Posts Tagged ‘food’

Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise

NOTE: This post has been updated since its initial posting.

 

Here’s your friendly announcer, I have serious news to pass on to everybody. What I’m about to say, could mean the world’s disaster… could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain…” Stevie Wonder-Love’s in Need of Love

I’m so feeling Mr. Wonder on that, cause this piece here, more than anything I’ve ever took pen to, needs to get your attention. In past weeks I’ve seen sister bloggers and academicians  go hard to defend Beyonce and Rhianna’s respective artistic and creative prerogative.  Then too, there’s been much commentary clouding the internet with the age-old dark-skinned vs. light-skinned schism.

Even still, Black-focused magazines have posted countless pictures of Halle Berry and little Nahla, they’ve got really adorable piccs of JHud cuddling with her baby. They’ve spent loads of bandwidth flaming trite, yet popular discussions.

Alas, like Stevie sang, my news announcement is not fluffy and pretty. Nope, I’m here to interrupt the beauty salon flow and girlfriend rhetoric, boldy stating it is time to stop and desist with the mindless chatter. Though passionate and definitely tied to some serious “issues,” it is time to reshape our girl talk.

We can start by getting familiar with the young sisters who attend Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for young mothers and their children which is on the brink of closing.  Repeat-the school, Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, is schedule to close June 16, 2011.

I recently attended the screening for Grown in Detroit, a documentary examining the implications of a learning environment that promotes urban farming; taught healthy parenting skills (including benefits of breastfeeding); mandated college admission as a prerequisite to graduating; and encouraged self-sufficiency. That was just for the teen mothers.

Their babies are also attending the school in a nursery/preschool developmental center. If there were a tag cloud for this school the words would include nurture, belief, hope, persistence, resilience, tenacity, strong, open, energy, village, fresh, direction, counsel, practical, free.

It is such a powerful concept, everyone who attended the screening wanted to literally and figuratively plant it in every impoverished community. Obviously that has been the overwhelming sentiment of  folks who have seen/heard about CFA, as the school earned the Breakthrough High School award in 2004 given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals for outstanding achievement among schools with high poverty rates.

Even Oprah took note and featured the school in the April 2008 issue of O Magazine

So how could closing be the fate of this nucleus of hope and promise for many of Detroit’s most marginalized youth? Girls who dropped out of other Detroit Public schools now maintain a 90% attendance rate while at CFA, a notable feat as the school’s location requires many students to take 2 buses and travel more than one hour each way…with babies and strollers.

Young sisters who would otherwise be left discarded by society, have flourished in the village of CFA where they’ve been given the basic yet most important tools for success.

Yet it is scheduled to close this week. In two days from the posting of this blog. But, we can help save this school and the fate of these mothers and babies. This is where our lip service needs some real gloss.

In April, some of the students were arrested in the halls of CFA after silently protesting the closing.

Rachel Maddow has dedicated a significant portion of her MSNBC airtime to this travesty.

http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/23/6517421-more-about-the-catherine-ferguson-academy

Let’s join her in using our voices to get folks moving to advocate for the children.For more information on what you can do to help save Catherine Ferguson Academy, call 855-ASK-BAMN or emaildonna.stern@bamn.com.

UPDATE: Catherine Ferguson Academy was saved from closing. Detroit Free Press reported on the decision and next steps.

Still let’s continue this discussion, we should begin building this very same model in our cities. Would you be down with that?

Stay posted for part II. I have much more to say on this.

Advertisements

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.