September 9-15 is Suicide Prevention Week. I wrote the following poem to talk about the elephant in the room — the stigma attached to mental illness.
A lot’s been going on in the media during my hiatus but I’m going to weigh in on what’s going on in France. Not the tragedy itself but rather the Black community’s callous response to it. Since France was attacked by ISIS on Friday 11/13, the memes started popping up everywhere attacking Blacks who posted their condolences. According to the angry masses, if you did so, you are a “coon” or –my favorite—a “Negropean”. Also by doing that, we’re not being the “Kings and Queens” of our native Africa. There’s also a great deal of anger about the lack of meaningful coverage regarding the barbaric massacre in Kenya. Labels here, labels there, labels labels everywhere!
As a black person with a heart for the issues going on in our community, it should go without saying that I’m angry that the media continues to downplay the plight of blacks everywhere in the world. But it’s beyond aggravating to me that African Americans have to prove their “Blackness” to other African Americans because they say “Pray for France”. My question is, where is the compassion?
The beauty of my blackness means that I don’t have to put partitions around my heart. My feelings of anguish and sorrow for another person isn’t “colored” by the color of their skin. My heart ached for Kenya and it equally aches for France. It equally ached for the United States on 9/11 (more so because this is home). Did we check our “blackness” at the door on 9/11? Did we say “Slaves entered the United States via Ellis Island, so screw New York”? People died a horrifying death on all of these occasions. That is where my heart and thoughts are right now.
Being “enlightened” and knowing the truth of our Black History (in contrast to what we learned in school) does not mean that I am pro Black to the exclusion of all other human beings. What that means is I will speak out about issues that impact African Americans – racism/racists, educational inequality, and violence –particularly against children, etc. It also means that I will speak out and support or empathize with any form of suffering—regardless of color—period.
Racism exists everywhere in this world. France has racist people as well as Germany, England, Kenya, and a host of many more. Find me a country that doesn’t hate blacks or any race that is not like them and I’ll move there immediately because that would be Utopia and Heaven on Earth. The best that we can do as Blacks is continue to fight against it in our communities by putting pressure on the system that runs it–while maintaining our compassion and respect for life. Unfortunately, its incidents like the attacks on France and Kenya that highlights the degree of separation in the Black diaspora.
Let’s put France and Kenya aside for a minute to highlight an example of that separation. What chills me right now is the thought that the people who put 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee on his knees in a Chicago alley and pumped 7 bullets into his body are still running lose (police are questioning “a person of interest”). Someone knows who did it but they won’t “rat” them out because that is the code of twisted honor. Then, the same people complaining about Kenya’s lack of media coverage aren’t marching through the streets of Chicago, locking down traffic and demanding justice for Tyshawn. Where is the passionate anger for the gang violence that afforded us the nickname (and subsequent movie) Chiraq? Are we “coons” and “Negropeans” for committing the actual crimes or for doing nothing about it? What also disturbs me is the next time someone is gunned down by a police officer, chaos will erupt once again, someone’s name will become a hashtag, and there will still be no solution to the problems currently plaguing our community—right here in Chicago, IL, USA. The separation of our brothers and sisters is rife on a basic level.
Sadly, as these memes are going up, some people don’t realize that they are part of the problem (unbelievably, some people have said “thank you, ISIS” for attacking Paris as though the US isn’t on their radar). They don’t truly support the black community but rather they cause separation within it. The irony is amazing. In the past we tried to counteract the labels put upon us during slavery by creating new (better) ones but we still use the “old” ones.
So we go from being niggers and coons to “nigga”—which is supposed to be positive (it is not). We also went from being slaves to “Kings and Queens” – to remind us of our ancestry. But here’s the twist—blacks call us “coons” and “Negropeans” if we do/say something deemed non Black. It’s mind boggling indeed. But… if a white or other calls us those same labels there’s hell to pay! Did it ever occur to us that we do not need labels to define who we are? Until we let go of the labeling, we will never truly know who we are and we will always be divided within the Black community based upon yet another label system. That, in my limited opinion, is the very nature of oppression because we spend so much time trying to convince each other how Black we really are that our community is suffering because of it.
What do we gain by spewing hatred toward France and enjoying its tragedy? How is its history any different from the United States in terms of its treatment of slaves/blacks? Ok, the media didn’t give Kenya enough coverage but does that mean we have to hate another suffering group of people? I say not!
Personally, I love France. I’ve always loved its ancient architecture, the culture, and the natural beauty of that country. It’s on my bucket list of places I will visit in my lifetime—as too is Africa. So no, I don’t need to prove my blackness by not showing love for and compassion to France. I’m not defined by anyone’s perception of who I am and therefore have nothing to prove. I don’t need to call myself a queen to feel like I’m a descendant of mother Africa. We don’t need to be labeled Kings and Queens to feel a connection to our roots. We just have to know who we are. My black is… beautiful, compassionate, loving, and… me.
It’s sadly unsurprising that another Black person has fallen once again while in police custody—having suffered unnecessary brutality during a traffic stop. It screams the question: Since when did a routine traffic stop become a high risk assignment for Black women? It’s a question I now have to ponder every time I drive my vehicle. As the tragic death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland is being investigated by state of Texas and played out in the media, I’ve realized that I am Sandra Bland.
I am Black and proud and speak too loudly
At the injustice I see all around me
My skin is darker than a berry, but not too sweetly
Am I acceptable to blind ignorance, you see
Because when the eyes of those who hate rest their gaze
Upon me, my humanness dissipates
into a misty haze and all that is left
Is rage, war, and violence-
against my body’s softness
Their need to destroy the femininity that is me
Because I…am Sandra Bland
My life is seen as an inconvenience to abusers of power
But I’m not popular to those blinded by the rays of my darkness
Shining a beacon upon my guilty countenance
Because justice precedes some but doesn’t proceed for me
Because, I… am Sandra Bland
Passing through this life is a struggle
Over my shoulder I shuffle
Looking into the night for the bright
Swirling lights that can remove me from this life
Driving, shopping, walking, and speaking I am guilty as charged
Black woman… at large
Red incites a bull to rage
But on this stage
Black puts us in a cage
Or a coffin
But I’m not balking because I’m free
And as long as I breathe
I will continue to be
Because Sandra Bland is me
Therefore boldly I’ll proclaim
to say her name
From every mountain top
And I will not stop
The thunderous roar
Until injustice is no more
In this land, we will continue to stand
Because I am… Sandra Bland
©2015 Kim R. Woods All Rights Reserved
With so much tragedy and uncertainty going on in the media- from the China & Greece stock market crash to the continued violence on the streets (in Chicago)– we sometimes forget to celebrate greatness. Well, I’d like to celebrate a young lady who is not “famous” but whom, through hard work and dedicated parents, was able to raise the bar for herself–securing a chance to compete at the National Track Meet in Jacksonville, Florida.
Daysha Tillman is a 16-year-old track star at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, IL. She is an Olympic-grade athlete with dreams of competing there one day. The purpose of this article is to help her and her family raise money to cover the cost of her travel, expenses, and equipment–allowing her to participate at Nationals the week of July 27th.
Her parents, Sam and Keshania Tillman, have raised their 3 girls and 1 son with honor and integrity and in spite of the financial strain, they have made sure that their kids studied hard in school and competed in the sports of their choices. All 3 of the girls have participated in sports- softball, basketball, and track–giving their absolute best. The youngest daughter, Daysha, has her eyes set on the Olympics and has trained hard to progress in her sport.
Daysha has qualified to go to Nationals—she was all conference winner with 4 FIRST PLACE medals as well as placing strong in down state track meets. This young lady is a highly intelligent, hard-working, and gifted athlete. I believe that she has more than earned this opportunity to be able to go and compete without worrying about how her parents will pay for it. It is my honor to be able to help them raise the funds.
Our children are not born to fail. They have the ability to achieve greatness and all that is required of us–both parents and the community–is to fan the fire that is already underneath their feet. Daysha Tillman’s feet are meant to fly. We just need to give her a nudge.
To support Daysha’s efforts please go here
Once again public shaming has reared its ugly head- this time with disastrous results. The latest victim is 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana – a student at a Tacoma Washington middle school .
We seem to forget what it was like to be a child. I wasn’t a bad child but I did challenge my parents and was punished accordingly. As with most kids it ebbs and flows until the time comes when both parent and child “survive” this thing called parenthood. I also had insecurities that are normal to most children. 13-year-olds (boys and girls) deal with issues such as weight, acne, clothing styles, the opposite sex, and yes- hair. They are entering the age of discovery and self-awareness.
So is it really a shock that a young beautiful girl with long thick flowing locks – in the beginning of discovering herself- would become devastated and suicidal after not only losing her hair, but having the event put in public display?
It truly begs the questions -why are parents so eager and willing to humiliate their children? Why has this become a new “tool” in parenting? What are they trying to prove and to whom are they attempting to prove it to? How is this helping the child to correct behavior and more importantly, is the possible psychological and self-esteem damage worth the risk?
Apparently for Izabel Laxamana, the risk was far greater than the reward. Because we now live in an advanced technological society, her parents felt the best way to punish her was to chop off her hair and post it online.
This isn’t “punishment”- its cruelty. It’s a form of cruelty that not every child can handle and I’m willing to guess that most children can’t handle it. That is why this young girl -in the beginnings of her youth and self-discovery- climbed onto a bridge and without hesitation, jumped to her death.
There is no doubt that as her parents mourn her death, the “likes” and kudos are up ticking on YouTube and Facebook as yet another progressive salute to a great punishment strategy. So now I’m compelled to ask again, do you still think public humiliation/shaming is a good way to punish a child? If you still feel this way, then shame on you.
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.
Both in storms and peace resides He with me.
Unbinding my heart –setting my spirit free
Within me He breathed something most unique
Which causes others behind my back to speak
Of that which they have no comprehension seeks
To bring me to their level of weak
But only One resides in the highs and the opposite peaks
And lands me squarely on both of my feet
Those who think they know the name of my street
Will miss the message that was short and so sweet
He calls me to this mission’s feat
And infuses my strength when it depletes
Because inheritance belongs to the meek
And before the enemy defines that which is oblique
He will have missed the message and bow down in defeat
So I embrace my storms that rage and shriek
Because the ultimate prize – salvation—I keep
©2015 Kim RosemonWoods all rights reserved
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