Trayvon 2012…stop the assault on brown and black boys

I have said it before but I am going to say it again, while raising kids in general is hard, it’s a job that is a lot harder when you are raising boys of color in the US. When raising a young man of color, it’s almost as if you are doing so with that double consciousness that W.E.B DuBois spoke of so many years ago. For me that meant raising my now 20 year old with a parental mindset but sadly with the knowledge that one day he would not be seen as just a kid but that he will be seen as a potential suspect. I am sure for some of you that very concept may seem strange but to anyone raising a young man of color, you are probably nodding your head.

Four years ago, when my son 16 one early evening he took a walk down to the local convenience snack shop to grab a bite to eat, nothing extraordinaire about that fact. Hell, teenagers often go out to grab a bite to eat! Well my son grabbed a steak and cheese sandwich and an iced tea and proceeded to walk back home as he had done many times before. However not even a block away from the store a cop stopped him, demanding to see what was in hands and then proceeded to tell him he looked like a suspect they were looking for who had been burglarizing cars. Before he knew it, he was in the back of the cop car and being driven home by the cops who wanted to talk to his parents. Never mind that my son wasn’t at my house fulltime, my son by then knew to say very little, he stated his name and the fact he was 16. Well the local cop pulled up in our driveway but not before implying that he was dubious that my son really lived where he said he did.

As fate would have it, I was out at a meeting so the Spousal Unit opened the door and quickly proceeded to ask the cop what the hell was he doing and also explaining he did not appreciate him harassing our son. In the end the cop apologized but not before the hubster expressed that he was dubious of the cop which resulted in the cop telling the hubster that he was friends with people of all races.

By the time I got home and the story was shared with me, I was ready to go to the police station to tear a new asshole in the captain and everyone else. My son asked me to let it go, but as a mother that situation disturbed me. What if this wasn’t a smaller town and the cop was trigger happy? I would have come home to a dead 16 year old son. Of course as the years have gone on, my son has had many more run ins with police both in New England and the Midwest. Never any charges but always the you look suspicious charge. Once driving back to his Dad’s from college he was stopped two times on the same drive. Sad to say if you think what my son faces is an isolated incident you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Fast forward to Trayvon Martin, a teenager in Florida visiting his Dad who decided to go to the convenience store and sadly never made it home. It seems after picking up some Skittles for a sibling and an iced tea, Trayvon crossed paths with the neighborhood watch leader that felt a teenage boy armed with skittles and an iced tea was so dangerous he had to pull out his 9mm gun and George Zimmerman the watch leader shot him dead. Zimmerman claims that he and Trayvon got into a scuffle and that he feared for his safety so much so that he had to shoot a child.

Let me say that having been the mother of a teenage boy that while on the surface they may look big, the fact is one good look at their faces generally reveals the child they really are and why in 2012 couldn’t Zimmerman pick up the phone and call 911?

Trayvon’s story is starting to get out but let me ask where’s the outrage? What happened to Trayvon is not that unique other than the fact normally it’s the police that harm young men of color, in this case we have an overzealous community member who decided to take the law into his own hands. Frankly when I heard what happened to Trayvon my blood ran cold because I could easily see Trayvon as my own boy. Just a boy going out and doing what kids do.

Last week the world was on fire about Joseph Kony with the whole Kony2012 campaign and while what happened to the children in Uganda is an outrage and Kony needs to be caught what about the kids in our own country? Every day brown and black boys in this country are under assault, from cops that would gladly lock our boys up to teachers who deny their humanity and slap an ill-fitting label on them.

I say we need Trayvon2012, stop the brutality against brown and black boys in this country and stop it now. Look in the mirror and face our own internal biases that allow us to look at the brown and black boys close to us as monsters and realize that it is systematic racism that allows this to happen.

So let me add Trayvon2012 to Kony2012 to bring awareness to the plight of boys of color in this country.

PS: The suspect the cops were looking when they stopped my son turned out to be a good 6 inches shorter and several shades lighter.

American Promise…a story that is rarely told

One of the downsides of being recognized as a Mommy blogger (a title I still argue with) is that my inbox is constantly flooded with PR pitches that are clearly the result of someone not taking the time to actually read my blog. (Hello!!! I don’t have babes in diapers, why would I care about diapers?) Or I hear from people asking me if I would talk about their cause on my blog. Occasionally though someone will contact me and it’s about an issue, I can truly get behind and that was the case when Michele Stephenson an African-American filmmaker in Brooklyn contacted me about a film that has been 12 years in the making. By now we all have either heard or seen Waiting for Superman and generally know about the dismal state of education for Black youth in this country or at least the stories the media feeds us.

Well, Michele Stephenson and her husband Joe Brewster have their own story it’s about their son and his journey attending a prestigious, predominantly white prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Here is Michele in her own words.

 

Can you imagine spending 12 years shooting a film about your own family?  Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, an African American Brooklyn-based husband and wife filmmaking team, have been doing just that since 1999. Their film, American Promise, is about race, education, and achievement; it will air on PBS in 2013. Visit the American Promise Kickstarter page today to learn more.

When people first learn that we’ve been filming our son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, since they entered kindergarten in 1999, reactions usually range from sympathy tinged with judgment (“I would never have the courage to put my family through that!”) to admiring disbelief – usually from other filmmakers (“I can’t believe you have the endurance and tenacity to go through it. You guys are brave”).  Well, we can’t believe we put our families through this and we also can’t believe we’ve had the endurance to get through 12 years of filming. It has been truly difficult balancing our filmmaker hat with the responsibilities of parenthood. That said, our biggest concern has always been about our son’s own agency in this project.

Our film is about Idris and Seun’s experience as African American boys attending a prestigious, predominantly white prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This is not another Waiting for Superman; access to opportunity is not the issue. American Promise opens with Idris and Seun beginning their education at one of New York’s finest schools, but over 12 years, their educational journey proves to be more complicated than any of us had anticipated. And it’s all caught on camera.

 

In an attempt to chronicle the coming of age of these boys, we’ve been challenged as filmmakers, and as parents. We often wanted to turn off the camera and spare the boys during times of discomfort, pain, and uncertainty – from fights over homework and times of personal tragedy to every day teenage awkwardness. But we committed ourselves to this challenging filmmaking process, and now after 12 years, we are finally going to give audiences a never-before-seen look into the lives of two boys growing up over the span of two hours.

Airing on PBS in 2013, American Promise will be the central pillar of a transmedia campaign that will use film and other media as tools to bring together forward-thinking nonprofits, foundations and leaders dedicated to empowering black males—creating change in young men and in the public consciousness.

Help us finish American Promise. Five bucks is all we’re asking (that’s one latté). We have two more weeks to raise $25,000. If you can’t donate, please spread the word and let your network know about the film. Thank you.

Please consider supporting this amazing project and spread the word.

 

Raising a Black Man…off to College He Goes

Two days ago, my son got on a plane to head back to his Pop’s house to finish backing and to head off to college. I cried like a baby. When that boy was born 18 years ago after 4 days of labor, if someone would have told me that one day I would be shipping him off to college, I might have chuckled and said…um, ok. After all, I was a 19 year old high school dropout when he was born. Hell, not only was I a dropout but I was living on government assistance at the time since me and my first husband were young and dumb and didn’t have two nickels to rub together.

This is an emotional and weepy Mama piece, as my Pops told me the other day “Mama, you done good.” I suppose if you are white and reading this you may be wondering what is the big deal? But for a young Black boy and make no mistake, oh he is half white but in these Fractured States of America even in 2010, being a half white dude doesn’t count for much. Unless you are a passable shade of white as far as your skin color…well you are Black.

For a young Black man to get to 18 with a good head on his shoulders and not be headed off to prison or be in route to being a Baby Daddy is sadly not as common as I would like it to be, therefore every time I know of any young brotha headed to college or graduating, I rejoice.

See, raising a Black boy to age 18 and seeing him go off to college takes a lot, it takes a fucking village, some prayer and some luck. Truth is it ain’t much better raising our girls either, since I got friends dealing with major issues and heartbreaks with their daughters who are the same age as my son.

Nope, I looked at my son the other morning as we went on a long walk before he left and realized he is indeed a young man, no longer a baby but he will always be my baby.

So excuse me while I take a few days off as I gather my composure since as parents we spend so much time dealing with the day, its a strange feeling to see them make that transition to adulthood.