What We Shouldn’t Tell Our Children About the Trayvon Martin Verdict

 — written by my sista Salina Gray

I’ M saddened and actually surprised by the number of people who carry such FEAR and worry into their parenting. And what’s most tragic is that they’re giving it to their children … And even other peoples’ children. I think perspective and rational thinking are crucial when you’re responsible for the welfare of a child.

Please stop telling your children what a bad and dangerous place the world is.

Please stop telling them that everybody hates
them because they’re Black.

Please stop telling them that random non-Black folk are hunting them down in the streets and killing them. It’ s just not true.

Trust if we did a RIGOROUS and ACCURATE data analysis and reporting of the results (here in the U.S) the numbers would show that it is NOT ‘open season’ on Black people as I KEEP seeing people say.

And please stop telling each other that Black boys ‘aren’t safe anywhere.’

And stop telling them that George Zimmermans’ acquittal means that their lives don’t have value. Trayvon’s life had value. Oscar’s life had value. No matter what Mehserle, Zimmerman or their supporters think. The decision of these 6 women, the defense, hell the whole judicial system in Florida does NOT determine the value of our babies’ lives. Sorry. I will NOT accept or perpetuate that narrative.

Tell them instead about the centuries old diseases called White Supremacy and racism. Tell them about the origin of this race and color mythology. Talk with them about their manifestations and impact on every facet of our lives and the importance of eradicating them, creating a world where No group is stereotyped, mistreated, marginalized, oppressed or abused.

EMPOWER them with self confidence, compassion, empathy and courage.


Stop w/the wimpy cowardly parenting already. That shit is way unhelpful. And it is NOT how the Ancestors who lived, fought, bled and died to be recognized as human got down.

Perspective based on actual data not just personal experience, anecdotes, anomalies, and what the media portrays is necessary.

We need to raise Warriors.
That won’ t be accomplished by instilling fear, doubt, and worry.

I learned a LOT interacting with OG (as in Original Gangsta) parents. Even in the midst of gangland, they raises their babies to be SOLDIERS: proud, reppin their set, their block, their hood and their flag to the FULLEST. EVEN in the midst of their enemies.

I apply that same mentality to my parenting and teaching.

If my analogy is lost on you and you dont understand where Im coming from… Ill say it this way:

in the Spirit of Malcolm, Ella, Yaa, Fannie Lou, Arundhati, Lolita Lebron, and the countless who have committed their lives to the struggle… EMPOWER your babies. Give them HOPE and not hopelessness…


Can You Handle It?

As I sit, contemplating what to share on the blog, I become more frustrated.

I realize that in this moment I am guilty of expecting myself to ignore the goings on in my head.  I realize I  expect myself to pretend that today was a regular day, like so many others.  I realize I expect myself to ignore the spastic heartbeat and shaking hands, both indications of the anxiety and neurosis threatening to subsume me… Yes. I  expect myself to breathe deep in opposition to the shallow chest heaves that are a portention of violent, tearful sobs that will burst out at any moment.

Ignore it.

Get over it.

Suck it up.

How often do we send our children off to school the morning after?

        a night filled with mom and dad arguing

       a night where we were too tired to check homework, hear about their day, play a game, read them a book, or tuck them in

How often do we send our children off to a school the morning of?

       a day where we hit snooze one time to many –

             and jump up, wrenching our babies from sleep yelling and screaming, fussing and fighting  for them to “hurry up”

             and so we  can’t decide if we have enough time to make breakfast but we do and a mess is made in the house, in the car…

             and we rush out of the house, steady remembering all of these reasons we have to be angry and disappointed with our

                        children, which is really with ourselves and they end up in tears…

Annnd, we send them off into class.

And when asked how are you: they answer “fine”.

And that’s what I’m doing now – for the umpteenth time:  I’m “fine”.

It’s what I learned as a child.

People don’t REALLY want to know how you are.

    They’re just being polite.

People don’t REALLY want to share that with you.

     They’re just being polite.

People don’t REALLY want you to call on them for help.

     Silly girl,they’re JUST BEING POLITE.

And so we teach our kids…   

         to be liars.

         to be actors.

           to be disingenuous.

You’re sick?

You’re sad?

You’re angry?

You’re frustrated?

You’re unsure?

      Keep it to yourself.

     Get over it.

      Suck it up.

    You’re fine.

Compassionate Children

Today I was fortunate to attend a talk by his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

In a giant stadium of thousands, his entrance evoked a cessation of all sound, as we stood to greet him. I was shocked to tears by the immediate silence. A profound peace fell across the space as we watched him walk toward the stage, and turn, hands together at heart center as he bowed in acknowledgement. Way up in the nose bleed we couldn’t hear him, but my sis and I returned the greeting of Namaste…the God in me honors the God in you…

In that moment whatever sorrow, malcontent, and even flippant, casual dialogue evaporated. In that moment I felt stillness, peace, and as odd as it must sound, I felt the love he had for each and everyone of us in that room. A moment of transfiguration…of being seen as more than just flesh and bones.

A glorious moment actually. And again the tears came. They were my exhale. My sigh of relief. My acceptance of the love. In that moment, I wanted to be nice, to sing, to hug, and hold, and comfort perfect strangers.  My soul awash in the KNOWING that we are all ONE. Connected beings interdependent and independent.   I felt invincible, indefatigable, and dare I say BEAUTIFUL!

I couldn’t help but wonder how I greet my son each morning. I couldn’t help but wonder how I greet children I pass on the street- especially those engaging in “inappropriate” behavior…  I shuddered knowing that on a “good” day, I’m radiant and light and loving. On those days, where my heart is burdened, when my mind is cluttered with the stresses and strains of living – my words can be toxic- imbued with anger, frustration, and judgement…

We aspire to raise compassionate Children, even at our most despicable parent moments… I have no doubt. Yet I’m more and more convinced that we must CONSTANTLY and CONSISTENTLY model loving kindness, being free from judgement, speaking in non-violent, kind ways, and being gentle. Our children are watching us. They learn from the example we set- the way we treat them, others, and even ourselves…

Whatever our spiritual, religious, political, or metaphysical proclivity…. I can almost guarantee that there are fundamental tenents that include something about kindness, love, mercy, justice, and patience…

Imagine if we were able to inspire in our children what our venerated leaders, teachers, and guides inspire in us….

Just a thought.



Black Girl Pain…

Sometimes I’m at a loss for words when I contemplate the world our children face.

Sometimes I’m at a loss for words when I consider the realities of raising Black children in a world where their image and likeness once idolized and adored has become the source of scorn and sorrow.

Being a Black adult is a trip – few of the subtleties of racism and the backhanded compliments  are rarely lost to us…I’ve become immune to the “you’d be pretty with straight hair…”  and the implications of   “you got light eyes…”. I feel sick and in those moments wish I could swallow a melanin pill and turn myself Blacker than midnight with wilder and woolier hair –  maybe even like Medusa with snakes releasing venom into the heart of those who don’t know the Beauty of my people in all of our glorious shades….

But being a Black kid?

Having to constantly PROVE that you “want” to learn, that you “aren’t like” the prevailing stereotypes…

Being a little brown girl and seeing that the other brown girls who are SUPPOSED to represent you look NOTHING like you.

Oh where or where have all the brown girls gone oh where. oh where could they be?

I think I first realized it when I saw the “Living Single” billboards. I KNOW that the sistahs (Joan and em) represented the diversity of Black: from mocha latte to lovely chocolate…. yet I remember slamming my breaks, and going back around the corner when I looked up and saw the advertisement. Staring down at me was a group of women, all  the same muted, palest shade of beige… As yellow as I’ve been called, I was offended.

And it has continued…the women and girls becoming lighter and lighter and lighter…leaving me to wonder : oh where or where have all the Black girls gone, oh where oh where can they be…

There are a few these days I’ll see, but certainly not enough to inspire our young daughters and sisters and nieces to look in the mirror and REVEL.

Not enough for our sons to proclaim Black is beautiful: from red bone to midnight…Black is BEAUTIFUL.

SO we must. By embracing ourselves and Each Other.

So much on my mind that I can’t recline…

Grad school is a trip.

Everybody wants evidence. Sources. Citations. Quantitative. Qualitative.

Daily I’m bombarded with “how do you know?” , “where did you get this?” and my favorite “who else has said this?”.  As you can imagine, anecdotal evidence nor my experience just isn’t enough. That’s my professional life though, so I expect it….

I get offended when, during informal conversations, parents and teachers  ask my opinion and then quickly dismiss my suggestions.

It happened recently.


In their “Yeeeahhhh, butttt….” I could hear “Where’s your evidence?”, “Who else said this?”… “How do you know?”

Well this one’s for ya’ll:

I’m one of the luckiest ones I suspect; I have the good fortune of being both a parent and a teacher. Thirteen years in the classroom and sixteen years as a parent have made me something of a resident “expert”. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers , 10000 hours is all that being an expert in virtually ANYTHING requires.

Hmmm….in terms of being a mother, I figure that’s 24 hours in a day X 365 days in a year – 65 days of summer and winter vacations away from him puts me at 7200 hours in a year.  If I multiply that by 16 years that gives me 115,200 hours.

As far as my teaching goes: 6 hours/day multiplied by 160 (low estimate) school days in a year puts me at 960 hours a year. If I multiply that by 13, I get 12480 hours of teaching. That does NOT include summer school teaching OR my position as an adjunct faculty member.

So yeah. I’m an expert. Dagnabit. 🙂

On Parenting/Teaching

The first two years are CRUCIAL for setting the tone. Much like the first two weeks of school. In both instances, the decisions you make (or don’t), the culture you create (or don’t), and the rapport you develop (or don’t) with the young’uns determine the next 9 months or 16 years.  I’m not saying it’s impossible to establish balance, peace, and harmony later on, but understand the struggle that awaits…

And even when the foundation has been laid, no crystal stair spirals to greet thee.

I tire of us blaming the children.

I tire of the shock and awed adults who just “can’t understand” how this happened.

I tire of the blame being placed on teachers.

I tire of the blame being placed on parents.

Our children/students don’t really need us to be their friends.

Our children/students need us to be their parents and teachers.

Our children/students don’t really need us to be cool and hip.

Our children/students need us to be firm and consistent.

Our children/students don’t really need us to smother, shelter, and protect them from the real world.

Our children/students need us to equip them with the critical consciousness, spiritual/ethical/moral grounding, and emotional competence to navigate and negotiate the real world.

Our children/students don’t need to do as we say.

Our children/students need us to do as we say.


Salina (expert parent and teacher :))


Ok. The straw has broken the proverbial camel’s back.

I’ve sat in on one to many conversations with mothers going on and on about their child’s over the top behavior. As has been the case lately, I’m the lone Black mother in the room, conscious that  my words, tone, and facial expressions will probably be misconstrued… Yes, I am all too aware of the Sapphiric machinations that non-Black folk tend to expect from Black women.  One example that comes to mind- I expressed my frustration about another teacher, telling two White colleagues that I needed to go and have a talk with the woman. My male colleague says “Uh-oh, it’s about to be on up in here!”, with what HE intended to be Black girl affectations…

My liberated self (ego) won’t allow me to code switch when in mixed social company. Soooo, when I found myself a part of a recent discussion about parenting with a small group of White women, I couldn’t do anything but be who I am. When asked “what do you think?” about an idea, I gave an answer contrary to what was expected, and dare I say appropriate. Silence followed my response. One woman then offered a “compliment”, “I love that you keep it real. That’s so great!”

Later in the conversation,  another parent described a situation with her daughter, a precocious toddler who I’d say has some serious behavior issues. The mother went on laughing, describing how her “sweetie” doesn’t like her preschool teacher, and made a public announcement. Her “sweetie” doesn’t like to eat vegetables. Her “sweetie” doesn’t take naps because she doesn’t want to. And the piece de resistance: one day her little angel was very angry because she didn’t want to put something away and so when mommy took it, mommy got pimp slapped. Ok, maybe not pimp slapped, but you get the picture: the little girl hit the mommy multiple times, yelling and screaming.   Now up until this point, I held my tongue, and kept my facial composure.  But I couldn’t contain myself, I interjected- something akin to the “need to physically exorcise a demon out of your spawn”.    Dead. Silence.  The women were absolutely MORTIFIED that I would suggest such a thing. They each went on to explain why any sort of physical aggression toward a child was unacceptable.

I couldn’t help but feel alien…I suddenly wished for the community of my Sister friends.  They would understand. None of us are big on spanking our children…I didn’t mean it literally, but I didn’t want to have to explain to these women. They just didn’t get it, the unspoken understanding that certain things are unacceptable. Of course I don’t mean brutalize your child –  but I KNOW that in a circle of my Sisters, there would have been the chorus of “girrrrl” and talk about “breaking them off something” and “oh no! it ain’t goin’ down like that!” – and then laughter, and the…solidarity and understanding…

First Day of School Blues…

Feeling like the 1950’s up in this house.

My son attends a predominantly White and Asian school here in our city.

No Black teachers or administrators.

He’s often one of the few or only Black students in his class.

As I sit listening to my thoughts, writing the first day of school speech I will deliver on Sunday night; I’m wondering….

Why, in 2010, am I compelled to remind him that he represents his entire race, you know, that whole ‘fictive kinship’?  I mean we DO have a Black president…

Why, in 2010, will I emphasize the importance of him sitting in the front of the class, close to the teacher, to demonstrate that he is there to learn? Why else would he be, right?

Why, in 2010, am I going to explain that he is to walk with his head high, look his peers and teachers directly in their eyes, and let them KNOW: he is a strong Afrikan male, not some boot licking negro. And yes, I will use those EXACT words.

Yes, even in 2010, I will revisit the type of backhanded compliments and examples of racial micro-aggressions that he might hear from his classmates and instructors. I’ll go so far as to role-play and challenge him to think about how to respond.

I know.

It’s a bit much, isn’t it?

Still, here, in 2010, I will drill him on the type of racial stereotypes that cling to his body like masking tape, influencing how everyone sees and responds to him.

You’ve got to work harder.

You’ve got to be the best.

They expect you to fail.

Be the most polite.

But don’t let anybody push you around.

And then there’s my spiel on staying “down” with his folk who aren’t as privileged as he is.  I don’t care if other folk want you to believe you’re “different”, you’re not. “Your loyalty and allegiance”, I will say,  “is with your folk who are marginalized, pushed into the lowest tracked classes, not with those who tell you that you’re special.”

I can already anticipate the anxiety my speech will imbue.

I wonder if maybe this once, I should hold my racially charged diatribe…

Maybe this once, it will be enough to say: HAVE A GREAT DAY! DO YOUR BEST!

But I can’t.

Maybe next year.

Ya’ll have me thinking…

I’m constantly thinking about parenting, specifically, how to do it in a way that will “guarantee” that my son grows into a responsible, healthy, spiritual, generous, socially active, loving, compassionate warrior. There are times when the task is daunting, especially when I dare venture into the world of popular media culture.

Yes, I’m talking the world of “106 and Park”, the various music award shows, and lord help me, the radio stations with POWER, KISS, and LIVE in front.  Each time I’m more distraught, terrified even at the thought that the young folk today are being “raised” on sex, sex, and more sex.  Casual sex.  Unprotected sex. Irresponsible sex. And my worst fear: Teen sex.  They can’t escape it-  the teenage musical icons: Rihanna, Drake, Lil Wayne, and even Miley Cyrus have ALL made sexually provocative and explicit songs and videos.  It absolutely boggles my mind.

I’m sure we could all share anecdotes about young girls and boys reciting sexually explicit lyrics, simulating the infamous ‘stripper dance’ to the obvious delight of all within visual distance.  I imagine we’ve all swapped stories, appalled by the mamas who let their young daughters go out dressed in ‘booty’ shorts and barely there tops, quickly passing judgment on their questionable parenting styles. How many of us were ready to storm BET after watching Lil Wayne, Drake, and whoever else perform “I wanna ….. every girl in the world” while those young girls came out on stage, dancing and performing for the audience?  Yet since then Drake has become one of the biggest selling rap artists in the last few years.

I bring this up because media is a powerful cultural transmitter. Society’s values, norms, and even expectations are reflected in the music, film, television, and even social networking sites.  Research shows that young people interact with some form of media for multiple hours everyday. They can’t escape it.

So I have a question, should we do everything in our power to keep children from interacting with media, in hopes to keep them safe from it’s influence?  Do we stage local and national protests? Do we write letters? Do we boycott? What do we do?

Or do we even care?

on forgiveness.

Something strange happened this week. Not strange in the usual sense of the word, you know, the  eerie-odd-frightening-makes you wonder kind of happening. Noo, this was different. More of a Wayne Dyer/Iyanla/Marianne Williamson, transformative kind of strange.   For most of my childhood I SWORE on unborn babies and my very LIFE that I would NEVER EVER IN A MILLION BILLION years become like “them”. Who? You know, “them”, the ones entrusted with new life before time began. The ones who were given the responsibility to love and protect  unconditionally. Yeah, “them”, the human ones, who caught up in their own consciousMESS, forgot to do and say the things that might have made a sojourn here a wee bit easier. The “I love yous”, the “good job baby”, “I’m proud of you”. “Them”. They who maybe skipped over the fine print that read something like:  “You promise to love, hold, cuddle, tickle, and honor this life that you’ve been chosen to bring into the world of the seen…”

I was well aware of the job description when I signed up 16 years ago. I read every book, magazine, internet article, and pamphlet on child rearing and development I could get my hands on. Did everything within my power (and beyond) to create an idyllic and cornucopic love fest for my child. He would want for nothing. He would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved beyond measure, unconditionally, relentlessly and eternally.  Leading by example was my mantra.  Being honest and open yet firm and consistent would be my way.  I vowed that when he grew up, he’d be self-confident, strong, and independent.  No  ma’am, he will NEVER be able to use ME as an excuse for ANY egregious behavior OR emotional dysfunction… To be SUPERMOM, unlike these folk I see cussing their kids out, neglecting them, abusing and abandoning them.  I would be different.

But I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had challenges. I’ve done and said things toward my child that I regret.  And each time, I collapse into a fit of despair and sorrow which invariably leads to self-immolation…  I tried. I didn’t want to be like “them”. I spent 16 years putting everything I could into being a good mom. I did everything I could, that I knew how to do… wait… wait…. I did the best I could with the resources I had. I did the best I KNEW HOW TO DO…


Maybe I am like “them” after all.


How might my life be different if I acknowledged that we are ALL doing the best we know how to do? How might my relationship with my parents have turned out? My siblings?

I’m sure I’ve heard this a million times before now. This idea resides dead heart center of forgiveness…of self and certainly others.

But in this moment, it feels brand. New.



Something about Sunday nights…I keep hearing the Karen Carpenter and her “rainy days…always get me dowwwwn.”

This has been a week, and as ever, Sunday nights I become more reflective, introspective, and yes, melancholic. I initially planned a Part 2 of my earlier blog, but the word: JUSTICE got in the way…

Oscar Grant and the Mehserle verdict have dominated my thoughts and conversations these past couple of days. So many conflicting stories from the community. So many perspectives, questions, and motivations.  The ubiquitous cries of “JUSTICE” sounding like an akoben, yet I wonder…as I often do, what do we tell our children.

“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”

What do we teach them?

Maybe something like this:

“hey baby, we need to have a talk. It’s time I let you know that by and large, you’re going to find yourself in the company of humans. VERY VERY strange beings they are.  Most of them probably mean well. They really do. So you’ll hear  them talk about freedom, justice, and equality for all. BUT, be cautioned, they don’t REALLY mean for ALL, they mean for some. What do I mean? Oh, let mama explain.   There are those who talk about ending racism and oppression, you remember we talked about that? Ok, good. Well, people will say that they want all people of different “colors” to be treated fair and equal. They stand up and fight for the rights of people who are victims of racism. Yes, yes, baby, that IS the right thing to do. Equality is VERY important. The tricky thing about equality and justice though, is that it has to be for EVERYBODY or it’s NOT really equality and justice.  That means that even people who AREN’T Black and Brown have to be treated fairly too.  It also means that boys and girls have to be treated equally as well.  Do you think one person’s life is more important than another? Me neither!

Right, right, yes, that’s part of why people are protesting on tv…yes, they’re angry about the verdict in the Mehserle trial.  People are sick and tired of the police brutality in Black communities… what’s that you say? Did people protest in the streets after Aiyanna Jones was murdered in her sleep in Detroit? I don’t know baby, I haven’t heard of anything happening.  What, what’s that you say? How come people don’t protest the police harrassing people everyday on the block? Hmm…I’m not sure love.  Yeah, mommy doesn’t know how come there were only a few people at the meeting to recruit Big Brothers and Big Sisters for  boys and girls… That’s a good question. Why aren’t some of those people on tv and the radio who are angry about the verdict angry about all the Black and Brown boys who go to jail  everyday? Or the fact that so many kids can’t read? I’m not sure…”

Justice or Just-Us?  In my convoluted mind, justice for SOME isn’t justice. It’s HARD for me to take someone who still subscribes to patriarchial notions and hierarchies SERIOUSLY when they talk about racial equality. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to have a serious conversation with someone about “saving and protecting our children” when they have a cache of  musical artists who’s theme is “sex, drugs, and alcohol” …

“…teach them WELL and let them lead the way…”

I HAVE to ask:  WHAT and HOW are we teaching our children?