I just began my seventh year of teaching and I must say that it is one of the most difficult, exhausting and wonderful jobs in the world. During my years, I have taught a wide variety of students. I have learned a lot teaching. I have made very many mistakes. But what I do well, very well in fact, is foster meaningful, authentic relationships with my students. They see that I genuinely care about them. My classroom has become a home away from home for some kids and the only place where they feel at home for others.
Yesterday, I was reminded of just how much the latter is true. Before I continue with this story, I would like to point out that I teach theatre and there are about 35 students from each grade that I get to have their entire middle school career, unlike core teachers who only have the opportunity to teach them for one school year. I recognize that I get to have a unique relationship with my students because of that.
After one of my classes I had a student approach me.
“Ms. Miller, can I talk to you privately?”
The wringing of her hands told me that she was nervous and so we stepped inside my office. I had no idea what could be so wrong only 8 days into the school year and with a student who is never in any trouble.
“My mom is very religious… and strict and… she holds very strict beliefs about this kind of thing. I could never say anything to her… but I had to tell someone… and…well.. I just wanted to tell you that I am bisexual.”
She is now looking at me with her big, round eyes worried about what my reaction may be. I gave her a hug and thanked her for choosing me to help lift the burden of keeping it a secret. I reassured her that I would not treat her any differently and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. The tears falling down her cheeks had my throat tight with emotion. I asked her if she felt better now.
“Oh my gosh! So much better. Thank you so much.”
And she went on to her other classes. Today she came into class a little brighter, happier and more confident. I have had students find themselves in my class. I have had a student tell me that he was about to be jumped into a gang but he no longer wanted that lifestyle. I have had a student use my class as her escape from a troubled home life with a parent dealing with addiction. I have had a student come to me and lift up her sleeves to show me the self-induced cuts on their arms and tell me that they wanted help.
All of this is just a reminder that these children we teach, that we have so much influence on, look to us sometime for guidance, acceptance, love, and truth. Don’t miss the opportunity to be that to someone.
As we embark on this school year, know that our children are coming to us with more than back-to-school supplies. Always remember that we are interacting daily with human beings trying to figure out how to navigate a world that doesn’t see them as whole yet. As teachers, we may be the only consistence force in their lives, the only example of love, and the only beacon of hope.
Let’s continue to touch and change lives.
Last night on Facebook I posted a status that said:
This is so true to my life for the last year. I am a full time theatre teacher. This means that my days do not end when the final bell rings. It means 2 hour after school rehearsals and then coming home to my other full time job: mommy. My mom moved here with me to help relieve financial stress and help with Jaxon. That has been a blessing.
Since my mother has been here I have had the opportunity to revisit some dreams and goals. I have gotten back on stage and performing. I have started my own production company and I am now writing, directing and producing my own plays. Part of doing this successfully includes being a social butterfly. I have lived in Houston for 5 years and in the last two years I have become more sociable than ever. This has definitely helped me get my dreams and goals off the ground. Networking and being visable is important.
So not only am I a full time teacher and mom, I am also an entrepreneur trying to establish myself in the theatre world. This, I say with all honesty, has led to me now weighing more than I ever have in my life. I have always been thick. Always. But, now I am ‘fat’ and definitely on the road to becoming a diabetic. I say all of that say that to say this:
So, you are probably wondering why I cried today. Well, I woke up today with a healthy mindset: I will get back healthy and will accomplish that short term goal of getting off of the couch. I got dressed. I drank some water, ate a banana and took some pre-workout. The pre-workout mix keeps me from backing out of working out because if I don’t it sends shocks through my body. I went to Academy to get me a new armband to put my phone in and I brought some new headphones. I also got me one of those backpacks with a water pack so I can start back running. I was ready. I was focused.
I pulled up to Snap Fitness (Love this gym!) and before I got out of the car I opened my new goodies. The headphones were perfect. I took the armband in with me. My trainer and best friend, David, had equipped me with a workout plan so I immediately jumped on the elliptical for my warmup. After doing that, and being winded after 5 minutes, I went to the open area to begin the workout. But first, I needed to put my phone in my armband and my armband on my arm. Guess what? The fucking armband didn’t fit my fucking arm. I mean, I knew I was fat, but I didn’t know I was that fat.
It was at that moment where my workout became insanely difficult. Not because of what I had to do, but because that was a blow to my confidence that I had built up just to get out of my house and come to the gym. As I went through the kettle bell swings and pushups, I thought back to when I was in high school and felt unpretty because I was a size 6/8 and all of my friends were a size 0/2/4.
I thought about having to work harder than most just to be as ‘big’ as I was. I was an athlete in high school. That means I worked out for hours daily. My size 6 top/8 bottom was as small as my 5’4 and a half frame was going.
I thought back to when I was a freshman at Grambling and I was wanting to dance with the Orchesis but was told that my 137 lb solid body was not skinny enough and that I needed to lose weight if I wanted to make the field. I ended up quitting because I knew that my body was about as good as it was gonna get. I knew I was mainly muscle and that skinny wasn’t in my genes…or jeans, for that matter.
It took me back to all of the times the guy I was dating gawked after girls that were smaller than me. Some of those girls being my friends. It reminded me of all the times I stared at my girl friends’ bodies with envy as they seemed to stay slim as I constantly gained weight. Moment of honesty: I never was/felt like I belonged in my group of friends/sisters. It had nothing to do with them or their treatment of me. I have the best sisters ever. It had everything to do with how I saw myself. I was always the friend that the guys walked up to and said, “Yo, who is that girl I saw you with earlier?” I was great matchmaker. Not a great match.
To those that are close to me and those that don’t me, I am a very confident person. I can converse with just about anyone. I have plenty of friends. I will cut all of my hair off without a second thought about whether ‘they’ will like it. But, body confidence is something I have always struggled with. I started to get it back after I had my son. I began running using the Couch 2 5k app. I would go to them gym and hop on the elliptical on my lunch break and then run when I got home. I lost 20+ lbs in about 3 months. Then in the summer of 2012, I began working out with David and he got me looking great. I was probably at 167lbs but I felt FIONE! Lol. I had lost my gut. My booty was making a comeback. These thighs, well, they will never go anywhere but they were toning up. I felt good.
So, insert the first few paragraphs here and now we are back to the present. We are back to me being in the gym and putting on this damn armband only to see that it doesn’t fit. And all of these memories of me hating my body are stuck in throat. The workout today took strength and perseverance because I wanted to leave. I didn’t. Mainly because I don’t know how to not finish something I start. I went outside the back of the gym and ran my 10 sprints. They were super slow. I was super tired and out of shape. I came back in to finish up with a mile on the elliptical. I stepped on the scale before I left out. Bad idea. It just made me feel worse.
I literally sat down on a plyometetric box and cried. And cried. And cried. I don’t cry much, unless it is a movie or one of those military surprise homecoming videos, but today I cried. Afterwards, I went back to Academy to see if I could exchange the armband for another one. The cashier was like, “Oh…well it is one size fits all. Would you like a refund?” His look said to me, “Your fat ass arms won’t fit any of them. No need to exchange.” But I went back to see if there was one that would fit. I guess I needed the extra torture. Of course none of them did. So, I went back and asked for a refund.
There is still so much more to say. Like how society puts so much pressure of girls to be thin. Like how society creates competition between girls and women in the area of looks instead of intelligence. Like how society says that to love yourself when you are fat is impossible. The fact that being ‘fat’ is a flaw and makes a woman less worthy of anything worthwhile.
There is still so much to say. But I will stop here because I feel the tears returning and I don’t want to cry again. So, I will close this by saying that I am proud of myself for finishing my workout today. I don’t know if I will stay consistent. I don’t know if I will actually lose 60lbs. All I know is that in what felt like a lot of losses today, I’ll count this finish as a win.
P.S. Don’t tell me I’m still beautiful. I do believe I’m beautiful. I have learned that body size doesn’t determine or change my beauty. That still doesn’t make this fight with how I see my body any easier. But thanks for the compliment.
So, today has been one of those days (like every other day) where we (society) tell girls that they are responsible for the thoughts and actions of grown ass men. Yes, Erykah made plenty of disclaimers and tried not to put the responsibility on the young female students. But when its all said and done, longer skirts are supposed to keep the brain focused so the paynus doesn’t notice.
In a nutshell, Ms. Badu said that she agrees that girls’ skirts should be longer because male teachers are naturally attracted to young girls, especially those in short skirts. Because men are sexual (and women aren’t?), we shouldn’t be surprised when they can’t control themselves. So, the solution is to make the skirts longer. Makes sense right?
Well I have a solution: get rid of male teachers. If men are naturally sexual deviants then why do we want them around our girls? If men cannot control their sexual urges then why would we want them around our boys teaching them that their sexual urges are more important than a girl’s autonomy over her body? And, sure, #notallmen, but since they don’t come with a warning label we should get rid of them all. Don’t want to take any chances, ya know? The only problem is that doesn’t solve the issue of female teachers sexually assaulting their male students. Hmmm… Longer shoe laces, perhaps?
If you are fluent in sarcasm then I am sure you are aware that I do not want to get rid of male teachers at all. What I would like to see, however, is responsibility placed back where it should be: on the men. Yes, there are perverts in the world and we can’t get rid of them. But we have to stop giving them excuses to fall back on when they violate a young girl (or a grown woman.) When you say, “Wear longer skirts so the men won’t become sexually aroused,” a predator says, “I couldn’t help myself. She was dressed like she didn’t mind.” They get their excuses from those of you that refuse to hold them accountable.
Let’s be honest here. If a man finds school-aged girls attractive, skirt length is the least of our problems. There are too many girls and women that have been on the receiving end of sexual advances wearing a track suit and tube socks. Clothing isn’t the issue. It never has been.
Men are not animals. They have working, functioning brains and they know right from wrong. We expect them to be leaders, run households, countries & businesses, but we can’t expect them to not make sexual advances towards our girls? If I were a man, I’d be slightly offended. We think so little of them, yet expect them to run the world.
It is our duty to expect better from them. If we don’t, we will continue to raise men just like the ones we need to protect our girls from. So, let’s shift our focus from creating longer skirts to cultivating better people.
Someone told me,
“You make it all look so easy.”
Let me explain how ‘easy’ it is. For most of my life I have had self-esteem issues. I never felt pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, hell enough of anything. I had plenty of friends and played sports but I was never the star athlete or the girl all of the boys fawned over. I was in theatre and never was the lead until college. While I was able to do these things and well, I still struggled with my reflection in the mirror. Not just the physical me but all of me.
In college, I was a social butterfly. I made friends easily. The guys wanted me there. Oh not me, per se, but you know how important those belt notches are so I was wanted. I ended up in an unhealthy relationship that I couldn’t find my way out of no matter what I did. Even the relationships around that relationship that were healthy, I felt I didn’t deserve. Sabotage was the name of that game. I was more deserving of the lies and the emotional abuse. Between that and being raped (not by the same person), I still graduated because that is what I do. I succeed. Not because it was inherently in me but because I felt if I didnt, the secret would be out that I wasn’t as great as I put on.
This may be why acting was my thing. Putting on a front was something that I had mastered from a young age, so becoming a great actress was easy. Getting lost in someone else’s life and being able to escape myself was just what I needed.
At 23, I became pregnant and was immediately told I would be doing this on my own. I compartmentalized all those feelings of hurt, rejection and embarrassment and put my best face forward. No one could know I was torn up on the inside. I had my son while surrounded by my best friend and my mother while my support system full of friends and family waited in the waiting room.
Now, a new mother at age 24, I definitely had no time to pull those struggles out and deal with them. Jaxon was born in June and I started my first teaching job that August. My dreams of film and acting school in New York would have to wait. I needed stability, a salary and insurance. I am almost certain that that I was deeply depressed the first 4 months of being a mother. I was taking care of my son, but that overwhelming feeling of love that most mothers have immediately, I didn’t have. That’s a painful truth that I couldn’t admit out loud until now. But by then I had become a pro at faking “amazing!”
Fast forward to 2012. By this time I had been laid off from my first teaching job and hired at the school I teach at now and had been there a year already. My son’s father had come (back) and gone (again). During the time he was ‘back’ he told me,
“The reason I’m not around is not because you had Jaxon. It’s because [it was] YOU [that] had Jaxon.”
Yeah. Yep. My already fragile self had been officially broken. And I knew it. So I put myself back together with bandaids and tried to push forward. I guess this is how I ended up in a relationship I wasn’t ready for. It was doomed from the beginning. I wasn’t as available as I tried tried to make myself out to be. So, when that was ending after a year, my bandages were peeling and wounds were seeping.
Then, one day on facebook a family friend posted that they were accepting new patients. He is a counselor. I had toyed with the idea before but now I had no excuse. So, I messaged him and in September of 2013 I began going to counseling. And it was hard. A month after starting counseling my relationship officially ended. I was going through the trenches. All of those things I had pushed to the side came running out. I was crying in between class periods. I was at my lowest. I called my mother in tears midday and she dropped what she was doing and she was on her way.
These crying spells lasted a while. Then I began to see the clouds parting and the sun trying to peep through maybe 5 or so months later. My counselor had me refocus on my goals and the things that made me happy. He pointed out my lack of vulnerability and how that was taking a toll on me and my relationships, romantic and otherwise. By the following fall, I was performing on stage my poetry. Something I had only done once or twice in college.
I was learning to love myself, something that I didn’t know how to do. I was learning to live for myself. This improved my relationships with my family and friends. It improved my mothering abilities. I have improved.
In 2015, I have raised money for my own stage production, actually put it on successfully and spit poetry more than I ever have. I had applied and got accepted into grad school and finished my first semester with a 4.0. I have led my theatre students to back-to-back championships. I have started my next script and am currently working on another project. I have opened myself up to the possibility of love and it didn’t work out but I’m still progressing. I almost almost went backwards and realized I have come too far.
I say all this to say it wasn’t easy. It isn’t easy. I had to put in the work. I may have presented to the world a person that was confident and put together. But I was broken for a long time and I am still putting the pieces back together. Counseling is such a good thing. It is a necessary thing to me. My leg wasn’t broken. My body wasn’t ill. My spirit was broken. Mentally and emotionally I was unhealthy. Just like any other doctor I would go to for aches and pains, I had to go to counseling to heal my aches and pains.
I deserve to be happy. And as hard as it is sometimes the only thing that has been easy was choosing to be happy.
And everyday, EVERYDAY, I choose me.
My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity. – Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, “Uses of Anger”
Angry Black Woman.
Bitter Black Woman.
We run from these labels. We deny being angry. We deny being hurt. We deny any emotion that does not mean we are happy in our lives. And I get it. These labels have been used to dehumanize us. These labels have been used to make us appear scarier than others, more aggressive than others.
These labels have been used as a way to silence us. It has come to the point where standing up for ourselves labels us as angry. When we speak our truths about rape and abandonment, we are considered bitter. The world has done such a good job at casting this angry shadow as something to be ashamed of that we stop speaking up. They have turned our anger into a weakness.
We are not weak. Anger is not weak. Emotion is not weak. When we are ignored, we should be angry. When our daughters are disciplined and suspended at higher rates than other races of children for the same offenses, we should be angry. When we start the #BlackLivesMatter movement and are erased from it, we should be angry. When there are 65,000+ of us missing, we should be angry. When we are blamed for our rapes, bruises & broken bones, we should be angry. When we remain the backbone while receiving lackluster support, we should be angry.
Do not let anyone take this powerful emotion away from you. Do not let them coerce you into putting out your fire. Anger, being fed up and tired, is what has been the catalyst of change. It wasn’t the wrongs that have been done. No. It wasn’t until someone said, “I just can’t take this shit anymore!” that things began to change. It wasn’t until that angry person came together with other angry people and said enough is enough. What happens if Mamie Till has a small, closed casket funeral for Emmett? What becomes of the civil rights movement? Our anger is invaluable.
We don’t have the luxury of giving our anger away for free.
We don’t have the luxury of giving our anger away for free.
We don’t have the luxury of giving our anger away for free.
We have daughters to raise in this world. We owe our young girls the knowledge of the power in their voices, in their anger. We have lives to live. We deserve better. And until then, be angry. We are a powerful collection of strength. We can be happy, joyful, strong, weak, sad, silly, and, yes, angry.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-Langston Hughes, Harlem
It is coming up on six years. Six years since I produced my very own, self-written stage play. It was a success. However, somewhere within these last six years my passion became overshadowed by fear. Fear of failure and ridicule. Fear of not being good enough or people not seeing the talent in me.
Well, I am here to say that today, I take control of my fear. Today, I become vulnerable. Today, I am jumping. I open myself to the possibility of failure. I open myself to the possibility of falling flat on my face.
More importantly, I open myself to success. I open myself to flying. I open myself to possibilities. And, finally, my need for success outweighs my fear of failing. As a middle school theatre teacher, I always set insanely high expectations for my students and help them to reach them. I always preach to them the importance of having a passion and living in it. However, I wasn’t living in mine. I enjoy teaching, but it is not my passion. Theatre is my passion. Teaching theatre is a way to stay connected to my passion while making a living. Now, I am sure that teaching theatre was part of the plan all along to get me back on track. I could no longer be such a hypocrite. I could no longer be this beacon of hope and inspiration for my students and not apply it to my own life.
For the last year, I have been working on a script. I took my time with this one. These characters had to be right. The message had to be profound and clear. And after many, many months I finished my script. It is now time to put it on the stage.
My next battle to overcome is financial. Putting on this show will cost $$. And, frankly, as a single mom and teacher, I simply cannot afford to fulfill my dreams on my own. I have always felt it was necessary to pursue my dreams not just for me, but for my son. I wanted him to see me fail and then valiantly pulling myself up. I want him to truly believe that because mommy do it, it is absolutely possibly for him to accomplish any goal he sets for himself.
If you click here you can read up on how much this play means to me. You can see for yourself what the play is about and how you can be part of something great. Please take the time to read my story. And if you believe in me, become a part of this project.
My dream is no longer on deferment. My time is now!
Let me start by saying that I will not be surprised if the allegations against Bill Cosby are true. Be mad. Guess what? Zero > fucks I give. Somehow, after centuries of being beaten, falsely accused and down right mistreated we (black people) seem to have forgotten that we are capable of doing some terrible shit, too. Oh, and who does terrible shit is not determined by status, wealth, influence or color.
The idea that Bill Cosby couldn’t have possibly raped all those women because he is Bill Cosby is the most ridiculous foolishness I have ever heard. Guess what? Come closer so I know you are paying attention. You don’t know Bill Cosby! You know Heathcliff Huxtable, the gynecologist. (Yes… gynecologist. I wonder if that is just a coincidence. Hmm.) You only know what he and his publicist allow you to know about him. All we know is that he donated money to HBCUs (‘preciate it), had a postive, black hit tv show (loved it) and preached respectability politics to black folks (hated it with 2 snaps and a circle.) Oh… and the Jello pudding. But what do you really know about this man? Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
Moving on. Some of you I-defend-every-black-male-celebrity, cape wearing mofos are really…what’s that word… ummm… oh yeah… stupid. Hypocritically stupid. In one breath you are claiming that we weren’t there so how do we know that he did. And with the same funky breath have the nerve to call the accusers lying, attention seeking, money grubbing whores. As a rape victim myself, let me explain something. Had I went to turn in a millionaire for rape and they refused to prosecute because of who the assailant is, trust me when I say that the least you will do is run me some coins. Will it ease the pain? Will it erase the memories? No. But he would deserve to pay one way or the other.
“Ain’t no way I would’ve waited all these years to come forward.” Sigh. First, you don’t even have the backstory right. Bill Cosby is not in the media right now because some white women came forward. No. The white woman is not at fault here. A brotha, a black man, an African-American comedian (if he likes labels) ousted him while doing his set. Then it began to spread across the internet as information like this seems to do. Now I need you to lean in close again. Even closer this time. Perfect. You do not get to decide when a rape victim gets to come forward. That is not your choice. Rape is a traumatic event that affects all people differently. “So, 16 (and counting) women and they all kept it to themselves until now?” Let me get this straight. You are going to assume that at least one out of those 16 had to come forward because statistics. Well, 16 out of millions of women makes you pretty bad at statistics. Oh and news flash. Some of those women did speak up. Your boy, Bill even paid alleged victims to keep quiet. The others that spoke up? Well, some of those lawyers didn’t want to be the ones that brought down Mr. Jello pudding, the gynecologist. Think I’m lying? Go to Google. She will always lead you in the right direction. While you are at it also ask Google about statute of limitations.
But Janice Dickinson is a coke head, attention whore. Hmmm. The same can be said of most of the rape victims of Daniel Holtzclaw. (Again, Google.) None of these women have to be Suzie Homemaker to deserve not to be raped or taken seriously. If they were the perfect victims would that make you feel better? Or are there certain women (and men) that deserve to be raped? But she took the pill willingly! She knew what was going to happen. Nobody flies you around the country for nothing. Whew! Y’all sound like professional rapists. If you buy me drink after drink and I eventually pass out, does that mean my ass is yours for the taking? I mean, I did drink the alcohol willingly. So, that must mean that I wanted to wake up naked with semen between my legs, right? I mean, I wanted to have sex with him so bad that I wanted to do it while passed out. Sounds stupid as fuck, right? Yeah, that’s what you sound like. Guess what, in order for the sex to be consensual, at the very least the other party must be awake and cognizant of what is going on. They also have to be participating willingly. Yes. Yes, that is true. Don’t argue. You sound rapey.
These are not the only victims in the world that kept the alleged rape to themselves. People do it all the time. And some of the main reasons for that is because you will not believe them, they are not perfect victims and they will be ridiculed and their life, pain and anguish publicized for the world to see. Your reaction to these alleged victims speaking out is exactly why a lot of victims don’t do it. So, you should ask yourself if you are creating the safe space needed to allow rape victims to come forward. I can answer that for you. You’re not.
I’m really sick of the excuse that they are just trying to keep a black man down. Bill Cosby is loved by them because he tells us how to behave. Here is the thing though. Over a dozen accusers who do not know one another have come forward with similar stories and you believe it makes more sense that these women are part of a large conspiracy to bring down 77 year old Bill Cosby? Let me throw some sense in the middle of all this rambling:
Black men, for centuries, have been beaten, falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. I recognize that. I understand the we have a unique history that should make us question everything. However, that does not mean that black men are incapable of committing horrifying crimes. It does us no good to ignore that fact. It seems that many of us are doing just that especially when the assailant is a black male celebrity. Because they are in the spotlight we want them to be perfect people. We need them to be perfect people because we know that on some level they represent black people. When they do well we celebrate. When they do wrong we either fervently defend them and/or forgive them. We saw that with R. Kelly, Ray Rice, Floyd Mayweather, etc. and now we are seeing it with Bill Cosby. It seems that the black community provides black male celebrities with an Invincibility Cloak. We are cultishly loyal even if it comes at the expense of their victims never getting justice. If you really want to save someone, choose one of these black men that are falsely accused and doesn’t have the best lawyers at his disposal with millions of dollars to pay them. Choose one of these victims of the justice system that needs someone to believe their story, especially when the facts don’t add up. You’d rather defend a man knocking out & dragging his fiancee out of an elevator, a man urinating on an underage girl on video, a man who beat the mother of his children in front of his child and a man that spoke of drugging women and raping them in his comedy set titled “It’s True! It’s True!”
Here’s the thing. No one is 100% sure of Bill’s guilt or innocence. With all stories and facts I have my own opinion. I will not blindly defend Bill Cosby because I loved his character on a tv show. I will not blindly defend him because we share the same skin color. And I will not defend him because I think the alleged victims shoulda, coulda, woulda. I am also not siding against him because of those things either. My opinion comes from what I believe to be common sense. The conspiracy theories that some of you have come up with sound no different from the Zimmerman and Wilson supporters out there. Yeah, I said it. #InnocentUntilProvenGiven right? Or do we only ignore facts when it’s our Black Celebrity Gods standing in the fire?
Last year, the nation was fixed to their television screens as George Zimmerman was on trial for the murder of Treyvon Martin. When he was acquitted there were marches all across the country. Men and women holding up signs that read “No justice, no peace” and other various messages. I was a part of the march that happened in Houston, Tx.
Another summer has passed and the great America did not disappoint. Within two weeks, three black men and one black teen were killed by police officers. 3 of the 4 were unarmed and the other was holding a BB gun in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart. None of the officers have been arrested. This is very similar to the story that captivated a nation last summer.
The death of Eric Garner was the first incident of the summer to get national attention. However, not all of that attention was positive. I am not speaking of the habitual racists that can’t seem to help but to blame the black man for his own murder. No, I am speaking of the black women who have blogged and voiced that they will no longer be marching on behalf of the black man until they begin marching for us.
I understand the frustration. When Renisha McBride was killed on the front porch of a white man most black men were silent. When they weren’t silent they were blaming her for her own demise. I mean, being drunk is a good enough reason to be executed, right? However, when the shoe is on the other foot we, black women, come out in droves to stand with our men and against a system that sees no value in them. Yet, we seem to have stand on the front lines alone when it is one of our women that has been victimized.
So, yes, I completely understand the anger. However, I do not agree with the sentiment. I can not agree. You see, I will always march. I will always use my voice and whatever else I have to stand against the injustices that our black boys and men face. I have five brothers who would defend me until the end of time. I have nine nephews, some of which I helped raise. I have uncles and cousins. I have a father. Most importantly, I have a four-year old son. I can only pray that nothing happens to them, but in the event that it does I would hope that the world would stand for them.
I cannot separate myself. I cannot say that I am only loyal to women and not be loyal to the mothers of these males. We seem to forget about them. We forget that these men and boys have families. We forget that someone is grieving over these dead bodies. We forget that it is one of us that will be burying the body of her son/brother/husband.
As I look into the big, brown eyes of my son I cannot fathom abandoning our men and boys. Instead, I can raise him to value black women just as much as we value black men. And I don’t know if black men will ever show up for us in the way we have for them. I just know that as long as I continue to birth black men I have a duty to stand by them.
In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was gunned down after walking home unarmed from a convenience store. In July 2012, a masked man went into a movie theatre with guns and grenades and killed 12 people. In December 2012, a young man walked into an elementary school with an assault rifle and killed 20 children and 6 adults. I am the mother of a four year old son. At the end of 2012 I wrote a facebook status expressing my feelings on how I felt absolutely helpless when it comes to protecting my son from harms way. I wrote how at any moment he could be attacked and there is nothing I can do about it. If he were to walk to the store, go to the movies or merely be sitting in his classroom someone could take him away from me. Only minutes passed before someone commented a long comment that boiled down to “all we can do is pray.”
This expression bothers the hell out of me for a number of reasons. I pray for my son. I absolutely do. But does that mean that is the reason why he is still alive and well? If so, that implies that none of the Sandy Hook victims, Aurora victims or Trayvon had no one praying for them. I am going to assume that is not true. Then, where are the praying folks left? I mean, doesn’t God answer prayers? The prayer usually goes something like, “God, please watch over my family. Keep them safe from harm.” Is this why people then get mad at the God that they have been taught answers prayers?
The title of this piece specifies the black community, which I am part of, and rightfully so. Let me explain. A few weeks ago, I attended a women’s program at a church in Houston. The subject was set around women being mentally, spiritually and physically healthy. When it got to the mental part the speaker was doctor. He spoke about counseling and seeking help. He asked the questions, “What do you do when you are depressed? When you feel you have done all you can and you just can’t seem to feel better?” It seemed every woman in the church said some version of “all you can do is pray.” As someone who has prayed and prayed and prayed about my situations and didn’t really gain understanding until I went to a counselor, all I could do was shake my head. I have been in a church service where this was said: “y’all are seeking help from this person and that person when all you really need to do is get down on your knees and pray and seek help from God.” This is so problematic. It places a stigma on getting the help one needs. This is why mental illness runs rampant in the black communities because we are less likely to seek help because we are taught from an early age that all we need is prayer. I’ve known extremely religious people that stopped taking medicine and stop going to the doctor because they were just going to pray. Sad to say, one of these people died shortly thereafter.
Yesterday, August 9th, an 18 year old boy was shot 10 times by the police. Mike Brown was unarmed. A few days ago John Crawford picked up a toy gun in a Wal-Mart. After a concerned couple called 911, he was killed while on the phone with his mother not 10 seconds after being confronted by the police. Weeks earlier, Eric Garner was died from an illegal chokehold administered by the police. Prayer did not keep them safe. Prayer is not going to keep the rest of our children, friends and siblings safe.
The violence we face at the hands of other black people, the rate at which students are being pushed through the school-to-prison pipeline, the high unemployment rate requires more than prayer. A lot of these issues require action. You can’t expect prayer to get you a job if you don’t want to fill out job applications. You can’t expect prayer to curb violence in our communities if you don’t parent and mentor our youth. We can’t expect prayer to keep our men and women safe if we are not willing to stand up and fight not only for justice but for prevention.
Where would be if Harriet Tubman just prayed for freedom? Or if Dr. King and Malcolm just prayer for equality. Understand that I am not saying do not pray. That is your prerogative. In order for things to change, a plan needs to be put in place and action needs to happen. Prayer should not be your entire plan.