#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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Bring Back Sunday Dinner

Our generation has steered away from traditional anything but one tradition that must remain is Sunday dinner.  Today we celebrated my husbands godson’s christening today and had dinner at another friend’s home.  Some of their family was present, as well as a few friends.  We spent time watching football, discussing rivalries and laughing at my child sing the Philadelphia Eagles fight song, much to my dismay.  Our friends family got on the road home and the men sat down to doze off to late afternoon football games.  Us women went outside to light the fire pit, make smores, and talk about life.

The few hours we spent talking passed by so quickly, and we got a chance to candidly discuss religion, spirituality, relationships, friendships, finances, futures, dreams, growth and found so many common threads in our success and many of our struggles.  Taking a moment away from it all to simply connect and be vulnerable was rejuvenating and empowering.  We all felt connected and less alone, despite feeling as if we were the only ones experiencing socks left on the floor or clothes randomly placed throughout the house! We affirmed that we are normal and many husbands do the same things.

I have been longing to connect with many of my friends again because so much time has passed since we just sat down to talk and laugh face to face.  Just a few years ago, we had no problem getting together just to catch up and create memories.  Now we have gotten so busy being homeowners, wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, students or just busy trying to get somewhere soon that we rarely stop to connect and recharge.  We keep saying tomorrow instead of making a plan today.  I am challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and spend my weekends spending time with people, doing nothing but laughing and talking.

Money does not always have to spent to have a good time.  Pick up a few sandwiches, a bottle of wine and a few snacks (if the kids are coming) and enjoy each others company.  Don’t get too busy that you miss the chance to see your friends and hear about their accomplishments and be a sound board for their dreams.  The only way we can survive, is by being there for each other and extending that love that is needed to continue on.

I am so blessed to be around such amazing women and watch how God is moving in all of our lives.  I pray you pick up a tradition that reconnects you with your loved ones. Sunday Dinner.  Get togethers.  Laugh.  Cry.  Create memories.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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/