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…


Where are their comfort dogs?

At first, I thought that comparing the experiences of the slain children in Newtown to the slain black and brown children across this country was insensitive. I thought that it just wasn’t the time to point out the inconsistent treatment of dead children due to gun violence. I thought that no matter the color of the child, the pain to that parent is the same. And I still think all these things.

But as I’ve taken in the media coverage in the past 4 days, I’ve started to get a little annoyed. Angry even. And ultimately unbearably sad. And perhaps that’s my fault for watching the news, and their macabre fascination with death and tragedy. It seems that CNN simply cannot get enough footage to capitalize on the pain and sadness of others. Their camping out in front of churches where children are being buried despite the families’ requests for privacy? I almost want to throw my shoe at the TV. But instead, I just change the channel.

But not before I saw the comfort dogs.


The beautiful golden retrievers dispatched to Newtown to bring some joy to the children of the community. The dogs trained to be gentle with even the most aggressive child. The dogs putting their nose to a 4-year-old’s nose. A shiny golden coat gentle rubbed beside a rosy cheek.


And while my heart broke with the memory of the pain, it also broke at the injustice of the disparity. At the fact that it seems that some kids’ deaths mean more than other children’s deaths.

For where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in the Florida community of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, children likely traumatized that they could be shot down under the Stand Your Ground laws?

Where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in Chicago when 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was shot in the back after running from her mother’s candy stand when she heard gunshots?

Where were the comfort dogs to heal the children living in Camden, NJ when a 6-year-old first grader was murdered trying to protect his 12-year-old sister from rape?

Where are the comfort dogs for the millions of children in Philly, Detroit, Chicago and other urban areas who are suffering from PTSD from the DAILY threat of gun violence and death?


I want the children of Newtown to receive all the good things this world has to offer. I want all the well-wishers to send teddy bears, cards, and care packages. I want the knitters to send their handmade monsters to every single child at Sandy Hook Elementary School so that they know we love them.

But I also want the Camden first-graders to get comfort dogs. I also want Heaven’s classmates to get handknit monsters. I want a CNN special for every child who has ever died due to gun violence. I want their names and faces plastered on TV with words about their favorite book and how their smile brought their families joy. I want news vans to stay on the scene for days talking about the senselessness of every child’s death.


Not just for the children who go to school in a “bucolic” New England town.

Not just for the children who go to school in a place that had not seen more than one homicide in the last ten years.

Not just for the children who go to school where the vast majority of them are white.


Please understand me – when I see the face of each and every 6 and 7 year-old who died in Newtown, I see my own almost-7-year-old first grader. I hold nothing against those children or their parents or their community. I just want equity. I just want EVERY child to be remembered. I just want the same outpouring of grief for EVERY child who dies of gun violence. They may not have died en masse, in one classroom, in one community, but they are dying nevertheless. Their parents are hurting nevertheless. Their classmates are traumatized nevertheless.

I want the sports teams and day time TV hosts and churches all over the country to observe moments of silence EACH time ANY child dies from a gun’s bullets. I just want to feel some sense that if my cousin’s children, who still live in Philadelphia, are murdered by gun violence that the nation will mourn for them. I want some sense that if the children who play at the Boys and Girl’s Club in East Palo Alto were gunned down that the nation will mourn for them. I want some sense that black and brown little children matter too.

But I won’t hold my breath.


Still Here

Hey everyone – I know it’s been awhile, but we’re still here! I take full responsibility for the quietness of this site…but if you didn’t know, I had a baby!

Isn’t he beautiful?

He’s three months old now, but we’re still getting the hang of each other, and I don’t have much time outside of taking care of a baby. Once we get a day care situation together (and I don’t even want to think about that), then we’ll revive what’s going on here. Because I certainly do need an outlet. I’m already predisposed, but I don’t see how ANY woman can survive months with no one to talk to all day long than another being who depends solely on her for everything needed in life without antidepressants. Just real talk.

But now I have another cocoa child to love, care for, raise, and worry about. And another motivation to keep up this site to talk about how we all face the challenges and joys of raising our cocoa babies as cocoa mamas.

Love you guys, and we’ll be back writing regularly soon!

Coming Clean

I have secrets. Several of them, to be more accurate. Secrets that I am not so much ashamed of, but are reluctant to tell people about. Reluctant because I don’t want to be judged. Reluctant because I don’t want to know people’s views on these sorts of things. Reluctant  because I’m just trying to live my life the best way I know how for myself and my family. Reluctant because I feel like until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you can’t tell me a got-damn thing. Reluctant because black folks in particular are real iffy about mental illness and medications.

I’m pregnant. 21 weeks, 22 on Thursday. I’ve wanted this baby for a really long time. This baby is probably the most anticipated of my three children, as I always had this idea that three children would make my family complete. This pregnancy has been tough, perhaps tougher for me than the others since my illnesses now have names and recognizable symptoms. I’ve done a lot of work over the past four years since Little A’s birth to keep myself healthy.

But I’m not cured. Bipolar disorder does not go away. It must be managed and treated, consistently, continuously. So even though I am pregnant, I’m still on an antidepressant and an anti-psychotic, at relatively high doses. But being down to two medications is a victory for me, as I started out on five. And one that I finished only after I became pregnant is one known to increase the risk of birth defects. But I’m still stable.

Stability is a shaky thing. I’m not taking anything for the fibromyalgia, which is likely contributing to my aches and pains in this second trimester when I really shouldn’t be feeling this bad until the third trimester. I stopped my sleep aid, even though lack of sleep triggers hypomanic episodes. And the one that causes birth defects also helped with the body aches, and the headaches too. Between weeks 9 and 12 I had a migraine every single day. And stable doesn’t mean “like normal.” I missed the entire last week of classes and barely scraped together enough legal knowledge to get through exams. And now, I haven’t left my house in two days. I don’t feel depressed, just sluggish, but I would be doing better, I am convinced, if I was on my other meds.

I want to get off these last two drugs, but I don’t know if I can. My baby appears to be perfectly healthy, growing wonderfully with a strong heartbeat and none of the defects that the bad drug could have caused. He is likely to be a world-famous gymnast with the all the tumbling he is doing in there – sometimes his movements make me nauseous! But in the third trimester, which begins next month, getting off the drugs would likely be very beneficial for my son. While I was on the antidepressant for  my other two children, we now know that third trimester use my cause issues with breathing and tremors after birth. And with the anti-pscyhotic, tremors and withdrawal symptoms of diarrhea, dizziness, headache, irritability, nausea, trouble sleeping, or vomiting may occur. But if I don’t stay on, I could have an episode that lands me, for the second time, in the psych ward. I would do anything for my kids, but I can’t imagine that being hospitalized would be good for any of us, my two big kids especially.

I also want to breastfeed, an experience I really enjoyed with my other two, even if it was hard going in the beginning. But both of these drugs are found in breastmilk. Studies conflict over whether the amount is enough to cause worry.

Bottom line is: I want to be “clean” so bad. I want to be “normal” so bad. I want my kids to have a great life so bad. But this may be one of those times that getting clean is not such a good thing. It’s one of those times where having a happy mama may be “better” than having a totally organic, medication free baby. It may be one of those times that we have to give up what we want in the short term to make room for infinite blessings down the line.

It may be one of those times, but how will I know?

I am Troy Davis

Southern trees bear a strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root. –Billie Holiday.

I wasn’t a proponent of the death penalty yesterday; I’m not one today. But today I feel a new urgency to end the death penalty in America. What happened to Troy Davis wasn’t just a miscarriage of justice; it was murder. It was state-mandated, legalized murder. Our nation has turned a corner where it is not only unafraid of getting it wrong, it embraces it’s an arrogant sense of its own perfection. How many times was Davis’ execution postponed? No murder weapon found. No physical evidence. Seven witnesses recanted out of nine.  Seven. And guy number eight? That’s Sylvester “Red” Coles. He’s the one the other seven said killed Officer Mark MacPhail.

Reasonable doubt? Better for 10 guilty men to go free than one innocent man to jail? Right. It’s disgusting that we killed a man. It’s disgusting that the MacPhail family lost their police officer son. It’s disgusting that the killer will never be brought to justice for that crime. I’m saddened that a man was murdered in Georgia and it was legal. I’m sad that the barbarism is visited more often on people of color and poor people than not. A 2005 California study found that one is three times as likely to receive the death penalty if you’re accused of killing a white person.  I’m sad that sometimes the system doesn’t work, and the checks we put in still don’t prevent the worst outcomes.

How many times in the past 10 years has DNA evidence learned a man’s name? How many times has 20 years been served when we realize a person is innocent? Over 130 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. We can’t take this back. We can’t discover new evidence and let him out of death. That alone should compel us to end the death penalty. As a mother I am heartsick. Too often Black boys are assumed guilty anyway.

What gives us as a nation, as a society, the right to kill a person? It’s expensive. It’s cruel. As imperfect beings; we will get it wrong occasionally.  That fact illustrates the inherent flaw in the system. We’ve practiced capital punishment far too long in this country. It needs to end. We need to support the Innocence Project, which fights to exonerate wrongfully convicted people. We need to support Amnesty International. I hope this stinks to high heaven and the stench is so bad we change the laws just so we can breathe again.

The last straw is the fact that there were no dissenters on the Supreme Court. They just signed on to the whole mess. And they had Troy Davis strapped to a gurney, just waiting? That is cruel and unusual. I love cops. I respect the work they do and know that most are good men and women. I hate that Mark MacPhail was killed going to someone else’s aid. I can empathize with his family. It is difficult to lose a loved one to violence and you do want revenge. But for the state to authorize murder is wrong. It will not bring Mark MacPhail back and the risk it too great that we got it wrong. We need to do better.

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. The struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones that will come after me. ..Georgia is prepared to snuff out the life of an innocent man.

– Troy Davis (via cultureofresistance)


Please don’t ignore this.

While our media was covering our country’s government was playing chicken and being fear mongers over the national debt because we have so much money to spend, children in Somalia are looking like this:

I can’t look at this without crying. That’s not just some child, that’s MY child.

I can’t look away. I won’t look away. Not without doing something. Not without helping.

This is worse than the famine of 1992, they say.

Half a million children will starve to death.

Do something. The media attention on this has been shamefully sparse, and as a result, the fundraising has been sparse too.

Unicef has gotten in. Oxfam is accepting donations too.

Please don’t look away.

“The people waiting / positions vacant / for hands to help / not just to pray.” – Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono, The Edge: Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)

Hair Weaves For Little Girls

I don’t know if it rises to the level of an epidemic, but lately I’ve seen a number of little girls – as in, girls under the age of 12 – wearing hair weaves, wigs and lacefronts.

As black women, our hair issues begin at birth. We black mothers study our girls’ hair texture, waiting to see if those fine baby curls are going to “nap up.” Some of us start putting that baby hair into plaits, cornrows and ponytails as soon as our baby girls are able to sit up. If there’s not enough hair to comb, we brush it as best we can and put a headband on our girls’ heads, so everyone will know the baby is a girl and not a boy (strangers still get it confused, though).

I didn’t really know how to take care of a girl’s hair when my daughter was born. My mother did my hair until I graduated from high school. Although I didn’t relax my hair until law school, I wore it pressed from age 12. I had decided my girl’s hair would stay natural, but I had no idea how to style natural hair.

I was lucky to find a wonderful babysitter, a Mexican woman who taught herself how to care for my daughter’s hair. She styled my daughter’s hair in elaborate beaded cornrows and two-strand twists. Even after my daughter started school and we no longer needed her babysitting services, our former nanny still styled my daughter’s hair.

It never occurred to me to consider letting my daughter wear her hair out, loose, free. I was brought up that only white girls and girls with a certain hair texture – what we used to call “good hair” – could wear their hair out all the time. I shunned the term “good hair” but was still trapped in its mindset. I believed not combing my daughter’s hair would result in it getting tangled, matted, and eventually falling out.

I said complimentary things to my girl about her hair. I told her how wonderfully thick and curly her hair was and how much she should admire it. I bought all the right books and said all the right things to combat my girl’s jealous feelings towards classmates whose blonde and brunette locks swung down their backs. But my actions spoke to a different belief – that her hair wasn’t the right texture.

My daughter and I began having hair battles. I kept her hair washed, conditioned, combed and braided, but I could no longer fit trips to the nanny into our schedule, and I didn’t know enough cute natural hairstyles.

I gave up and took her to the African braiding shop. I thought I’d found the answer to all my prayers. Their cornrows were so perfect! Even without extension hair braided in, the style would last at least two weeks. With extension hair braided in, they would last even longer.

And so we continued down that steep, slippery slope of “your hair isn’t good enough.”

Continue reading “Hair Weaves For Little Girls”

being black

Written by CocoaMamas contributor Mikila.

I just read an article about a woman named Sandra Laing who is a black South African born to white South African parents.  The problem for her is that she was born in Apartheid South Africa, 1966.

Yes, you read that correctly, a black girl born to 2 white parents.  She was biologically linked to both of them.  It was found that a latent gene from black ancestors popped up and Sandra was the winner of the “look totally different from your parents sweepstakes.”  Unfortunately for Sandra, her visible differences resulted in disconnect from her parents, domestic violence, and many years of guilt and anger.  Today, she is happier and proud.  Reading the article made me think about race and raising my own children.

I recall 2 years ago, my son had just started first grade at a local catholic school.  He didn’t know anyone at the school, and he was not strong at meeting new people.  He mustered enough strength to ask a child if he could play with him, all to be informed that he was too brown to play.  Yes, my little 6 year old son had his first experience with racism.  My initial response was to march down to the school and rip the child’s head, the parent’s head, and the teacher’s head right off.  My husband had a different reaction.  He asked my son, “What did you do?”  My son responded, “I walked away and found someone else to play with.”  Yes, majority of the children in this school are white.  Trust me, I was livid.

Many people probably feel we responded in too passive a way, but as a person who grew up in a posh resort town, I know a lot about dealing with white people on a regular basis.  I thought about my husband’s reaction, and realized, my son will deal with ignorant people throughout his life.  He might as well learn how to handle it in first grade.  We explained to him that his skin color is just fine.  His classmates’ skin color is also fine.  He moved on and life went on as normal.

Three years later, along comes my daughter.  Girls really are wired differently.  She began to pay attention to color at a much younger age.  I had to literally brainwash her at one point, because thanks to Barbie, she told me many times at the age of 3 years old that she wanted to be white with blonde hair.  My little girl went from being a wannabe to “Angela Davis” in mere seconds.  I then had to add another layer to the issue of color.  I explained to her, just as I did to her brother, that her skin is beautiful.  I also had to tell her that other people’s skin color was beautiful to, but for them not her.

This is a complicated issue, because you want to raise well-rounded open-minded individuals.  The question remains, when do you deal with color, and how do you answer those difficult questions?  I was devastated both times I had to face the fact that racism as well as color issues, is something I had to explain to my children.  I realize now, both experiences opened the door for me to show them in small ways how to be proud of their color, heritage, past and future.  It was nice to see even through all the heartache that Sandra Laing found that out too.  Being black is truly beautiful, no matter what someone else will have you believe.

Mikila is a 35 year-old mother of 2 beautiful children:  an 8 year old son, and a 4 year old daughter.  She graduated from college in 1998, and will be attending Law School August 2011 to study Child and Education Advocacy. She is very passionate about helping parents of special needs children, as she is learning more about how to help her own daughter navigate this world.  She has a super supportive husband who is a very active participant in their children’s upbringing. Mikila is also a partner in a debt management consulting firm. A born-again Christian, Mikila also enjoys volunteer work, music, and helping her children grow into the people they are destined to become.

My Brown Boy?

Written by new CocoaMamas contributor HarlemMommy.  Welcome her to CocoaMamas!

As a Black woman, I was prepared to nurture my brown child.  Showering her with love for her complexion. Empowering him with the strength of his heritage. I had so many books about African-American heroes and trailblazers. Seriously, my grandmother got me a complete set. Lena Horne, Crispus Attucks, Oprah. My kid was gong to love himself, his people and his color.

My husband loves Dave Matthews Band. He played high school lacrosse. Yup, he’s white.

My son? Handsome as all get out and a smile that’s out of this world. Brown? Not so much. He’s Black. He must be; he’s mine.  He’s also my husband’s child. How do I nurture that?

In The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, the main character, Rachel, is often asked where she got her blue eyes. The question is intrusive, but not completely unexpected. The way her grandmother answers however is poignant. “You know Roger’s granddad had these eyes.” This is a lie. A lie told to “protect” Rachel from the white mother who tried to kill her as she herself committed suicide.

Rachel, however, sees the lie for what it is; an attempt to remove her mother, her whiteness, and her complications from her new life. This obviously pained Rachel. If you have to deny a parent, you have to deny a part of yourself.

There’s the rub. You can’t deny a child’s parent and expect the child to be unaffected. Whether you deny the Mom because she’s white or say negative things about Dad because he’s always late with child support.

So where does that leave me? Before meeting my husband, I had a good beat on the world. Biracial people are Black. Yes, race is a social construct, but if you’re Black and something else, then you’re Black. It’s cool to be Black and that’s how society will see you, so that’s who you are. Duh.

It felt good to know so much and not feel ambiguity about race. Then I met this white guy. Then I fell all in love. Now we have this impossibly adorable munchkin we get to raise into a man. A Black man?  Can I call him my little brown boy if he’s not that brown?

Would it be fair to my Scooba to tell him that he’s Black because that’s how society will view him? What if, because he’s so light, people view him as white? How would I feel if he identified as white? Is that “passing”? I would be devastated if he identified solely as white, regardless of how society views him. I would have failed him as a Black woman; as a Black mother. It would mean he was ashamed, that he felt Black was less-than. That he felt I was less-than.

Children are not carbon copies of the parent. You can set a foundation for a child, but he ultimately must get in where he fit in. But how would any of us feel if a part of us that we felt was fundamental to our being was not fully reflected or embraced in our child?

Can I expect him to identify solely as Black? To deny either his Black or white side would be unfair. So when he asks what he is, we’re going to say he’s Black and white. As for how society sees him? That’s society’s problem. Scooba has the right to define himself; as do all of us. President Obama identifies as Black and his white mother approved of this. Am I a jerk that I can’t be selfless and let my son identify as white if he wants to? I’m gonna be that jerk.

Husband and I need to work twice as hard to ensure he sees both parts of himself represented in books we read to him and the media he sees. This means we read Whose Toes Are Those and sing Sweet Honey in the Rock. He’ll see plenty of images of white people, so we’re covered there. We’re going to be extra vigilant not to put him in a box or let others do so either. Scooba determines who he is and where he wants to stand in the world. Is that naïve? Perhaps, but we are not post-racial, so race still matters; and I at least want to have a plan when it comes up. I will fortify my son to stand up for who he is and allow him the space to establish that for himself.

HarlemMommy is a breastfeeding, cloth diapering mother of one. She works with middle schools and loves to read. Her husband is very funny and they love to travel. She also writes at www.BoobsAndBummis.wordpress.com.

“No One Can Say Anything To Me…”

So….Ellen Pompeo is running around giving her opinion on race relations, and what black people need.

(h/t @daowens44 on twitter)

The relevant parts are between 45 seconds and 2:45.

As you can see in the video, Whoopi asks her about her plans to adopt a baby of color, and what people have said about that. Ellen Pompeo says, with a certain amount of what she must of thought was black girl sass, “No one can say anything to me cause I had a baby of color…” [Yeah. I paused too.] Then she goes on her rant about HBCUs and the NAACP. She doesn’t think we need “black schools and white schools,” referring to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She doesn’t think we need the NAACP awards; we only need “People Awards.” And I don’t think she is referring to the magazine.

What makes Meredith Ellen feel this way, let alone think she has a legitimate voice on these issues, that actually don’t affect her, considering she would have never even attended an HBCU or would get an award from the NAACP**?

Cuz can’t nobody say nuthin’ to her cause she already has a black baby. And a black husband. And who really cares what Jill Scott has to say, right? The experiences of black mothers can’t really be worth as much as those of a white mother of a black child, huh?

Hm. Continue reading ““No One Can Say Anything To Me…””