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“Just”- Use it Sparingly

Justify Until we Stop Thinking

I guess that’s why it’s called ‘controversy’-  not everyone agrees.  The controversy I’m referring to is Willow Smith’s nipple shirt.  This isn’t about the “Free the Nipple” movement. I don’t think it’s appropriate attire for a 14-year-old child. Others believe I’m going overboard because it’s just a shirt.   I feel, however, that It removes boundaries and sets them up to be victimized.  I disagree and the word “just” makes it sound innocent enough.  It “just” doesn’t work for kids as well as it does for adults. I’m not saying this leads to bad behavior or that Willow is a bad kid. Willow is a rich, sheltered child who can afford to be expressive.  That doesn’t hold true for the average American kid. We live in a society that complains about out-of-control kids and yet we’re afraid to set boundaries. In fact, we continue to remove them in the name of  “freedom of expression”.  “Just”… There’s just something about that word:

  • Just a joint, until you get hooked on crack or meth- between ages 16-25 I’ve had guys tell me “do just one line of coke for me”. Just one. Just…
  • Just sex, until you get pregnant
  • They’re “just” boys – until the behavior escalates
  • It’s “just” a conversation (or kiss, or hug) with that married person, until they have that affair
  • Just one more drink, until you wreck the car
  • Why not add: Just 4 killed/18 wounded over the weekend in Chicago. As opposed to 82 shot, 14 killed last July
  • He’s just a child and it’s just a dollar he took. Give him a break, mom/dad. It could be worse.

My son wanted “just” a tattoo, a cell phone, a pager, a TV/VCR in his room, and pierced ears when he was 13.  I told him when he turned 18 he could have as many tats as he wanted.  He’s 32 and doesn’t have any tattoos (though he did get his ears pierced :-)!  His priorities shifted as an adult and he didn’t think about tattoos anymore.  I have nothing against those things.  I didn’t feel that a black male teen in Chicago had a reason to have tattoos, pagers, and cell phones in the early 90s.  And, I was right.

Is it possible that “just” opens the door to something “more”?  Is it just a scratch that’ll heal, or one that will fester and require antibiotics?  Is it just a scratch in the paint that’ll buff out, or is it one that will cost five hundred dollars to remove?  Yes, I’m an “over thinker”.  I’m the person who studies heavy traffic ½ mile down the road to determine my next lane change or whether or not I should exit.  What seems “innocent” to some can actually be of potential harm to others.

I didn’t raise a girl but I’m 100% sure if I did she wouldn’t possess that particular shirt.  There are so many ways to raise a girl and teach her to love her body and to empower her sexuality.  At 14, this is not the way to encourage it because let’s face it, it invites the wrong kind of attention. In her mind she’s expressing liberation and freedom (I guess). But that is not what a pedophile will see when they see a child walking down the street wearing that shirt.  Grown women are being followed, harassed, and attacked for deflecting unwanted attention.  It’s not just a shirt–it’s a slippery slope.

So as far as “just” goes, there are reasonable ones and questionable ones.  I feel that Willow’s nipple shirt falls into the latter.  Just… In retrospect, maybe I should’ve tried just one line of coke to find out why everyone else was so fascinated. Just one.

I’m “just” saying, this is just my opinion…

POEM: Battle Road

Battle Road

Remember many years ago when you were just a young boy

And your only concern was candy, games, and toys?

You did not have a single care in this world,

For at your mother’s breast you were cared for and nurtured.

But as you became older and grew into your teens,

You began to realize that life was not all that it seemed.

As you careened your way into manhood, your path was not quite paved,

You lived by your own terms and there were prices that you paid.

It was then that you began to see the outcome of your heavy loads,

Childhood was suddenly gone, and you found yourself on the Battle Road.

It is a road on which all boys must travel as a young man,

With time on your side and your future in your hands.

It is where you take your hard knocks and learn the value of your life,

To your credit you endured all the pitfalls and stayed in the fight.

Perseverance, love and faith are the marks of the manhood code,

For without them you would not have survived on the Battle Road.

Now older and wiser you have paid your dues,

And you can now live your life as you so choose.

Because your trials did not kill you… they only made you stronger,

There is an awareness of your existence you did not have when you were younger.

You have reached a milestone that continues to pave your way,

Your feet have become steadier… you no longer bend and sway.

Your convictions are more steadfast, your integrity more secured,

Life now tells the story of all the personal wars you have endured.

So cross over into this milestone with triumph and expectancy,

For within you are the visions that will soon become your legacy.

And be proud that you crossed over it… you will now reap the mother lode,

Because only a man can say that he overcame the Battle Road.

 

 

 

 

©July 2005 Kim Woods
All rights preserved

Not Popular, But Sincere…

Silenced

I believe that there exists a misguided assumption that I think myself to be without struggle or blemish.  That can’t be further from the truth. My life is a painting of heartache, physical and emotional pain/abuse, financial struggle, and much MUCH more.  My past is a labyrinth of bad choices, wrong turns, half-truths, and regrets.  It is also filled with beating impossible odds, last minute triumphs, learning of self, loving of self, and speaking truth. I’ve learned from all of it and I’m still learning.  This is why I do what I do…

We each have a calling on our lives to do something meaning, fulfilling, and spectacular.  We achieve this in a variety of ways: giving service- volunteering time, money, resources, writing, speaking, arts, etc.  Some of these avenues require personal transparency and some do not.  I chose the route of transparency because this is the uncomfortable path that I feel can help someone.

It’s important to understand that I don’t write for the understanding of ‘scholars’, politicians, or other types of pundits.  I write for people who are searching for answers or who are searching for people who can somehow relate to their situation.  I write for people who don’t have time, patience, or even the ability to sift through extravagant prose to find understanding of a simple concept.  That is not assuming that anyone is ‘ignorant’.  There are many levels of education and understanding- that is a fact.  What I simply mean is that “less is more” for the particular impact I seek to make at this moment in time.

Amazingly, we have so much technology available to us that we are forgetting how to think in a most basic way.  Just go out for a drive and witness how much worse drivers are now than just 10 years ago. Cell phones and computers think for us, process requests quickly, and require nothing more than for us to tap a few keys.  We’re chained to technology and so are our children.  There’s a huge disconnect. There needs to be a return to the basics of thinking coherently.   Our children are dying, being neglected or otherwise abused and so much of it is avoidable.  Those are the conversations we really should be having. We have to figure out how to bring the “village” back to our neighborhoods.

My voice is not going to always be popular but it will be sincere.  My words are not going to be judgmental but they won’t always be “politically correct” either.  How can anyone grow when they have to measure what they say for fear of offending?  Our lives have impact on others and if we can just understand that, then maybe, just maybe we can somehow enjoy a better existence in this world. Maybe we can learn to respect and help one another.  I can choose to stay silent, pretend that life is great, and puppies are cute. Or, I can be courageous and press forward and hope that someone even braver than I will share these nuggets with whomever they know it will help.   If that means it helps or impacts one person, then that is a good day.  If you feel that what is shared on my blog or The Bolder Sister will help someone, please share.  If you would like offer sincere feedback or suggestions for content or topics, by all means please send an email to krr.2000@yahoo.com.

I Said “YES”

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9

photo (2)robert frost photo I remember when I use to say “NO” to just about everything that stretched me well beyond my comfort zone.

“No” to leading a presentation. “No” to making that sales pitch. “No” to sharing my ideas in meetings. “No” to networking and meeting up for lunch to discuss opportunities and possible book deals. Those “NO’s” cost me, big time. They affected my walking, living, breathing and existing in my purpose.

Of course if I had many of those things to do over again, I would definitely jump at the chance; but I can’t go back and turn those specific “no’s” into “yes”. I can, however, start saying “YES” more often, right now.

Ever since I began facing my fear and doubt head on, my life has changed for the better. I am no longer afraid to take risks and do the things that use to scare the hell out of…

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The Ripples of Loss…

 

Every life touches a life.  That statement could not be truer than now for the people Alexander Villafane touched.  He was a Humboldt Park youth football coach and resident of Little Village when he was shot in the head in front of his son just outside his home.  Not only did the 39-year-old husband and father leave behind 2 sons and 2 daughters, he also left behind the children he coached and mentored.

For all the lives Mr. Villafane touched, there were many more to come.  Children who needed a stable male presence in the most critical stage — ages 10-13– will now be left to navigate life without him.  One bullet silenced a man who sacrificed his time and energy to keep kids off the streets and give them something positive and meaningful to look forward to.  Just one bullet.

The ripple effect of a life snatched away cuts deep into the heart of our communities.  The loss of this man reverberates from Humboldt Park, IL where he grew up and coached the Patriots, to Little Village where he lived, and throughout Chicago.  As we wrestle with the senselessness of his death, we have to also discover what it will take to staunch the bloodshed that is to come.

Our communities are only as strong as the people who reside in them.  Cameras can be installed and multitudes of police can be deployed but until we decide to stop covering for murderers, these tragedies will only continue to flow.  Alexander Villafane is gone. We can only pray that the 10 to 13-year-old boys he left behind will not stray from the love that he instilled in them.  We can only pray that whoever knows the person who did this will come forward.  Maybe then the ripples of loss will become the waves of change.

(c) 2015 Kim R Woods – all rights reserved

**video:  Homicide Watch Chicago homicides.suntimes.com

Parole Me Not

Parole Me Not

The probation system is set up to frustrate, discourage, and jam up ex-offenders who truly want to turn their lives around.  It is seriously broken and needs to be overhauled. This is unfortunate because it keeps the majority of ex-offenders (who are minorities), in the “system”—preventing them from securing a law-abiding future. This is not news to anyone but, having seen it first hand, it is nothing short of a bureaucratic bubble waiting to explode in the face of anyone determined to untether themselves from it.

My nephew made his expected “call in” to his parole officer (PO) a few days ago.  As arranged, the officer was to come over and visit my nephew and ensure that he is doing well and following his parole agreement.  Now, my nephew has made his share of mistakes and this was his first incarceration.  Effectively ‘scared straight’, he immediately secured a job after release and has continued to work in the direction of stabilizing his life.  His PO did not show up for that first meeting but instead, informed my nephew that he was no longer his contact and that someone else had been assigned his case.

After not hearing from the new parole officer, he called the State’s Department of Correction’s parole number.  This time, instead of reaching the automated menu (the standard), all he got was a busy signal.  After several attempts over a period of hours, we looked on the internet in an attempt to locate a brick and mortar building that we could visit for his check-in.

The purpose of parole is to keep track of men and women released from prison.  The State must know where the parolee lives and works.  It must ensure that all terms of the agreement are being met and they are staying out of trouble.  This is crucial to prevent repeat offenses.  This isn’t a one-way street because it also helps the parolee stay on track and focus on creating a better (crime free) existence.  It’s a huge burden on the court system, parole board, and other officials to make sure this system runs as expected.  When it doesn’t, the parolee runs a risk of “violating” their parole and returning back behind bars.

The other day I watched my nephew dance this precarious tango with the Department of Corrections.  We were unable to locate any information on the State’s website that pointed us to an address.  In fact, the information that was there was ambiguous at best.   After calling Chicago’s 311 line, I was provided an alternative number and I passed it to my nephew.  He called and was finally provided an address.  Upon arriving there, we found that address was no longer a legitimate location. My nephew eventually remembered another ‘general’ location as a possibility.  So not knowing for sure where we were going or if the location, like the one we’d just visited, would be open or not, we took a chance and went anyway.  Driving down the street, looking for “official” looking buildings, we finally found a Department of Corrections location.

Once inside, he explained his situation and asked to be connected with his new PO.  The employee seemed skeptical that he called the main number (and found it wasn’t operational), but she called his new PO.  Unfortunately, she had to call four bad numbers before she finally reached him.

According the 2010 Census, Illinois reported 130,910 adults on probation and 33,162 people on parole.  After what I’ve witnessed, I have to question how many revocations and absconders were due to individuals not having the proper information to enable them to check in and be compliant. Given the fact that funding for critical programs such as this is stretched to the limit, it is imperative that a solution to this problem be reached that ensures a smoother transition for parolees.  Low cost and small fixes should include at minimum:

  • The website providing updated information such as addresses for parole locations
  • Keeping their main number and menus operational at all times
  • Updating parole officer contact information (4 different numbers is inexcusable)
  • Keeping in-home check-in appointments with parolees

My nephew was diligent in proactively locating his new Parole Officer.  He is working now and maintaining healthy structure and balance in his life—determined not to violate his parole– “Once was enough for me” is his motto.   It is my fervent hope that he does not fall through the ambiguous cracks of the State’s parole system.

Deep Hurt In The Mind of a Child

I came across a video the other day of a young girl who wrote a song for her father.  Heartbreaking to watch, she spells out the myriad of ways her father has hurt her through his absenteeism.   It’s a heartbreaking reminder that we as a community have so much work to do in order to bridge the gap between our children and their indifferent and absent parents (father and mother).

It’s a painful subject to speak about because I once had to answer my then 15-year-old son who asked me “Why don’t my father want me?”  I was driving at the time he asked me that question and I gripped the wheel in anger and pain.  I explained to him that “I don’t believe that he doesn’t want you.  We had you at a young age and he lacked the maturity and knowledge to be the type of father you need.  I’m sorry that he’s hurt you by not being here for you.”  My son sat quietly, wiped his eyes, and absorbed what I said.  He stated that he understood what I said but he also vowed to never bring a child into the world that he was not financially or emotionally able to take care of.

I wanted to cry because no child should ever have to carry that question in their hearts.  They shouldn’t have to stand in the window crying on Saturday morning for hours because dad promised to pick him up and is once again a no show.  Coming from a two-parent home, I had a hard time dealing with this situation as my son grew up not knowing his father.  He grew up remembering the lies and broken promises. Since the age of 13 he has called him “the sperm donor”.  What a cringing testimony for a child to have regarding a parent!

There’s a study that states Black fathers surprisingly spend more time with their children than originally believed.  In fact, this study states this is the case more than White fathers.  That might be the case but try telling that to the child featured in this video, or mine for that matter.

The ax swings both ways.  There are mothers out there –whom because they can’t let go of the failed relationship—are determined to keep the father away from the child.  They speak negatively about the father to their children and poison their minds against him.  Sure it hurts him greatly but it hurts the child more.  Their anger is so great that it literally blinds them to reason and common sense.

My anger toward my son’s father knew no bounds.  Weeks after the birth of my child he told me “I know you’re going to turn him against me.”  I looked in his eyes and told him “I’ll tell you what… I will never speak negatively about you to him—ever.   Because I want to make sure that if he ever ends up disliking you, it’ll be because of you.”  I am proud to say that I kept that promise.  Even as I drove down the I90 Expressway gripping that steering wheel, wanting to go into a foul-mouthed tirade, I kept my promise.  I had to because my son’s well-being was always more important than my anger.  That’s what moms do—they suck it up and protect their children.

Mother, your child is not a weapon.  You cannot sling them in the face of his/her father to inflict pain.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself why is it so important for you to hurt this man to the detriment of your own flesh and blood?  If he’s not paying child support, take him to court.  In the meantime, put him on the back burner and love on your child.  Don’t bad mouth him.  Half of that man’s DNA is in your kid too. Let it go. We can do better because we have to.

Father, if the mother of your child is keeping you away, you must fight.  We live in a technological age.  If you have time to spend on social media, you therefore have time to research the laws in your state regarding custody and visitation.  You can find lawyers who won’t charge much, will probably do it pro bono, or, you can learn how to be your own Pro Se advocator.  Your child must know that you are trying to be in their lives.  Short of being six feet under, there are no excuses for not being there—none.  They have to know that when they are with you, you are not spending time with your friends or your new lady.  You have to be present.  Your child is hurting and misses you.  Your child is tortured with pain and rejection.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to this little girl because I guarantee you, that’s what is going on in the mind of your child.

Please share this (and anyone else’s similar) story because we’ve got to tell indifferent parents that it’s time to stop being selfish.

Trust: Can You Handle Rebuilding It?

trustTrust is a very fragile egg.  It takes so much time to nurture and cultivate and just seconds to destroy.  And, like an egg, it is not so easily repaired.  It will still have cracks and scars as a reminder of its trauma.  With time and care, one can slowly add spackle to the cracks. Then, one can began the process of sanding those cracks ever so gently so as to not break the egg again.  Eventually the cracks will be smoothed over but the evidence will still be present in the coloring.  At this point, if you’re lucky, you’ll finally be allowed to paint the egg back to its former glory.  Keep in mind though, the egg, though pristine on the outside, is still fragile on the inside.  Break it again and the process begins again only this time there are even more cracks to repair…

Trust is broken for many reasons.  The most popular reason is infidelity.  But there are others- a recovering addict who has victimized his family has to rebuild trust.  A loved one who has stolen has to show that valuables are safe around them. A parent who has not been consistent and loving to their children has to prove they can be reliable and make a child feel safe and loved again. An employee can lose the trust of his colleagues and employer by not doing his job, thereby proving to be unreliable.

The person who breaks a trust is the person who has to fix it.  Again, it is not the other person’s responsibility to repair a trust.  It takes time, integrity, maturity, and love.  What it doesn’t take are words (often empty), anger, denial, and poor expectations.  A person can be forgiven but that doesn’t mean they will ever regain the trust they lost.  That usually depends on the depth of the betrayal and the forgiver’s capacity to allow you near that fragile egg again –i.e. trust.  If you’ve destroyed a trust and are so blessed to be allowed a second chance this is what you need to know.

  • You broke, you fix it
  • Be patient, it’s going to take longer to regain than the first time
  • It’s not for you to determine how long. It’ll take however long it takes
  • You’ll have to prove your integrity time and time again
  • Rebuilding trust is not for the faint hearted. You’re either all in or all out
  • As your forgiver gives you an inch, nurture it as though your life depends on it
  • Don’t give up, you may be closer to regaining trust than you think

Make no mistake there is a lot of work involved on the part of the person who broke it.  Success depends on what that person feels he/she lost when they broke the trust in the first place.  Was the person loyal and loving to you?  Did they bend over backwards to help you when you needed them?  Were you able to acknowledge any sacrifices they made for you?  If they answer is yes to any of those questions, then chances are, you destroyed the trust of someone who was valuable to you.  That will tell you, the person who broke the egg, how willing you are to take the time to fix it.

©2014 Kim R. Woods
All Rights Reserved

We Just Don’t Get It

Air JordanA story recently broke in Houston as police were called to the Willowbrook mall to ward off a potential riot. There was also a report of 4 arrested in New York for fighting in a crowd. This chaos wasn’t created because of a protest in the name of justice. Windows on the mall weren’t broken due to angry looters. No, these events occurred because of a shoe: The Air Jordan 11 Retro “Legend Blue”, to be exact.

Today, as Demario Bailey’s twin brother, Demarcio, celebrates his 16th birthday without his brother and, as the family struggles to pay for his funeral, I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with the Black Community’s priorities?

Barely three weeks ago, riots and protests surged following the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson- accused of shooting unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. As the Black Community reeled with disappointment and anger many people began to seek ways create to solidarity and get justice. Then about a week later, in early December, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted on the chokehold death of Eric Holder.

As anger spilled into streets all over the country, a movement to keep black dollars in the community began. There was the ‘Boycott Black Friday’ Movement, which, wasn’t very successful. There were posts on Facebook from black businesses asking for support of their products. There was even a call to not purchase on Cyber Monday. Today, seeing the news clip of the hordes of black people lined up to receive a purchase voucher to buy the $200.00 shoes made me angry. Once again, we just don’t get it.

First, let’s talk about the fact that for years- dating back to the late 80s, people have been dying after being robbed of Air Jordans. When Nike releases a ‘specialty’ shoe (as they did last year as well), people become violent in crowded lines just to purchase them. Now, in December 2014 we are still stepping over each other to purchase a $200.00 tennis shoe.

Second, let’s talk about money. According to the Neilson Company, Black spending power is expected to reach 1.1 trillion dollars in 2015. The lifespan of a dollar in the Black community is 6 hours compared to 20 days for Jews, a month for Asians, and 17 days for whites. How can we have that much buying power and have no wealth?

It’s very surreal to be reeling from yet another senseless death of a child – this one a robbery victim, witness weeks of “Justice for Mike Brown” and “I Can’t Breathe”, to witnessing this spectacle of materialistic spending – and the violence that it created. We have to get our priorities straight. Michael Jordan has more money than he will ever spend in his lifetime and Nike (and other companies) is going to use him (and other ‘celebrities’) to milk the Black Community until we wake up and stop trying to outspend each other.

Instead of standing for hours pushing and shoving each other, we need to focus on the real problems in our community. I’m sure Demarcio Bailey would appreciate the effort.

©2014 Kim R. Woods
All rights reserved