Should schools also speak separately to white students, parents, and staff?

I have been really impressed by the steps taken by schools to speak to the racial tensions engulfing America right now. I have had the honor in my work to also lead some of these discussions as well and will be leading more. As a parent of K-12 children, I have also watched my own school’s response to the crisis in America today. Moreover, I have spent a great deal of time reviewing the responses of schools at the university level. While I have appreciated the fact that so many of these institutions have initiated or renewed a commitment to ensuring that black lives matter, I have found myself asking one question over and over again: what direct message is going out to white students, students, and staff?

            Across the country, many social media posts have popped with some form of @blackat… handle. These are accounts where black students as well as alumni have posted their negative experiences being black at their schools. These stories started to really trend in 2016 after incidents of racism at schools like American University, where I teach. I was inspired by this movement to finally write about my own “black at” experience from 7th-12th grade at Boston Latin School. I believe the @blackat… postings are also a large part of the reason why schools have been feeling more pressure to respond to their black students in ways they have not before. I wonder if, in some unintentional way, that this is leading to black students being singled out in ways that might do more harm than good despite the best intentions of schools. Let’s look at an example.

            One high school I was watching sent out an email that they were having a zoom call for black students, another call for multiracial students, and a third one for all students. I have spoken at enough schools to know that this can backfire. While many black students can be vocal and will speak up on issues, this type of action can lead to black students feeling they have to be the representative for all black people, which is an added burden, particularly in schools where they are not in the majority. Furthermore, not meeting with the white students separately can make it seem like they’re being brought in as allies and not as partners. I have writtenabout how this concept of “allyship” can create more problems than it solves. Another reason this is problematic is because many of the challenges black students face come at the hands of white students in addition to other issues, such as curriculum and staffing. Did I expect the students who wore white hoods in protest of my running for class president to really care for a call to all students about racial unity? Those students needed separate interventions, which never came and made me feel more marginalized. Schools therefore need to create environments where white students can be organized and spoken to directly about the antiracist work they must be doing amongst themselves. Robin DiAngelo speaks in White Fragility to the work white people must do to challenge racism. The book is primarily for adults but much of the work can be instructive for students as well.

            This takes us also to white parents and staff. I have appreciated the calls I have been on and led with parents of all backgrounds, and oftentimes the white parents and staff outnumber the black parents and staff. This makes sense given the makeup of these schools but if the black parents and staff are going to be separated or addressed in separate conversations, which happens, wouldn’t the fight for equity and equality necessitate that white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American parents and staff be spoken to separately as well? Are schools equipped to even have that conversation? Are they ready to discuss, for example, how many private schools always use a black child as the face for the financial aid campaigns although the school may have more white students in the school on some form of financial aid? Are they ready to discuss the social networks that often form among white parents and staff that often exclude black people unless some form of representation is needed? My wife and I have had to often think twice before sending our kids to some birthday parties because we had to be sure that our kids were really invited because of friendship and not out of a desire to have diversity at a party. Examples like these are endless.

            At the end of the day, I could write an entire dissertation on the ways in which our schools are failing its black students. Many like Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Glenn Singleton have already done that work and more are doing it now. What is most important now is that schools realize that black students are suffering for real reasons that go beyond lack of representation of their full history in the curriculum. Much of what we suffer as black students, parents, and staff in these schools comes at the hands of our interactions, or lack thereof, with white students, parents, and staff. If schools are going to be really serious about addressing issues related to the black lives matter movement, they must be equally dedicated to challenging white students, parents, and staff in an authentic way that leads them to understanding their role in this movement. It is obvious that all white people are not to blame and I commend the white student, parents, and staff who are out there doing the work every single day to condemn ignorance and create true equity and equality. It is high time, however, that schools directly challenge their white students, parents, and staff in ways that go beyond a book club and curriculum review. Those are good points of departure but the journey is long and must go deeper beyond this moment.

           

Everyday is Father’s Day (lyrics)

Watch full video



Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

Just a little something for the dads, I see you

Just know that no one else can ever be you

Only time you’re discussed is when it’s to demean you

I see through media views that’ll leave you

Feelin’ you ain’t worth a damn, yo I believe you

For y’all who doubt don’t let the media deceive you

Only talk about our absence but those of us there

It’s like we’re Homer Simpson, yeah it’s time to compare

Cause is it just me? Am I buggin’ because

The strong men on tv are the uncle or cuz?

I mean is it really me? Am I goin’ buckwild

To see how they make us look like an extra child?

And no shade to the moms, you deserve all the praises

I’m just brining up some issues that fatherhood raises

All praises due to real dads out there

Hope the world sees that we got a story to share

 

Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

Now dads I know it’s tough when you take your kids

To afterschool activities then back to your crib

Know it’s tough when with your kid standin’ right there

And teachers tell ‘em “talk to mom” like you ain’t right there!

Know it’s hard when you decide to be the stay-at-home dad

And the world sees you as weak or part of a fad

Paid paternity leave ain’t here federally

But we do what’s best for the fam, it’s necessary

But in times like these I acknowledge your worth

The world’s better with good dads walkin’ this earth

So dads do your thing like you were meant to do

Don’t worry about haters know your kids need you

And if you ain’t seen ‘em in a while time to reach out too

It ain’t never too late to tell em “I love you.”

And if you got ‘em next to you just hug ‘em too

And Let ‘em know nothing will ever come between you

 

Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

How companies can avoid “Black Lives Matter” and Juneteenth becoming the new Kwanzaa

Over the past few weeks, I have seen “Black Lives Matter” stated by companies, schools, famous people, and everyday people. It has been spray painted across stores in protest and even the Mayor of Washington, DC Muriel Bowser had it spray painted across a prominent street leading up to the White House. I opened up my iTunes account, Amazon Prime and even turned on my PlayStation and there it was again, “Black Lives Matter.” This has been followed by companies like Nike and Twitter deciding to honor Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when the last group of enslaved people in America found out they were emancipated, with days off or some other form of acknowledgment. While I think that these gestures of solidarity with those of us in the black community are indeed appreciated, I find myself asking, “What happens on June 20th?” “What happens after ‘Black Lives Matter’ comes off the website?” Enter Kwanzaa.

I come from a family that has always celebrated Kwanzaa, the holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga for African Americans to honor their African heritage. Though it starts on December 26th, it has always been a cultural celebration and not a replacement for Christmas, which is a religious holiday. This is the reason why some black families celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas. For those of us who celebrate Kwanzaa, it’s a sacred holiday, which is why many of us became frustrated when it started to become commercialized, starting with Hallmark issuing Kwanzaa cards in 1992. Now there are stamps and debit cards where the 7 candles of Kwanzaa are prominently displayed. Some companies issue statements honoring Kwanzaa or will put out some form of display in their lobbies. This superficial nature of Kwanzaa causes the true nature of it to get lost or never even learned. The true nature of Kwanzaa is black empowerment. To quote professor Keith Hayes, author of Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition:

Whereas black power uses Kwanzaa to connect black Americans with the continent of Africa, multicultural America uses Kwanzaa to sell products and consumer goods. Whereas black power expected Kwanzaa to liberate African-Americans, multicultural America has tried to use Kwanzaa as evidence of racial diversity and black inclusion.

But is there real diversity and black inclusion in your organization? While “Black Lives Matter” has become a great slogan to show solidarity with black causes, there are black employees in every sector from schools to corporations who have been saying for years that they want to matter within their organizations. They’ve called for this in the form of demanding equal pay, demanding a shattering of the glass ceiling, challenging everyday discrimination on the job, and so much more. And this is also happening with Juneteenth. Most black employees I know would rather have a shot at equal pay or an opportunity to advance in their positions than a day off, which in reality should be a day on in terms of continuing the work of racial and social justice.

If companies are serious about “Black Lives Matter” and Juneteenth they have to immediately re-evaluate their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They have to do the work to finally hear the complaints and concerns of their blackstaff. They need to challenge systemic racism that may have existed in their organization for years. This is the same country where a statue was built to the father of American gynecology James Marion Sims, whose work was performed on black enslaved women without anesthesia. It’s the same country that touts having some of the most prominent universities in the world, but they were built by enslaved Africans. And it’s the same country where some companies have engaged in global travesties such as the Holocaust and apartheid.

But this country has the ability to self-correct and so do companies, schools, and other organizations. The statue of Sims came down. Schools like Georgetown have begun to create programs so descendants of enslaved Africans that were sold to keep the university afloat can go to Georgetown for free. Companies like Kodak, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, and I.B.M. did end up divesting from apartheid but none of this happened without activism, similar to what we are seeing now. This is how you show that Black Lives Matter, which is an organization started by three incredible women named Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Before organizations state “Black Lives Matter” I would strongly suggest visiting the Black Lives Matter website to truly understand its commitment to social, racial, and economic justice. “Black Lives Matter” is about a way of life for society that is truly committed to equality, not band-aids on an open wound still seeping blood from the sword of systemic racism.

I have had some very powerful courageous conversations with companies and schools in the past few weeks. Some organizations are very far ahead in their work on diversity, equity, and inclusion and some are just starting out. Wherever your organization may be on the road, what’s most important is to stay on that road and not veer off. If we’re honest, almost everything organizations need to do in order to bring true diversity, equity, and inclusion matters to the forefront has already been documented by the black employees in those organizations. Companies must go beyond the external displays of solidarity to internal responses to the concerns of their employees. This is the best way to truly show that #blacklivesmatter beyond the hashtag and to celebrate Juneteenth 365 days a year.

From allies to partners: how white people can be better listeners

I’ve heard and read several stories about what white people need to do right now. Many of those stories talked about the need for white people to listen. That is absolutely true, but there are two points that need to be added: how to listen, and what to do after whites listen. I must say that I have heard for years that white people will only listen to other white people and they need to have their own conversations. While I do believe that white people need to do more amongst each other to further the work to end racism, we must ask what would happen if people like Dr. King believed he couldn’t speak to white people? With that, I am going to share my thoughts on how white people need to listen and what to do after they do so.

Les Brown once said to me that we have two ears and one mouth and that we should use them in proportion. So the first step in listening is to truly commit to not responding to every point brought up by black people who are speaking up about racism. For example, when I conduct my trainings on black boys in our educational system, I’ve been told by white educators that the issue isn’t race, it’s class. It’s not race, it’s gender. It’s not race, it’s this or that. Are you someone who is quick to say you want to listen but then shoot down the arguments made by the person you claim to be listening to? There is a difference between listening to what you want to hear and what the person speaking has to and often needs to say.

So rather than listen to correct, listen to respect. Rather than listen to analyze, listen to empathize. Rather than listen to teach, listen to learn. After you listen, acknowledge the words shared with you and acknowledge what you didn’t know. You don’t lose anything by being honest. I’ve had multiple conversations with white people in the last few days who have said things like “I really didn’t understand until I saw that video of George Floyd being killed” or “I really thought we had turned a corner once Obama was elected” or “I don’t know what to do as a white person right now.” Many of us in the black community get frustrated by these comments but I have also heard these and similar comments from black people who also thought these days were behind us. We have to take people for what they know when they know it but then it’s time for action.

The next step after listening is not take the patronizing mentality of “I’ll be your ally.” There is a certain level of arrogance that has started to develop with this term “ally.” We don’t need allies. We need partners. Allies help out and go home. Partners work together for a common good. Allies go to the sporting venue to cheer on their team and go home after the win (or loss). Partners are on the court as a player on the team and fight together for a common cause, win or lose. Where do you fit in the stadium of effective listening?

Once you believe you have become an effective listener, it’s now time for action. Action takes many forms but the first form is educating yourself. What’s on your bookshelf? Who is on your podcast favorites? What documentaries are you watching? Reading lists such as these are great ways to get started. Dr. King said that the two most dangerous things in this world are sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. You don’t know what you don’t know. You have to get out and learn so that you can engage from an informed position. That way after you start to listen, you can simultaneously engage in the work needed to challenge racism, systemically and individually. Systemic work looks at ways you can challenge racism wherever it presents itself in society. Individual work looks at conversations you should be having with your neighbors, co-workers, and especially family members who espouse racist ideas.

I saw a sign during the protest that said “White silence equals police violence” and several spins on that. Whether you agree with that or not, it is indeed true that silence equals compliance. By not becoming an engaged listener, educating yourself, and speaking up when you witness ignorance or injustice, you are part of the problem. There is no middle ground. As you can see, this country is in an all hands-on deck approach. Where do you stand? How will you stand? We are working with or without you but I believe that success is better together. Dr. King said that he would rather see a good sermon than hear one. The world is waiting to see your sermon. Let’s go!

Breonna Bland Arbery-Floyd (a poem for the slain)

George Floyd

George Floyd


Watch hip-hop music video here

I’m tired, I’m tired, but also inspired

Time to vote folks out get these DAs fired

Grandmas stand in front of cops defendin’ they kids

Grandpops now the man of the house if they ain’t dead

And I ain’t watching more videos of me getting killed

Cause I see myself in every video that’s real

And if I don’t see me I see my whole family

My best friends, my students, my community

If you don’t see yourself where’s your humanity?

What you gonna do to stop this insanity?

If you won’t stand up for you will you stand for we?

Show that black lives matter, fight for unity?

But I’m a let you know we ain’t waitin’ for you

We gonna fight until “all lives matter” too

Before the next one is murdered, we gon’ see this through

And make change with the girls and the boys in blue

Let me also point this out ’fore I continue to rock

The McMichaels, Zimmerman and Roof ain’t cops

So when they murder us in church or on the block

They represent white supremacy and that whole flock

And along with these cops they represent a system

Designed to take a black man and convict and kill him

Aligned to take a black woman and make her a victim

Then put ’em both on trial to dehumanize them

Then put ’em on TV to verbally brutalize them

Then never share stories of these cops and brethren

Then they let these killers prep the same story

And rarely ever charge ’em with a felony

The justice system doin’ what it was built to do

Protect the cops at all costs no matter what they do

But real change is gonna come it’s long overdue

Cause we had something that we never had before…YOU!

Jamar Clark, Breonna Taylor, Ousman Zongo

Cameron Hall, Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo

Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, Jemel Roberson

Eleanor Bumpers, Walter Scott, Fred Hampton

Harith Augustus, EJ Bradford, Trayvon Martin

Lajuana Philips, Antwon Rose, RaShaun Washington

Daniel Simmons, Robert White, Tony Green

Clemente Pickney, Philando, Botham Jean

Sandra Bland, Stephon Clark, Alberta Spruill,

Nathaniel McCoy, Russell, Travares McGill,

Cameron Hall, Yvette Smith, Anthony Hill

John Crawford, Danroy Henry, Emmett Till

Yusef Hawkins, Michael Brown, George Floyd

Jerame Reid, Kayla Baker, Rekia Boyd

Juan Jones, Miriam Carey, Jordan Edwards

Atatania, Ahmaud Arbery, Medgar Evers

Deantea Farrow, Danny Thomas, Linwood Lambert

Marcus David-Peters, Diante, Michael Stewart

Malisa Williams, Claudia Gonzalez,

Ronnell Foster, Prince Jones, Anthony Baez

Jordan Baker, Henry Glover, Tony Robinson

James Brisette, Shem, Tanesha Anderson

Shermichael Ezeff, Freddie Gray, Ronald Madison

Oscar Grant, Ayana Jones, Dondi Johnson

Raheim Brown, Victor Steen, Cedric Chatman

Timothy Thomas, Aaron Campbell, Tarika Wilson

Ajibade, David Raya, Steven Washington

Nehemiah, Orlando, Patrick Dorisman

Ramarley Graham, Terence Crutcher, Daniel Simmons

Manuel Diaz, Alesia, Tamon Robinson

And to all the Chris Coopers and the coulda-beens

Could be you or me tomorrow, we must never give in!

COVID-19: Tough Times Don’t Last but Tough People Do!

Great speaker Robert Schuyler stated that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I really find myself coming back to that quotation a lot during these COVID times because people are going through different challenges, be they physical or financial. There are challenges as it relates to what’s going on with our loved ones or even in our own personal lives. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re not given anything that you don’t have the ability to handle. And one of the things I often say in many of my speeches is that there may be challenges that I have been given that if they were given to you, you might not be able to handle. And on the flip side, there might be challenges that are given to you that if they hit my doorstep, I may not be able to handle.

I like what Les Brown said that oftentimes, we’ve been picked out to be picked on and sometimes you just feel like life’s always beating you down and always trying to get at you and take something from you. You have to understand, at this particular time, that this is something that it’s just testing you. There’s a difference between school and life. In school you get the lesson and then you get the test. In life you get the test and then you get the lesson. I want you to think about how you’re being tested today and how you’re going to pass this test!

How are you being challenged right now and what are you doing that’s going to allow you to be able to step up to the challenge? You have to decide to fight because once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want automatically takes over. As soon as you give up, you’ve lost. One of the things I want you to remember is to understand the importance of community and the importance of reaching out and asking for help. Like someone once said, ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong and you are strong!

We are all strong people and the strongest people get tested in the strongest ways. So don’t put yourself in a position where you feel like you have to go through all of this alone. Put yourself in a position where you tell yourself that you’re going to thrive! Reach out to your community and ask for assistance and offer assistance too! As the late Bill Withers sang, “Lean On Me.” It’s a powerful and this is a song that I’ve been playing in some of my fitness classes at the end because it’s something that we need to do. You need to lean on people and you also need to let people lean on you.

Another thing we have to do is you have to decide that you are going to come out of this on the other side in a better way. One of the things I realized when I was going to be home with all of us in terms of my family was to commit to getting myself into better shape before this shutdown happened than when I went in. I had to say that to myself because even if I didn’t say that I would have been succumbing to what some people are already calling the COVID-15 or COVID-30 as it relates to gaining 15 or 30 pounds from not being able to maintain a regular exercise routine. I’ve had some setbacks in this process but I am still on the path. Without that affirmation, I would have given in to my injuries and my appetite would’ve taken over, trust me!

I knew I was going to have to make certain dietary changes. I was going to have to maintain my workout program with adjustments. Before the quarantine I had to wake up at 5:30 to get the kids ready and out the door to school by 8. Now I don’t have to do that so there are two and a half hours to get it in at least 30 minutes to work out. We’ve also started doing bike rides as a family together and weekends in, which also wasn’t really happening before with our schedules.

This is just one example. What can you do where you’re at, what can you do with what you have right now where you are? Are there new opportunities to find a workout or the new opportunities to find and spend time with the kids? Are there new opportunities just to do anything different or special right now that you weren’t able to do before? We can talk about all of the challenges that the COVID situation presents, but it also presents a lot of opportunities and you have to ask yourself, are you positioning yourself to take advantage of them? These are some of the things I want you to think about as you go through your week, as you go through your month, the next couple of months, and possibly beyond.

You CAN get through this. We just have to do some mind shifts, some changing of our thinking, and lean on the people that we need to lean on. Set your intentions from the beginning so that this whole crisis and pandemic doesn’t set them for you. If you’re able to do these things, you’ll be able to take control of your own destiny and you’ll be able to take control during this crisis. And just remember, you’re never alone and never, ever, ever give up. Tell yourself every single day that you are not alone, that you’re not going to give up, and that you know you’re a tough person who’s going to last through these tough times. We are going to get through this together. I wish you all the best. I hope that you continue to do your best and forget the rest and let’s get through this together! I know you can handle this because you’re not giving anything that you don’t have the ability to handle! Let’s go!

G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!

They say greatness is a choice but what have you chosen?

You’ve been frozen in time and broken in mind

For too long the same song playing in your head

Living in breath but better off dead

But who said you didn’t have the power?

Who said this is not your hour?

You’ve been showered with a steady stream of words that kill your dreams

But since you’re still breathing then someone done lied to you

Tried to deny you of your own potential inside you

If you’d just decide to let no one deride you

Don’t even let them get beside you as you unearth the new you

Stop listening to naysayers and decide to do you

No more pity parties, sobbing and boohoos

If no one told you you’re great then let me be the first to

If you have the thirst to drink from faith’s fountain

You’ll develop the might to move mountains

We move tons of dirt to find an ounce of gold

So I ask you to move tons of hurt and find just one ounce of your soul

You’ll be on the path to control your own destiny

Getting out of your own passenger seat and driving your own car

Reaching for the moon but maybe landing among the stars

You have greatness inside you but you must choose to be great

Blaze a path of excellence, leave fear in your wake

All you need is already inside you just believe in yourself

G.R.O.W. towards your greatness and discover your true wealth!

Melania Trump’s Be Best program is a farce for marginalized youth

This week, First Lady, Melania Trump is celebrating the one year anniversary of her Be Best campaign, an initiative designed to focus on overall wellbeing for young people, help end the opioid epidemic, and stop social media bullying. It’s so easy to talk about the fact that the third aspect of it, ending social media bullying, is a policy with no teeth because she has no ability to check her husband who was called people online everything from “sleepy” and “low IQ” to “horseface” and a “dog” all within the year that this campaign was launched. Beyond the faux-social media bullying platform, however, there are other serious flaws with the other aspects of Melania Trump’s initiative; youth well-being and the opioid crisis.

The Trump administration put forth a good sum of money towards ending the opioid epidemic, but only a small portion of the funds have actually been released, therefore the work needed on the ground to fully challenge the epidemic is not at full capacity. In the area of improving overall youth well-being, let’s look at what’s happening with our kids. Be Best is working with Department of Education on parts of its initiatives. Right now under Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, there are cutbacks to many different programs designed to help children.

The Department of Education is making it harder for students with disabilities to get access to services in schools. They’re making it harder for students who are labeled severe emotionally disturbed and have other mental challenges to get assistance. They are rolling back civil rights work that was designed to ensure that our children can be treated fairly in school. Add to this lack of support teachers receive and one can see how every day, the Trump administration has worked with to make sure that our children cannot “be best” in school.

Outside of school, it is still challenging for youth who come from marginalized communities to “be best.” For example, President Trump consistently touts the job numbers, even though job growth was larger under President Obama. Few seem to report the fact that, in Chicago for example, the black male youth unemployment rate is at 45%. Without access to jobs, many of these youth are heading to street activity, which would of course lead to increases in crime, that President Trump and his supporters love to mention when discussing the plight of America’s inner cities. Should not African American youth be considered part of the Be Best well-being program?

The fact of the matter is that marginalized youth have been targeted under the Trump administration. Children are being separated at borders, families are being evicted from homes at record rates, and poorer people live under the daily possibility that they may lose what little health insurance they may have received from the Affordable Care Act. Our children are suffering for across the country. They’re suffering in the streets and in our schools, and it is shameful that the media and so many other outlets out there simply watch this go by and look at it as some type of joke.

When I first saw Be Best rolled out, which was the playoff for someone to work, Michelle Obama was doing, I thought the media was going to do its job and called out the hypocrisy that it represents. Unfortunately, the media wants to be engaged in this farce of we call the presidency. When I say “farce”, I am calling it a farce for the marginalized I’m calling it a farce. For the people who feel like they’re working hard every day and they’re getting played as from healthcare to tax policy. Just look at what’s happening to Gold Star families and the GOP tax plan is hurting them.

My hope is that those who are out there, particularly those of us who are educators, will to continue to do our work every single day to uplift our children and, help them really be the best they can be because we have an administration that has turned their backs on them at every single juncture. It is really unfortunate because education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but this an administration that scoffs at the idea of public education and everyone being able to live their best lives. We should not be celebrating Be Best. We need to be doing the real work on the ground to really help our children be the best that they can be because the Trump administration is putting them in situations and conditions where they can only be their worst, and I know that we can and do better as a nation. Let’s get out there and do the work because our government has failed us miserably.

A freestyle rhyme on #timesup, #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, water, and more!

The learning burn

Preserve flows like an urn

Other folks had their shot, it’s my turn

Classic Mobb Deep, my mob deep and we creep

Straight from the streets of the hood in Southeast

DC, home of the sloppy dreams

Where the words “#allcaps” don’t represent a hockey team

Grand Washington Wizard occupies 16

Still rock the name of a racist football team

Jockey dreams, trap brothers and broke teens

Gentrification, still killin’ dreams

Triple beam pay like $1.15

Freakonomic ebonic brother, the flow’s clean

Can’t say the same for water up in Flint, MI

Where government intentionally watched folks die

Drank ‘em to death, whole towns nothin’ left

Glad they changed the gov cause homey was tone def

Speakin’ of dyin’, dunno why they keep lyin’

Shootin’ our brothers down unarmed too many cryin’

And sisters too, get it as bad as we do

For every Sandra bland that never made the news

Yo we got you too, never forget you

Cause #blacklivesmatter #timesup #metoo

And forget Cosby, watchin’ him was my hobby

But when you disrespect a woman you get kicked out the lobby

Or get bodied, we gotta have higher standards

Let me make it clear so you overstand, word

Ya heard, lyrically I’m flippin’ birds

To anyone defendin’ rapists and drugging herbs

Cosby, Weinstein, Kevin Spacey yo

Shout out to Tarana and Lupita Nyong’o

And all those who found the courage to come forward

And other silent victims still looking for words

I’m bringin’ havoc, I told y’all it’s the learnin’

I’m a standup for anybody out their yearnin’

For a day when we don’t care for what a predator’s earnin’

And care more for the victims still cryin’ and hurtin’

So if you’re heart lurkin’ and somehow stopped workin’

Hear my now and help us all stop the burnin’

Yeah it burns deep when the world don’t believe you

And money makin’ media keep wantin’ to deceive you

They just care about ratings and clicks, what up Moonves

Bout to make a midnight run but I ain’t Nunes

More like Fabian or Ocasio-Cortes

New voice need no roscoe to rock flows breth-

-ren, I go hard like Bushmaster

I’m a hard man fi dead you gon’ feel the rapture

Wildfires, floods, crazy natural disasters

Like the world’s comin’ to an end but it don’t have ta

If we show the world good sermons don’t preach ’em

If each one grab one and just teach ‘em

We’ll see how quick the tide can suddenly turn

Like switching the learning burn to the burning learn

It’s OD, don’t act like you don’t know me,

Next prodigy on the flow the one and only

I’m an upstander, I will never stand by

Think you can shut the people down don’t even try

Bye!

 

7 Steps To Raising Confident Black Children

Acclaimed lawyer and talk show host Laura Coates touched all of our hearts with her frustrations over raising her children to be proud of their blackness. Before she even broke into tears, I was right there with her. My wife Kendra and I are raising 3 children; 12 and 10-year-old daughters and a 3-year-old son. From school choice and television intake to food choices and music consumption, we have had a several experiences of successes and missteps that I feel may help parents raise confident black children in this new millennium. I hope you find them instructive. 

  1. Curate their music

When I was an elementary school teacher, I became increasingly frustrated with parents who would drop their children off with the vilest songs playing in their car , and unedited on top of that. I am also a rapper and spoken word artist. Hip-hop is the soundtrack of my life. With that said, I cannot imagine letting my children listen to songs, hip-hop or otherwise, that have vulgarity. My children listen to songs from Kendrick Lamar & JAY Z to Taylor Swift & Lou (French teen pop artist) but they are songs we choose for them that are positive and contain no vulgarity. Kendra & I introduce new music to them.

I am not naïve. I know that at 12 and 10, our daughters are hearing other music from their friends but since they have been fortified with positive songs or even just fun dance songs, they actually find the more vulgar songs to be offensive and degrading. If we started them off with all the music out there that I listen to as an adult, we would be raising them to think it’s OK to use that vulgar language or see themselves as bitches and that was unacceptable for us. So yes parents, this may mean you’re playing Biggie’s “The 10 Crack Commandments” on the way to get your kids but switching to Elmo’s alphabet song or something from Alicia Keys when they get in the car!

  1. Curate their television

One of several mistakes we made with my daughters is allowing them to watch all the Disney films with white princess and other television shows without context. It was easy for my daughter when she was 2 to say she’s not a princess because all she saw was not only white princesses on television (pre Princess & The Frog) but white princesses with the purest of names to highlight their beauty such asSnow White, Belle (“beautiful” in French), Sleeping Beauty, and so on. When we started to “go in” on reprogramming, we let our kids watch all of the same shows but asked them questions like “Why don’t you see any black people?” or “Why are the black men acting like idiots?” Other questions included “Why are there no black fathers in this show?” and “Why are the blonde-haired women always silly?” This helped our daughters develop critical thinking skills and now, they tell us about the problems in the shows they see without our even asking.

In addition to using television to build their critical thinking skills, we did the extra work needed to bring black cartoons into the home such as Teddy P. Brainsand The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. Since Princess & The Frog, there have been many other television shows and movies portraying black people positively such as KC Undercoverand The Black Panther. I speak to those shows particularly because they show women in roles of strength as opposed to a male-dependent princess and there is a presence of fathers. Again, you have to be intentional about doing this work. My oldest daughter now calls us Queen Mother & Baba and is obsessed with Wakanda because she grew up seeing her identity as an African American celebrated in our household and then it was validated on the big screen. This also helps them being in majority white schools all of their lives. They feel validated in who they are. We intentionally sent them to private, majority white schools because we wanted them to be confident at a young age that they could compete with people of every background, but we make sure we takethem to school before they goto school by making sure they know their culture!

  1. Be intentional with your language

This is adjacent to music point. Our children are going to think they are what societies tell them they are and that includes you. If you are using terms like “nigga” or “bitch” all the time, and even calling our children these terms and others, your children will become what they think wethink they are. We live in a society that actively works to denigrate our children every single day. Why have them experience the same thing at home? Our children need to see their parents in healthy relationships. They need to be able to see their parents argue without condescending and demeaning each other. If they see or hear you refer to each other in demeaning ways or even witness physical abuse, they may internalize this in their own relationships

  1. Give them names that mean something

This is not a Bill Cosby rant about made up names. Never that. What I am suggesting is that whatever name you give your children, make sure it is grounded in something. Whether it’s an African name like Lumumba, naming your child Katherine after NASA’s Katherine Johnson, or naming your child Laquita after your grandmother, make sure your children know something positive about the history of their names. My seventh grade year was a turning point for me. I was depressed and suicidal. The main thing that turned me around was finally listening to all of the stories about black history that my parents were trying to teach me. It made me not want to embarrass my ancestors. Once I understood the origins of my name and learned my history, my entire trajectory changed. 

The same school I was held back in in the seventh grade was the same school I graduated from as a member of the National Honor Society once I knew my history. Knowing my history gave me something to be grounded in while living in a society that told me I was less than white people. The names our children are given should be the starting point of that journey towards positive self-esteem. If we do not start them with a positive conception of self, how can we expect anyone else to?

  1. Create a strong diet

To the best of your ability, introduce healthy foods and water to your children. I understand that some of us live in food desserts where healthy foods are hard to find or food swamps where junk food is abundant. That may mean that you may need to grocery shop in the places you work if the food options are better. If we are serious about building community and one person has a car on your block, maybe you can organize trips to the supermarket and cover gas. If you live in an area where this is not a challenge and you still allow your children to consume an unhealthy diet, you have to understand that malnutrition does not only manifest itself physically.

There is a correlation between diet and disciplinary issues in our children today and you need to be mindful of that. If you have a stove and a refrigerator, you can boil your own water like my family did as a child and then chill it. Of course, this does not speak to areas in severe crisis such as Flint, Michigan, but the main point is that we have to use whatever resources possible to aid our children in eating healthy foods. Some of the fast food restaurants in our neighborhoods do indeed have salads as an option, for example, but even still we choose the items that are not beneficial to their overall health. We must do better.

  1. Monitor (or ban outright) social media & Internet usage

I have spoken to thousands of students in America and across the globe. I have spoken in many K-5 schools where students have proudly told me they have Facebook pages! There is nothing positive that can occur from a 10 year old having an unmonitored social media page. Our daughters have friends with social media pages, but they have no interest in having a page at such a young age. Youshould be the one to teach your children how to use social media and the Internet or take them to the library where they can get assistance if you cannot aid them. Lastly, many parents I know do not use kid-friendly versions of search engines like YouTube Kids. Our children are more susceptible to click-bait than we are and so we have to be mindful on how exposed they can be to negative influences online. 

  1. Go beyond Wakanda

The blockbuster movie The Black Pantherimpacted our community in ways that we could not foresee. So many black children were inspired by that movie. When I was a child, we were tormented because of our African identity. Groups like Public Enemy & X Clan made it cool to be African temporarily but African kids (even American born ones like me with no accent) still get tormented just because of our names. The Black Panthermovie opened up an entire new generation to the beauty of the African continent. We as parents cannot let these affects be temporary. Many children have an interest African stories now.

 Currently, my children are watching Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ Africa’s Great Civilizationsdocumentary series on PBS. They are watching it now not as some boring parental assignment. They are seeing themselves in the stories and The Black Panthermovie is part of that. We should not lose the gains from this movie so make sure you are finding as many ways possible to bring their history into their lives. There are many free resources that can be used just from our phones but if we only use our phones for frivolous entertainment and negative news stories, we are losing a vital opportunity to educate our children beyond the school doors.

The time is now!

If you find yourself proficient in most of the seven steps here, pick the one that challenges you the most and work vigorously on making the necessary changes. Our children are worth the effort. All of us will have challenges raising our children as it relates to their positive identity development. In my 12 year old daughter’s summer camp, she said to her classmates “My name is Ngolela. To call me anything different will be disrespectful.” I do not know what the future holds, but today she is grounded in her identity. At that age, I let everyone disrespect my history and call me “O” just so I can fit in and my performance in school and society overall reflected that. I was lost and acted accordingly. We need to teach our children that they were never meant to blend in. They are meant to stand out. We have to be intentional in our efforts to keep them grounded in their culture so that they can grow up knowing that they were validated at birth. If we can do that for our children, that will be more valuable than anything we could physically leave to them. Godspeed.