young leaders of the future.
Father’s day is never rightly appreciated as much as Mother's Day by the media, retailers and society in general. Any plaudits appear to be isolated and low-key token gestures of gratitude as the media continues to focus on the negative stereotypes of black fathers, using damaging anecdotes such as 'they are invisible within the family unit' and at best 'glorified babysitters.’ So, to advance the revolution to create a new black stereotype and show men as motivated fathers who deserve to be recognised, I am sharing a collection of photographs captured during time spent with three active fathers.
I'm not disregarding the issues we as a black community are dealing with around young adults growing up without fathers/role models in the home. Nor am I ignoring the problems developed from young men leaving education early to engage in crime from an early age, which compounds this issue further.
If people are only exposed to only stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate, creating a model which will keep this everlasting loop of solecism.
Stereotypes are, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly describes them...
These men are all motivated black fathers and role models in their own right. However, they seem, in part, to be invisible to the media. As you look around during the days preceding Father’s Day, just look and see how many advertisements, news articles and blogs show pictures or share the perspective of a black father.
"If people are only exposed to so-called stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate"
These men have fully embraced their responsibilities as a parent and work daily to maintain and develop their relationships with their children. They assign a level of importance to nurture, be present and dispel damaging stereotypes by being a man their child can proudly call Daddy.
All images available on Instagram www.instagram.com/nbsldn/ Photos: Kiran Cox (@kiranbcox) & Jessica Hope (@jess_hope_shoots). This is the newest collection of photos from The New Black Stereotype London (NBSLDN), a movement inspired by The New Stereotype.
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The child support conversation (if one can call it that) frequently rears it's ugly head on Twitter. Sometimes it's as a result of a celebrity case, such as Future vs Ciara, Wiz vs Amber or some other high profile situation that we are all pretty far removed from. (Also ignoring the cost of living as a celeb, nannies and private schools...but #sleep.)
The crux of the argument is that moms/mothers/baby mamas don't deserve to be given child support for multitude of reasons. As a person charged with raising a human being - I feel like I have some insight to educate people once and for all.
Child Support shouldn't even go to the mother it should go to an account that nobody can touch except the child when they turn 18
— 3kFilms (@toys3k) June 8, 2016
Before I begin, let me preemptively say this: Yes, there are bad moms out there. But they are no more the representation for all single moms than deadbeat dads represent all fathers.
So let's break it down.
I'm going to skip pregnancy costs for a reason. People are very excited to give you things while you're pregnant, usually tiny adorable clothes that they grow out of within a couple of weeks. High ticket items such as a stroller, car seat and crib can cost hundreds of dollars at minimum. It's funny to me how people want mothers to bargain and spend less on tiny humans than they do on Yeezy’s they don't need. But I digress.
Baby is here! Yay! Hopefully, you've stocked up on diapers (they go through about 10 per day), wipes, and if you aren't able to or don't want to breastfeed, formula. The cost of formula is about $35-45 per tin, which lasts about three or four days. So actual math tells us that formula alone can run you about $245 per month.
Sure, you can go for a Walmart brand of diapers over Pampers, but if they leak through those (like my kid with Huggies) you make up costs in laundry. Which, if you don't have it in-house, has now also tripled (You have your regular load, your spit up load and your kiddos load). Oh, and don’t forget that you shouldn’t use regular detergent on newborn clothes.
If you breastfeed, the baby eats what you do. So you love spice? Forget it. Made a batch of chili in the slow-cooker? Good luck with that. You wanna eat healthy like you were forced to do during pregnancy? Anyone that grocery shops knows the price of real, healthy foods. But who has time to cook while you're a sleep-deprived mom of a newborn? Often your takeout budget will also skyrocket.
The infancy stage is the end of the honeymoon period. You might still have grandma to thank for some adorable clothes, but unless you have a great village around you, you're trying to figure out which clothes your kid grows out of quickly and which ones fall apart after one wash. Your child will start eating real food too. Great, right? Most infants are still breastfed and some still on formula when they start solids. Whether those purees are made or bought in jars, your food costs go up again. And remember, they're still in diapers at this stage (sweet-potato-colored poop anyone?) at around five per day.
Oh, and if you're in America you've returned to work by now. So welcome to the awesome world of daycare fees. Parents are charged more for younger kids because they require more care. The average cost of daycare is around $900/month (depending on your location). If your rent is also $900, you've spent $1,800 and not fed or diapered a soul.
Children can now have the occasional happy meal. They can walk, run (safety gates!) and talk. They get into things. They need toys and books to learn and grow (Yes, toys help them to learn). You might decide to put them in activities. They decide to have growth spurts (my 3-year-old is in 5T pants...). You gotta get them ready for school. They no longer fly for free. Up until last year, they weren't free on the public transit here either.
School-age until official adulthood
Clothes. School supplies. Field trips. Occasional treats. Birthday gifts for all their newfound friends. Birthday parties. Extra-curricular activities. Food. Growth spurts. Puberty (pads/tampons). Laundry. Groceries. Dentist. Glasses. Medical emergency. Braces. Hair.
All these things are just the bare minimum of raising a well-rounded human being — a costly expense that is cute but costly. This is ON TOP of regular bills such as rent, car payments, hydro/gas/water, cell service, cable, internet, etc.
Sometimes, you get tired of looking and feeling ragged so you get your nails done because that $35 for manicure isn’t going to break the bank. (Despite the fact that you still feel guilty about it). Or you get your hair done so that you can actually look presentable and remain employed, not because you're attending a gala. Because your pay went toward that unexpected child cost, you use some child support or baby bonus money — sometimes the accounting just works out that way. The child might not have new clothes from Instagram because child support went toward keeping the lights on.
Let’s put it another way — watch any home renovation show. Homeowners get upset when money has to be put toward electrical costs, plumbing or fixing foundation, the stuff that is VITAL FOR COMFORT AND SAFETY but isn't seen and isn't sexy or cute. Insulation or a new kitchen? What use is that new kitchen if your house is freezing in the winter and your heating bills are through the roof?
If I didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t need a two-bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t have daycare and child-related fees. A car wouldn’t be a necessity. Life is a heckuva lot cheaper when you are childless. Let certain people on Twitter tell it, though, and women are just looking for a come-up and to use the pittance to make it rain on some hoes in the club.
In the end, I know this will mostly fall on deaf ears. People see what they want and believe as they need to. Usually it's to assuage their own guilt and help them sleep at night.
I'm a single mom that has gone to bed hungry and has cheated transit out of some coin just to get to work. I've gotten up at ungodly hours and worked them as well. I've lugged my son in the rain and taken taxis in the extreme cold. I've considered $900/month schooling when daycare options were limited. I've looked around my house to sell things for a quick injection of cash. I've cashed in my retirement plan when on stress leave from work. I've taken my son to work when there were no babysitting options. I've spent $130 just to go to the movies.
The quiet, hidden sacrifices made on a daily basis are part of the package of becoming a parent. So child support is a small (in most cases) piece in helping make the best possible decisions for the child. I’d argue to call it FAMILY support, because it’s going to support the family. If the parent isn’t doing well, the child can't flourish.
I don't expect applause, sympathy or pity as a single parent. But I don't accept the vitriol and blame either. As long as it takes two to create a child, the responsibility should fall on two to build them up.
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At seven months pregnant, the doctor took one look at my blood pressure during a routine check-up and told me I was going to have my baby that day. He actually said, “Meet me in the delivery room in four hours.” I didn’t have anything for the baby – his shower was scheduled for the next weekend. I hadn’t even packed a hospital bag yet. So, I went to the laundromat. I figured, whatever happens next, I’m going to get this laundry done. The things you think when you’re pregnant and you find out you’re having your kid two months early; “Well, this laundry will be done!” I finished the laundry and had my son by 8 p.m. that night. He spent a week in an incubator and had a heart murmur, but that closed up. “No worries,” or so I thought.
I originally moved to Nevada to go to college. When I first got pregnant, I thought about moving back to California to be nearer to my family, but the cost of living is much higher there. I needed to have some savings, a job lined up and a place to live. I had a job in Nevada and things moved really fast with my pregnancy, so I stayed. That meant passing up California’s paid family leave policy that covers people who can’t work during or after their pregnancy.
Not having access to a medical leave policy plagued me when I couldn’t work for three months after my son was born because of his complications. My family helped me with rent, but then my job told me they wouldn’t hold my place anymore – even though I wasn’t being paid while I was out – so I had to put my son in daycare and go back to work.
I’m a case manager for the homeless. I help my clients overcome one hurdle at a time until they have employment and a safe place to sleep. But the truth is, I often feel that if even one thing goes wrong, I’ll be where they are. I have employment and housing, but I’m scared I could lose it all at any moment.
Without more paid time off and the guarantee that my job will be there if I use it, the line between me and the community I serve is very, very thin.
Last month, I blew a tire. Then, my son—who’s normally a happy, easy baby—started to cry all night and wouldn’t stop. I took him to the emergency room and he had a fever of 102.7. They gave us some Motrin and sent us home.
By the next day he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in 24 hours, so I took him back to the hospital and refused to leave until they figured out what was wrong. They put my baby on a saline drip, did some blood work, and told me he had Herpangina. It sounds terrible, but it’s a common daycare infection that was causing the fever and sores in his mouth, which was why he wouldn’t drink anything. He was too contagious to go to daycare, but I had to get back to work to be able to afford daycare, so I quickly had to find someone I could trust who was willing to watch him on short notice. I have a friend who usually watches him when I need help, but her phone was disconnected and I couldn’t reach her. I finally found a friend from college who offered to take him.
I took a day off work when I took my son to the emergency room. I took two more days off to be with him while he was sick. Because he was premature, he isn’t meeting all of his developmental milestones yet, and he needs physical therapy, for which I take time off (you might be seeing a pattern here). My job is very generous about allowing me time off when I need it, but once my paid time off is used up, I don’t get paid if I don’t come to work and there isn’t a whole lot of flexibility. If I can’t be there the hours I’m supposed to work, I can’t make them up and I can’t pay my rent.
When you’re doing it by yourself, everything is hard.
My son’s name is Nasir; it means “helper sent from God” in Arabic. He just turned seven months old. He’s happy and independent. He likes to play with his toys and chill in his own world. He’s learning to crawl and hold his bottle and do baby stuff. He’s perfect and makes every struggle worth it.
I want us all to have the space to be good parents, the time we need with our children and the support that will keep families strong. Working parents like myself get so little support in our society—that’s one reason I became active with the advocacy campaign, Make It Work, to help fight for stronger work-family policies. I want to see the U.S. have paid family leave, paid sick days and affordable child care. That would be a helper sent from above.
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Author's note: I'm not sure how far this will reach or how many of you reading this will follow it through to the end. It is a piece that requires a deep sense of sensitivity and attention I feel many of us lack. We are stirred by something only to forget about it as soon as it leaves our attention. I'm hoping to spark something in you that moves you to action, whatever that may be.
Has anyone else noticed a spike in fathers taking their children’s mothers to court for custody of their kids? Men are doing this and they are winning. From what I can tell, some are experiencing victories not necessarily because they deserve to win more than they have the resources to sway things in their favor. Some of the more recent cases include Dwyane Wade and Siohvaughn Funches, Usher and Tameka Raymond, Chris Bridges (Ludacris) and Tamika Fuller, Pilar and Deion Sanders, and Norma Mitchell and Tyrese Gibson.
Before I go further I want to acknowledge that every instance is different. I don't know any of these people I’m speaking on, therefore, I’m dealing with a small amount of information I’ve gathered from articles, videos and essays discovered on the Internet. Please do not take my account of them as gospel.
With that being said, these women and I appear to have a lot in common, as I, too, am battling for my children against their father in a court of law.
What do these men have in common? They are celebrities/entertainment personalities. They’ve all taken their children’s mothers to court and won custody of their children or attempted to do so while attacking the women’s credibility as a mother and accusing them of mental instability.
My children’s father is also attempting to take my children from me.
We aren’t celebrities, though he does have a reasonable following as a hip-hop personality. He’s not rich but he definitely has more money than me and is using his money to bully me in court.
How is this even allowed to happen? I mean, there are really phenomenal fathers out there who love their children deeply. There are some fathers who make better nurturers than some mothers. There are some children who are probably better off with their fathers for various reasons. My argument is not that fathers don't have the capacity to love and care for children. My argument is that these fathers are being allowed to take their anger and frustration out on the mothers with the help of the legal system.
Some of the women have spoken out about being bullied by their men with money and celebrity. They have made accusations of abuse. Some have gone broke trying to fight bitter men in a system that seeks to gain from the misfortune of the people it has been entrusted to serve and protect. It’s a sick game.
I find it all highly disturbing for many reasons:
The children are used like pawns in a chess game by the men and the courts.
Men are using the system to bully and attack the mothers in an effort to gain power and control over her and the children.
Their actions in some cases aren’t of true love for the children and desire for harmony within the family but only to destroy her and make sure he doesn't have to support her financially.
The lawyers, especially on the side of the fathers, are only interested in how much money they can earn as a result of representing the fathers. There is no real concern for the children.
The children are TRAUMATIZED in the end!
The ironic thing is that this is what many women have been doing to men for years, using the system as an act of revenge to attack the father of their children. But it’s been mostly achieved against men who are poor or gullible because, according to author and researcher Phyllis Chesler, as stated in Tamika Fuller’s essay, “For more than 5,000 years, men (fathers) were legally entitled to sole custody of their children. Women (mothers) were obliged to bear, to rear, and economically support children. Mothers were never legally entitled to custody of their own children.” In other words, the men losing the battles against bitter "baby mamas" have been lazy, miseducated, or not really interested in being a father anyway.
There are definitely cases where women have taken men to court because they refuse to assume responsibility for their children, and I am definitely not attempting to demonize theses instances. Sometimes, as I’ve learned the hard way, court is necessary and helpful. My concern is that the family court system is similar to other court systems in that they are dysfunctional and seek to serve the players in the system and not the families seeking help!
The courts appear to only be interested in the money they can make from the legal fees necessary to support the duel between the parents.
The system is a “one size fits all” system shuffling the children through a standard process of mediation and minimal evaluation that supposedly seeks to discover more information helpful in determining the court’s decision but, it’s not really that helpful. This has been my experience, anyway. My children have no true representation of their own.
I think it all speaks to the lack of integrity in the justice system. Not all lawyers are bad. Not all judges are wrong, but the system by its very nature is failing many of us.
Society is patriarchal and patriarchy is man’s attempt to usurp divine law by instructing nature instead of taking instruction from her. Patriarchy has socialized men to be so dangerously insecure that some believe their power comes from the dominance, possession and control of people and things.
Patriarchy has bred PEOPLE to be misogynistic — this is true for both men and women — and our misogyny runs deep.
It's interwoven within every part of our society, from religion to hip-hop. Our men have been taught women are disposable when we are no longer a benefit to them. We are disposable once we cannot be controlled by them. This is the behavior men display when attempting to separate their children from their mothers for no solid reason other than to bruise their egos and to break their hearts.
My ex is a musician, and a dedicated one. Understand, musical projects aren’t sensitive to 'normal' people hours. His job is not a 9-to-5, it’s a 'whenever inspiration calls' job. Although he's exercising his legal right to primary custody of our children, he keeps third parties in place to care for them. He travels all the time and keeps late studio hours. We were together just shy of 10 years. I was always the constant presence in our children’s lives when he was traveling and working. Because of his need to hurt me, our children, over the past year and a half, have been without either of us consistently. This enrages me to my core that he would rather this fate for them instead of putting forth effort to work with me. He knows what it’s like to be without a mother as his maternal mother died when he was 10. Why he would want a similar fate for his children is BEYOND me.
He has a hard time being logical and compassionate at the same time. Compassion would inform his heart of the truth that our children are probably best rooted with one of their parents while the other is away. At any rate, the court is supporting this while I lose time with our children and money to support them.
Like Tamika Fuller, Ludacris’ daughter’s mother, I am experiencing financial hardship as a result of fighting for the right to keep my children. I am an entrepreneur in the business of teaching and empowering women (go figure), but also a PhD student in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is not an inexpensive place to live. I am holding on by a string, paying lawyer fees and keeping my head above water with living expenses.
My ex is also badgering me about child support when he makes well over six figures. It’s baffling to me the lengths these men will go to prove a point to us women who have given our bodies, hearts, and souls to give birth to a part of them. Where is the dignity? Where is the compassion and respect for the womb? Do they feel so powerless in life they that they must use the power of the court to assert their egos? It's as if the power of the court is an extension of their own false power. Real men who love their babies would never attempt to separate their children from their mothers unless she is a REAL danger to them.
Meanwhile, these men will cry foul while they are also throwing abuse. It’s crazy disappointing to hear women crying about being abused or threatened by men they love and allowed themselves to be vulnerable with, men they faced death for while giving birth to their children, only to watch others go hard to turn those women into liars. Sometimes other women can be the most vicious, attacking women for speaking against their abusers. People can be quick to call a woman out for being a gold digger, accusing her of fabricating her victimhood for the pursuit of personal gain. We saw it all day with the Bill Cosby scandal.
Sometimes the suspicions are spot on, though. I innerstand the reasons for skepticism, as some women seek time and attention of wealthy men in hopes of getting knocked up and turning a child into a monthly allowance. These women have no real desire of cultivating themselves enough to attract a man who cannot deny their magnetism and therefore have no qualms with planting his seed in her, no qualms about supporting their family. I get it.
But there are those of us who know our worth and have cultivated ourselves enough to know we deserve wealthy, ambitious men with the power of leadership as our mates and fathers to our children. Why would any healthy woman want anything less for herself or bloodline?
When we tell you we’ve been abused, please believe us. Do not go out of your way to discredit us. Our men have been socialized to be abusive to us, so it’s more baffling to me that the burden lies on the woman to prove her accusations, no matter who she is, than it is on the man to prove his innocence.
I love what Norma Mitchell, Tyrese’s ex-wife, had to say about men and their abuse of power and money: “A lot of men with money and more power, especially with passive women, are using the legal system to abuse these women. Then they can point the finger and say, ‘Look at her, she’s crazy,’ because one day you just explode and can’t take it anymore.”
I can definitely empathize with her words. My ex is claiming to the court that I’m mentally unstable. Well, I say to his claim, “Show me a mother who has been stripped of her children and I’ll show you rage that will make you believe she’s insane.”
My ex might not have the capacity for compassion, so I'll do my best to hold enough for the both of us. I have compassion for him because I know his decisions are damn near not his own. He, like most men, is a slave to his emotions. He, like most men, has been taught to suppress his emotions lest he be soft and feminine. Our men are so emotionally suppressed, the only things they know to do when their hearts hurt or are in danger of being hurt is attack and annihilate the 'source' of the pain. When all hell breaks loose, their emotions manage them, and they come for you with one goal — dominate and conquer.
What have your experiences been? Share your story with me in the comments below.
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I'm 26-years-old, single, a recent graduate school graduate and still trying to get into a writing career. So it's safe to say that having kids probably isn’t in my foreseeable future. But being around my goddaughters has ignited a passion for how imagination and representation plays a big role in the life of black kids, especially black girls who need to know the importance of #BlackGirlMagic.
Whenever I visit my best friend’s house, I marvel at how intelligent his two little girls Ella and Addison are. At the ages of 5 and 2, they are beautiful, intelligent, wise, inquisitive and candid; they understand subjectivity, they problem-solve, they play, they pretend to be princesses and they make my heart smile. Like any kid, their imagination is only matched by their energy. But whenever one of their favorite shows (Doc McStuffins) comes on, the duo snap into silence, eyes transfixed on the screen.
I couldn’t articulate it the first time I saw this happen but something about that moment seemed incredibly important. I could see the wheels in their little minds turning as they watched Doc encounter a problem, and with a curious spirit and the help of her talking-toy-friends, she used science and logic to solve it. Not only were Ella and Addison learning invaluable lessons, it made me think about the power of learning them from a character that looked like them. But it also made think about it in less philosophical terms and in relation to my own life:
One day, I will have daughters.
What will be the cartoons, shows and other kinds of media they will consume? How will I make sure my future little girls are surrounded with images that promote a healthy, complex, positive self-image? What if shows like Doc McStuffins aren’t around then?
Imagination is an important aspect of everyone’s childhood. When we place limits on our children’s fantasies, we place limits on what they can be in reality. Kids don’t need to be told what they will be, they just need a mirror to reflect what they can be. Representation matters because the brain (especially a developing one) is a creature of quantity.
To many black children, becoming a doctor is as likely as putting on a cape and weaving through the cosmos. Becoming a CEO of a company is as improbable as saving the world from aliens. A society that stifles black imagination stifles black possibilities. What if allowing your kids to imagine themselves as superheroes empowers them to become authors, doctors, lawyers, cartoonists, scientists, musicians, painters, professors, videographers, poets or the President?
But as adults, we often overlook the disconnect between the "you can be anything you want to be" platitudes we spoon-feed our kids and what they actually see in front of them. In order to imagine these things, they have to see them. I think that’s why black imagination and representation matters so much. It helps black youth relate to and reinforce concepts such as justice, determination, protection, family, fortitude, responsibility, agency, problem-solving, love, hope, teamwork, leadership, etc. to themselves. It makes their dreams, goals and aspirations more tangible.
I'm sure it was different for everyone but I wonder at what age do parents invalidate their kids' imagination in order to wean them into the world of pragmatism. This is especially true for many black kids, but even more so for black girls who grow up to face everyday struggles of racism and sexism, eliminating both the time and the safe-space for imagination. I want to ensure that self-love is a prominent component of my future girls’ self-image.
So lately, I’ve been buying up black female imagery: Marvel’s new Infinity Gauntlet, sketches of Storm from X-Men, Doc McStuffins coloring books, Funko POP figurines of Garnet from Stephen Universe and Michonne from The Walking Dead, artwork from Nilah McGruder or Geneva B., the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series, Toni Morrison novels, the DVD and picture book of the movie Home, supporting projects like Tuskegee Heirs and more. I’m excited to cop the Elle magazines featuring Taraji Henson and Viola Davis, and the Teen Vogue with Amandla Stenberg. And if it hadn’t sold out in two seconds, I would have bought Ava Duvernay’s doll this past December.
Finding stuff like this does involve a good amount of awareness, research and serendipity. Representation for black youth isn’t readily plentiful (for example, in 2013, only 93 of 3,200 children’s books published were about black characters). But to me, the importance of this curation far outweighs the difficulty. I’m gathering these things now so that I won’t have to search for them later. My little ones will be surrounded by #BlackGirlMagic.
And the phrase isn’t just about aestheticism. It’s deeper than admiring black beauty or perpetuating the “black superwoman” trope. It’s a call for black women and girls to internalize, centralize and celebrate their own forms of joy. It is a charge to be visibly, unapologetically black and female in a world that stigmatizes, demoralizes and outright attacks both of these attributes on a daily basis.
EBONY Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux eloquently articulated in her tweets:
"Black female creativity and tenacity is often discussed in terms of pragmatism and resistance, without exploring freedom and joy..."black girls are magic" is a great mantra that speaks to the buoyancy and inventiveness of black womanhood from a HAPPY place. (Hence, "black girls" as opposed to "black women." Girlhood is associated with being a special kind of jubilant and imaginative)."
The black joy that Lemieux and others advocate for is something I want to instill in my daughters at an early age. None of this is to inundate them into perfection but to plant seeds of self-love. I want them to walk into a room (classroom, boardroom and otherwise) and not feel the need to apologize. They will go through the same hardships, doubt, have their hearts broken, be both sexualized and rejected by society and experience the ills of racism and sexism like any other many other black women. But despite all the obstacles they face, they will wield joy like a sword and self-love like a shield.
I want my future daughters to be as powerful as Storm, as radical as Angela Davis, as curious and inventive as Doc McStuffins, as brave as Anwen Bakian, as versatile as Cree Summers, as steadfast as Coretta Scott King, to think critically like bell hooks, to be articulate like Melissa Harris-Perry, to be poetic like Rapsody, to have the youthful wisdom of Amandla Stenberg, be as stunning as Tracee Ellis-Ross and as regal as Michelle Obama. I will see that they can be both human and magical; that they not only can meet and exceed expectations placed upon them but set their own. They will imagine themselves as achieving whatever they want to achieve because they have seen examples their whole life.
So they will grow up watching Doc McStuffins and Reading Rainbow and Gulla Gulla Island and Black-ish and A Different World. They will see Toni Morrison or Assata Shakur or Angela Davis books on the shelves. They will have a bin full of dolls that look like them. They will read Harry Potter and know it is possible for Hermoine to be black. They will relate qualities like intelligence, inquisitiveness, self-love, self-worth, fortitude, vulnerability, independence, empathy, perseverance and other qualities to women who look like them — and therefore, back to themselves. They will see black art on the walls, EBONY and Essence magazines spread over the coffee table, and have “Black girls are Magic” t-shirts in their drawer.
Right now might be too early for me to worry about stuff like this. But as I watch little Ella and Addison grow up, I’m compelled to think that now is as good of a time as any. When I do have kids, they won’t be able to turn a corner at home without being reminded of how magical they are. So future daddy is sowing now.
Joshua Adams is an arts & culture journalist with a M.A. in Journalism from USC. He currently works as an freshman English teacher on Chicago's south side, and as a journalism teaching artist for Young Chicago Authors, a non-profit focusing on youth empowerment through performance art. His writings often explain current and historical cultural phenomenon through personal narratives. Writing and music are his biggest passions, connecting the dots is his life goal. Chicago is where his heart beat at. Twitter:...
Breastmilk is the best and most natural food a mother can provide for her baby. There are so many awesome benefits, such as less respiratory diseases and allergies, that motivate people to breastfeed their newborns. Breast milk produces antibodies that inform a baby's body of how to fight viruses and bacteria. Babies who consume their mother's breast milk for at least six months tend to experience fewer ear infections, are overall healthier and appear brighter. Breast milk is the superfood of baby food.
It's no wonder why some breastfeeding moms fight back against the harsh critique of public breastfeeding. They want the best for their little ones, and when baby's cries require food or else, baby tends to win. This is best spoken on once you have actually lived the life of a breastfeeding mother.
The truth is, you don't truly know the intensity of an infant's cries nor the unwavering commitment to respond until you've parented your own babies.
That's what this issue is really about — feeding hungry babies and soothing frantic ones as nursing can be an activity of pure comfort for some little ones as well.
People and their sensitivity to bare breasts are really not the mother's problem. Now granted, I cannot stand in alignment with the aggressive ones, you know those moms who are the jump offs waiting for a problem, wishing a ninja would say something about her exposed nipples all up in Starbucks? Those.
The times when I was nursing my babies were usually sweet, tender moments of bonding. There might have been a time or two when I unintentionally flashed a stranger or family member, but for the most part, I made sure baby and I were covered. I held no qualms about nursing in public but was every bit eager to keep my nipples a mystery when I could help it, in an effort to preserve our intimate space and the public's right to not see me. It is the public's right to be sensitive about seeing your nipples, just as it is your right to feed your baby anywhere you darn well please.
Let's meet in the middle here. Can we all agree breastfeeding is natural, beautiful and a mother's right? Mom's, have your way and be reasonable in public. Is it really asking too much to cover up some? Her nipple, if you happen to see it, is a bottle made of flesh, not a sexual object, okay?
How do you feel about public breastfeeding, and what have been your experiences? Let's get the conversation going, Blavity fam!
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Parenting is difficult. It's not uncommon to wonder if you're doing things right — are your kids learning enough or are they well-mannered? Do they know how important they are and will they be productive members of society? Are they being exposed to enough diversity? The questions and self-doubt are endless...and totally normal!
In thinking a lot about their early years, I couldn't help but to laugh at some of the things I have taught my children from a mom's perspective without even realizing it! Check them out below.
You don’t know everything.
You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.
3. What I say, goes.
4. The less you speak, the more you learn. Listen up kiddies!
Health is wealth (i.e., sleep, water, nutrition, exercise).
Children have a voice, too.
When your mom keeps calling you, don’t answer with, “What?” Instead, answer, “Yes mom?”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
We are keeping tabs on everything you do, and will always be worried sick.
Everything can be turned into a learning experience.
What #GrowingUpBlack truly means
14. Respect the property of others.
15. Have all your ducks in a row before pitching to mom.
16. Stand your ground. You tried it though...
17. Moms can be cool too, sometimes. But we’re still not one of your “little friends.”
18. Critical-thinking skills
19. The “village” will come for you when you’re cutting up.
20. Early life lessons
21. You are EVERYTHING.
22. Be true; be you.
23. You go to school to learn.
24. You can't always get your way.
25. Again, I'm your parent. Not your friend.
26. Time-outs for both parties are good for the soul.
27. Your parents have your back, always.
28. Nobody is perfect.
I hope this made you smile. And for all the moms (and dads) out there, I'm sure you're doing just fine. Give yourselves some...