Ready for the call

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother. I just wanted beautiful and healthy babies. Now that I am a mother of two beautiful cocoa brothers, I realize there is a call on my life as a mother.

Cocoa men seem to have an undeniably exclusive bond with their mothers. I assume the same will be true for me. I can recall a conversation with my husband in which we reflected on our childhoods. I came from a loving two-parent home with a sister who is 10 years younger than me. I was first-generation to go to and graduate college. My husband was raised across town in a loving two-parent home with a brother and a sister. He was second generation college and both of his parents completed their master’s degrees. Well, okay. What about us? We both hold master’s degrees and are both pursuing doctoral degrees. But, that’s not it. We are both employed at a research university. We lived/worked on campus for the first 3 1/2 years of our marriage. Both of our children attend(ed) the childcare center right on campus. Our children are literally growing up on a college campus.

Whenever I read about the number of cocoa brothers in prison and missing from education, I recognize the call on my life as a cocoa mother of cocoa brothers. I work in higher education and am constantly surrounded by what the research tells me my boys have against them. This is the stuff they don’t tell you on the 10 o’clock news. I also know that my maternal instincts make me want to protect them from everything. However, I recognize that it’s the struggles that make us stronger.

So, I will do what I can to use what I know about what the world has already decided they can’t do. We started by being intentional about their names. My husband and I joke by saying, “We want them to at least be able to get an interview when their resumé comes across someone’s desk.” We push them (not too much) academically so that  there are no excuses prescribed by teachers. I know there will be more to come in the future. But, I am trusting in the Lord that He will provide me with what I need to aid in their future successes. I’ve accepted the call of being a cocoa mama. Just pray my strength if I ever have a girl. LOL

Annie is a CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

13 thoughts on “Ready for the call

  1. This is a tremendous post. Glad to see my son is not the only cocoa campus kid 🙂 I had him when I was a junior in undergrad, brought him with me to grad school, and I probably should have had him walk in my place when I finished the grad programs.

    Tanji

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  2. Re: their names. I think about this a lot, especially this audit study that shows that people with stereotypically black names, LaToya being one of the names included in the experiment, get 50% fewer interviews than white names, even with resumes that were previously judged to be equally qualified. So I know this for me, yet I’ve never thought of changing my name, or using my middle name instead. I guess I take some kind of solace in knowing that people know exactly what they are getting when they come across my name in a pile.

    With my kids, they have Arabic names, which might be even more detrimental to them at this time in our global history. I think I did this for the same reason – I don’t want to play into the racism. My husband and I differed a bit on this, and I ended up winning on the names. He also is a second-generation college graduate, while I am too, but by very different circumstances (my mother got her degree a year before I did and my father never went to college). And maybe b/c I have a “black” name, I balked at the idea that them having “ethnic” names meant that they would be disadvantaged to the point that they needed to have neutral names. I just didn’t want to give any racist, conscious or unconscious, that much power over naming my kids.

    While I appreciate your want to provide them with the best chances possible, were their other names that you let go of just so they could have a more mainstream name?

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  3. I, too, wanted to speak on the name issue. This is an argument I’ve gotten into with people a lot, but recently, I’ve just let it go because just as I have the right to name my child for the reason I choose, so do other parents. I might not agree, or even respect their reasoning, but I respect their right to name their children as they see fit.

    Here’s my thing: Do I really want any child of mine working for a company with prejudiced HR people? Do I really want my child working somewhere that discriminates against people because of their names? No, I do not. With that in mind, I feel it is my responsibility to raise my child to be bright, intelligent, confident, and capable. Give him all of the opportunities for education that we can and give him support when he chooses his career path. It is also my responsibility to teach him that people WILL be discriminatory on various levels and that he can overcome that, and should accept nothing less than respect from those he works with and for.

    Thing is, if they discriminate based on a name, they will probably discriminate based on skin color. So all of the Black Blakes and Whitneys of the world might get called for interviews over the Shaniquas and Daquans, but if the employer is racist, the employer is racist.

    With that in mind, we named our son Garvey X. We, too, were very intentional about his name. We wanted his name to represent our two favorite Black leaders Marcus Garvey and Malcom X, two unapologetically Black men.

    Regarding the rest of your post, I, too, am pretty adamant about seeking the best educational opportunities for my son. I would love him to follow my private school path, but I also want him to make his own decisions and make his own way. I dont want him being known just as “Michelle’s son” or as a legacy kid. But hey, I went to GREAT schools… he could do worse lol

    We’re in the pre-school decision-making mode now and its crazy how competitive pre-schools are. I’m like come on, the kids are 3 and 4. Let them play with blocks, color, and have potty accidents. They learn most from the world around them, not from the books placed in front of them. At least at that age. So while I seek and demand excellence, I’m learning to back off a bit. Let him be a kid. Everything else will come…

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  4. Regarding the name thing, let me first say that my husband and I have very traditional names. Naming our first son was a no brainer. He is Clifton Lee, III but we call him Tre. Our second son is Jayden Davis (my maiden name). That name actually won out over Blake just because I liked it better. LaToya, I have come across the same studies regarding employment and housing. I have also reconciled that my children will probably not be in some of the situations that many study participants have in the past. For instance, there have been studies that show employers not only discriminating against the name, but the persons address or zip code. I recognize that my children will have an advantage there also and will not have to deal with stereotypes of laziness being placed on them as black males because they live in a certain area. I feel that because I am aware of this information and they are not, it is my responsibility to do all that I can to make “protect” them, for lack of a better word. They recognize the strength and legacies in their names. And if we have a girl, her name will also have familial legacy attached to it.

    I am not against ethnic names, but I/we feel that there will be other things against them. For instance, we live in an area where it is only 4.6% black. The further out you get from this area, the smaller that percentage is. And the only reason the number is that high in our area is because of the predominantly white college that where we work. I just know that their color and gender will always come with judgment and low expectations.

    I also know that I can’t protect them from racism. Benee, as you said, you don’t want your child to work for a racist organization. Unfortunately, by that time our involvement in those areas of the lives of our children are null and void. I strongly believe in the Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child). I tell them daily how beautiful and intelligent they are. Because I know there are others out their telling them the opposite (my son is only 6 and he has told me). All I’m saying is that I recognize the load that has already been placed on them because of things they have no control over (race, gender, name, etc). I know that I have my work cut out for me.

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  5. I’m also interested in this discussion regarding names. My name is all-the-way ethnic (LOL!), and my husband has an Arabic name, and so it never occurred to us to give our daughter a “traditional” American name (whatever that means). We gave her a Ugandan name which means “Belonging to God.” I remember reading about the study re names with interest, but laughed it off. It never made a difference in my life, and it never made a difference in my husband’s (who was recruited, independent of SEO, to work at Goldman Sachs upon graduation from an HBCU).

    The authors of the book Freakonomics, however, shed a little light on this issue. According to their research, it’s not really the name that influences outcomes. It’s the fact that the parents’ own life–income, education level, marital status, health outocmes–is reflected in the name they choose for their child. According to the book, “If two black boys, Jake…and DeShawn, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don’t tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn…[T]hat’s why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn.” They based their research on California data on baby names and vital statistics, which are automatically linked to mother’s stats for education, income, etc. This helped them correct for the issue that Benee mentioned–an inability to predict what would happen in the interview.

    You can read their study for yourself, but assuming their research is sound, it explains why my name hasn’t seemed to affect me, why it hasn’t affected my husband, and why I’m not concerned it will affect my daughter.

    There is also another nuance in all of this–foreign names are different from “black American” names. Osamudia is not the same as Daquan; an arabic name is not the same as Shaniqua. (And, while we’re at it, Shaniqua is not the same as Garvey.) I think it’s interesting that among our discussion of “black” names, none of us who did pick black names really chose names like Daquan or Shaniqua. In any event, particularly regarding the foreign names we picked, employers have all types of biases; assuming they do discriminate on the basis of name, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d be more comfortable with a foreign “ethnic” sounding name, than with a black American one. If it is, indeed, true, that employers believe that names reflect SES status, than the myth of the industrious, hard-working immigrant or first-generation employee would surely make an ‘Osamudia’ more attractive than a Shaniqua.

    Hope this was coherent…LOL!

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  6. The study I was referencing was one in which the resumes were prejudged to be equal, so they don’t reflect differences in schooling, like the Freakonomics study. So the ONLY difference between the resumes is name. The ONLY difference that the difference in interviews can be contributed to is name.

    Now I do have a black name that is more like Shaniqua or Dequan, and know that it disadvantages me in very stereotypical ways. The study I referenced used my exact name, and names like Jamal, Aisha, Keisha, and Tamika – names that are not outrageous, but merely more likely to be black than white, and found a difference.

    This article discusses both studies – the one that says that names are just indicators of social class, and the one that shows that even when you make the resumes equal except for name, black names cause a disadvantage: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/29/national/main575685.shtml

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  7. So then does the disscussion become about the automatic link/assumptions about race and class? And maybe our desire to shy away from the assumption that our race represents the underclass? Are people now wanting to assure their children dont yet confused with poor or hood kids?

    And I agree about the difference between stereotypicql black American names vs ethnic names that suggest foreign birth. There has been increased study of the differences of the treatment of foreign-born or first generation Blacks, versus descendants of American slaves.

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  8. Thanks, LaToya, for muddling through my post, and helping us get straight on just what we were talking about. I just KNEW I wasn’t being totally coherent! LOL!

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  9. Benee – I think you hit the nail on the head with your first point. I love the fact that LaToya is a “hood” name. Except I do get a little uppity with the capitalization of the “T”…in the hood it’s more likely to be a lowercase, LOL. We chose Ahmir because it’s ?uestLove’s from the Roots name, which I guess was a pretty hood decision until they got all mainstream with Jimmy Fallon, and Amina is from the song Silent Treatment (“There was a queen named Amina, height 5-7, caramel complected, body like heaven…”). The fact that they were arabic was a byproduct of the fact that it was our connection to Philly and our favorite hip-hop group. I think that’s pretty hood. (If I do say so myself.)

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  10. LaToya, your post is hilarious. I love the association, and even considered Ahmir myself for one (maybe even both?) of my boys because of the pure genius that Questlove is. I decided to go for a modernist renaissance man however with my middle child, and named him Locke. (Yes, despite the man’s terrible elitism). This is a decision that I will resolutely stand by for my entire life and I adore the originality and shock on people’s faces when they hear him confidently introduce himself. They wonder if he is wrong, as he is only two.

    My daughter’s full name is Clarke Harper Randall and I joke that she has three last names. Hence the additional problematic, I always have loved boy names for little girls. I imagine the surprised look on the faces of business associates who will be one day, possibly, be expecting a man to walk in the room, and bamn! . . .

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  11. I did not expect this much traffic on this topic. But, I find it interesting how important choosing names has been for all of us. There has be some connection to our history, legacies, interests and culture. To be honest when I hear some street names and see the spellings, that is when I get concerned.

    I think coming from the hood and living near and working for a PWI has been extremely enlightening. I feel like I have been given very interesting information about black men through my studies. These interactions with literature and research have caused me to take a step back and look at my life and my children.

    I think we will find with all of our posts that people will question the decisions we make as CocoaMamas. For me, naming my children takes on a different meaning than it may for others. Then again the mother in me wants to protect my babies. I’m sure we can all agree that the treatment and prejudices that face black men are wrong. I feel it is my role as a parent who is fully aware of this information to make every effort to provide every advantage that I can to my children. They do not have any choice in their names. That’s on me and my husband. And, yes race and class are tied together for me in this.

    Sidebar: I did notice the upper case T in your name. But, I wouldn’t even consider your name hood these days. I’m talking about Bonquisha, SheNeNe and Khairi.

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  12. Great post. It is clear You have a great deal of unused capacity, which you have not turned to your advantage.

    The way you write shows you have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself.

    It seems to me that while While you have some personal weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

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