Tag Archive | children

Whatever Happened to Officer Friendly?

Officer Friendly3I remember when I was in the 3rd grade, “Officer Friendly” came to our classroom.  He was a tall White man wearing a uniform and hat.  Talk about exciting! We “ohh’ed and ahh’ed” because we were awestruck with his uniform, shiny badge, gun, and of course – the coloring book!  He was polite and indeed friendly and we felt secure with him in our classroom.  I got to shake his hand and I never forgot the encounter—I couldn’t wait to tell my parents about it.  I remember adding police officer to the list of things I wanted to be because of that visit–he caught bad guys and kept people safe after all so, how cool is that! Fast forward to 2016.  Officer Friendly no longer exists. In his place is extreme distrust, dead bodies, and unending news bites. Gone are the days of yesteryear…

I recently came across a post (meme) on a social media page sponsored by the Chicago Police Department.  It asked parents “please stop telling your children that we will haul them off to jail if they are bad.  We want them to run to us if they are scared…  Not be scared of us.  Thank you.”  I agree with that statement. They are, after all, paid to serve and protect the public and the last thing we need is for our children to be afraid of them if they should ever need them.  We absolutely don’t want parents scaring a child into discipline and submission (that is abusive).  But that request raises a more serious question. The question is… How do we raise Black and Brown children to have a healthy “relationship” with law enforcement? How do we teach them to trust and then protect themselves against them should the time present itself?

It’s a burning question because I remember teaching my son that police are “friendly and they help people.”  I taught him to respect the police, go to them if he ever needs help, and call them if he sees someone else in trouble.  He believed me– at first.  That wide-eyed, trusting face believed what mommy said about the helpful police.  Then he grew older and you wouldn’t believe the disagreements we used to have when he became a teen!  He started calling them “pigs” and said he hated them.  Hate is a strong word and I was appalled because this is the opposite of what I’d taught him.  I asked him why he felt that way and he said all they do is stop and harass him and other people.   Of course, trying to be helpful (and parental), I thought I had an answer for every scenario—including “they only harass people who are making trouble. So, stay away from trouble.”  It seemed simple enough to me.  Eventually, I realized that he simply didn’t trust or respect any form of law enforcement –and sadly, with good reason.

Police have never been popular but there was still a somewhat respectful ‘truce’ between them and black residents in the mid-70s and early 80s. Then the War on Drugs began to heat up and there was a total shift in the way blacks were being treated.  Incarcerations and jail overcrowding increased as did the construction of private prisons.  I remember the stories about inmates sleeping on jail floors because the cells were so packed.  As this ‘war’ evolved, it became evident who the real ‘enemy’ was – the black and brown people.  It didn’t matter whether they were behind the wheel of a car or on foot.  They were stopped – and stopped often. Then the brutality increased.  Had it not been for the advent of the cellular phone, no one would’ve believed the level of brutality Rodney King suffered during a beating in 1991.  Nor would we have witnessed the recent horror of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times- most of which occurred while he was lying in the street dying.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Two years ago, my son was on his way home and as he crossed the street at 63rd and Cottage Grove, an unmarked car stopped him (for ‘jaywalking’ at 2am).  He politely asked them why they detained him and they put him in the car.  He then became angry and demanded to know why they stopped him.  He was told to shut up before they dropped him off in an area that was notorious for shooting strangers.  Then, one of them told him they were about to ‘inconvenience’ his weekend.  They took him to a lockup downtown.  The following morning, without a word or paperwork, he was released and told to pick up his property at a station in Maywood.  Not finding his items there, he asked me for a ride to another police station.  That particular day, he, my nephew and I drove to 4 stations (2 of them twice) –crisscrossing the city– until we were able to retrieve his wallet and backpack (which was in Maywood).  His cell phone and belt, however, were gone.  We filed a complaint.  My son eventually gave up on the follow up process (which was disappointing to me) so there was no positive outcome.  He simply wanted no more encounters with them. Honestly, I didn’t blame him.  No crime was committed by him.  He wasn’t even ‘arrested’.  Just inconvenienced– along with my nephew and I.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

How do we teach our children to safely interact with law enforcement when their first priority appears to be harassment and humiliation of its Black citizens?  How does one navigate what can easily escalate into a life-threatening encounter when there is overwhelming proof they may not even survive it?  Parents used to dread having “the talk” with their children about sex.  Now we have to teach them that the friendly and helpful policeman (we taught them to obey) might not only haul them off to jail after all, but could possibly maim or kill them and because of that, there’s a whole set of rules they have to follow should they ever become detained by one. Similar to ‘stop, drop, and roll’ during a fire, we have to teach them to ‘shut up‘(to avoid escalation), ‘hands up’ (to avoid being shot), and ‘curl up’ (if punched or kicked).  Not only that, we have to determine at what age to teach them. Sadly, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Laquan McDonald are only a few who’ve lost their lives during what should’ve been a routine interaction with an officer.  What do we teach them to counteract the very real and violent imagery of the news showing clips of police beating and shooting people?  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Black and Brown people on average are detained, arrested, brutalized, and killed (in the street or while in custody) at higher rates than White and others.  They are the direct target of the ‘kindergarten to prison’ pipeline constructed during the War against Drugs.  We don’t want our children to be frightened of law enforcement but the truth of the matter is, they need to be prepared and aware.

Slogans Displayed on Police Vehicles

 

 

  • Portland:  Sworn to protect:  Dedicated to Serve
  • Chicago: We Serve and Protect
  • New York:  Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect
  • Ferguson: No motto displayed

 

 

Two days ago.  A relative called to tell me that an officer just moments ago had stopped and handcuffed him at a bus terminal in Harvey, IL.  He was smoking (not illegal).  The officer attempted to “push his buttons” verbally to escalate the situation but the young man, to his credit, was not moved.   Eventually he was released and advised “I don’t want to see you here for the rest of the week.” He was on his way to pick up a prescription.  While on the bus, he also discovered money was missing from his wallet. He’s not a criminal. Nor is he a gang-banger, drug dealer, or a thug.  Just a man running errands. He was illegally told not to come back to a public place (a bus stop).  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Make no mistake, I am not anti-police but rather pro-life.  All I can offer are events that I’ve witnessed for myself as well as what we have seen in the news and all around us.  There is a serious problem that runs deep within any individual that decides for his (or her) self, that Blacks are less than human and should be treated as such.  There’s a problem when officers have no true accountability for their actions. It spreads like a cancer and needs to be addressed by our mayors, Superintendents, and the Department of Justice.  We must continue to fight until we find a way to bridge the chasm between black human beings and the people who abuse the power of their uniform.  Until then, we must teach our children to be wary because while police will help them, there may come a time when that helping hand becomes a boot in the back.

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Olympic Dreams Should Never Die…

DayshaWith 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

Public Shaming and the Suicide of a Child

Isabel Laxamana

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.

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.

There’s No Sunshine When She’s Gone

Phoebe Jonchuck
Sunshine Skyway sounds like a happy place. The name brings to my mind warm sunlight against cool skin while lying on my back and staring at clouds back-grounded by clear blue skies. If I close my eyes I can envision myself lying in the grass identifying unique and fun shapes in the clouds. But for five-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, Sunshine Skyway Bridge was a place of horror—making her yet another child victim of a failed system.

Her little body was flung off the bridge located in St. Petersburg, Fl by the one person who should’ve been her protector, 25-year-old John Jonchuck. In the coming days of investigation more details will become known. But one can’t help but wonder why he wasn’t detained after his lawyer(child custody) called and expressed grave concern. According to the lawyer’s 911 recording, Jonchuck told her “Don’t file the paperwork(custody papers),” he told her. “It’s not going to matter anymore.” At that point she tells the 911 operator “He’s out of his mind, and he has a minor child with him driving to the church now,”

Lawyer’s 911 Call

Officers arrived at the church and determining that he posed no threat, let him go. Phoebe was dead several hours later. But the failure didn’t stop there. An officer (though off duty) did not pursue the vehicle as –according to the news clip below– “flew past him at a high rate of speed.” Then while stopped, the father preceded to “go around to the other side of the vehicle” and pull the child out.

Police News Conference

I’m sure the incident moved somewhat faster than it actually sounds here, but given all of the high-profile shootings that have encapsulated the media lately I can’t help but ask what the officer was thinking by his casual response. For all he knew, this guy (already displaying erratic behavior) could’ve been about to pull a weapon out of his back seat. Yet, he had time to exit his vehicle open a door, pick up a child, and throw her over the bridge.

As of January 12, 2015, the Department of Children and Families have made a change to their policy to respond within 4 hours by meeting with the parent who is experiencing an acute mental episode.
It is safe to say that Mr. Jonchuck’s lawyer made the a call that should not have been taken lightly. The fear and concern she had for the child was clear in her voice and at the very least, the mother should have been contacted. Maybe I’m just frustrated that another child has died a senseless and frightening death.

Phoebe Johnchuck’s funeral service is Wednesday (1/14/15) at Lake Magdalene Methodist Church in Tampa Florida. A little girl who loved school, her friends, and bright colors will no longer dream of sunshine, clear blue skies, and fluffy clouds.

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

Modern Day Orphans

There’s an unfortunate segment of parenting which creates what I call orphans.  The definition of orphan:  a child who has lost either parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.  For the sake of this article, I speak of orphans created because both parents are alive and ABSCENT from their children’s lives on a daily basis. When I say “absent parenting” it means either the parent (mother and/or father) are either with the child on a daily basis but is not providing guidance and structure, or the child is living with relatives and neither parent is physically present on a daily basis to provide guidance and structure.

I personally know of at least 2 separate instances of this strange phenomenon in which both parents are not physically with their children.  In both cases the fathers are already not involved on a daily basis with the children because they have relationships and families; the mothers have left their children in the care of relatives and are living in another location—or out of state for weeks and months at a time.  Sometimes the siblings are living in separate homes as they wait for a parent to come back for them.  This is extremely detrimental to our communities.

A child needs attention, nurturing, and guidance every day from at least one consistent parent.  When both parents are gone through choices of their own, the child is left with painful unanswered questions.  One of which is “why doesn’t mom/dad want me?”   Now, some will say that the parents are away so they can find jobs and send for their children and that would be a reasonable response.  The problem with that is often even when one or both parents are physically present they fall into the other category of being ‘at home’ with the child but still not providing much needed guidance and structure.  Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for the child.

They don’t provide the child with consistent rules: be home by 4, homework before play, chores, or bed time.  Children aren’t being taught values such as honesty, hard work, and respect. The result is a hurt, angry, and broken child who eventually becomes rebellious to the point of self-destruction which will eventually spill into the community.

Our children are the most precious commodity we can ever produce.  They don’t come with instructions, but with the wealth of information available at our fingertips today on the internet, parents today can do better.  Here are some common sense tips:

  • Don’t be selfish. Your life is no longer your—it’s the child’s.
  • Teach them their colors and ABC’s while they are still in diapers. They will be better prepared for school.
  • Hang up the party shoes. If you had a child in your teens (like I did), it’s a real bummer but again- it’s not about you  It took me a whole year to learn that one and unfortunately, there’re adults who still haven’t.
  • Give them guidance. Teach them respect.  Nail that and the rest will come easier
  • Give them structure. Bed time—as in a time they need to be in bed (with stories), curfews, and discipline (not abuse!!)
  • If you are the NON-custodial parent and distance is a problem, SPEAK TO YOUR CHILD DAILY. Even if it’s to say “good morning” and “good night, I love you”. Stay connected.
  • Don’t abandon them! They need to see and be with you EVERY DAY.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your extremely bright and gifted child is “mature” and “knows better”.  He/she needs you.

You may not realize it but when you leave your children for days and weeks at a time, you are neglecting their growth and development.  You’ve orphaned them. And that is truly selfish.