Your Child Will Not Be Left Behind: I Don’t care what they say

I want to say this upfront because there is a lot of fear mongering going on suggesting that poor kids, Black and Brown kids, kids living without the Internet and everyone who isn’t going to school face-to-face are going to be left behind academically due to Covid-19. Well, let me tell you a little secret: poor kids, Black and Brown kids, and kids living without Internet access have been left behind in the education system for decades…this is nothing new. Covid-19 and virtual education has only exacerbated an already challenging problem. Our children can still thrive. The 2020-2021 school year is going to be one for the books, and our children can still have a great learning experience. Ignore anyone who tells you differently.

However, there is something that you can’t ignore: education is going through major changes and you do not need to be passive while these changes take place. You need to be patient, confident, and determined because you can do this and you and your family can win in spite of the changes. Life is about adjustments. As a parent, we inherently know this. In fact, another word for parenting is adjusting. Our job is to make the adjustments and grow and blossom in spite of the adjustments. When Sarah was born in January, I had mapped out what I considered to be a perfect plan to maintain my PhD studies, manage the boy’s daycare and schooling, and utilize a personal babysitter for Sarah. When everything began shutting down in March, my plan also disintegrated. Jimmy came home from daycare. My babysitters left for their homes due to the campus being shut down. RK’s afterschool abruptly stopped and the new classroom experience was Google. I was postpartum, sleep deprived, exhausted, and overwhelmed by all the news-feeds discussing a pandemic that no one really understood. I realized I had to figure it out. Below are some of the ways I figured it out. I want to share them with you to make sure your family is prepared for school year 2020-2021:

  1. Do not feel bad about what works best for you. I love social media, and I also hate that it creates a world of “look what I have…and look what you don’t have.” Try not to get in the comparison game online. So, you may not be able to afford a private teacher and send your child to a neighborhood pod. You may not be able to enroll your child into a private academy or select-charter school. It doesn’t mean that you cannot offer your child a great opportunity to learn. Be proud of the space that you call home and make it work for you. My family has relied primarily on the dining room area to create a learning space and the boys have flourished using the dining table as their work area. Don’t waste any energy worrying about what you don’t have. You are enough.
  2. Do not be afraid to negotiate your child’s school schedule with school and work personnel. If you are working during the day, negotiate with your child’s teacher and school officials. Let them know your circumstances upfront. Talk with your supervisor and see if you can negotiate work hours. I have heard of parents working from 5am-8am and taking a break to work with their kids until 12pm and then returning to work afterwards. I have also spoken with parents who have had to opt out of a day-schedule with their kids and work with their kids in the evenings. Take some time to think about a reasonable schedule that works best for you and your family. Remember, it only has to work for you and your family.
  3. Do not be afraid to seek out help. Almost everyone with children is experiencing various levels of challenges regarding the virtual school-home-school experience. Reach out and ask for help. Check your friend circle and find out different ways to engage and try new things. If you are feeling overwhelmed, pick up the phone or log in the computer and connect with people who love and care about you. Everyone is figuring things out as they go. Relax, you’ve got this!
  4. Do the main things when all else fails. When school let out in March, I had a 3-month old and a 4 & 5-year old at home. I was still expected to log-in virtually every day between the hours of 9am-1pm for classwork with my oldest son, R.K. who was in kindergarten at the time. Since my husband was considered an essential worker, he continued working his daily schedule. I was averaging about 2.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep and I realized that I could not maintain the curriculum they were asking me to do. I decided to focus on the basics: reading, writing, and math. Although, RK enjoyed all of his classes, the additional classes of music, art, p.e., and guidance would have to take the sideline. I was struggling to manage my home, the kids and virtual school so I made the decision to devote 2 hours/day to the basics. I chose 2 hours because this was Sarah’s average nap-time. That way, I could give the boys my undivided attention. I made sure we tackled his sight-words, writing exercises and math assignments daily. I felt like I could make up the arts on our own time and that is exactly what we did. GoNoodle became one of our favorite places to visit. We really love how they mix learning with music. Also, Art for Kids Hub has my boys hooked. They have really learned to draw fairly well for their ages. There are so many resources out there. Take advantage of them.
  5. Dare to be different. You know your children better than anybody. Educators like everyone else are doing the best they can. We are all figuring it out as we go. Dare to think outside the box. If your work week and obligations are too full, consider carving out time on Saturdays and Sundays to devote to your children’s learning. If you have an hour, make the hour count. Remember, in a normal classroom setting a teacher is dividing her time between roughly 20-25 students. An intentional hour or even 30 minutes with your child is way more time than they are getting with their teacher in a school setting. My kids are very young, so bedtime has become another learning time for us. R.K., my oldest, gets to read us a book before he goes to bed. If you have older kids, consider making dinner time interactive. Have the kids give a 5-minute report on something that they are learning virtually. Tough times demand creativity. You have it in you to create opportunities for learning at home. Just maximize what you can do and do not worry about what you can’t do.
  6. Dig into the supplements. The kids who really excel in school usually aren’t excelling solely because of what they do inside the school. They are excelling because of what they do outside of the school. You have probably had the opportunity to spend an incredible amount of time with your family-an amount of time that comes with new challenges but also some amazing opportunities. You have the chance to really help your child blossom and tap into their natural gifts and talent. Supplement the lost time in school with things your child is actually interested in. Both of our boys love to tinker and put things together. We have introduced them to the world of engineering using Kiwi Crates. Each month we receive an age-specific box for the boys so they can build, paint, explore, and create. We also want them to become avid readers so we make sure we surround them with books. Because we want them to see themselves reflected in the books they read, I have subscribed to a site called “Brown Like Me.” The site’s creator is a mother of five and she provides reviews of the books and shares from her book collection. We also try to surround the boys with art supplies, musical instruments and athletic equipment. Although our kids are young, when we recognize something they like, we try to nurture their interest the best way we can. Sometimes, the best way is actually making a purchase. Many times it is by finding a video on YouTube or a television show and watching it together and discussing it afterwards. Whatever you can do to help your child’s dreams come to pass will always be worth the sacrifice and time.
  7. Do Your Best and relax. I promise you. Schools will eventually reopen. Extracurricular activities will resume. Permission slips will be sent home. Proms and homecoming dances will be on full display. We are not the first generation to experience a disruption of normalcy, and we won’t be the last. Your job is to do the best you can with what you’ve been given. You’ve got this. Take it one day at a time and rest knowing that you did your best.
This work space wasn’t perfect, but the boys’ smiles make it a perfect fit!

I’d love to know things you are implementing. Please feel free to share your thoughts below!

LeBron James & Pastor John Grey: What’s Trump Got to Do With It?

I try to ignore the 45th President of the United States’ twitter feed, but I have been most troubled and I wanted to share my concerns with a larger audience. Let’s begin with his tweet about Don Lemon and LeBron James.

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President Trump seems to directly attack men and women who either are fighting for underserved communities politically or using their resources to help underserved communities economically. He insulted the honorable Maxine Waters and the honorable John Lewis. He disdains Colin Kapernick and any professional player who has the audacity to kneel during the national anthem before their sporting event. He tweeted at Steph Curry when the Golden State Warriors chose not to visit the White House last year after winning the NBA championship. However, it is superficial to think that President Trump is just targeting people to randomly attack on Twitter or in the press. In fact it is not about the individuals being targeted at all. It is much broader than that.

Notice that LeBron James created a public school-not private or charter but public. This means it will be federally supported. This also means that IF the federal government wanted to duplicate LeBron’s efforts they very well could. But they don’t because the goal is to make public school a private endeavor so the billions of dollars that go into public education can be shifted to other places. This is why President Trump is so disgusted with LeBron James-not because LeBron called him a bum but because LeBron’s I Promise School will defy all of the talking heads who point to places like Chicago or Detroit and say public school is a failure. The reality is that most if not all public schools could be designed and structured the way LeBron and his team have structured the I Promise school but the successful outcomes that are bound to happen would eliminate the message that news outlets want to disseminate. It is fine for LeBron to switch NBA teams and battle for championships, but it is the wrong narrative for him to finance over 1000 children defying the odds that systematically and institutionally have been placed against them.

Secondly, President Trump sent this tweet on the same day that he was scheduled to make an appearance at a rally in the state of Ohio. Now, why would President Trump insult Ohio’s son, LeBron James, on the same day he is scheduled to attend a rally in Ohio? Because President Trump and his team are not concerned about uniting America. They are concerned about continuing to racially divide America. At the core of “Make America Great Again” is the seed of racial division that was planted and replanted and harvested in this country since its inception. From the annihilation of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, the forced and secret sterilization of Latino and Black women around the nation, the internment of Japanese Americans, and border closings to Chinese immigrants, America has a race problem that is being fanned and flamed in the rhetoric and policies of our current administration.

This leads me to the other tweet that bothered me so deeply.

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As notorious as President Trump is for lashing out at people that defy him or his ideas, he is just as gracious with those who support him or his ideas. I know that Pastor John Grey was not the pastor who made those incredible remarks about President Trump being “pro-black”, and President Trump knows that Pastor John Grey did not make the “pro-black” remarks. Why would President Trump, the creator of the phrase, “fake news” retweet a tweet misrepresenting Pastor John Grey? Because Pastor John Grey is the new face of televangelism. Pastor John Grey has a reality show on OWN and he is a social media mega personality. I should know. I am one of his many followers on Instagram. President Trump does not waste tweet space for small people. He targets those with the most impact-the most followers and those who are the most recognizable and goes after them. That way he can continue to expand his own platform and if President Trump can appear to have the support of the Black-attended Christian Church as he and his administration continue to undo and implement policies that will hit African Americans the hardest, he will take it in any shape or fashion. This is why I am so heavy.

The American people spoke with their vote and elected the first, non-politician to the highest office of the land. I think that is something we should all keep in mind. President Trump is not a politician. He is not beholden to any political party as he has been brutal and merciless with his own party, the Republican party. Moreover, much of his staff is not beholden to any party or anyone. This means that the current administration isn’t answering to anyone but themselves. They don’t have to be careful what they say or what types of policies they put in place because in their eyes they are self-made. Some people can ignore the current administration and find that their checkbooks won’t be impacted at all. In fact, they may find themselves collecting huge dividends from the economic gains that the wealthy and business owners are receiving in this current economy.

Yet, there is another group-the economically and socially disadvantaged-that stand to suffer tremendously as more and more money is being removed from public schools, private prisons are being expanded, minimum wage continues to stagnate, and healthcare costs increase while health insurance coverage decreases. And in the midst of all of these challenges, the Supreme Court is undergoing its own potential shift-a shift that could roll back affirmative action initiatives, voting rights, women’s productive rights, and immigration rights. Yet, with so much at stake, President Trump retweets that he is the most pro-black president ever. Interesting.

From the beginning, the Black-attended church and pastor have played pivotal roles in helping frame African American lives in America. Nat Turner was a preacher. Denmark Vesey helped start the A.M.E. church. Both of them led slave-rebellions. Sojurner Truth was not only an abolitionist. She was a preacher. Frederick Douglass also was both preacher and abolitionist. Keep in mind the title of ‘Reverend’ precedes the title of ‘Doctor’ as it relates to Martin Luther King. Malcolm X was a minister in the Nation of Islam and the son of a Baptist preacher. We certainly cannot overlook Rev. Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al Sharpton. The alignment of social justice and pastoral ministry is intricately woven in the Black community. Quite frankly I am not sure how anyone can read the Gospel and not feel a need to speak out against injustice in any form. Dr. King wrote in one of his speeches that the reason the SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, came to fruition was to “save the soul of America.” He never lost sight of his calling or the fact that America by virtue of its willingness to enslave, lynch, disenfranchise, and segregate an entire group of people had lost sight of its calling.

I am praying that pastors and leaders of the faith community will not lose sight of their calling. Racial division in America has been problematic from the beginning and we now have a president and administration through its policies, and social media that have targeted Black and Brown bodies. Malcolm X, in 1964 said, “I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate.” We have come too far to sit at tables with empty plates. Create policy teams at your churches and allow them to be the eyes and ears of legislation initiatives and changes on the federal, state, and local level. Allow them to share their counsel and consider all the angles before taking meetings with public figures and politicians. We have the tools and abilities to create resource centers within our churches that can directly impact our communities. Let us take advantage of preparation and planning so we can be prepared both spiritually and politically to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The stakes are high in the months and years to come. Arm yourself with truth and knowledge and know how those stakes will impact you and your bottom line.

Sweat, Pain, Tears. Those are the things I remember most vividly about playing under Coach Donovan. We worked hard. We were always sore, and as a freshman and sophomore, I shed a lot of tears in my dorm room trying to figure out if I had made the right decision to play basketball at East Carolina University.

20 years later, when I think about playing for Coach, I barely remember the sweat. I cannot recall the pain. I don’t remember the tears. I only remember the love, the professionalism, the character, and the life lessons she taught me.

It is funny how time has a way of showing you what really matters. As a freshman and sophomore at ECU from 1996-1998, I was too immature, too narrow-minded, and too stubborn to realize that I was in the presence of Greatness. Of course, I was aware of Coach Donovan’s great accomplishments: Olympian, Naismith Player of the Year, National Collegiate Champion, one of the world’s most decorated women’s basketball player. I just was not aware of her inner greatness-her heart and character. That’s what she gave us each and every day. She gave us her heart wrapped in discipline, integrity, commitment, and poise.

As a rookie collegiate player, I could not appreciate that. All I focused on was the pain-the pain of leaving my family for the first time, the pain of being out of shape and unprepared for preseason workouts, and the pain of trying to learn the game of basketball as opposed to just playing the game of basketball. There is a huge difference, and Coach was determined to make sure we understood the game line by line, principle by principle.

She was an excellent teacher of the game and she coupled that with discipline. For Coach, you could not separate the two. If we were going to be great, we had to be disciplined. Our workouts were rigorous. I can remember so vividly, her watching our individual workouts. She would stand at the top of the key looking much taller than 6″8, arms folded, work out agenda folded under her right arm, khaki shorts with no noticeable wrinkles, crisp purple or white ECU polo collared shirt, whistle dangling, eyes laser-focused on our routines: “You have to crash to the post hard. Do it again. Do it again. Is that game-like? Do you really think that is game-like? Do it again.”

Along with the fundamentals and physical discipline, Coach focused on the mental. Coach was always having talks with me about focus. I would come into practice one day looking all-conference and the next day looking all-defeated. She had a problem with my inconsistency-the way I approached the game. I just thought she was trying to change me-that she didn’t like me and didn’t believe in me. It was during one of these moments of being in my feelings that Coach really demonstrated to me that I was wrong.

She knew my birthday was coming up and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. Without hesitation, I asked her to have breakfast with me at Krispy Kreme. I had an 8:00 am class so we would have to have an early breakfast. I am not sure if Coach was even an early bird, but she agreed to meet me around 7:00 am the next day or so for a birthday breakfast. I still don’t know why I made that exact request. I was partially testing her just to see if she was being serious, and another part of me really just wanted to get to know my coach better.

In all my time at ECU during and after my playing career, I have never driven by the Krispy Kreme on 14th street without thinking about me sitting and watching my sharply dressed, laser-focused coach walking into those doors to have a donut with me. I remember her joking that I must be special for her to be up that early. I don’t even remember if we actually ate a donut, but I do remember that we talked about life, school, our families, everything but basketball. It was a defining moment for me. I left feeling so proud and happy about my day. We had practice that afternoon, and Coach acted no different. She demanded our best, penalized us for not giving it to her, and demanded our best again. Yet, that day was different because I realized Coach wasn’t pushing us beyond our limits to torture us. She pushed us beyond our limits because we had set the bar too low and she knew we were capable of so much more. She was right. We were.

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If you think the story turns into a happily ever after, it doesn’t. At the end of my freshman year our record was 13-16. The next year, we were 9-19. From a purely statistical perspective, there wasn’t much good to reminisce about. Those were tough years from a basketball perspective. There are no team records to speak of. No championship banners were hung. No jerseys were retired. I think everyone was glad to get to the end of that 9-19 season. Losing is never fun and in spite of our hard work and the foundation that was being laid, we just weren’t winning.

And that is why losing Coach so unexpectedly and so suddenly hurts so much. For so long I had viewed those two years of my collegiate basketball career as losses. But when my sister, Chasity, called to tell me Coach Donovan had passed, I realized what a real lost felt like. It is still hard to describe that pain.

I wish I could go back to that 18 year-old kid and have a one-on-one with her in her dorm room. I would tell her how blessed she was to be coached by Anne Donovan and her entire coaching staff: Coach Jinny Doyle, Coach Charisse Mapp, and Coach Danielle Charlesworth. I would tell her to suck up those tears, and stop complaining. Many people dream of playing college basketball. Few achieve it. Enjoy it. Enjoy it to the fullest.

CoachD

I would also tell her one more thing. Enjoy Coach Donovan. Make all the memories you can. Visit her office as much as you can. Learn all you can. One day, you’re going to look back and regret that you didn’t take full advantage of having access to one of the greatest players and person that the basketball world has ever known.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back and visit my 18 year-old self and that is okay. I’d much rather follow in the footsteps of my coach and pay it forward by inspiring my family, being committed to my friends, and impacting young people through the game of basketball and more importantly, the game of life.

People will often forget what you say to them. Rarely, will they forget what you did to them. Coach, thank you for what you did to me…you instilled in me the keys to success-hard work, dedication, mental toughness, consistency and most importantly a relentless drive to be better than the day before.

Those lessons have proven to be priceless and they are the true essence of the legacy of Anne Donovan. She gave her best not just to basketball but to people. That type of humility and excellence is rare in our world of “whats-in-it-for-me.” We truly were blessed with a beautiful gift in Anne Donovan and I will cherish that gift for the rest of my life.

Rest in peace, Coach. You fought the good fight.  You have finished the race.  You have kept the faith.  Thank you.  See you on the other side.

Danielle Melvin Koonce,

#00, #35

 

Around December of last year, my oldest son, RK, came home from daycare and asked for a Superman costume. We had never mentioned Superman to him and we hadn’t watched any Superman movies or cartoons with him, but for the next few days he consistently asked for a Superman costume. I shrugged it off as something that he had picked up at daycare. No big deal, right? Wrong.

The problem with RK’s request was that his father, Richard, was completely against it. Admittedly it is rare for my husband to go completely to the “no” stage so quickly with the boys so I pushed him on it. His answer was simple: “The only superhero the boys can wear is the ‘Black Panther’.”

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I tried to push my husband a little bit. I told him that we could not force RK to like Black Panther. It should be a natural process. Richard didn’t budge. I suggested he purchase RK a Superman costume and purchase our younger son, Jimmy, a Black Panther costume so that we could have both representations in the home. Richard still didn’t budge. He just kept telling me, “once the movie comes out, you will see. He will like it.” This only led me to start another debate as to whether RK at the age of 3 should even watch the movie, “Black Panther.” Yet, my debates had no impact on Richard. His mind was made up. Our sons would be Black Panther fans whether they liked it or not.

Meanwhile, RK continued to ask every few days could we get him a Superman costume. Each time, I responded with the ancient parental response of “we’ll see” while Richard just pretended like he hadn’t even heard RK’s request. Talk about stubborn…

Finally, February arrived. By this time, RK had pretty much stopped requesting Superman paraphernalia. He would sometimes mention Superman but Spiderman, Batman, and the Paw Patrol were all now in heavy rotation. Personally, I didn’t think it was looking good for Black Panther. There were no Black Panther cartoon figures to associate my son with the character. None of the fast food restaurants that kids quickly learn to love had created toy versions of the Black Panther to give away with their kid’s meals. Disney Jr., Nick Jr., and PBS Kids carried no shows even remotely similar to a Black Panther hero. Yet, my husband was emphatic. Black Panther would trump any and every superhero figure that RK could possibly mention. Personally, I couldn’t see it, so I decided to do something that as a wife I have occasionally found difficult: Be quiet, let it go and trust Richard’s decision. And then the movie came out…

Richard and I dressed up in our best Wakanda-themed garb and along with my sisters and brother, caught the movie on its opening weekend. Needless to say, we were pumped.

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Pumped is actually an understatement. We left the movie theater on this all-natural, organically Afrocentric, Black-centered, Africanistic high that could not be contained. Richard’s chest could have exploded. I think I floated out of the theater with visions of Black excellence swirling in my head. For two hours and 15 minutes, we had just been exposed to everything we knew we could be in all its glory and all its flaws. We watched the film channel our inner Killmongers as we grappled with a nation that never wanted us, systematically left us behind, and treats us often as a threat to its own security. We beamed at the beauty, strength, and brains of Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri as they demonstrated what Black women have long known…that at our best, Black men become their best…and when we shine, the whole Earth wins.

I kept trying to sum up my expressions and the only thing I can really think to write even in this blog is that, “I wish I would have had this movie when I was a kid.” I would have imagined myself as Shuri. As a kid, I was the one that asked for a chemistry set for Christmas. I am certain, Shuri would have been my shero. She was smart, pretty, confident, funny, and she could fight! I would have been obsessed with Shuri the way some girls obsess over Barbie or Elsa or whoever their favorite television or movie characters might be.

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My musings hit me like a ton of bricks. Characters like Shuri and Okoye were not available to me when I grew up. There were no young, Black female cartoon/movie figures that spoke to my intellect and my body image. There were no Nakia’s to affirm dark skinned beauty and there were even fewer T’Challas who froze in the presence of that beauty.

To be concise, Richard was right. Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Bruce Wayne could wait. We have had decades and decades and decades of White male superheroes and their alter ego narratives being fed to us through television, movies, and clearly daycare centers across the nation. As parents, we wanted to introduce our sons to a new superhero-a superhero that reflected them. We wanted to, as Richard explained to me, “make sure our boys didn’t see themselves as an afterthought.”

This past Saturday, Richard took the boys to see “Black Panther” but not before buying both of them Black Panther masks and figurines.

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I packed up a great big bag of snacks, diapers, wipes, sippie cups, cookies, extra clothes and underwear…all the things I could think of to help Richard keep them focused and prepared for the duration of the movie. I even offered a few times to keep Jimmy home with me, but he wanted to take both of them so I passed on the bag of goodies/potty items and sent them on their way.

On the way home from the movies, Richard called me on speakerphone. I could barely hear him because the boys kept yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, Black Panther!” RK tried to tell me the entire movie in 2 sentences…”he fighted and hitted him and the bad guy was sad, Mommy…and, and, and, and, and Shuri was fighting… and the Black Panther is not bad, Mommy.” Jimmy who is not yet in command of full sentences happily tried to repeat some of the phrases of RK: “Mommy, fighted..Black Pantha…”

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When they got home, you would have thought it was Christmas. Richard was as proud as a peacock as the boys clinched their Black Panther figurines like we had given them the world. Richard told me during the movie RK stared at the screen like he was in a trance while Jimmy grew restless after the first 45 minutes.

That night, both boys slept with their Black Panther figurines. They held them while they ate breakfast the next morning. They took them to church which almost became a disaster when RK left his in the children’s classroom. Also, the figurines have become my new go-to disciplinary action. If you get out of bed, no Black Panther. Don’t eat your veggies, no Black Panther. Who knows how long this Black Panther phase will last, but for us, Black Panther has accomplished exactly what my husband knew it would accomplish. The boys at very young ages have been able to see a version of themselves on the big screen. For them Chadwick Boseman becomes the new Christopher Reeve and in their minds he will always be the Black Panther. Will he be their only superhero? I doubt it. Will RK ask for Superman and Spiderman paraphernalia? Probably. The point was never to control our son’s taste or preferences. The point was to control his exposure.

This is why no one in the Black community is surprised that “Black Panther” has grossed over one billion dollars in movie sales. Representation matters and representation sales. Children soak up images like sponges. Those images send them messages about life, relationships, gender, power dynamics and cultures. Black Panther, the figure, and “Black Panther” the movie, provide new images and create new messages. Clearly, Richard got the message before I did, and that’s okay. It is coming through loud and clear as I write this blog. Besides, I have my own message that I want to send the boys. With or without Black Panther, there is one superhero that is a necessary fixture in their lives-their father. He’s the real life hero that the boys need more than anything. They may be clutching their Black Panther figurines today, but in the future it will be Richard’s words and actions that they will hold most dear. So, while Richard keeps his eyes on the bigger picture, I will stay focused on the tangible picture right in front of me, a dad and his two sons. And we can both keep building our legacy, one image at a time.

RichardandBoys

Black History Moments: The Finale

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum..

On the last day of #BlackHistoryMonth, I want to reconsider Black History along two lines: 1) the era of slavery and Jim Crow-an era that lasted over 300 years

and 2) the post-Civil Rights era-an era that is roughly 55 years old.

Let that sink in…300 years of separation and segregation compared to 55 years to try out liberty and integration. What other group of people in the history of people have had to endure such major contradictions in a country that isolated them completely from their native home, native languages, religions and customs?

Any historian could tell you that the odds of success would be slim to none. And yet, Black History illustrates over and over again that Black folks beat the odds over and over and over again. Of course with these highs there have been stubbornly persistent lows. There have been achievements and setbacks…

activism and new visions…

and Change and Hope presided over a nation for 8 straight years.

Black History is an incredible journey and the best thing about it is the fact that it is just getting started!
Cheers to you as you carve out your own piece of Black History. There are plenty of great chapters still left to write!

#BlackHistoryMonth
#TheGoodAndTheBad
#300YearsofOppression
#55YearsofOpportunity
#WriteYourChapter
#MarkYourEra
#YoureUpNow
#YoureUpNext

Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

When Marian Anderson applied to a school of music in Philadelphia, she was rejected solely based on the color of her skin. Yet, her talent could not be contained by skin color or racism. Anderson’s voice was considered the greatest musical voice of her generation and in spite of not being accepted to formal music schools, Anderson became the Queen of opera and arias. In 1939, Anderson was invited to sing in Washington, DC before dignitaries and elites, but the Daughters of the Revolution who owned Constitutional Hall refused to allow Anderson to sing there because the hall was for “Whites Only.” The organizers than tried to rent a public high school but it too refused based on its “Whites Only” policy. Accustomed to rejection, Anderson collaborated with Eleanor Roosevelt and several Black activists including Charles Houston and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and they arranged a public concert for Anderson on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln monument on Easter Sunday, 1939. Over 75,000 people of all colors gathered to hear the great Anderson sing, and over 2 million people listened over the radio. Anderson, essentially laid the foundation for the March on Washington that occurred in 1963 and she was asked to sing at the event demonstrating that her actions 24 years ago had not gone unnoticed. Anderson chose a very fitting song to sing that day, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” confirming to the audience of over 250,000 that rejection by man is no match for acceptance by God.

#BlackHistoryMonth
#SingBlackWomanSing
#MarianAnderson
#Legend
#MarchOnWashington

Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

This film director, producer, screenwriter, and film distributor probably hasn’t even hit her stride yet, but she is already breaking barriers in the film and movie industry. Ava Duvernay is the first Black female director to have her film, Selma, nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy award. Her documentary, 13, was also the first documentary by a Black female director to be nominated for an Academy Award. Her current film, A Wrinkle in Time, makes her the first Black film director to direct a movie with over a 100 million dollar budget. What is even more amazing than Duvernay’s film accomplishments is her path to film making. An English and Afro American studies major at UCLA, Duvernay hoped to go into journalism but then turned to public relations and started her own PR firm, the Duvernay Agency, in 1999 as well as many other business ventures. It wasn’t until 2005 that she made her first short film and the rest is history. Duvernay is a good Monday morning reminder that your day job does not define you. Your dream is what truly defines you. Work the job until it is time to work the dream!

#BlackHistoryMonth
#AvaDuvernay
#BlackGirlsRock
#WorkYourDream
#WrinkleInTime

Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Long before Tiger Woods entered the golf world, Charlie Sifford was breaking barriers and making the road easier. A prolific golfer, Mr. Sifford was the first Black man to gain entrance to the PGA, an association that had a “whites only” clause in it’s bylaws. Although other Black players tried to integrate the PGA it was Sifford who after 9 years of unsuccessful attempts, finally broke the color barrier in 1961. Sifford credited Black athletes such as Joe Lewis and Jackie Robinson as helping him stay determined in spite of the death threats, hate mail and continual denials to the PGA. In 2004 Sifford became the first Black person inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Tiger Woods referred to Sifford as “the Grandfather I never had,” and in 2014 at the age of 91 and one year before his death, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

#BlackHistoryMonth
#CharlieSifford
#BarrierBreaker
#PGA
#Respect

Black History Moment

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

W.E.B. Dubois is one of the greatest minds ever. He was the first Black to graduate from Harvard with a PhD. He also attended Fisk University and the University of Berlin in Germany. He co-founded the NAACP, he is considered the Father of American Sociology, and he was an activist, prolific writer, and Pan-Africanist. Born in 1868, Dubois experienced 19th and 20th century life as a Black American. Highly educated, the doors of the eminent universities would not hire him. He coined the phrase, “Double Consciousness” and explained that Black Americans lived a twoness experience in America…one as a Negro and one as an American. Writing in 1903, Dubois felt that being Black and American and trying to reconcile the two experiences would be difficult. Dubois hoped for it to be “possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.” 105 years later Dubois’ double consciousness is still relevant and scholars and intellectuals continue to debate his words and legacy.

#BlackHistoryMonth
#WEBDubois
#ProphetScholarActivist
#DoubleConsciousness

Black History Moment

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Feb. 23 will always be a special day of Black History celebration because Geneva Estelle Lamb Ellis was born on this day in 1926. Gebo as she was affectionately called represents a generation of strong, determined, practical and beautiful Black women who had to navigate between two worlds…the world that their parents groomed them in-a world of segregation, lynching, disenfranchisement, deference to all things White-and a world that their children, grand and great grand children would be groomed in-a world of new opportunities, Civil Rights, affirmative action, Black power and Black pride. Gebo, like all of these grand-mothers did the best they could bridging the gaps between such different generations. Their advice and wisdom emphasized manners, cleanliness, getting a good education, loving God and treating people right. They disdained lying lips, women who kept dirty homes and men who wouldn’t work. They churched hard, gardened harder, saved any and everything, and gave to everyone in need. They healed with aloe plants, spider webs, snuff, pine needles, castor oil and red clay. And they loved. They loved unconditionally, matter of factly and unfailingly. They raised their own, their neighbor’s children, their grands and a few greats on incomes that could barely sustain one person. And in spite of it all, we are here as testaments to their commitment and faith. For their sacrifices, their tears, their pain, I salute my Gebo and all the Black grandmothers like her who became the backbone of an entire generation. Your living was not in vain. Make sure their living was not in vain.

#BlackHistoryMonth
#GrandMothers
#Gebo
#RestingInHeaven

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