Category Archives: Parenthood

Lemon Squeeze

beyonce-lemonade-albumBeyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is not playing with y’all simple handkerchief head, panty-waste asses no fuckin’ mo’! She just put all our business in the streets with “Lemonade.” And, by “our,” I mean every(black)body!  She told all y’all that held her up as the next feminist sheroe to, “fuck yo’ feminism and all its exclusions of the terrorism of black bodies.”  She ain’t here for that shit and she ain’t gotta pretend no fuckin’ mo’.  Checks been cashed. She rich bitch! She ain’t nobody’s pick-a-ninny, mammy, or negro wench. She ain’t window dressing or keeping calm for not none of y’all.  

Now, if you watched that whole montage of black beauty, brilliance, and womanhood and still think it’s just about Jay Z’s alleged cheatin’ ass, you missed the whole fuckin’ point. Bey ain’t told nobody nothin’ about her business in ever. Oprah couldn’t even crack her ass. You really think she just put her journal to a beat ‘cause y’all bffs in your head? Ya’ll so busy tryin’ to put a name to where Jay been dippin’ his paintbrush, that you can’t see the whole picture. That was the minor plot. These simple surface basic bitches ‘round here thinking they done found a roaming husband support group in Bey. I can’t even deal! So, I’mma have to let somebody with a little bit more patience break it all the way down til’ it can’t be broke no fuckin’ mo’.

Lemonade

Pitcher 1 – Intuition

On the surface, Queen Bey is referencing the power women are known to have to be spiritually connected with those they love.  We tend to know when our mates mess up, step out, transform from the lover who only seeks us as a source of affection to an infidel.  We feel the haunts of strangers in our corridors and bedrooms. We pray to catch you uttering a name other than ours in the clandestine corners of our shared spaces. We pray you see us see you so our inner visions can be confirmed; to know we are not “crazy” or “insecure” without just cause.hqdefault

We know. Even when we silence the internal discourse that reveals it and suppress the evidence you leave trailing behind, your dishonesty is palpable. We are each others confidants standing in solidarity without sharing a single word because we hold true to the declaration that “what happens in this family, stays in this family.”  That mandate, the root of our cyclical heartaches and familial destruction.

beyonce-and-mathew-knowlesMany of us have seen it time and again; first as an infantile witness, now as an object of the indiscretion. There is a lineage of malfeasances that some men {and women} uphold. It is unspoken, but understood by everyone for generations. It is seen in the familiar eyes of outside children with no last names. Proof is revealed in the glances of whispering women in back pews of the sanctuary. It is the look of pity and shame bestowed upon the children and spouses of the adulterer. It is the critical, shifting moment of womanhood when a daughter juxtaposes the perfection of her father with his failures as a husband. Oh, we know. Yet, we still try to make a home with you.

“You remind me of my father / A magician / Able to be in two places at once. /…. Like the men in my family, you come home at 3 am and lie to me”

 

This is often why wives are persecuted when husbands are unfaithful. “She had to have known,” they say. “She must not please him,” they relent. “How could she be so ‘great’ if she can’t even keep a happy home,” they scoff. Women are lashed on both sides of the “stand by your man” debate and criticized for being the “other woman” even if they believed themselves to be the only woman. Rarely is the man offered a scarlet letter with which to adorn himself.

Contrarily, men are demeaned intellectually rather than in deed. They are denigrated in the belief that their actions are beyond their control. “They can’t help themselves.” The implication is that men are so feeble in mind and tawdry in character that they would all roam from one willing woman to the next save the controlling claw of their “ball and chain.” Both suppositions derogate the roles and expectations of husbands and wives. So, as women, we usually play the role of being taken by surprise when these misdeeds come to surface.

But, here in this first chapter of the visual album “Lemonade,” Beyoncé owns our power of “Intuition.”

Visual Recounts of Intution

Cornrows                                                                                                                                                  Bowed head                                                                                                                                                  Dirty                                                                                                                                                            Blonde                                                                                                                                                                    Fur                                                                                                                                                                  Chains                                                                                                                                                            Fluid deadened grass                                                                                                            Deconstructed brick                                                                                                                                Walls                                                                                                                                                            Black woman                                                                                                                                        Kneeling                                                                                                                                                      Head                                                                                                                                                           Draped                                                                                                                                                                   Cloaked                                                                                                                                                   Hooded                                                                                                                                                               Black in tall grass                                                                                                                                     Hands clutched                                                                                                                                    Tunnels                                                                                                                                                                  Solidarity                                                                                                                                                      Pale faces                                                                                                                                                 Words about nothingness                                                                                                   Encompassing everything                                                                                                               Building emptiness                                                                                                                                    Black women                                                                                                                                      in Formation                                                                                                                                                  On the edge

Teetering

Jump

Leap

Crash

Submersion

-Muthafuckin’ Rose & Black Girl

Beyond Beyoncé: A Lesson In Colorism

I remember when I first began performing spoken word with the poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme.  I was introduced by the stage name “Black Girl.” Hisses and heckling greeting me as I graced the stage. “She ain’t black,” darted from the back of the room and hit me in the face like a paper bag of dog shit. I laughed and addressed the echo of our collective self-loathing. I knew exactly what they meant. It was a sentiment I’d heard my entire life.

If (we know that it is) the darker sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as beautiful, the lighter sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as black, by her own people. And then enters Beyoncé, stage left to center.

This past weekend she dropped a single so revolutionarily black (for an artist of her celebrity) that she has E-VER-RY-BODY talking about it. Even thosebeyonce-formation-video-thumb that don’t want to entertain it, write about how much they don’t want to entertain it. Not one white person is able to sing along with this song without looking crazy, but any black person can. We all know and understand what it means to be culturally “mixed” without being racially so. She’s black mixed with black, but we know the difference. Some of us cringed and clutched our pearls, others of us rocked in bold affirmation when we heard her bellow, “My daddy Alabama. Mama Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole, you get Texas ‘Bama.”   But, we’ve all claimed to have “Indian” in our family because we wanted to be “special” black and not just regular. And, when there was no evidence of anything other than pure blackness in our melanated skin and the tight coils of our natural hair; when we couldn’t mask it with concealer and flowing weaves; when our perfection of grammar and European languages didn’t erase our broad features; when we realized we could never “pass” and therefore a certain level of privilege within blackness would not be afforded to us, we began to hate….ourselves and anyone (of us) that represented the other end of the color spectrum. This isn’t some universal language song. This is an undeniably, unapologetically black song. It exposes the good, the bad, and the shameful self-loathing.

beyonce-formation-halftime-640x639She did this the first weekend in Black History Month. She did this on an international stage Super Bowl weekend.  She did this with an army of black women in afros. She did this in the state that houses Oakland. She did this with black berets and Black Power fists plunging in the air. She did this without any men in her squad (to correct the ails of the misogyny within the Black Panther Movement.) She did this in an “X” Formation.  She did this for every person from NOLA that was called a “refugee” in their native land. She did this while referencing Katrina, hot sauce, the Jacksons and their original noses, how we grind, black lives, systemic genocide, our non-monolithic subcultures and her “baby hair in baby hair and afros.” For the power of the impact alone regardless of how we feel about the music sonically and lyrically, we should collectively be proud. And, yet, the internal struggle is real.

I’ve seen the comments repeatedly that she’s self-serving and that her lyrics are just about her.  But, what black woman song isn’t? Cue I’m Every Woman . Yet, we still all relate. I’ve heard that she and the song lack substance; as if every song we’ve ever rocked to was the Black Revolution Manifesto. I’ve heard that she’s opportunistic and capitalizing on this vital time in black uprising. When wasn’t it a vital time?nick-young-confused-face-300x256 I’ve heard critiques of the song’s usage of stereotypes, but I fully embrace stereotypes that are true and rooted in our culture. There is no negative connotation to carrying hot sauce in your bag, taking your man to Red Lobster or making him tacos if he put in work unless, out of shame, you have detached yourself from parts of our black subculture; the parts birthed from poverty. We can’t even adopt the lyrics to her music because we don’t feel connected to her. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t pretty enough and therefore she cannot fully understand the black girl’s plight. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t popular enough,or loved enough, or accepted (we assume.) Whatever struggles she may have faced pale in comparison and therefore, her music, her lyrics, her voice is self-serving because she cannot possibly associate herself with the core trials of black womanhood. Damn! We have some healing to do. 

We aren’t even conscious of this internal struggle and that this is the source for many of the palpable disdain for her; not just her music, her. Colorism is visceral. It’s intrinsic for black people, especially in regards to black women. The well read of us understand that this is rooted in the division intentionally perpetuated through centuries of chattel slavery and forced miscegenation, but we own it anyway. We rally behind it with  banners that read “Team Light-Skin” vs. “Team Dark-Skin.” It’s cancerous to the core. It is the vile excrement and pus of the layered wounds of an earthed history cloaked in colonialism. Colorism

When I see black women divisive on this issue, I find it easier to be a vocal advocate for my darker-hued sisters because I too have been considered “privileged.” Erykah Badu can do no wrong. She’s the safe color. Her hair is just kinky enough to be black, but just soft and textured enough to be considered “good.” Mary J. Blige is safe. She can rock platinum blonde hair for her entire career and never be questioned about her identity struggles. Her music has always been undeniably black. She has so many black girl anthems in her catalog that we each feel she has read our personal journals and put our business in the streets. But, the others, the Janell Monaes and India Aries aren’t getting all of their just due praise. And, I call all of my lighter-hued sisters to the carpet about it.  I can because I share ALL of their struggles. They can hear me.

It is undeniable that darker women have been marginalized and that their beauty has been overlooked. We, as black women of every shade, can stand in solidarity on that fact. We watched the documentary “Dark Girls” in horror and stood together against colorism, even though I was literally and figuratively given the side-eye because I just couldn’t possibly understand. However, I feel less supported by and less empowered to check my darker sisters on the visceral disdain for any black woman that doesn’t pass their paper bag test because they aren’t dark enough. Yes, it cuts both ways. no-one-cares-about-your-white-feelingsThe hatred of darker black women against lighter black women for that sole reason is dismissed and denied. It’s lumped in the same box with “white tears.” To offer such an accusation is internalized as insulting and demeaning immediately; the mirror is never held. No one wants to accept or hear these truths because to allow lightness (which we equate with whiteness) to play the victim in any way usurps the power of victimization from our darker sisters who’ve been denied so much already.   When our refusal to recognize it in ourselves is presented in our defensiveness and justification for our feelings, I bow out.

I was talking to a girlfriend last night, a sister who shares a lighter complexion and a rational love for Beyoncé and black women in general. I was confirmed in what I was feeling. I shared with her a reluctance to recognize the reaction to Beyoncé because I feared putting a name to it. Though it was cellularly familiar, I didn’t want to make the bold accusation that we, as black women, still hate ourselves and therefore cannot fully embrace each other as a reflection of ourselves. “You know what you’re feeling as a thirty-five-year-old light-skinned black woman. I know it too.” I was feeling the discourse and challenge of my own blackness, just as I did on that stage years ago. I was feeling even more connected to Beyoncé in a way that I didn’t want to share. Beyoncé didn’t just have the nerve to be light. She had the audacity to come from a middle-class, two-parent household and be able to sing and dance as the leader of a black girl group where she was by far the lightest. How dare she?! confusion

But, I saw an uprising when Faux News came for her. Nobody can talk about us, but us. That’s code. It is not until she is attacked by whites for her blackness that we will rally around her and collectively support her. A black woman is not a black woman unless she has scars.

The black women who have healed are obvious. It’s not just her fans, because there are those of us who are her fans because she’s light. No, they have not healed. There are those who dismiss her as an artist completely and overanalyze every single step she makes. “She did this too late, too quietly, too loudly, too….white.” They are those who look at her with the expression one makes when they walk in a house of someone cleaning chitlin’s. No, they have not healed. There are those who share her hue but who have denounced their “light privilege” and therefore hate her for benefitting from it. No, they have not healed. There are those who will only come to her defense when the attacks against her can clearly be defined as racially motivated and spirited with hate towards our collective. Then, they’ll jump to her/our aid. No, they have not healed.  It is those who love her just as they love every other black girl using her voice; not necessarily all of her music or decisions, but the woman that she is and is becoming because they see her as a reflection of us all. They are the ones who have healed in this way, because be certain, we are all still wounded.

We believe that if you’re of a darker hue, you’re black and could be “pretty for a dark girl.” If you’re of a lighter hue, you’re beautiful, but “not black enough.” Our darker and lighter sisters feel the sentiments, “I hate you because you’re seen as beautiful,” and “I hate you because you’re seen as black,” respectively. We divide our blackness and beauty while failing to realize the two are synonymous.

Nina Simone is praised for her boldness in creating music that edified our people, our struggles, our resilience, our inevitable rise.  She was unapologetically black and beautiful, though the latter was often overlooked. She did not have crossover appeal in the states because of her black brilliance and skin. We see Beyoncé draped in mass appeal and we challenge her allegiance to us. If white folks embrace her, then she must not really be for us we think. But, she is undeniably beautiful and black.

Beyonce is ours.

 

 

Why BHM Is Still Relevant

My daughter is four. Just yesterday, we were calculating the number of states she’s visited and how it pales in comparison to the number of countries she’s traveled.  Being an expat kid afforded her opportunities and exposure most kids her age never experience, especially most black American kids.  She is, or at least she was when practiced daily, fluent in Mandarin and the colloquial language of Singlish.  Singlish-SamanthaHanna-722x500She can count in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and French. She can recognize the difference between Asian cultural nuances and people; a characteristic most adult Americans lack. (They do NOT all look alike.)  She is well versed in globalization, and is accepting, loving, and inclusive of everyone. Never has she met a stranger when it comes to other children. This is not, however, because of her exposure to multi-cultures. Her ability to engage cross-culturally is due to the foundation of her education being rooted in a love for her own culture.

A few weeks ago, we were asking questions about Ida B. Wells and President Obama in a casual conversation. She rattled off answers and was able to compare their contributions without hesitation. She ended the dialogue with the statement, “I know all about my heroes because you teach me everyday.” It was a proud moment as her mother and first educator.

She began learning of our “Heroes” as a part of her daily curriculum once she turned 14-months-old.  We would introduce her to a new hero through flash cards and teach her facts about each one.  If I was feeling ambitious, I’d couple the introduction with an activity that cemented who the hero was and what they contributed to society, not just black society, but their impact on the world. She understood the importance of offering reverence to our ancestors and the difference between our ancestors and the ancestors of our counterparts. She learned to appreciate our history, culture, beauty, and contributions at the very beginning of her educational cultivation.  This was intentional and imperative because “culture is elemental, not supplemental.”  Now, each hero serves as a reminder of her own ability and greatness. 

Whenever she feels timid about performing, we remind her of Lena Horne or Paul Robeson or Janell Monae.  When she’s frustrated by math or science, she hears encouragement from the strides of Mae Jemison, Benjamin Banneker, the creator of Mathematics, our ancestor Imhotep, or her uncle who holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/wohist.html When she’s in need of inspiration, we echo the poignant words of our legends Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Countee Cullen. nat_maya-angelou_52814_539_332_c1We do this so often, she understands that it’s a part of our regular exchange. During Black History Month this year, we’ll be highlighting even more living heroes like Eunique Jones and our recent contributions, so that she understands that our greatness is still relevant and being displayed. Not only does this teach her the importance of loving ourselves, it gives her the confidence to walk in any setting anywhere in the world and know that she can hold her own, while appreciating the other cultures represented; appreciation without assimilation. In every great obstacle she’ll face in her life, she’ll know that someone, someone that shares her history, lineage, and culture, has already conquered something similar, and therefore,victory is simply hers to obtain.  This is why…..image008.jpg

 

2015, The Reflection

So many thoughts as  I reflect on 2015. It was a time of heartbreak for me and many very dear to me. This year took a friend’s son, paralyzed another, a friend’s brother, my last two grandparents, and a friend from her son in the most painful way.

o-ATLANTA-facebook
The Lifeblood of Atlanta

It was a year of shifts. It shifted my entire family from one side of the world to another. It shifted my husband into entrepreneurship. It shifted family members into unemployment or underemployment. It shifted our collective paradigm from being complacent bystanders in the face of systemic injustices to being vocal advocates for social change. 

Charleston-Emanuel-AME-Church-Shooting-Victims-with-Names1It awakened our consciousness, and in many, our fears. It reminded us of the fragility of life and the devaluation thereof by many in positions of man-made power. It tested us. Some failed, but many of us found purpose in the wake of tragedies. 

Even in this, I am grateful. I am grateful that I’m still here. It means my work is not done and because I’m clear about my life’s work, I’m more focused on its execution. I’m grateful that those I know who’ve transitioned, some peacefully and others violently, are on the side of justice and are now guiding forces in our fight for it. I’m grateful that my marriage and my children, my infant son especially, survived my functional depression and state of melancholy at long stretches this year. I’m thankful that joy is still at the root of it all. I’m thankful that I have a direct line of communication with the Divine, and that I can be used as a vessel for Its work. I’m thankful that I have black friends who are aware of all that means and take pride in it, take an active role in our quest for liberation, and recognize the importance of coming together within ourselves first to heal and restore before we continue to offer our culture, traditions, and greatness to everyone else while being excluded from power by everyone else. I’m thankful for my very few white and non-black friends who get it; I mean really get it and support the fight for justice despite their inherited privilege. I’m thankful that we’ve finally found a pastor and a church that’s ’bout that life! 

Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of gratitude in the midst of the chaos of the world. Farewell 2015. May we all learn from your lessons so they need not be repeated; gain from your blessings, and move forward renewed and ready to face all that 2016 has to offer. 

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What Happens in Dallas, Leaves Dallas

freedom-schoolThis is why…we need our own schools. We need Freedom Schools again. We need schools that educate our children about themselves and schools that exercise the freedom to push our children to their highest potential, just as every other ethnic group has.

Educating and empowering children is a constant focus as it has a direct correlation to our elevation. When I served as the Language Arts Instructor and later principal of an African-centered PreK-8th grade school, I helped draft a culturally enhanced, accelerated, cross-sectional curriculum that challenged teachers and students to meet its rigor. When I left the traditional classroom and began consulting, training, and instructing teachers and students under the umbrella of Behavior Modification, I found that the greatest challenge in every age group was the lack of belief in self and, in most cases with students, who (the people;culture) they represented.   It has always been a long-term goal to either start a school or become a part of the community of one that houses our ideals to remedy this foundational problem.

                                        https://www.youtube.com/embed/GtElCrATcEk“>

Both of my children have had a monthly holistic curriculum tailored to their learning styles since birth that incorporates learning about our culture. I wouldn’t say I’m a Tiger Mom,  (I lived in Asia and saw first-hand what that truly means), but I am in the Big Cat family. I believe all children are born with a zeal to learn and will rise to meet every obtainable expectation, so I set them very high, especially for my own.

While doing our “for now and possibly forever” city search, we knew that finding a community or a place where one could be established easily would be the best fit for us at this time. Finding a school that met our needs was a critical component in the process. We searched Dallas the most extensively because it was the most practical selection for us. After two separate visits, we found the search for housing and thriving black communities to be somewhat lacking. Every home we toured fell below our expectations because it was either too far from South Dallas, where the predominantly black community once flourished, or it was too small, inexplicably expensive, worn, or aesthetically displeasing.  Every neighborhood or suburb that was recommended lacked black businesses and the sense of community we were seeking. We were also warned by natives and transplants alike that the schools in each of the areas we searched were not high achieving.  Sadly, this became a mantra whenever we inquired about the educational system in the city.

Yet, there was one wonderful aberration. We were told about a wonderful school that was both unapologetically black and Christian, two threads that seem to have been slowly unwound since desegregation. We did a school visit and I almost wept tears of joy. The beautiful imagery of our excellence, our ancestors, our history, our children sheathed every inch of the vast campus. Our Biblical tales were painted murals or stained glass windows in our likeness.  The school and idallasts adjoining community center was in the heart of South Dallas and had a track record that began in the 60’s. We envisioned galvanizing others to buy homes in the surrounding area to restore it to its prominence. We thought of the great work we could do there. The school encompassed the entire spirit of the Back to Black List. We were in awe, and immediately decided our choice would be Dallas based on the school alone. Yes, that’s putting a lot on it, but we were just that impressed and eager to get settled and begin working towards our communal goals.

During our first school visit, we’d left our daughter in Florida with my parents. We were informed that she needed to be assessed and we would also have to be screened through a parent interview before acceptance to the prominent private school could be determined. We inquired about the possibility of placing the kibibi in Kindergarten despite being a year younger than the required age in public schools. After completing a full semester of Kindegarten already in Singapore (currently ranked the world’s best and most rigorous school system), we desired to maintain the fluidity of her education as much as possible with placement in Kindergarten for the sake of her academic and emotional adjustment. We were told that the assessment and interviews would not only determine acceptance, but grade placement. Because the curriculum is accelerated, we were told, she would be challenged in PreK in the event that she did not excel on the test. We were very excited about her being in control of her own placement to a degree, and very comfortable accepting the determination based on the outcome either way.

Several weeks later, after constant communication with the Dean of Admissions to schedule the best time to travel with our entire family to Dallas for the sole purpose of having our daughter assessed and finding a home, we finally returned to the auspicious halls of the school. Two other sets of parents were waiting to be interviewed while their children were being assessed. The kibibi was led to a classroom by one of the Kindergarten teachers and returned quite some time later beaming from ear to ear. She had done extremely well; so much so, that it was questioned whether she was truly her age and mentioned that she might actually be ready for first grade. We were ecstatic. It was the first bit of good news we’d had in Dallas during any of our visits. It gave us the motivation to keep scouring houses and neighborhoods near the school so we could find one to call home.
This happened last Wednesday. By Friday, we received the general acceptance letter to the school, to which we replied with an inquiry about her placement. That’s when it all went South Dallas. The following day, we received a letter stating that Kindergarten readiness could not be determined from their assessment and that an individualized curriculum would be established for her to be challenged in the PreK program. Say what now? We were led to believe that after her testing, she would be placed in a grade level based on her performance. Had she not excelled on the test, we would’ve happily accepted the decision and enrolled her in PreK. However, she did exactly as we always implore her to do: her best. We expected the reward for which to be proper performance-based placement as indicated. It wasn’t. This meant that we had the choice of paying 10k for her to repeat pre-school at this amazing school we grew very fond of, finding another less expensive pre-school, starting a school in Dallas that met her needs, or finding another city.
I had such a sinking feeling. We were so ready to end this unsettled nomad family life, but we left Dallas with no home and no school because we were not willing to have our child possibly feel isolated in a classroom simply because the school wouldn’t honor the results of their own assessment.   It was later whispered that the administration felt pressured to place her in PreK in order to avoid the inevitable complaints and accusations of nepotism from other parents. This infuriated and bewildered me even more. I began to feel like we were trying to force ourselves into a place that just didn’t fit at the time. Hence, the final final decision.
Education is at the heart of everything I do, and the experience in Dallas has shown me that I must fully commit myself to using my passion for it to empower others. No child should have to sit and wait to learn with their peers for any reason in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And, no child of mine ever will.

It Can Happen in an Instant

grapesMy five-month-old son swallowed a grape whole today. Twelve minutes of restricted breathing felt like a brief lifetime slipping away in my arms. Every tragic scenario imaginable played previews in my mind as I swung him upside down, forcing my finger down his throat and beating him in the back to no avail. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t coughing. I was overcome with terror.

“What if he was suffering? What if there was irreparable damage? What if…..the unthinkable??!! “

Nothing can fully prepare you for all parenthood hurls at you. We waited, planned, put all of our proverbial ducks in a row. I secured infant CPR certification, (which has since relapsed), read & studied, and lent my ear to every parent I knew with a wealth of experience. In the moment that I was holding my son and trying to prevent his young life from slipping from his body, I could remember very little of it.

I shoved my finger so far down his throat that I could feel the mass, but not grasp it. I could only push it to allow air in and a stream of blood out onto the floor.  baby-cryingI will never forget the look of confusion and horror on his tiny plump face as I watched my pecan tan baby boy shift shades to that of a red onion. It was as though he was beseeching me to fix it and horrified that I couldn’t. After many frenzied attempts to help him dislodge the pulpous fruit had failed, I frantically ran out of my front door barefoot and screaming for help from anyone in sight. The first two women, just at my doorstep, gasped and walked quickly in the opposite direction. The next pair, a middle-aged couple, ran onto the elevator; they were pressing the button to close the door over and over as I rushed pass them and out into the communal area of our complex.

There were very few in view as I ran closer to the center. An elder woman lying next to one at least half her age were precisely in front of me on the opposite side of the pool. A father with his young child and possibly his parents were directly to my left. A bare-chested man in trunks was lying and reading on the opposite side at the far end, and a woman in the water was walking the length of the pool.  I surveilled each one for some sign of willingness to assist as I screamed for help with such desperation that I began to choke on my own cries. Both the man and the pair of women across the pool stared, but sat motionless.  I ran towards the family. Surely, they would know what to do and be urgent in assisting me. The matriarch pointed and shook her head in curiosity, while the father grabbed his own child to shield them from my screeches.

h5550978The water-walking woman leapt from the pool and motioned for me to stop running.

“Do you know CPR,” I shrieked with my son dangling in my hands.

She told me, “no” before trying to sit me down to help him anyway. Two other women eventually approached. One dressed in a floral frock motioned for others to help. The other, another mother as she stated, grabbed my son and began performing the same steps I had already done at home.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “Be careful! Don’t drop him!”

2. Begin back thrusts. “Five I think, but I’m certain I did more. Just keep going.”

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest.

4. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “Not too hard. Don’t break his ribs.”

5. Repeat. “Repeat! Repeat!!”

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Do you feel it? Is it in there?” 

His nose was clogged with mucus; his eyes stiff with tears. A stream of saliva and vomit streamed from his mouth with traces of blood, but there was no grape. No crying. No coughing. No unrestricted breathing. It wasn’t working!!

           What if I lose him? Oh God, what if I lose him?!!! Please save my son! I can’t lose him…not like this. Not over a stupid               grape! He’s too young. I love him so much. Oh God!! I won’t be able to go home. I can’t face {my husband}. He’ll never           forgive me. I’ll never forgive me. I can’t go back home without him. I can’t face my parents. What will I tell my baby girl?

No, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. 

Repeat. Repeat! Repeat!!

I just began praying. All I could do was pray and beg God to save my sweet little baby boy. I had already done all else. The man across the pool finally stood with his phone to the side of his face. “Call 999,” I screamed to *Catherine, our live-in assistant who’d trampled out for help behind me. The head security officer used his two-way radio to request assistance before suggesting we move into the Function Room of the condo. The fellow mother followed.  A timid, wide-eyed teenage boy stood in the lobby with his cell phone planked in his hands recording the raucous. I covered my baby and glared at him as a lioness would her next kill. This was not entertainment. He lowered the phone as we whisked into a private room.

Two petite women came in shortly; one, Bella, announced herself as a nurse. I immediately thought of my sister, an RN in the states, and a greater calm came over me. She took my prince and did all of the necessary steps.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “He’s going to be fine.” 

2. Begin back thrusts.  “I’m trusting You.” 

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest. “I’m releasing him to You God.” 

3. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He’s going to be fine.” 

5. Repeat. “He’s going to be fine.” 

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Wait, he’s crying! He’s crying!” 

“He’s crying,” faintly, but it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.  No grape ever appeared. There was just a gelatinous fluid masking his entire face, but he was crying and breathing; labored as it was. My phone began ringing and I noticed the time was 12:12. It was exactly 12 minutes since the last time I looked at the clock and realized my son was choking.  Bella assured me that he would be fine. She pressed his little wiggling toes and fingers to show the color was returning and blood was flowing through his body. Based on his shortness of breath, she gathered that he must’ve swallowed it completely. He looked at me so longingly and wearily and limply fell into my arms just as the paramedics entered the room.

I didn’t fully rejoice until he began sucking his thumb in the back of the ambulance. He fell asleep on my shoulder, but I kept nudging him. I wanted to see his eyes, the fullness and liveliness of them. I needed to see his bright eyes open…at least until I was completely sure he was fine.black-baby_0

The visit at the hospital seemed shorter than the entire ordeal. I nursed him to sleep and squeezed and stared and kissed and held him like I did the day he crowned from my womb. My husband, calm as he is always, was already trying to add levity to the matter by boasting that it didn’t happen on his watch. Though I needed to smile, It was much too soon for the joke.  Even as I type this, I keep staring back at my baby and placing my hand on his back to feel the breath flow through his little body. My incredibly beautiful baby boy is fine, but I’m not…not yet.

One friend witnessed the uproar from her thirteenth floor condo. Her windows were open; feeling the fresh wind and basking in the silence of midday, until it was interrupted with the screeches of a frantic mother calling for help. When she lifted her pregnant frame to the window and realized it was me, she wept and began praying. That’s all the strength she could find to do in fear of putting her own unborn child at risk with the stress of hurried movement. After all was resolved, another friend reminded me to be kind to myself in the next few days and not to allow myself to be overcome with guilt, (too late), while yet another shared a similar story about her own child as a reminder that I’m not alone and all will be well. My son’s Godmother sent me encouraging words and reminded me that I face no obstacle alone. That’s what I needed; still need.

I can’t predict the throws of parenthood. No one can. The best we can do is use what we know in a moment of crisis, and admit we know nothing when it’s time to release it completely.  Tonight, I’m holding both of my babies a little tighter with the looming reminder that every moment is sacred and life is fleeting. He is fine, laughing with the infectious joy that is not of this world. They are both fine. That’s what I need.

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For more information about infant CPR, please visit: http://www.babycenter.com/0_infant-first-aid-for-choking-and-cpr-an-illustrated-guide_9298.bc

Why All Black Collegiate Athletes Should Transfer and Choose HBCUs by J. Anyabwelé

This post was written by guest blogger, J. Anyabwelé

StoryOU’s antebellum loving fraternity reminded me of one of the greatest epiphanies or lessons I ever received.  Nearly 30 days before I graduated b-school, my Guyanese supply chain professor and I were discussing where and/or what job offer I was planning to take.  During that conversation I mentioned to him I was leaning towards the most unattractive offer (on paper) because of the support system I perceived to be there.  My one-over-one manager was an alumnus of the same business school and had already told me that if I came, he would take me under his wing; my HR manager was black, my direct line manager was black, and the department VP was also black.   My professor, Dr. Benjamin, began to get extremely excited for me and mentioned to me, “Javonte that is a great outlook on this situation because you have no idea how amazing a feeling it will be to go to a workplace where race is not an issue.  It is the most amazing feeling to know that if you are horrible at your job, it is only because you suck and no other reason!”

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Dr. Benjamin was a gregariously proud, tall, and commanding presence of a black man who grew up in Guyana, a small country that was obviously his biggest source of pride.  Throughout my time under his tutelage I learned that Guyana (a black country where the first president was a proud black man as well, a fact I also learned from him) sported the world’s greatest literacy rate and other cool tidbits of black excellence that I would have not been readily privy to in a place where race would be an issue.  Dr. Benjamin lived a full life on three continents prior to his untimely passing.  He knew South America, Europe, and North America very well.  He knew the dichotomy in feelings of being in a country or corporation or classroom where race was and was not an issue.  He valued the latter more.  He was happy that I could continue to experience the type of cultivation I received at my HBCU in my corporate career as well.

That cultural cultivation is the greatest single reason for my success in all aspects of my life.  It is also why I implore all involved in deciding if an HBCU is the answer for their college experience, to GO!!! Don’t even think about it, just simply go!!! Specifically to the ball players, I beseech you!! Take up your own bucket and cast it down where you ought to be, as Booker Taliaferro Washington once proselytized.  After all, do you really have a better college experience if you deal with the constant cloud of unconsciousness around race and social constructs that are so prevalent at white universities?  Do you face the same oft-times felonious accusations that can range from rape to theft to race baiting at HBCUs as you do at PWIs?  How about feeling inadequate? Or feeling that you aren’t from the majority population yet left to feel down right wrong and bad and almost villainous for choosing to be a part of your black student union?  These things just don’t happen at HBCUs. band-FAMU What does happen at HBCUs is an extreme source of pride that is taught through text and trials in cultural participation and, well, partying!  Yes, the parties are worth noting.  One of the mandatory stops on the African American Cultural Express will most undoubtedly include an HBCU homecoming!

Culture is not supplemental, it’s elemental.  It guides our value systems and ethos; it allows us to reach up to heights unseen for those of us who couldn’t see.  It provides us with the refreshing water that Booker T. anecdotally described in his famed aforementioned speech.  Kellen Winslow, Sr. was well aware of this and decided to ensure his son, Kellen Winslow Jr., was aware of this too.  In 2001, Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel ran a segment oklahoma-fraternity-racist-videoon Sr.’s involvement with what his highly recruited, blue chip, Southern California bred son’s school choice would be.  “I told him to take a look around,” Kellen Sr. said. “Thumb through the media guides and see how far you have to turn before you get to a person of color. And if you don’t see people  that look like you, there’s a problem. There has to be some reason behind it.”  The problem can often morph into pent up frustration, anger, and resentment because one can feel out of place, and sometimes, as in the case at OU, not welcomed.

Throughout the year’s this HOF TE’s assessment stuck with me.  While steering his teenage black son’s choice in which university to play football, HBCU football programs were not at all a part of the conversation.  In the third year of my matriculation through my beloved HBCU, I couldn’t understand why there was no push for this.  If you wanted to fix the problem of representation in the coaching staff, the faculty, the students, hell even the beautiful women (which was by far the most important thing to me outside of the academics as a college junior), all HBCUs could solve that problem.  If the problem was potentially feeling inept, inadequate, in a minority, unwelcome, distraught, frustrated, angry, resentful, or in any way less than during your coming-of-age years, there is a cure for all of these ailments.

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One day we will wake up and realize that our own is not only good enough for us, but most times, downloadthe best for us.  It was the best for all of those who had to go prior to integration.  The list of names is long and ranges from heads of state to hall of famers.  The idea that you cannot have an environment that will truly love the athlete and get them exposure is just not true.  The entire point of me writing this is to strongly suggest to the athlete and parent of these athletes, that a HBCU is also right and best for you!  Wouldn’t it be great to thrive in an environment where you know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that race is not an issue, where your cultural growth and understanding is not supplemented but an important part of your natural environment, where you will be embraced with a pride much greater than in how well you jump or shoot or pitch or dribble??? It’s time to come home.


-Javonté Anyabwelé