This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

September 29, 2009

Derrion Albert: No More Space on the Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 10:22 pm

…Latiker wonders how she can possibly make room for Derrion’s headstone. Latiker created a memorial two years ago to honor the young people killed in Chicago. Each time a child is shot, stabbed or beaten to death, she adds a stone to the memorial wall.

“We have 163 stones right now, but we are 20, now 21, behind,” she said. “I thought, well, I hoped, I dreamed that there’d be more space on the wall than kids being killed.” (Source)

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September 15, 2009

School is a Battlefield

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 9:26 am

Friday, September 4

Dear Dr. _____:

I have just read that ours is one of the school systems refraining from allowing children to see and hear President Obama’s address this coming Tuesday. If true, how very disappointing that a democratically elected sitting president of our nation could be treated with such disdain and disrespect. As a new resident of this county, I am deeply ashamed. I thought that when I moved back to Indiana I was moving to a state that had progressed past its insular, sometimes narrow-minded past. I see that much work is yet to be accomplished, however.

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, September 5

Greetings _____, _____, and _____:

I am writing to find out what the policy will be in the _____ School building, and/or in both of your classrooms regarding the airing of President Obama’s back-to-school speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday. I have already emailed the superintendent of _____, voicing my extreme dismay that he has decided to not take the stand to allow our children to view and hear this message, but instead is passing the buck along to individual schools and classrooms.

Please be advised that if _____ School or either of your classrooms will not be participating, my husband and I may consider not sending our children to school that day. This type of partisan nonsense has no place in today’s society and surely even citizens who did not support the President’s campaign should be able to stomach the idea that for a few moments out of one day their children will hear a sitting and democratically-elected president’s encouragement about school success.

I look forward to your quick response so that we can make alternate arrangements for Tuesday if necessary.

Sincerely,

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, September 7

I am deeply disappointed at the lack of response to my request, as well as the lack of publicizing of exactly what _____ School’s response will be. I understand that this request was made over the weekend, but I would have thought that I would have received at least one response, or have been able to find out about the _____ School policy from some other source.

I found on your website, _____, that the children in your class will not be viewing the President’s speech. This disappoints me as well. I could find no information on-line about a school-wide policy, or what might be happening in your classroom, _____.

I will be coming to pick up my children, _____ and _____, from school tomorrow shortly before the broadcast of the speech, approximately 11:45 EST, and will return them to the school following the speech.

I am still looking for, and will continue to seek, an official statement about why these decisions were made. I am not convinced that the reason was that it would be disruptive to the school day. Surely the children will not suffer from one day of no or reduced recess. Additionally, although I have only been a parent of the school for one year, I have already seen numerous times when the school day was “disrupted” for other special events. What I am looking for is why this event, specifically, was deemed different enough *not* to allow the children to participate during the school day.

I look forward to your responses.

Sincerely,

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, September 8 (6:50 AM)

Thank you for your response, _____. Yes, I do understand the lack of response to my emails, and should have searched a little more for the on-line response that you excerpted below.

My disappointment remains that the school decided not to take leadership on this issue. That a small group of vocal parents (I hope, small!) could cause so many intelligent people to buckle under partisan pressure and not allow a presidential address during the school day is unfortunate. I remain unconvinced that such an address was not shown because of concerns about its relevance to “curriculum and programming.” I wonder: what kind of curriculum and programming exist in the classrooms of _____ School that makes irrelevant a Presidential encouragement to children to take responsibility to work hard at school?

I am still waiting on an official response about why such an address was deemed necessary to handle in such a way, as if the President would be speaking on a sensitive topic such as sexuality or violence. Why, for example, were plans only made for parents of children whose classroom teachers *would* be airing the address but who did not want their children to, but not for those parents whose teachers chose *not* to air the address but who *wanted* their children to?

At the very least, I would have hoped that a school as lacking in diversity at the faculty and other adult leadership level would welcome the opportunity to ensure that all children got the chance to view a man of African descent in a leadership role–the first such to serve in the office of President of the United States–to address them in the context of the school day. I will state it plainly: I am not unaware that much of the opposition to the President’s speech has a racial component. I read the speech myself last night and there is nothing in it that I could discern that was disturbing, or “socialist” in nature, “disruptive” to the curriculum, or otherwise deserving of such treatment by school administrators so many places.

As an African American parent of African American children I fear that we have ended up in a school environment where–despite many parents’ smiles and cheery words to me—large numbers of parents’ have such regressive and narrow minded attitudes that Indiana was once known for in communities of color, but that I had thought were a thing of the past. I hope that I am wrong about this and that, again, the opposition was smaller than the power of their voices seem to indicate.

Again, I remain dissatisfied at your official response as the head leader of _____ School. This reflects, in my opinion, poorly on our school, and poorly on our school system.

I have not heard from _____ but I will plan on picking up my children as I mentioned previously.

Best wishes,

[PPR_Scribe]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, September 8 (7:50AM)

______:

For me the issue of the type of social environment my children are in at school is not a “debate.” This experience has been extremely hurtful for me as an African American parent of children in a school with so few children who are themselves African American. That you had to spend so much time listening to parents who, I assume, objected to the speech is—once again—cause for me to believe that perhaps my parent peers are not as open-minded as I would hope.

I can only do that—make assumptions—since no information about the nature of _____ School parents’ concerns has been provided (that I can discern). Nor can I find any information about teachers who *did* decide to air the speech so that I could see what constituted a connection to curriculum and programming as far as _____ School teachers are concerned. My specific fears that the reactionary nature to the speech had racial components were not addressed in your email, so, again, I am at a loss as how to interpret what I believe to be a most unfortunate community reaction and resulting decision on the part of school and district leadership.

It sounds from your email that you wish to be done with this issue so I will leave it for now. In the future I would hope that you consider that all students and their parents have points of view that are valuable and deserve to be addressed in a meaningful way. The only “other family,” whoever that may be, and my own family, are no less deserving of this consideration because we are few in number.

Best,

[PPR_Scribe]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wednesday, September 9
Thank you for this more in-depth response to my concerns. At some point I think I would love to have a conversation about diversity programming in general at _____ School. At that point I will likely bring up my personal and professional opinions about (a) the ways in which these parents may have expressed their concerns in non-(explicitly) racial terms, but that perhaps reveal racial bias all the same, and (b) what schools like _____ might be able to do to foster a more inclusive and open-mined atmosphere.

Have a good rest of your day.

Best,

[PPR_Scribe]

September 7, 2009

Our Daughters, Our Selves

In another part of the country, a mother buries her Black daughter. This mother probably thought this daughter, killed steps from a college library, would be safe. She probably aches from the thought that she could not have protected her better. All over the country, mothers of Black daughters in her age group (15-24) ache for their dead daughters—dead from “unintentional injuries” (#1 cause of death) and homicide (#2 cause of death).

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

No one else seems to ache for their daughters. There does not, for example, seem to be a national feminist organization, or a national Black civil rights organization, whose mission it is to ache—and advocate for—these Black daughters.

So we mothers of Black daughters must advocate for our daughters, for our selves.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope. I look around and see who we cry for, who we call into radio programs to show support for, who we march in the streets for, who we file amicus curiae briefs for, who we garner our righteous indignation for. And those whos do not, in most cases, seem to be  Black daughters.

The First Lady must advocate for her First (and Only) Daughters. As must we all. Our nation’s First (Black) Daughters are our symbols. They are our symbols for what it will be to be a Black daughter in this still-new century. Will it be more of the same? Or a New Day? Will the new day be a good new day, or will it surprise us with the creativity and inventiveness of its new-found horrible-ness?

INVISIBLE_TEXT
"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

My Black daughters came to me in a pair. And people tend to think of them as a pair. Venus-and-Serena. Sasha-and-Malia.

Yes, my daughters are individuals, not an interchangeable unit. Yet I like their paired-ness. Hopefully the dashes sandwiching the and between their names will remind them that they will have to advocate for each other. To be their own best friends.

Their own most ardent defenders.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

I stand in solidarity with other mothers of Black daughters. Many of these mothers are Black daughters themselves. But some are not. Some are White daughters, or identify racially as other than black or white. Some mothers are “actually” grandmothers, or aunts, or older cousins. Some are not even female, but they “mother” their Black daughters just the same. Black daughters are yoked to their mothers by biology and by adoption and by social contract. By necessity and by convenience and by happenstance.

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

These varied Black daughters might struggle to see themselves in other Black daughters. And we as their mothers must release ourselves from whatever bulky and heavy bags we still tote around, filled with random items of wrinkled shit of our own histories with other Black daughters.

It ain’t gonna be easy.

But it is for our daughters, so we will find a way.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

I feel a special concern for other Black mothers of Black daughters. There is a saying in Black communities: We love our sons and raise our daughters. I often do see evidence of this. With all respect, some of us need to do more forcing our sons to grow up, and ensuring our daughters do not grow up too soon. I have seen the consequences of some Black mothers’ “loving” of their Black sons.

And it is not a pretty sight.

Mothers of Black daughters: Love your daughters. Fiercely and completely. Love them as much as you do—or should—love yourselves.

"Daddies Are for Fames of Tag." PPR_Scribe

"Daddies Are for Games of Tag." PPR_Scribe

INVISIBLE_TEXT

One of the greatest gifts I have given my Black daughters is a man in their life—in this case, their biological father—who loves and cherishes them beyond any other. Even beyond me.

It sounds retro, old fashioned to say it. Maybe “conservative” and “anti-progressive.” Certainly anti-feminist. But.

My Black daughters need at least one man in their life who feels this way about them. All Black daughters do. Black daughters who do not have such a man in their lives as children may struggle as grown women. Many of these grown Black women—straight or lesbian or bisexual or otherwise—will waste years of their lives trying  to find a glimmer of themselves as wonderful beings in the eyes of men, never knowing what it is in those eyes that they should be looking for. They may mistake possessiveness for protection. Violence for passion. Sex for love.

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

Thinking back, I was probably not the Black daughter at adolescence that my own mother hoped for. How can one young woman (i.e., me) be so arrogant and contrary about everything—from spirituality to my bedroom decor, from music to academics, from my treatment of my little sister to the meaning of life?

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

I try to remember my own saltiness as I enter new relationship phases with my own mother, and as my daughters move from little girls to pre-teens. I try to remember—as my mother’s words flow from my mouth, and my daughters hear these words with my former ears—that this is just a stage, just one way station on a long path.

But it is a journey that must be navigated with sensitivity if I want to arrive at the next stage with daughters who respect me.

And who will not cringe when, one day, they hear my own words come out of their mouths.

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe

INVISIBLE_TEXT

…Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope….

Then other times, I think otherwise. I may be standing in a hot shower, five minutes past my alarm clock siren and 30 minutes before my first sip of coffee, and my mind chains together several links of good—or at least, not-so-bad—Signs; and in a moment of clarity I realize how much power I have to ensure that my daughters’ world will be a gift and not a curse.

It is important to hold onto those moments, even in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

Especially in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

August 20, 2009

What About Dunbar Village?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 7:38 am

Please follow the multi-post and continuing coverage about the Dunbar Village rape trial over on What About Our Daughters?

August 17, 2009

“Lil Monkey”=Black Baby; “Pretty Panda”=White Baby

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 7:26 am

Via Sociological Images:

The fact that we are all racist already, whether we like it or not, is the point that the manufacturer completely misses.  They do think in that way.  We all do.  Not thinking in that way consciously doesn’t mean that racism didn’t play a role in the manufacturing of a black Lil’ Monkey doll.  In fact, their defense actually makes things worse.  Their refusal to think about racism, in favor of a defensive reaction, is as racist as the doll itself.  We can’t fight racism unless we’re prepared to admit that we hold unconscious biases.

August 13, 2009

B(l)ack to School

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 7:31 am
"School Bus Coming." PPR_Scribe

"School Bus Coming." PPR_Scribe

It’s going to happen, I see, every year. The back-to-school social, the fall open house, the first school-wide choir performance. We will see Them out of the corner of our eyes. New faces…new families. New Black faces and families. We will experience a rush of inner thrill. We will try to determine from the child’s hair style or clothes what grade she is in. We may determine that there is a chance that he will—out of all the classrooms—be in one of our children’s class.

Our child may not be The Only One this year.

We lock eyes with a mother, with a father. Definitely with a grandmother. The grandmother, in particular, seems relieved and overjoyed to see us there. Guess you were right, Junior, there are some Black folk up in this lillywhite suburb…. We lock eyes. We share a mutual smile. (Once, we actually hugged, even though we had never seen each other in our lives.) There is still that Other family, the family from previous years, whose mother never meets our eyes, whose father never answers our hellos. But even they and their nasty attitude is easier to take as we take note of these new Black faces.

It is a steady annual trickle in which we do not make the only appearance. One additional family from Korea this year…a surname on one class roster that ends in -ez that we are hopeful about even though we did not meet the parents or child at the open house…three additional families from the Middle East…the sound of accents and languages spoken other than English…

Each new black and brown and beige and cream colored face fills us with joy and hope.

If we were paying more attention, we’d see that we are not the only ones noticing the new faces. They are noticing, too, and some do not seem quite so thrilled. We’d see a few of them are doing some internal calculations, more complicated than rocket science. How many is good for a little added flavor and how many will be too spicy? Where will be the tipping point that will make private school or putting a house on the market come up on the good side of the loss-gain column?

But we do not notice them. We are too happy about the rainbow.

It is going to be a great school year.

August 9, 2009

The Children: Coming to It

Filed under: Photography and Photo Essays — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 6:08 pm
"Little Man, Running." PPR_Scribe

"Little Man, Running." PPR_Scribe

…When we come to it

When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders

"Waves of Joy." PPR_Scribe

"Waves of Joy." PPR_Scribe

And children dress their dolls in flags of truce

When land mines of death have been removed

And the aged can walk into evenings of peace

When religious ritual is not perfumed

By the incense of burning flesh

And childhood dreams are not kicked wide awake

By nightmares of abuse

…When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

"Generational." PPR_Scribe

"Generational." PPR_Scribe

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.

~Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth”

"Merry Go Round." PPR_Scribe

"Merry Go Round." PPR_Scribe

July 20, 2009

Tighten Up On That Backstroke

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 2:20 pm

My two delightful brown “babies” swim competitively. They have been taking lessons since they were toddlers, but this summer is the first year they have participated on a swim team. On their own team, and at most meets with other teams, they are the only (or only two of a handful of other) brown children in the sparkling blue waters. As other parents ask each other “Which one is yours?” few need to have me point out my own offspring from the horde of dripping Speedo-clad children.

"Backstroke." PPR_Scribe

"Backstroke." PPR_Scribe

I have been thinking a lot about my daughters’ experience in this sport the past few days since the story broke out about the day camp full of minority kids being sent packing from a majority White private swim club. The case has been written about—and written about well—a number of different places in the blogosphere (here, here, and here for example). Instead of adding to the analysis of that particular case, I am going to provide a few personal insights and experiences.

Continuing a Family Tradition

My daughters became interested in swimming as a sport because of the example set by their teen-aged uncles, my little brothers. Both swam competitively on the same suburban team that my kids are now on, and both excelled there and on into their high school team. Back when they swam in the league, my father and stepmother, too, rarely had to pick out their sons for fellow swim moms and dads. People generally figured out that the two tall, extremely athletic brown skinned boys belonged to them.

Competitive swimming is an extremely “White” sport.

Any child interested in competitive swimming is advantaged by the natural fun most young kids have playing and splashing in water. There is something very basic, core, elemental about water that most of us are (initially, at least) drawn to. We are born into fluid; our bodies are composed of water and fluids; our little blue planet is mostly water. Some of our first soothing, intimate moments are spent being cooed at and caressed by caregivers giving us baths. Some of us undergo religious conversion by being dipped in water.

In the water we experience our bodies in a way that is unlike most of our waking moments. We are buoyant, free, unhampered by faulty knees or extra pounds. All of this makes swimming a perfect match for most kids.

However, any child interested in competitive swimming is disadvantaged by the sport’s relative lack of visibility. Most Americans probably only see swimming on TV when the Olympics roll around. There may only be two or three swimmers who folks know by name. Swimming as a sport necessarily means access to a pool and to instructors/coaches with knowledge of proper stroke technique and rules.

Most inner city kids of any race, as well as minority kids of any socioeconomic class, are further disadvantaged by not having role models in their immediate circle who swim competitively.

Black Folk Can’t Swim?

It is something most Blacks living in majority White suburbs of majority White cities have to deal with over and over. The service worker—lawn care guy, HVAC repair team, the carpet installers—does a quick (but highly apparent) double take and cognitive restructuring to deal with the fact that the homeowner who has just answered the door is not White, as expected, but Black. Most recover momentarily and are able to go about their business with some degree of professionalism.

But some just cannot seem to let go of their dissonance. They must make comments. Or observations. The rare service professional may even ask questions.

So it was one time for my brothers’ mother.

The service worker was shown to the faulty furnace in the basement, passing my brothers’ many swim ribbons, certificates, championship photos, and trophies on display.

“Your sons swim?”

Yes.

“Competitively?”

(Looking at the same first place blue ribbons the service worker was looking at.) Yes.

“Well, you know, that is really out of the ordinary. See, usually Black people can’t swim. It’s true. I was in the Navy and we did studies. It is because of your higher bone density. But this is really something. Two Black swimmers. Imagine that!”

I’ll leave aside the notion of US Navy-financed studies on the bone density of its Black recruits and sailors and whether or not Blacks can not swim. But I do know it is true that many Black adults and children do not swim.

The reasons are many:

Historical—As Jeff Wiltse wrote in Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, swimming pools became a particularly problematic space for desegregation efforts. The fallout from this history is many faceted.

Cultural—Covering everything from Black women’s concerns about getting their chemically processed or heat straightened hair wet to some ancestral memory of our troubled transatlantic ocean crossing, cultural theories of Blacks’ aversion to swimming abound. Two documented facts that stand out in all this supposition: almost 60% of Black children do not know how to swim, and Black children die from drowning at three times the overall rate.

"Posing with Cullen." PPR_Scribe

"Posing with Cullen." PPR_Scribe

Changing the Complexion of Swimming

It was the first time I had ever seen the USA Swimming booth at Indiana Black Expo and I was extremely pleased. All of the information on display at the booth, however, was about water safety and learning to swim. Nothing on the sport of swimming.

The USA Swimming rep at the booth is handing my daughters booklets—10 reasons why Swimming is Fun and Making a Splash for Pool Safety or somesuch. My daughters’ eyes, however, are drawn to the giant poster of Cullen Jones hanging in the booth. They had just seen, and posed in front of, a bigger version of that same poster a few days ago.

(Noticing their interest.) “Do you know who that is.” the rep asked.

“Yes, that’s Cullen Jones.”

(Surprised.) “Oh! You know who Cullen Jones is! Have you ever seen him swim?”

“Just on TV. He wasn’t there when we went [to the USA Swimming National Championship trials].”

(Pleased.) “Oh, so you went to the trials!”

“Yeah. But we didn’t see Michael Phelps swim either. We did get his autograph, though.”

(Tickled pink.) “Wow! I don’t even have Michael Phelps’ autograph! So you swim on a team? What’s your best stroke?”

“Um, probably breast and back.”

“For me, probably freestyle.”

"Phelps Signing Autographs." PPR_Scribe

"Phelps Signing Autographs." PPR_Scribe

(The rep is simply bubbling, gifting me with USA Swimming membership brochures and extra freebies from a box in the back of the booth.)

All children need to learn how to swim. It should not be an option. It is a safety issue as important as bike helmets and car seats, antibiotic abuse and sex education. Parents need to let go of whatever fears and biases they may have and make sure their children learn to swim. (They might take lessons themselves while they’re at it.) Some folks need to join the rest of us here in 2009 and get over the idea of the black washing off of delightful brown swimming babies like mine and staining their own babies.

Changing the Attitudes about Black Girls

The elderly couple sitting next to me poolside had come to see their grandchildren swim at the meet. We exchanged glances and smiles and pleasantries, even though the kids we had come to see were on opposing teams. We commented on the marathon nature of swim meets—this, about two and a half hours into the four-hour-plus meet. We commented on the heat of the mid-July early evening.

As the meet was drawing to a close, signified by the start of the exciting freestyle medley relay races, the grandfather ventured into a conversation that I am sure he had been itching to start.

“You know,” he said to me, “I just have to tell you. I have the most adorable little Black granddaughter.”

Oh really? Well that’s…wonderful.

“Yes, my son and daughter-in-law picked her up from Florida when she was only a few days old. They already had a son of their own, but they always wanted a girl. They tried and tried but could never get pregnant again. So they adopted this adorable little girl. She’s two now.”

Well…I’m sure she keeps you young….

“Well,” laughing, “I don’t know about that! But she sure does keep us on our toes! Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that. I’m just looking at your two lovely daughters and I can’t help thinking about my granddaughter…”

OK…well…that’s just wonderful…

I was without many useful and meaningful words. So many things were going through my mind, not least of which was whether or not I should commence with my standard Adoption 101 lesson. But I decided against that, as it was clear that this gentleman was working through a different lesson of his own. I do not know what part I may have played in helping him through that lesson, and really was too worn out from the heat and the cheering to reflect much on it. I should have asked him if she, too, was a swimmer. But I did not.

"Starting Blocks." PPR_Scribe

"Starting Blocks." PPR_Scribe

I was glad that the day before this meet I had bitten the bullet and began taking my girls to a professional hair stylist to deep condition and braid their hair in preparation for daily swimming. I was glad that I had found a product that was a combination leave-in hair moisturizer and skin conditioner that they could spritz themselves with between events. My normally gorgeous brown babies looked fiercely radiant, like two goddesses risen from Atlantis or something. They strutted around the pool as if they owned the place. They swam their hardest no matter which heat they were in or how fast they touched the finish wall.

You couldn’t miss them. They were the only brown babies at the pool that day. And they were fabulous in every way.

At the Starting Blocks

At the end-of-swim-season party, both of my daughters earned awards for most improved swimmers in their sex-age group in their favorite events. They also, along with everyone else on the team, got trophies. They proudly displayed their certificates and trophies to their big uncles, swimming champs extraordinaire, who fist-bumped and high-fived them for several minutes. My daughters are hooked on the sport of swimming. And I must contend with learning to be a Swim Parent.

Swim Parents—like many sports parents—are an interesting bunch. An involved bunch. A knowledgeable bunch. An extremely, incredibly committed bunch. Swim meets are as much for the parents as for the kids. They are highly social events—as well as professional networking opportunities. The swim meets were very challenging for someone like me: new to the whole sports parenting thing with a generally introverted personality. At the first meet I brought my folding chair and a book. I am still suffering trauma from the appalled stares I received from the other parents. I learned after that. I learned to be a timekeeper and a ribbon writer and a finish judge and a snack bar vendor. I learned names of kids and names of parents and the order of events.

If my kids are committed to helping to change the complexion of the sport, then I am committed to changing the complexion of the parent gallery and extensive parent volunteer force.

I do not look forward to the early mornings heading to the pool before school in the dead of winter, when most sane parents are catching that precious last two hours of sleep before work. But I do look forward to my daughters continuing to improve their strokes, their times, their understanding and enjoyment of the sport.

I also look forward to hope. The hope of seeing more Black and other kids of color becoming involved in the sport.

At one of the meets there was a little Black girl, there with her White parents and older White siblings. She was probably a couple years older than the child of the grandfather I had met a few weeks earlier. She was not swimming, but had come to watch her siblings swim. Back and forth to the snack bar, to the baby wading pool, to her parents to get a sip of water or a cheese cracker. At one point she noticed my daughters, getting in line for the 9/10 year old girls’ breast stroke event. The little girl stopped for a moment. One daughter noticed her, smiled and waved. The little girl giggled and ran back to the wading pool.

July 2, 2009

“When, in the course of human events…”

WHEN, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"Chasseurs Volontaires." negFoto, http://www.flickr.com/photos/negfoto/2059959079/

"Chasseurs Volontaires." negFoto, http://www.flickr.com/photos/negfoto/2059959079/

We hold these truths to be self-evident:– that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

"Near White Plains, GA." Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179068532/

"Near White Plains, GA." Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179068532/

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable, and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the mean time exposed to all the danger of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

"Slaves, Ex-slaves, and Children of SLaves in the AMerican South, 1860-1905." Okinawa Soba, http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2723654375/in/set-72157606462071258/

"Slaves, Ex-slaves, and Children of Slaves in the American South, 1860-1905." Okinawa Soba, http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2723654375/in/set-72157606462071258/

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies:

"Portal of Sorrow." The Wandering Angel, http://www.flickr.com/photos/wandering_angel/310101997/

"Portal of Sorrow." The Wandering Angel, http://www.flickr.com/photos/wandering_angel/310101997/

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our government:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts made by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace, friends.

"4th of July celebration, St. Helena Island, SC." Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179076774/

"4th of July celebration, St. Helena Island, SC." Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179076774/

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More information:

From the Vault: Ode to Summers Lost

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 12:06 am

I’ve been pretty nostalgic over the last couple of weeks. So I thought it might be fitting to re-post something from The Old Blog (from July, 2007) that touches on several themes I have explored more recently here. This summer my kids are even more unstructured in their activities than they have been in the past. And we now live in a neighborhood where I feel comfortable letting them ride their bikes (in a restricted perimeter) unsupervised. We still do not stumble upon dog poo, though…

~~~~~~~~~~

"The Playdate." PPR_Scribe

"The Playdate." PPR_Scribe

I was walking around one of our many lakes the other evening. The approaching night had cooled our 90 degree day to a more bearable 85, and the sun was turning the lower sky and upper water a mix of orange, purple and gold. On my walk I passed other walkers, babes in strollers, runners, bikers, rollerbladers, kids running ahead of their caretakers. And people walking their dogs.

All dogs were leashed. All owners were carrying bags of…poop. The Twin Cities’ “pooper scooper” laws must be very strict. At any case, people walking their dogs around the lakes are religious about picking up their pets’ droppings from sidewalk and lawn. Of this, I am grateful. I do not have to worry, when passing an adorable elderly couple strolling arm in arm by cutting across the grass, that I will squish into a steaming pile of poo. Yet at the same time I think this is–in some strange, ambiguous way–a loss for me. It has been ages since I have stepped in dog dung. At least as long as I have lived in the Twin Cities. Do I…miss this?

Joys and Perils of Bare Feet

When I was a child summers were for walking around outside without shoes on my feet. In fact, the first day of the season that it was warm enough to do this comfortably pretty much defined the start of summer. There was nothing like the feel of different surfaces on the soles of my feet: soft grass, hot bumpy pavement, smooth metal playground equipment, rough sifting sand.

The pleasures of this diverse tactility was balanced with the dangers of unshod feet. Chief among those dangers: dog doo-doo. There was no moment so regretful, so disheartening than when a step forward brought a squish of wetness spreading underneath my foot and blooming up through the spaces in my toes. O! The smell! O! The embarrassment! O! The impossibility of completely removing the stain by shuffling feet through grass! On any given play area, the discovery of a mound of foul matter was marked and announced to every kid on the grounds much like, I imagine, soldiers on the battlefield communicating the discovery of an active landmine.

My children, however, have not had to worry about stepping in dog droppings. I reflected on this yesterday as I watched them frolic, barefoot, in the grass behind our home. They are, instead, wary of the underground spigots for the sprinkler system. These things can cause a mean stubbed toe, according to my daughters.

Hmph. They do not know the half.

Another barefoot danger when I was a child were the discarded pop tops from canned beverages. The old kind. That came completely off of the can. These things were able to hide in tall grass or playground sand until they were ready to strike. Their business end was sharp, curved–like some exotic ninja weapon. When your bare foot trod upon one, you hoped that your relatively thick heel would take the blunt of the damage. Pity you if, instead, the instrument attacked the arch of your foot. Or worse: the delicate space between two of your toes.

I recall with much clarity one such injury I endured one summer. The pop-top made a nice neat slice into my foot at the base of my big toe. I hadn’t even realized I had cut myself until I noticed I was leaving bloody footprints all over the sidewalk. The wound healed in a bizarre fashion, leaving a large flap of independent skin that never reincorporated into the rest of my foot. Finally one day I think I just pulled the embryonic sixth toe off.

(Sprinkler spouts and stubbed toes? Sissies.)

The experience did not put me off of going out in bare feet. The blood prints on the sidewalk were my proud grafitti markings lasting until the next rains. They were proof of the price–well worth it–I had to pay for summer.

Getting What You Pay For

What is the “price” of summer for my kids today? Most of my daughters’ summer has been spent in formal, organized day camps. As such, the price tag has not been inconsequential–at least from a purely financial standpoint. I have been very satisfied with their camp experiences–especially a week-long science camp for girls we tried for the first time this year. And I know my kids have enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. In that sense, then, the price of their summer has been worth it.

But I wonder: what are they not getting that I did get during my youthful summers? For example, they likely have never known the freedom that I knew hanging out with my savvy independent inner city cousins all day without adult supervision. True, I never built working weather vanes and dulcimers during my summer vacations. But I did build with my sister and cousins “clubhouses” in the garbage dump out of discarded appliance boxes and sheet metal, furnishing the resulting strucures with old sofas and lawn chairs and packing crates. I never took a field trip to the state house to see Our Government in Action. But I did roam with my cousins to the corner store, pooling our money for some Pixy Stix and Now and Laters and ginormous pickles in glass jars by the cash register. One might say, Collective Economics in Action.

Now actually, my summers were not all freedom and lack of structure. For example, I vaguely recall something called “vacation bible school.” However, I seem to remember that this was less an organized camp experience than a bunch of kids of all ages thrown together on church grounds. I think self-organized kick and dodgeball games might have been involved outdoors; indoors, board games in tattered boxes and improvised rules to accommodate missing game pieces.

In general, what I “paid for” in summer was the opportunity to figure things out for myself. As well as the chance to just be. These things were not without cost–even as they may have been “free” to my parents. (In fact, I recall another foot injury–this time at the dump, involving a large nail and subsequent painful shots.) But, oh, the worth of it all!

One day this summer my kids’ camp had what they called “water day.” In the scorching heat, the adults had set aside structured learning in favor of hoses and sprinklers and wading pools. When I picked up the girls at the end of the day their clothes were covered in mud left over from the pies they had baked. Their faces were also painted with mud, along with highlights of popsicle juice in neon purple. There were twigs and mulch chips littering their hair. And they hadn’t looked so satisfied and happy all summer long.

Summers Lost–and Found

Actually, I think my daughters’ summers are fairly downsized compared to some of their peers. We have managed to find some balance between structure and non-structure. Of course, though, this is constrained by both my husband’s and my need to work and our lack of family living in the area. On non-camp days where we haven’t been able to cobble together other care options, my daughters go to work with me. On those days prior to leaving the house I give only one explicit piece of instruction: PACK YOUR BACKPACKS WITH ENOUGH STUFF TO KEEP YOURSELVES OCCUPIED FOR x HOURS.

They are generally successful at this, managing to stay out of my hair for hours at a time. Out of the corner of my eye I have witnessed quite elaborate playscapes populated by miscellaneous Happy Meal toys, paper clips and other office supplies, stuffed animals, and empty Juicy Juice cartons and bendy straws. I reward their independence by taking them to extended lunches on campus–maybe visiting one of the campus libraries or hanging out at the student union. We also take breaks to walk the halls, together reading the research conference posters hanging on the walls or the cartoons posted outside of profs’ office doors. I let them walk by themselves to the restroom down the hall. This in particular is a great if somewhat odd source of pleasure to them. They make several trips per office visit.

When we get home from “Mommy’s work,” I allow them to frolic to their hearts’ content outdoors. Barefoot. Yes, they are always within my sight. But I am careful to censor my opinions, observations, warnings, and admonishments and as much as possible just let them be. I even work up the expected concerned expression when they point out to me a particularly treacherous sprinkler spigot hidden in a patch of moss near our rock bed.

They have, however, yet to step in waste left by one of our neighborhood dogs. But hey–summer’s not quite over yet. There is still hope.

June 14, 2009

Working With Black Women, Epilogue: The Next Generation

***Part 1 here; Part 2 here***

So, as the blog says: What about our daughters?

Will they be destined to travel our same paths, stumble over the same exposed roots and boulders we did? Will they be able to be all their selves with each other? Will they decide to identify as feminists, womanists, multi-ists, or nary-ists? Will they be more than their hair, their skin tone, their names? Can they be yoked romantically to men, other women—to no one in particular—without being defined solely in terms of these connections or lack of them?

…The Family Reunion is an ideal natural environment to gain insight into these questions. The aluminum foil is peeled back from the homemade mac and cheese and the pork ribs. The card decks and dominoes are slapping table tops. Frankie Beverly and Maze is echoing across the green grass of the public park, and the living is easy.

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

Hugs and greetings of long-losts have been exchanged and now the sub-groupings have been formed. Loosely based on age and gender, but not completely.

A group of Girl Cousins, from 3 to 10 years old, has coalesced around a shared love of babies and homemade ice cream and a cooler full of juice in pouches. At some point I take them across the field to the portable potty. In-depth discussion: toilet paper and hand sanitizer, who is doing number one versus number two, the merits of High School Musical underpants versus plain white or pink, the odd looking “cookie” in the urinal (“where men go pee-pee; see, their penises fit inside there”) beside the toilet. After all this—and of helping with lining the dirty seat with paper and fastening snaps and belt buckles and buttons—I am ready to head back to the picnic site.

But the Girl Cousins are not.

They have found a sewer drain, full of water from three straight days of rain. The sewer drain is actually a pot of stew, and a discarded stick has become a wooden spoon. Beans are required from amongst the pebbles of the adjacent baseball diamond. Leafy greens are needed from the dandelion plants and grass. Seasoning in the form of sand from the pitcher’s mound gives it extra flavoring.

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

Braids and twists and puffs top the heads. Inside the heads minds work to create a state-of-the-art kitchen. The conversation is focused and intense. No, that’s a little too much salt. Yeah, great idea—Get the brown beans up under the lighter ones. Please let her add her greens next. Look at what I found—we can use it for a measuring cup! OK, OK, we all gonna get a chance to stir! Mmm, it’s almost done; Y’all wanna taste?

The Girl Cousins are from the inner city and the suburbs. They participate in vacation bible school and swim practice and drill team. They sing all the words to Kidz Bop and Beyonce and Keke Palmer and Alicia Keys and Hanna Montanna. Their parents are married, never married…their siblings are theirs by biology and social agreement.

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

They are a diverse bunch.

After the stew is made, the oldest calls for everyone to join hands and bow heads for a prayer. Her words give thanks for this food and the hands, Lord, who has prepared it. She asks for the continued safety of our family, Lord, and the love that we share for each other today and all days. The other Girl Cousins nod, their eyes tightly closed in reverence.

At the end of the prayer they all say amen and begin to eat their meal.

Eventually we head back to the picnic area. The Girl Cousins run ahead, leaving me to snap a few more photographs.

I pray that if there is a God, she or he listens to and answers the prayers of little children over make believe stew.

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

June 2, 2009

S.O.S.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 3:22 pm
"Upside down American Flag." Arthur Guy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthurguy/2537870504/

"Upside down American Flag." Arthur Guy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthurguy/2537870504/

  1. Corey Hatter
  2. Ordero Hillard
  3. Marcus Washington
  4. Andre Malcolm
  5. Arthur Tyler
  6. Sameer Conn
  7. Shaun Brown
  8. Shaun Bowens
  9. Kiyanna Salter
  10. Daniel Calderon
  11. Ernest Williams
  12. Julian King
  13. Brian Murdock
  14. Quentin Buckner
  15. Devour Robinson
  16. Dushawn Johnson
  17. Isiah Stroud
  18. Andre Stephens
  19. Esteban Martinez
  20. Itzel Fernandez
  21. Johnel Ford
  22. Rachael Beauchamp
  23. Johnny Edwards
  24. Kendrick Pitts
  25. Raheem Washington
  26. Carnell Pitts
  27. Franco Avila
  28. Gregory Robinson
  29. Lee Ivory Miller
  30. Rakeem Washington
  31. Tommie Williams
  32. Marquell Blake
  33. Juan Cazares
  34. Christina Campos
  35. Alex Arellano
  36. …(Source)

Please consider copying and pasting these children’s names to your own blog.

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