#NoMore: When Mothers Unite, Change Will Come

When I went to protest in the streets of Houston, I did not know what to expect.  I got to the park late and had to drive to find the march that was weaving through the neighborhoods and heading towards the highway.  The police were attempting to contain and manipulate the movements of the peaceful protest in order to keep us from shutting down the highway.  We reached two pivotal points at the march that really had me emotional.  The first was when they stopped us in the middle of a neighborhood and surrounded us.  They attempted to stay stone faced but a few chatty ones commented as we stated our disgust with the system and our plans to continue protesting until our existence is acknowledged.  Seeing a large group of people herded into the middle of a street and surrounded by armed officers inspired to me to keep pushing because they were not taking us seriously.

After about 20 minutes they allowed us to march forward, but the police department had already set up a physical blockade on the next major intersection that lead to the highway.  The officers were mounted on horses along with dozens standing around watching us.  As we stood there face to face with people who have been hired to protect and serve, i began to cry on the inside.  My spirit began to scream NO MORE.  I screamed, “I went through 26 hours of labor to have my son, and I will not let you take his life away!”  I screamed, “NO MORE!”  The crowd echoed, “NO MORE!”  I began to cry because I had moved from just being passionate to being protective.  Protective of my son and his future, but also protective of an entire generation of young people who are facing aggressive and poorly trained officers everyday.

Mothers are powerful people.  When they set out on an agenda to get something done, there is little that can stand in their way to stop them.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in May of 1980 and over the past 34 years this organization, started by one mother, has made a tremendous impact on legislation and awareness.  Many of the women who share the same passion against drunk driving have also been the mothers of survivors of this circumstance.  These women have united and made a difference in the lives of millions across the country.

When you see the strength and resilience of Sabrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother), Valerie Bell (Sean Bell’s mother), and now Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown’s mother), you see that they are fighting to keep it together for their family, the public, and themselves.  Their pain is being watched and replayed over and over by the media.  They are being asked to do interviews as they shed tears and share memories of their sons.  They want to see something change, but the solutions are a work in progress because justice did not come and set a new precedent, but continued the history of “not right now.”  Seeing these three women together made me realize that they are unfortunately connected by tragedy, but powerful tools to change their tragedy into a union of mothers who want more for their children.

Black mothers are not the only ones losing their children to police brutality, guns, violence, or drugs.  Latino mothers have to explain to their sons that interactions with cops can lead to death, so they must be careful and cautious in their words or actions.  White mothers are fighting against drugs being sold in their child’s schools or bullying online.  All mothers are fighting to protect their children from the negative aspects of this world.  We must stand together and fight against the system that is setting our children up to fail.  We have to decide that this is the end.  No more.  We will no longer allow our children’s lives to be in the hands of the government.

We are ridiculed if our child breaks a bone, plays on the playground alone at age 7, if they don’t get perfect grades in school, if they have a short attention span or they get frustrated because they are trying to understand in a pressured environment.  Our children’s education, safety, and future is in our hands.  We have to declare that we know what is best for our children and the government has to work back towards allowing us to be parents and not educational wardens, teaching for a test instead of through critical thinking.  We do not want our face thrown into the public eye because of tragedy, so we must stand together and say NO MORE!

No more.  Police Brutality.  No more.  Bringing drugs in our community.  No more.  “War on Drugs.”  No more.  Guns being dumped in our communities.  No more.  Miseducation of our children.  No more.  No more.  No more.

We as mothers cannot take this any more.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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MY Plan to Change the World

Over the past few years I have been trying to hone in on the direct changes that I want to see and how I am going to make them happen.  I am very passionate about so many things and I know that I cannot change everything, but I can make a major difference somewhere.  So today I decide to write down my list and work on them constantly.  This is my plan and I do not expect anyone to join me, but I know along the way I will find kindred spirits who can help me build on this foundation.

Here are my goals:

  1. Educate the community on their legal rights. 
  2. Engage and encourage the community to participate in local politics.
  3. Support Black owned businesses that invest in their local communities and eventually build an association that has the power to control the Black spending power in America. 

Writing down your goals and plans helps the universe center the resources you need to make those things happen.  I know that everything will not happen overnight, but eventually I will find opportunities that align with my goals.  When I set my focus on something, there is little that can stop me from achieving positive results.  I cannot tell you how I am going to get it all done, but I will.

I am not asking anyone to adopt my agenda but to create one of your own that empowers, educates, and encourages a generation to be DOERS! Many hands makes for light work. We need all hands on deck at this pivotal moment in our lives.  We need everyone to use their talents, gifts, and passion to change the course of the current path we have been on for a very long time.  If you are passionate about art then take a weekend to teach some children how to express themselves artistically.  If you are into fashion, volunteer at organizations that help the less fortunate to prepare for job interviews.  If you are into math or science, find an organization to tutor with and inspire children by example.  Whatever if is that you have to give, please share with the world.  You cannot take anything with you and your talents will be better used here and now.

Fight the good fight.  Fight the power.  Power to the people.  Be you. Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

One Teacher’s Love Changed My Life

I read this story (see link below) that popped up on my Twitter timeline and felt a flood of memories and emotions come rushing into my head that were invoked by the similarities to the incident that this mother has endured. She describes an incident of her child misbehaving at school and immediately being suspended.  This incident was followed by a few more instances of inappropriate behavior and more 1 day suspensions by not only her 4-year-old, but also her 3-year-old son who was in the same school.  The story proceeds to discuss her own experience of being suspended from preschool and the damage it did to her psyche when the teacher admonished her and labeled her as “bad.”

I immediately relived my own suspension at 3 years old at my small private Catholic school in Connecticut.  Although I cannot blame it purely on race, I know that the entire situation traumatized me and remained ingrained into my brain forever.  Thankfully, the teacher who recommended that I be suspended retired and a new pre-school teacher took over her class.  As many years as it has been since I was in that room, I remember the smile and spirit of the kindest woman I have ever known.

This time, as a 4-year-old, my experience was different.  I know me now, so I can only imagine then that I wanted to be the center of attention and show off all of my knowledge.  Ms. Eddie saw this and instead of suppressing my boisterous spirit, she encouraged it.  She would let me sit in her chair and read to the class or allow me to work with other students who may have needed help learning their ABCs.  And from that year on, I rarely had any disciplinary problems in school.  I fell in love with learning and always excelled because I had confidence in myself and I didn’t have my past mistakes following me from classroom to classroom.

When I matriculated to the next grade, Ms. Eddie would always request that I come to her room and read to her new class of students.  Her actions made my other teachers notice how I learned and they too allowed me to be who I needed to  be to succeed.  When I got to the 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher allowed me to teach a new student who had arrived from Poland how to speak English.  That was my assignment, to sit in the back of the classroom and work with her on the very basics.  It was one of my proudest moments in life, to see my peer read an entire book in a language that I helped her learn.

Over the years, my father would beg the teachers to give me extra work so that I would not ruin the classroom environment for everyone else.  When they didn’t listen, I would distract others who were moving “too slow” or act in a way that I am even ashamed to type about.  My scariest moment in school was when I was laying across the desk and I saw my father’s head peep into the window and I thought my life was over.  He walked in as the class was leaving and asked my teacher why she allowed me to be such a distraction and proceeded to discipline me in the bathroom.

I am blessed that none of my teachers ever labeled me, recommended suspensions or publicly humiliated me in front of the entire class.  I see so much of myself in my son and I know the type of environment he will need to thrive.  So many family members and seasoned parents have told me to observe classroom’s prior to enrolling my son in school, because boys are different.  Their attention spans, the way they react and interact may be different, but it does not have to be labeled as difficult.  I have always realized that Ms. Eddie was one of my many angels.  She gave her life to her students, but more importantly she gave them unconditional love.

We have to get back to a time where students are not treated like factory workers, but instead individualized people with individualized learning styles and habits.  This article reinforces my search for the perfect environment for my mini me.  I hope that he never has to experience the humiliation of a school suspension at such a young age and it is my job to try to prevent it.

For our futures.  For our sons.  For our daughters.  For a better education system.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/24/my-son-has-been-suspended-five-times-hes-3/

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: 5 Ways to Best Support Your Child’s Teacher

On this second installment of Guest Room, an amazing teacher shares some tips for parents on how to best support their child’s teacher to ensure academic success.


 

I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. The kids are pretending NOT to see it. Displays for school supplies are popping up and kids are looking down. As we prepare to enter into the new school year, let’s keep in mind five easy peasy (lemon squeezy) ways you can support your child and your child’s teacher.

 

1. Meet your child’s teacher. Sounds easy enough. But the number of people that send me their baby and have no idea who I am or what my philosophy on teaching is would surprise you. Teachers are people. We get busy schedules. We get conflicting Open House schedules. We get limited job flexibility schedules. We get ALL of that. But we do NOT get not (yes, double negative) placing your eyes on the person responsible for helping to mold your little person. If you cannot make Open House, the ideal time to meet and greet, consider sending an email with a day and time that does work for you. Teachers want to meet you. We want to have a chance to speak with you and hear about your precious child from you. We want to start the year off with an open line of communication. If Thursday is the only day that works with your schedule, most teachers will make a way to meet with you on Thursday despite that being their hot yoga day.

 

2a. Do not withhold academic information. “Well we just wanted him/her to have a fresh start…” I understand the fear of labeling and preconceived notions. But some information ABSOLUTELY needs to be shared with your child’s new teacher. Accommodations do not mean your child can’t learn. Accommodations mean your child learns differently. If I am unaware of how they learn best, I cannot give them the best. Teachers want to see your child successful. In a class of at least 20 students, we understand someone will not always get it. Someone will need extra time. Knowing how your child learns or struggles your child has helps us to differentiate the material. Parents are often too concerned with the product. Teachers are more concerned with the process. We have 180 days (if government funding hasn’t been cut) to prepare your baby for the next grade. The process to the product is different for most students. Trust the process.

 

2b. Do not withhold (all) personal information. Unfortunately our kids are seeing and experiencing waaaay more than we did at their age. I am interested in more than just the academic growth of your child. I am interested in their social growth as well. If past experiences could potentially limit your child I need to know. Details aren’t necessary. But a general idea can help me relate to your child. Two years ago I had a student who came from an environment where domestic violence was the norm. Loud noises made him shut down. Loud noises in my class very seldom mean things have gone awry. Generally, we are doing a class cheer or having a little silly transition time. This student shut all the way down and I had no idea why. Thankfully, the older sibling was able to provide insight. He didn’t give details. He simply said, “He doesn’t like loud noises.” That was enough for me to taper class activities he was involved in. (He has since adapted to loud noises and he is no longer in that environment.)Much of the hidden curriculum teaches “life stuff.” We need to know how far to push a child to present a project, are there any sensitive subjects, are they easily embarrassed or frightened, do loud noises adversely affect them? Information about your child helps us to better reach your child. Please share information.

 

3. Communicate. In this fast paced world, face-to-face communication can sometimes prove to be challenging. (i.e. meeting your child’s teacher) However, communication can be easy IF the lines of communication are open BOTH ways. I am an early childhood educator. I send home some form of communication every. single. day. It may be a note jotted at the bottom of the behavior sheet, a SHOUT of praise in the agenda, or a “we need to talk at your earliest convenience” message on pretty stationary. Whatever the form of communication may be, please acknowledge it. Sign the daily behavior sheet or agenda. Write me a note telling me you all tried the math homework but were stumped with numbers 4 and 7. Write me a note saying she’s checking out early and it would be helpful if she went to lunch with her backpack. Write me a note saying his beloved dog of eight years died and he might be a little sad as he deals with his first loss. Just write me a note. We do not have to wait until parent-teacher conference night to talk about six weeks of school. Let’s communicate throughout the year.

 

4. Trust the teacher. This is general but it applies to many areas. Trust the teacher is a professional who is trained in child pedagogy and current on best practices. Trust the teacher wants the best for your baby. Teaching is a labor of love. We are trained professionals. Some of which have student loan debt that far exceeds yearly income. We are not here for the money. (Not here to be poor but that’s another topic for another time.) We are here for the kids and need you to know we are NEVER rooting against your child, we are hoping and praying for their growth and advancement. “We never have this problem at home.” I believe you. But you also don’t have twenty-one other students at home. Your child treats us the way they see you treat us. Trust us and treat us with respect. If you promise not to believe everything they tell you happened at school, I promise not to believe everything they tell me happened at home.

 

 

Cherelle Jones is a public school educator in a Title I school in Georgia. She is the proud leader of Jonesville, a small, quaint community of learners being positioned to change the world.

Advice to My Little Cousins

“What do you want to be when you grow up” is a common question posed to younger children and young adults.  Instead of simply guiding our children toward careers we have have a duty to guide them towards their purpose just as aggressively.  We should be asking our children, “What is the job or activity or hobby that you could do happily everyday for the rest of your life?”  That is essentially their purpose.  The difficulty comes in the means.  How do I make my purpose profit?  Some are able to follow a “traditional” path; get a degree and work your way up the ladder.  Others may have to save up or find investors and then take that leap of faith.  Many people find their purpose in the field they are working in.  The road to finding your purpose is full of twists and turns but once you find your purpose, you have to nurture it.  Educate yourself, read various articles or other blogs on the topic, do a market analysis, find a mentor, reach out to others who are doing what you want to do.  There is so much more to life than those who you see on the main screen.  The production team is the one with the most power.  In every industry we assume the money is with the face of the project but in reality it is in the background, leading up to the grand finale.  Choose your position and play it well.  Perfect your craft, be professional at all times, be strategic, stay humble, don’t be afraid to work hard to get to the next level.  It is important to have a career but it is equally, if not more important to find your purpose.  You owe it to those who came before you and those coming behind you, watching your every move.