Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Where My Girls At? Images of Black Girls and Girls of Color in Media

So, I shared before how I’d had the distinct honor to attend the Oprah Winfrey Network Doc Club screening of MissRepresentationand its subsequent taped discussion on the Rosie Show. The reviews have been phenomenal and garnered lots of calls for action. I absolutely loved the doc. It served the purpose media, especially documentaries, have to not only call attention to an issue, but empower as well.

MissRepresentation’s overall premise is familiar to most, yet the critical component is the campaign to strategically use information as teachable moments. This will definitively build a movement to change the portrayal of women by/in the media. What’s more amazing is that the film is a catalyst for funding organizations such as the Women’s Media Center to continue the discourse, advocacy, media literacy and research. Simply powerful.

While watching, I was hard pressed to keep track of all the fascinating and inspiring quotes.

Pat Mitchell, President and CEO for Media Former President & CEO of PBS shared this insight, “The media is the message and the messenger, and increasingly a powerful one.”

“You can’t be what you can’t see,”  was a quote from Marie Wilson, founding President White House Project

And though I sought us out, I must say the lack of diversity and representation of Black women and girls beyond the narrow lens of reality TV, albeit the mainstream go –tos like Miss Winfrey and Soledad O’Brien, was obvious.

It was only when I heard the reference to symbolic annihilation that the documentary fully resonated with me and connected to what is my life’s work; empowering girls like me in urban America to use critical analysis to navigate beyond media and cultural messages. Girls Like me who are portrayed as “bad girls”, violent, angry, poor, uneducated, low-class and “ghetto.” Black women who are “successful” or who meet the standards of beauty are held up as seemingly novelties, with no connection to urban America.

So as soon as Rosie invited questions from the audience, I jumped to speak to that point. In the midst of a studio full of white women, I could feel the discomfort in the room as soon as the words came from my mouth. But it is a necessary conversation, and if we are to truly tackle media’s exploitation and misrepresentation of women, there must be intentional inclusion of perspective from all women, pointedly those who have the least voice in shaping their own stories in the mainstream.

Carol Jenkins, journalist, producer, and founding President of the Women’s Media Center gave such a poignant response that penetrates to the very essence of why this matters so much. Watch our exchange in this video:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/AU_rJWQJP6E&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Still, a few days prior to the MissRepresentation screening one of the oldest and most prominent girl-focused organizations hosted a Twitter chat on media images and girls. I noticed there and in  other arenas exploring the topic, somehow race and culture are skirted around. This troubles me.

What about you… do you agree race and culture belong in this conversation? What are the media images that you most connect/resist? Are they tied to you as a woman or to your experience as a fill in the blank woman

It apparently troubled others like Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku, founder of She is Me Program. Now we have both linked arms to collaborate and host a Twitter chat dedicated to examining the images of girls of color in media and to offer best practices that resist stereotypes, empowering girls to create their own messages.

That is the goal of #girlsmediachat which will take place on Twitter Thursdays, 8p CST, beginning Nov. 3.  We hope you will join us, share your perspective, recommend guests/topics, and invite others.

Follow us on Twitter

Girls Like Me

She is Me Program   

Please share and follow the hashtag #Girlsmediachat

Also, MissRepresentation is now a movement. Take a moment to take the pledge to join the fight!

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Lambs among wolves: Blind generalizations hurt all our youth

The other morning, I woke up to a news story that caught me off guard. There had been a series of violent attacks against students who attend Urban Prep, an all-boys college preparatory high school here in Chicago. The network of schools has three campuses and boasts very impressive numbers in terms of graduating college-bound students. Its students must embrace a culture of mutual respect, accountability and nonviolence . So no doubt the basic premise of the report caused me to shake my head in dismay. For goodness sake, how disgraceful is it students on a path to be their best selves are targets of ruthless, loose aggression…every day?

As a mother of a soon to be high school student, I can’t begin to imagine how I would encourage my child to adhere to a school’s creed of being non-violent while bearing the brunt of fists. I’d be livid…not to mention frightened out of my mind. In fact, this acute fear has reached me on a personal level. Over the last few years, my children and their classmates who attend another network of Charter schools here in the city have faced similar incidents involving children from neighboring schools or who hang out in the area surrounding their schools. Thank God the incidents at my son’s middle school last year resulted in nothing more than a bruised jaw and ribs. That was mild in comparison to the many violent robberies of laptops that have happened, shootings at the high school. None of this initiated or provoked by the students.

So as a parent I completely identify with the outrage of the Urban Prep parents who want something done. One of the most attractive facets of charter schools is that parents’ voices are solicited and embraced. And these parents were not shy about voicing their concerns. Point blank they want their children to learn in peace; free from stress and worry of the long way home. Their children do not deserve to deal with this type of trauma. They expect community support including police presence to put an end to it all. More than that, though, they are willing to step up themselves.

That is a beautiful thing.

Still, there is an ugly side to all this…. a path that leads us back into the defeated cycle of failed community. And it is imperative that we fully examine and rectify every angle.

When I heard this story, what caught my attention more than anything was the reporter’s lead and characterization of the youthwho attacked the students. The reporter stated that the motive behind the attacks was the Urban Prep’s impressive academic reputation. I’m sorry, but I find that hard to believe. Other remarks followed describing the youth as gangs and thugs.

First of all, Urban Prep is a non-selective enrollment school (thank God for that, Chicago needs more schools that serve all its students equally with the expectation of success. But I digress). So there is nothing determining whether the children donning the Urban Prep uniforms are any smarter or any more proficient than those throwing fists. Nor was there any irrefragable proof that they all live in housing projects and belong to gangs (and which gang have deep seated rivalry with innocent school boys?)

When we allow media to frame our stories and direct our course of conversation, it reinforces stereotypes our community homologates about ourselves, especially concerning our youth.

The bottom line is this, for all who saw the movie Waiting for Superman, or for those who are living the movie; whether it be concerning decent education, housing or basic quality of life, we all are aware that the youth are the ones who suffer and it breeds a spirit of anger and resentment when for no other reason than socio-economics you are left out by design.

What thought process goes into building a shiny new school in an area surrounded by devastation while neglecting to do any community outreach and engagement? What were the expectations of dressing students up in crisp uniformed suits to walk with heads high amongst those who can only look low for loose change and lost hope? I ask again what was expected?

Too often we want to walk among the community, but not with the community. Community is not a neighborhood. It is not only about geographical boundaries. It is about common goals, shared values, thought or communicative exchange.

So now today parents and school officials must scramble to do what is absolutely necessary given the initial dilatory negligence.

See, we must understand the children at Urban Prep are there but for one reason, they have advocates. Either their parents, grandparents, neighbor, mentor or church family is making sure they have every opportunity to keep them eligible for fair play in the game of life. This does not make them any better than the children who reside in the nearby public housing, nor the ones who used to live there before their respective families were forcefully evicted, yet they still come back to the old ‘hood misdirected.

No. None of our children are better than the other, save but the grace of God they could switch places at any moment.

They have more in common than we would like to believe. And I would affirm they are all capable of greatness. They all have the potential to excel. Every one of them needs love and guidance. They all need model standards and mentors.

So what are we going to do about our youth…about our babies? Because at the end of the day, you can proceed ahead believing that your child is better than a child based on your income level or the fact that their parents are recipients of section 8. You can believe your nephew is promised a bright shining future because he attends the best ranking school in the nation. But, here is the reality check chickens come home to roost. So you can build up the few to fall to the many.

Here’s my two cents.

Hold community meetings and symposiums with the COMMUNITY; you provide resources like mentoring opportunities for neighborhood youth; job opportunities or free legal advice

Open the gym for basketball tourneys

Host peer mentor session partnering students w/community youth

Our view of the world is only as good as our point of reference. How we choose to view our youth will tell us for sure what our tomorrow holds. Are they all either good or ghetto? Perhaps they are either nerd or thugs? Is every at risk child an incorrigible monster destined to fail?

The Interrupters, a Sundance Film offers a clear view of solutions. Watch it and use as a beginning to address this issue in your city.

Fixing the broken reality of a few is akin to bandaging an open gunshot wound. You get the picture?

Life Always Using Sensationalism to Target Black Community

Today here in Chicago, Life Always is expected to unveil a 30-billboard campaign featuring President Obama’s face and the words “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”

Life Always is planning to“launch” their sensational billboards this morning at 11 a.m. near vacant lot at 5812 S. State Street, here on the south side, a part of the city that is predominantly Black and densely impoverished.

Life Always is the same group responsible for the disgusting billboard in NYC that claimed “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” And  in ATL, their propaganda claimed “Black Children are an Endangered Species.”

These billboards are all tactics in this group’s concerted effort to silence and take away a woman’s right to choose.

Their tactic is to use guilt, misinformation, and limit reproductive justice. This fight may very well be used to perpetuate political interests and affect Roe v. Wade decision.

Much like activists in NYC and Sister Song in ATL, sisters and brothers in Chicago cannot allow Life Always to target our families with bombastic and exploitative messaging that incites fear and guilt, trivializes a complex and emotional human rights issue.

Today, a reproductive justice coalition will attend the press conference. I have also started a petition on Change. org

Please visit and sign the petition letting Life Always know their tactics do not support reproductive justice, human or civil rights, nor does it serve the best interest of Black and Latino communities.

We want to let Life Always know the African-American community does not welcome its exploitive and politically motivated billboards in any city of our nation.

We are demanding that Life Always cease and desist with its marketing scheme that uses sensational anti-abortion rhetoric to target Blacks and Latinos.

We do not want an influx of their billboards in NYC, Chicago, Dallas, LA, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc.

Please sign the petition and share with your friends and community. You should also contact Marissa Gabrysch at Life Always 210.617.0967 and share your outrage at these sensational billboard antics.

Stay tuned for updates and I’ll be live tweeting from press conference today, posting video and audio.

Driving While Black…The unlucky American reality

My family and I have spent this past Sunday being lazy and pretty much recuperating from my stepmother’s birthday celebration. As the day drew itself out and night rushed in, I realized I would not be cooking dinner. With it being All-Star weekend, I suggested my family of four go to Friday’s where we’d be able to eat and finish enjoying the game.

 

Afterwards, we were headed home in good spirits. But all was not that smooth, as I had to give my children their hourly reminder that sibling bickering and name-calling was absolutely inappropriate and against every spiritual law of family.  Deep into the discussion, I noticed a CPD unmarked detective’s car languishing on a side street about 2 miles away from our home.  in our neighborhood (where we CHOOSE to reside, you see a lot of those, yet the crime rate is ridiculously higher. One would presume more cops means less crime, but I digress).

 

At any rate, I instinctively got a small tug of anxiety and tenseness. After all, my husband was driving and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the scenario, something about a Black man driving after dark (well anytime, but surely if it is nightfall) alarms racist cops that this might be their lucky day. And the luck is certainly not on the Black hand side. All that to say, I was only mildly surprised when we were pulled over tonight. I became incensed when the pig comes up and demands ID without initially stating why we were pulled over. Furthermore, it was quite obvious when questioned about why we had been stopped,  he tried to intimidate and made up an obvious lie about a warrant. That is a bold-faced lie, my husband has NEVER been arrested, nor detained nor any criminal activity in his entire life! But on this night, my children became near hysterical as they witnessed their father falsely detained in the back of a police car, a place for criminals.

 

Next time you are out, count the number of drivers who are pulled over for “traffic stops.” Pay attention to the number of drivers asked to step out of their cars for such stops. Of those who are stopped, ask yourself what is the common factor? If that does not paint the picture for you, recall the lives of Latonya Haggerty, Robert Russ, Cornelius Ware, or even Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and the legions of others whose lives have been snuffed out over alleged probable cause.

It doesn’t matter what kind of car. The number of passengers, nor the very obvious fact that a man is driving his wife and children home will make any impression on the “officers.” There is an “us against them” mentality, and often times tax-paying, law-abiding citizens caught up in this game of numbers.

While in college, when my husband and I were home on school breaks, we drove everywhere in his Chevy Monte Carlo….nothing fancy, but def a popular car of the times. It was also a police magnet. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times we were pulled over, car seats ripped out, he and his friends searched. Never given a ticket (not like he was actually speeding or violating any traffic laws). Nobody ever hauled off to jail (not too much crime you can get into when everything you do is with family and close friends who all attend college with you). So what conclusion can we come to?

 

I’ve never been one to accept this assumption of power and authority inherent regarding most police forces. I’ve been a victim of police brutality myself too often, most memorable being slapped, arm twisted and handcuffed by an officer who was no less than 6ft tall 230lbs. All this as a 17yr. old who stood 5ft tall weighing 94lbs.  Not to mention the numerous occasions my teenage male friends were stopped and searched by police as we walked to/from the store or ran errands for our families. Some were standing on corners or sitting on our front porch. Only thing that deterred police from harassing them was another group of Black youth had caught their eyes first.

 

My past pushed me to understand my rights for myself and my community. I enrolled in more than 12 hours of criminal justice classes during my college career. I have always been involved in some capacity or another with groups who teach and advocate for social justice.

 

At the same time, I also speak out and work within my community to fight crime, even attending CAPS meetings or covering issues in my work. Nobody, regardless of race/affiliation gets a pass from me for wrongdoing and short-changing my community.

 

So it messes with me on a personal level when “officers of the law”  charged with protecting and serving, contrarily see their role to intimidate, and assume that we are all ignorant to our rights. Interrogating the very communities they should engage and partner with. How many police officers were shot and killed in recent months? Is there not a need  to befriend the community so that we can all keep each other safe?

 

Mayoral election day is here in Chicago, and there is a constant barrage of  campaign commercials where candidates laud their platform for more cops to combat the crime. Primarily I hear this from Rahm and Chico. What will be their directives? More racial profiling? More insensitive and detached detectives to harass Black citizens? More “justified” shootings by police?

Not only does our family live in Englewood, we own property. Our tax dollars pay the salaries for the very same racist cops who treat us as enemies. Crime is a reality everywhere. If it weren’t, police departments would not exist and cops would need a new career choice. At the same time, EVERYONE is not a criminal. If you approach your job with that outlook, the rapport you have with citizens will flourish. Trust will build and someday overshadow the historical justification for “no snitching” codes that are a detriment to our community and hamper closure to criminal cases.

 

Yet, if police keep conducting themselves as a gang and community terrorists, the level of empathy and community will further dissipate so that many will not find a sympathetic bone in their bodies when tragedy trumps honor.

 

That is the reality.

 

So we must ask of Weiss, Daley, Rahm, Chico and those who advocate for more officers: How can police effectively do their jobs serving the communities they work while turning from luck and embracing spiritual laws that always win?

 

Here’s something for Chicagoans to consider as you head out to vote for Mayor…

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-071205cops-htmlstory,0,2906787.htmlstory



Black History Month: Relevant or Unnecessary

Every year without fail, folks pose the preposterous question, “is Black History Month relevant?

Well…I could immediately begin lamenting the train of thought that leads one to pose that question. But I’d rather share a story with you.

Not so long ago, growing up on the low end of the south side of Chicago, my neighborhood was big on history. In fact, within a 20-block radius of our home on 49th and Michigan, it was nothing to pass through vibrant Black institutions. There was Baldwin Ice Cream Parlor where my cousins and I sat in their heart-shaped chairs and ate our favorite Bubble-gum filled ice cream. On our way to and from the family’s place of worship, Pilgrim Baptist Church; a historical institution itself, we passed the Supreme Life Insurance Building.  There were the public housing developments such as Robert Taylor and Ida B. Wells homes. And the elementary schools I attended, Anthony Overton and Walter H. Dyett Middle School, which similar to a majority of the other schools in the surrounding area were all named for courageous and pioneering Black Americans such as Mary C. Terrell, Bessie Coleman, Jean-Baptiste Pointe Dusable to name a few.

Funny thing about all that history on the low end is its significance was rarely directly imparted to us children, especially concerning the names of the schools we entered everyday. Back then those institutions and businesses stood as a backdrop to a decaying community where Pony cocaine packs littered the streets, neighborhood drunks became heroes, prostitutes turned tricks in vacant lots and schools named after greatness dealt in mediocre standards.

The only time we became remotely aware of the greatness that at one time thrived in our very neighborhood was during the 28 days of February. And even then, only a select few highlighted for us.

Today, that neighborhood is no longer the undesirable “low end” but in its gentrified state is referred to by a much more distinguished name, Bronzeville. There are actual history tours dedicated to showcasing all the landmarks and legacy there.

Considering how little the children who grew up there in the early 80s and 90s were collectively taught of the greatness we were born from, I can’t help but wonder how little of ourselves we would have known if not for Black History Month.

And that’s not the only relevance Black History Month has. Here’s a list in no particular order:

Cultural exchange…

The reality, outside of our own timelines, news and RSS feeds, nobody else is really talking about contributions of Blacks, at least not in any historical context. And with the exception of a few conscious minded Black folks and curious foreigners, the study of Black life and culture is hardly a major interest of whites.

Get your mind right….

So much superfluous chatter online and talk shows, in barber shops and hair salons, relegated to ice cream tattoos, Real Housewives and The Game drama, Twitter beefs, and all things pop culture. At least folks pay a little more attention to our heritage and legacy during February.

Return of investment (ROI)

Corporations and institutions who earn millions of dollars from their strategic marketing and psychological bait of Blacks, invests a small token of those earnings to diversity and cultural programming, much of it during BHM. Not to mention some of our grand award programs and specials would sorely miss the sponsorship dollars.

BHM pays the bills…

Many a Black freedom fighter, professor, author and otherwise self-proclaimed intellectual banks on the speaking engagement and panel appearances across the county. If not for the BHM circuit, most of them would never gain access to the level of mainstream exposure (paid gigs) they garner during February.

I see Black people…

PBS and Cable networks dedicate the entire month to feature Black films and culture, i.e. HBO Lackawanna Blues, What the Lord Made et al

New school…

In these times, schools don’t bear the names of historic figures that its scholars can relate to, but named for neighborhoods or corporate donors. Kids don’t even get to wonder or Google about the greatness over the doors they walk through daily.

The vision…

When Carter G. Woodson created first the week and later the month, the intent was to celebrate all the accomplishments of Black Americans. He had already devoted his life to the research and study of Black life, subsequently forming the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The month-long celebration is merely an extension.

Which is why I just don’t understand how some question its relevance. Are you ready to say farewell to Black History Month? Have we really overcome a time for celebrating our history?

Kanye, quite unnecessary but big of you to apologize to the little man

Just for clarity and background…I am an extreme critic when it comes to art and culture. It is not easy to impress me. That’s why in the summer of  2003, I was the ultimate critic of a new kid on the hip hop scene. There was a popular concert series here in Chicago called Neo Soul Explosion that featured up and coming “neo-soul” artists. Folks like Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Raheem Devaughn, Anthony David,  and Floetry. I was producing for WVON, who was the media sponsor. There was this guy joining one of the series and everyone was making a big deal over…Kanye West. My intial thoughts were “The rapper guy? Affiliated with Jay Z? Why is he performing in a neo soul concert series?” One of my excited colleagues even asked him for his autograph. I’m thinking, again, “dude is a rapper…and he is affiliated with Jay Z.” Now personal hang ups with Jay Z aside, I’d heard his single, “Through the Wire,” and while I thought is was an interesting sample and great story telling, I hadn’t heard any particular line that inspired nor empowered me, my measurements of good hip hop.

But later in the summer I heard Jesus Walks! That was the moment I cared who Kanye West was. This certified dude for me. Ever since then, I have been a Kanye West fan. he is my Chi-Town brethren and I am biased, so you should know that before reading further.

Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, shall I proceed? Thank you for the digital head nod.

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation on NOLA, there was a collective sense of helplessness; a shared sense of neglect; a communicable outrage at the lack of emergency assistance, and moreover the outright disdain shown for the American people struck by this natural disaster. Looking at news coverage, it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of those Americans had a couple of things in common. One, many were poor. More than half hey were Black. It was heartbreaking to watch, especially when you heard the words refugee and looters media notables like CNN’s Anderson Cooper used to label the survivors.

More than anything, watching as a Black person, it became crystal clear…this country has yet to value or embrace Blacks as first class citizens.  Watching as a Black person, one could not help but imagine them self in the same predicament, abandoned by their government, ridiculed and exploited by their fellow countrymen. It was a time of collective suffering for Black Americans. At what to do when you are wounded and hurting? Lash out. So it came as no surprise to me that Kanye West seized his opportunity to speak truth to power during NBC’s Concert for Hurricane Relief.

Kanye’s proclamation that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” was quite fitting. Hell it is exactly what I was thinking and what our audience on WVON had been calling in to say since the levees broke and drowned the lower 9th ward of NOLA.

Too bad more influential Blacks did not come forth to speak that same truth. Kanye’s delivery may have been brash and ill-timed. But he stepped up to shed light on a dark place in America’s history-making moments. The moment that gave yet another entry into the plight of race in our Nation.

So I find it very telling that George W. Bush would take Kanye West’s opinion of him as one of the “most disgusting” moments of his presidency. Really?

Now I’m a person one either loves or hates. I accept that about myself. There have been some pretty mean things said about me, hell but that is true about anyone who lives more than a month on this planet. Not even crying, colicky babies get a pass.  Still, most mature people understand that not everyone is going to like them. Mature and rational people totally accept that they cannot please everyone, that folks will feel some kinda way about them. That’s human nature. You chalk it up and keep moving…that is unless there is a strand of truth in their assessment of you. Well, then their evaluation haunts you.

Judging from Bush’s congratulatory remarks to FEMA executive Mike Brown telling him he was doing a “Heck of a job,” and his analysis of his administration’s response, Bush has not given a second thought to the people who had suffered.  And again, those people disproportionately were Black and poor.

The media genius Rachel Maddow shares with us how Bush in his own words proves Kanye’s theory:

I’d like to hear what legislation, commitments, initiatives, resources he developed and lead during his 8 year administration that would discredit Kanye’s observations.

Crickets….

Fast forward to 2010 when NBC’s Matt Lauer decides to take Kanye to task for his passionate remarks made in 2005. First of all, I watched the tape several times. Virtually I gave a high five to Kanye on Myspace and Facebook for his accurate summary of George W. Bush and all those who identify with his “cowboy” oil-slicked mentality. Kanye never used the word racist. Though if we could hear some of the hunting conversations between Bush and his buddies, and by analyzing some of his Presidential priorities, that point could be proven, too. But don’t put that in Kanye’s lap. He did not call George W. Bush a racist…he said the man does not care about Black people. Huge difference.

Furthermore, as a producer, I recognize the effect The Today Show team was going for when they staged Kanye’s previous remarks to play under his present interview. Every decision made by the executive producer and tech director is for effect, one that does not require the knowledge or input of the subject. And Kanye, being the intelligent Black man that he is, understood he was indeed a subject trying to be manipulated. I am proud of him for thinking through his responses and for asserting himself to Matt Laurer.

Yet, even more than his own defense, I was proud to see Hip Hip mogul and cultural influencer, Russell Simmons, send out a support signal to his young brother.

Unfortunately, not many others have seen fit to do so. Black intellectuals love to pontificate on matters like the death of hip hop and misogyny, but even James Baldwin would’ve clearly seen the juxtaposition of Black celebrity and corporate media. The thought that Black culture is to be exploited and celebrated if/when it mocks itself. When Black artists portray themselves as villains and helpless, then they are “cool.” But let them have an opinion that is remotely political and they are Muhammad Ali’d.

Not to mention the corporate triangle in all this that my boy, Davey D connected for us.

Kanye has made albums in which he questions himself and his contradictions, speaking about his tendencies to fall for the patriarchal leanings of this society when he refers to women in derogative terms. But I don’t see anyone taking him to task for that.

But I digress. All of this to say, America needs to knock it off. Stop the damn farce. Be honest about where Blacks stand in this country and how we are tolerated only if we don’t step out of the boxes deemed for us.

Then too, I’d like to give George W. Bush a few other disgusting moments from his presidency. I found this site, one of several, that gave a very thorough account of all the disgusting missteps of this duck-brain. http://www.netrootsmass.net/hughs-bush-scandals-list/

Feel free to add your own.

Oh, and just to make a point, look at how he insults a blind journalist.

Let’s face it. Bush owes the American people an apology for (fill in the blank).

Blind man insult

I’m a Bitch

I’m a bitch. At least that is what the sister called me right after she slapped her daughter several times upside the head and told her to “shut the fuck up.” The mother had paused her reverse trek out of a grocery store’s parking space to deliver the slaps. She’d blocked traffic and turned her body full around to “really beat her ass,” as I guess the slaps didn’t demonstrate the full rage she intended. A little boy of about 5 or 6 sat next to the girl in the backseat looking on without emotion.

The girl couldn’t have been more than 10 years old. I’d heard the sound from the slap along with the reactionary cry that came on its heels. It was a child’s cry yet so full of anguish and disgrace, that I could feel the hurt…and I took it personally.
Something pulled the mother’s eyes to me, as I stood there staring into the car with my mouth hanging open in disbelief and shock. I know she could see the disgusted shade that I threw her way. If looks could kill, I was hoping to land her an eyeful to the throat. But they don’t. So she lived on and drew in her breath only to direct her rage towards me and say, “Bitch, I don’t give a fuck!”

Well, that was obvious.

I continued to stare at her and give her the evil eye, along with another woman who’d happen to witness it all, too. But she went about her business and sped out of the lot. I was thankful that for a few moments she’d redirected her rage at me and not on baby girl. I was glad La’Keisha had woke up focused on the 8a.m. trip to the local grocer. Relieved that Keisha was repressed in my body and still sleeping, not too alert and ready for the BS.

I walked into the store to do my shopping in deep thought. One thing’s for sure, it provided a moment to self reflect. A few years ago, Keisha would’ve invited the grown woman out of the car to hit a grown woman the way she hit that child, or at least told her how ignorant and common she was. Probably would’ve been mad enough to cuss her out, too. But for what?  The children witnessing yet more violence? Perpetuating the stigma to the children that fighting, cussing, and arguing is how black women get down and interact? Or worse, not getting the food for my home, locked up in a police station?

Not worth it. So I accepted being her bitch and whatever else she wanted to call me.

But something has to be worth it to advocate for children who are abused, in public or their own homes, at the hands of their mothers. The question is how?

Institutionalized policy has done a job on Black families. For instance, had I simply taken down the license plate and called the police to report the incident, what would happen? Either of two extremes. One extreme being that police would not be able to take any action, but simply make a report. The car probably didn’t really belong to the driver and so the woman would not be identified or pursued. OR, they could make out the report, call DCFS, have the lady investigated, she is found to be unfit and the children placed in child protective services or foster care to meet fates and circumstances much more horrific than slaps and blows.

This situation bothered me most of the day. Because I know that mother. She lives on my block, she is a parent at my children’s schools, and she is in my family. I went back to that parking lot today while reading Mary Mitchell’s column in the Chicago Suntimes.

And like Mary gives so many examples, we all can admit we know mothers like that. But how do we speak out and admonish her, force her to change her ways and PROTECT the children in her care.

True story…when I was little, I remember my mother telling my sisters and me that no one was to put their hands on us. If they did we should fight back and let her know about it. I took those words to heart. Nobody would cause me or my sisters harm, verbally or physically. Still I had an adult try on many occasions under the auspice of ‘disciplining” me. I was about 9 or 10 and I fought like a mad woman protecting her child. I refused to cry. I refused to be beaten.

I cried a little yesterday, though. Because from the sound of that baby girl’s cry, I know her spirit had been beaten and it was broken. I know it’ll be broken more and more, and more than likely, she’ll have her own little girl before she is healed.

Hopefully someone has some words of advice to help those who hurt in the hearts yet don’t know how to help mothers like this one and their babies.