A Mother’s Plea

Image.jpgWhen I was in the third grade, way back in the 80s, I won my first city-wide writing award. It was for a paper about Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr. famous I Have a Dream Speech. I didn’t keep the paper, but I can imagine my rendition had something to do with how I wanted the world to give me an equal shot. Life experiences taught me very quickly that “equal” was a dream deferred for children of color in the United States.

I held out hope though that making good decisions and life choices, may bare equality for my future children. As my ninth mother’s day approaches my heart is heavy with the weight of reality that my children are NOT safe and still will not be treated equally. I’m also hit with the reality that this is an exclusive burden that mothers of color in this country share. But it’s one I hope all mothers can imagine to be absolutely heartbreaking!

You see, as I examine the world we live in, my reality is my children are NOT safe in school and I’m referring to disparities of expulsions particularly of African American boys. I’m sure the parents of the 12-year-old boy suspended in Ohio for staring at a female caucasian student understands. My children are NOT safe in their home and I’m referring to 7-year-old Aiyana Jones who was shot in her home and 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was gunned down in the park across the street from where he lived. My children are NOT safe in cars like 17-year-old Jordan Davis who was shot in a car because of loud music. My children are NOT safe to walk in their neighborhood, just think about Trayvon Martin. It’s NOT safe for my children to go shopping just think of Nordstrom Rack, where three black teens in Brentwood had police called on them while they shopped for prom. They are NOT even safe at college, just ask Yale graduate student Lolade Siyonbola who endured police questioning for sleeping in her dorm’s common area or my female assistant who had an officer pull his gun on her during a routine stop while in graduate school. They are NOT safe from civilians or law enforcement. They are NOT safe inside or outside. They simply are NOT safe.

I’ve never understood Dr. Martin Luther King’s plea that his “children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” more than I do on this very day. I wholeheartedly pray that our children will have unending Favor, Grace and Mercy and that they will be Blessings to others and be committed to carrying out their God given assignments without interruption from those that mean them harm. On this Mother’s Day, pray for your children and pray for mothers of color who carry this extremely heavy burden each and every day, including Mother’s Day.

 

Sincerely,

Chocolate Mother

 

 

Photos by Laura Saavedra

Advertisements

She’s Human, Let’s Just Roll With That

I’m a working mom. That means I juggle a lot, but I still pick up our babies each day after school, help with homework, talk about their friends, set up playdates etc.. Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is one of a kind and he’s very involved. However, last week I spent three nights away working and don’t tell them, but I missed my children. Yeah I know the same babies that I’ve prayed would give me a minute to myself. It’s funny how that works.

So while away, I found a play that I was sure they’d enjoy and I’d get to spend some much needed quality time. Grace for President was playing in Raleigh and although about an hour drive, we were up for it and they’d read the book so it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. In the play, Grace Campbell realizes we haven’t had a female president. The lack of females in the White House, sparks her idea for a school election.

After a great performance we headed to the lobby for cast autographs and I ran into one of my work colleagues that lives in that area. She was there with her transgender daughter. Her daughter, which outwardly appeared male, identified as female. So she introduced her maybe 9-year old as her daughter Leah. I quickly shook Leah’s hand and told her I was happy to meet her. But then came time to introduce Leah to my two children.

Let me preface this by saying, we’ve never had this talk. We’ve never really had a reason to, plus my children are 8 and 6 and I really thought I had more time. This was my first experience meeting a transgender elementary age person and while I faced this new adventure intrepidly, I was nervous as hell to think what my children may say or how they may react. But I also thought it as a wonderful learning opportunity. So I introduced my daughter who’s 8 and wise beyond her years first. “Morgan, this is Leah.” Without hesitation or making a funny facial expression she reached for Leah’s hand and said “nice to meet you” with a warm smile. Next up was my 6-year-old son who missed his sister’s introduction because he was getting his last cast autograph. “Garrett, meet Leah,” I said. He drops his head and says “hi.” I asked if he could shake Leah’s hand, but it really wasn’t a question and he knew that. He slowly raises his right hand to meet Leah’s right hand.

I stand and make pleasantries for a few minutes about dinner plans, profession updates etc.. and I slip up once and refer to Leah as he but immediately catch myself and self correct and her mom is gracious enough to remind me gently “she.” We leave with parting hugs and go our separate ways.

When we’re beyond earshot I ask my children if we need to discuss meeting Leah and how they felt. My daughter says “well, to tell you the truth, I was a little confused. I mean she looked like a boy but she’s a girl. She’s a girl right?” “Yes she was born a boy but identifies as a girl,” I said.

“Well, does she have a penis or a vagina?” She asked. “I certainly wouldn’t know that,” I said “but I think the important thing is that we respect her wishes and refer to her as her girl.”

Insert uncomfortable pregnant pause.

“I figure it’s really none of my business,” Morgan said and to tell the truth the only thing we know for certain is that she’s human. So let’s just roll with that.”

I pat her on the back and say good that’s how I was hoping you’d look at it. I then turn to my son who’s two years younger and intensely listening. I asked him how he felt meeting someone like Leah and he said “I don’t know, I was really confused.”

“Well there’s no need to be confused,” I said. “She was introduced by her mom as a girl and so that’s what she is.” “I know that mom,” he said. “But …my eyes said she’s a boy.”

“I’m sure son, but remember that our brains tell our eyes what they see. So, like Morgan said, she’s human.” “Yup, the only thing I know for sure is she’s a person,” he said. “So let’s just roll with that.

These are not conversations my mom had to have with me, it was a different time. But there a few fundamentals I picked up as a kid that I was happy to pass on.

1) God makes each of us uniquely in His image.

2) Treat people like you want to be treated.

3) Love thy neighbors as ourselves.

I sincerely wish my colleague and her daughter the absolute best as I know first hand this world can be cruel. But I also know there’s a lot of love in it and those with it are responsible for teaching it to our children.

 

 

I Fit the Profile

I Fit the Profile

One of the hazards of having a business with products to sell is that occasionally I have to vend. The hazard isn’t in the vending, the hazard is in the travel and of course it’s always tough for a busy mom to leave midweek for a few days. None the less, I found myself packing up my 2015 Tahoe with books, filling my tank, devising alternate schedules for the kids, laying out school clothes all in preparation for two nights away for work.

Sometime, I look forward to the peaceful drive and hotel room, but for some reason, I truly wasn’t feeling this one. In fact, I reviewed the hotel cancellation policy and had I thought about it sooner, I probably would have backed out. South Carolina is a good four hours drive from my house and Tuesday is reserved for piano and violin lessons for the children. By the time I’d helped my husband feed and bathe babies it was going on 8 p.m.

The ride is smooth, barely any traffic and no rain. When I veer off I-95 to U.S. Route 501 in South Carolina it’s close to midnight and the highway signs read 55 MPH. I reduce my speed and set my cruise control to 62 MPH. I’m somewhat tired and for the first time, I turn on the radio to XM 47 and begin bopping to to lyrics from songs I partied to in college. Within 5 minutes I see blue lights behind me. At this very moment, I become fully aware of who I am, where I am and what I am driving. I dial my husband and put one earbud in my ear. “Hey, I’m being pulled by the police and I know I wasn’t going fast enough for a ticket, but just hold the line,” I say. My husband says “okay cool.”

Officer: May I have your license and registration?

Me: You can, but I’d really like to know why you stopped me.

Officer: I will tell you that after I see your license and registration.

I hand him my license and registration and he then says “You were speeding and going 68 MPH.”

Me: I’m sorry, but I had my cruise control set, so I know for a fact that I was not going nearly that fast. I was going 63 MPH.

Officer: It’s still speeding isn’t it?

Me: I suppose, but I know I wasn’t going as fast as you say I was.

He says he’ll be right back and I now feel free to speak my mind to my husband. “Ain’t this some bullshit, you know he is not going to give me a ticket and you KNOW I was not going nearly that fast.”

My Husband: “I know and you know what it is, but you have a family and children to get back home to so just keep your cool.”

A few moments pass and the officer re-appears.

Officer: “Mrs. Taylor, I’m gonna give you a warning ticket this time, but you may want to get your cruise control checked because you were going faster than you think you were.”

Me: “Thank you, but this is a 2015 Tahoe and I’m pretty sure my cruise control is accurate,” I snap back.

Officer: “Well maybe it’s your tires,” he replies.

Me: “No sir, these are not after market, they are factory, but I appreciate it. Thanks,” I say reaching for my blue written warning ticket.

I debrief my feelings about this unwarranted stop to my husband as I continue on my way. I realize that I am not angry about the stop not because of the outcome, but because I EXPECTED it. Yes, it’s a known fact that people of color are more likely to be stopped by law enforcement.

In fact, I have three African American females in my close circle that have had similar experiences in the same area. One was traveling with her elderly parents and teenage niece. She was stopped for having a sorority tag in the front of her car and asked to get out and if her car could be searched. When she refused, she was stopped less than 10 miles up the road for switching lanes. This time, K-9s were called in. None were given tickets and all felt the same as me, profiled.

I arrived to my destination about 30 minutes later and I can’t help but think about the differences people of color face every day in United States and the privileges allotted to others.

You see my first instinct when I saw blue lights behind me was to protect myself which is why I called my husband. So my natural inclination is to protect myself from those sworn to Serve and Protect??? I doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have when stopped by law enforcement. My husband’s first inclination was to remind me to do what’s necessary to get back home safely. I also doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have for their spouses during routine traffic stops.

Since I am a stickler for the rules, I want to be clear that my issue was not that Officer Lewis stopped me. My issue is that I don’t believe he stops everyone going 7 miles over the speed limit. I also don’t believe he gives them all traceable written warning tickets. My issue is that I live in a country that my daddy fought for, I work in, pay taxes in and I am still not allotted the same privileges as everyone else. My issue is that I have neighbors and friends that refuse to sympathize with real issues, feelings and challenges that people of color face in our country every day.

 

He Won’t Be Re-elected

The best thing about our nighttime routine is the private, last minute conversations I have with my soon-to-be 7-year-old Princess. I know, I know, part of it is her stalling and trying to delay the inevitable. But I must admit, as long as I continue to get the skinny on all that happened that day in class, at recess and all points in between…. I’ll take it.

My other truth is that, sometimes, I envy my husband’s quick retreat to his recliner downstairs. You see he puts our 4-year-old pint size super hero son to bed and I usually hear him exit about 5 minutes after lights out. In five minutes our daughter hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface on her day.

But here’s the thing, our conversations…I mean her conversations are priceless. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself:

ME: “Mommy is it true that teachers don’t make much money?”

“Yes, ME it’s true. I hope that will change one day. They deserve much more.”

ME: “Well when I get big, I’m going to change that.”

“Awesome. ME I think that’s a great goal.”

ME: “I changed my mind, I want to change it now. What can I do?”

“I don’t know ME, maybe you can write the Governor(NC) a letter about how you feel.”

ME: “Governor, who’s the Governor?”

“His name is Pat McCory.”

ME: “Pat who?”

“Pat McCory.”

ME: “He sounds mean.”

“Well some people think so.”

ME: “He sounds like he’s related to Dumb Donald (Trump that is. By the way, I do not approve of the nickname she’s given him).” She then pauses for a moment.

“In that case momma, I’m gonna write him two letters. One for more money for teachers and one to tell him he won’t be re-elected. He don’t need to be Governor if a kid has to tell him to give teachers more money.”

At this point I choose not to respond, which is how we end just about every night; with her having the last word. I silently chuckle and I think to myself, Ummm, ME, can you send the letter about giving the teachers a raise first? I’m Just Saying. Plus technically I’m sure he considers their additional $750 a year a grand gesture. It’s simply not enough Governor McCory, just ask my second grader. #watchoutPat #MEforGovernor

Fact check: Examining raises for North Carolina teachers

 

MeandMinime

KidsVote

 

Vanilla or Chocolate: Not Bad, Not Better; Just Different

When I was a child my birthday parties always ended with a cake and a clear gallon bucket of ice cream. The bucket always had three flavors in it, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The premise was that you could enjoy whichever flavor you preferred. The ice cream always started out nice and neat, but you could never have a whole scoop of one without remnants of the other flavors on it and by the end it seemed like all three flavors were completely mixed up.

It’s amazing what you can learn from a bucket of ice cream.

My 6-year-old daughter Morgan recently co-authored a book that educates and excites young people with her dad and my husband. Daddy’s Little Princess is a one of kind book that introduces real Princesses and Queens of color from around the world on an elementary level. If you ask Morgan as one reporter did, why she wrote the book she will say “My daddy always calls me Princess, but I didn’t think I could be a Princess because I didn’t see any that looked like me. I thought only “vanilla” or white people could be Princesses. When I found out that anyone could be a Princess, I wanted to let other little girls know that too.”

Awe, sounds sweet to many, but clearly a few were bothered by her “Vanilla” label and took to the comment section of her news story to say so. Which brings me to the reason for this blog post. One comment in particular said that the label “vanilla” or white people is early indoctrination. I’m guessing he meant it to be a disparaging comment, but I actually completely agree. You see the Latin word for “teach”, doctrina is the root of indoctrinate. As parents it’s our responsibility to indoctrinate or teach.

I’ve had this blog since my daughter was an infant and rarely do I give parenting advice. I wholeheartedly believe that parenting is the toughest job you can NEVER prepare for. You can read books, you can read journals, you can ask other parents what to do, but in the end we are all just trying to do the best we can. However, there are a few things we just should not and cannot do and one of those is to shy away or ignore important questions from our children.

As a Communication professional (I have a few degrees that say so) let me just say there will never be a colorblind society. If you have the gift of sight, you see color. That’s why toddlers touch each others skin and hair. Our goal should not be to be colorblind. Our goal should be to treat each other the SAME regardless of our differences. Acknowledging differences is not the problem. The problem is treating people different because of them. Yes, our skin is different, not bad, not better; just different. Yes, our hair is different, not bad, not better; just different. Yes, some children are handi-capable, not bad, not better; just different.

So when our very bright 2-year-old was in pre-k and really began to notice these differences we did what parents should do; we talked about them and since words like African American, Caucasian and Asian were a little difficult for her to grasp, words like vanilla and chocolate were easier for her to understand. The concept that vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream were different, but both delicious was easier for her to understand. It’s like that gallon of ice cream. But when we as adults shy away from having conversations with our children because it makes US feel uncomfortable, we are leaving our children to figure out something extremely complex on their own. That’s not fair and that’s not good parenting and when they don’t get it right we have civil discourse and racial prejudice.

So yes, both my daughter and my 4-year-old son have been “indoctrinated.” We acknowledge differences, we share information and treat everyone the same. One of my favorite parts of my daughter’s Barnes and Noble book signing was seeing all her friends, vanilla, chocolate or butter pecan all come out to support her and to learn about Princesses they had not heard of before. She was genuinely happy to see them and they were genuinely happy to support her. So, it may be easier to get caught up on the label than to deal with the reality that yes we have differences and they are not bad, not better; just different.

Visit http://www.taylormadenc.com to learn more about her book Daddy’s Little Princess

 

Testicles and Boobies

My children are growing up and at ages 6 and 4 there’s a little bit of independence that comes with that. Although, I still wash them in the bathtub just to make sure all bases have been covered, they do bathe separately and dress themselves when they get out.

Having a boy and a girl has created balance for me. My daughter, Morgan is all things girly girl including scented lotion and pink pajamas. My son Garrett, who we refer to as Lil G, is a ladies man. I’m not just saying that, but he really knows JUST what to say. For example, today Morgan decided to tell me that Lil G has SEVERAL girlfriends. When I questioned him about it he said “no momma, just one and it’s you.” He’s smooth, so smooth in fact that between his lines and his complexion I’ve nicknamed him Hershey Kiss.

Well not only do these kids have quite the personality, they also happen to be quite funny. Tonight when Lil G got out the bathtub he runs to his room and grabs the men’s lotion he took from my husband’s side of the bed and begins to moisturize. He slows down almost to a crawl when he gets below his waist and pays more attention to his genitalia. And the rest is straight comedy:

Lil G – “What’s this ball thing below my penis?”

Me – “Go ask your daddy”

Morgan – “It’s your scrotum and it holds pee.”

Me – “Morgan you don’t have a penis and you’re wrong so please let him go ask daddy.”

Daddy – “They’re testicles son.”

Morgan – “What are testicles?”

Daddy – (trying not to laugh) “They’re something cool that hang from our bodies.”

Morgan – “That’s not fair, we don’t have anything cool hanging from our bodies.”

Daddy – “When you get you older you will.”

Pause….

Morgan – “Are you talking about boobies.”

Me: (laughing hysterically)

15 minutes later just when I thought we were done…

Morgan – “What if mine don’t grow when I get older.”

Daddy – (laughing) “Then you can go to the boobie store.”

Lil G – (serious) “There’s no such thing as a boobie store.”

Morgan – “How do you know, you have a penis.” (rolling her neck)

Lil G – Now smiling “because I just do.”

Morgan – “Well what if they run out of boobies by the time I need some?”

Me – “Okay Lights OUT. It’s Definitely Time for Bed.”

So now I know exactly what Bill Cosby meant “Kids say the darndest things. Oh, the joys of parenting.

Them

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Last year was tough for me. I was full of anxiety just thinking about transitioning our then 5-year-old daughter from a small close-knit private pre-school to public school. I researched every school, the district policy, interviewed teachers and administrator friends for advice. We teetered with the idea of homeschooling, bought curriculums and even made our spare bedroom a sudo-classroom. And I definitely prayed a lot. We finally decided to give public school a try. I figured, what’s the worse that can happen? We could be unhappy, pull her out and try something different.

After her initial assessment and being in Kindergarten for two days, the group consensus was to move her up to First Grade. With this change came even more apprehension. She was transitioning to public school, larger classes and she’s small in stature. Was this the right decision? Was she mature enough to handle it and if she wasn’t would her self-esteem survive putting her back? So back in my prayer closet I went.

We were assured by her school’s administration that she’d be fine and had a great First Grade teacher and we would very soon agree. Her teacher wasn’t much taller than my daughter, she was petite, smiled a lot and kept in constant contact with me about Morgan’s progress. She was young, full of energy and seemed to be a real go getter; you know the type that looks forward to challenges. In fact, she was a marathon runner and to me that spoke volumes about her personality. Marathon runners are in for the long haul, run through cramps, rain, extreme temperatures etc… She was just what the doctor ordered, in this case what we needed.

Morgan didn’t just exist in First Grade, she excelled both academically and socially. She also fell in love with her teacher and truthfully so did I. Right before Christmas break I told her, I really think she should consider teaching Second Grade. I know, I know totally selfish move. Of course she laughed and said it was a little early to sweat Second Grade, plus she said “Morgan will be fine.” Yes, Morgan will be fine, but what about me? I guess, back to the prayer closet I go.

As the end of the school year fast approaches, Morgan has talked about leaving her teacher every day. Today, my baby cried because it was her favorite teacher’s last day in the classroom. She’s transitioning to another career. I am happy for her, I really am, as I believe whole heartedly in re-inventing yourself. The reality is sometimes you really don’t know how much a person that you may not even know that well means to you until it’s time to say goodbye.

Morgan wasn’t the only one sad today. I understand the Blessing in having a God-fearing, talented teacher dedicated to giving her all. I am eternally grateful for the memories she’s created for my daughter and the foundation she has helped to build. So before I go back in prayer closet for an equally awesome Second Grade teacher, I say thank you, thank you , thank you Kate Faulkner and may you continue to leap into your greatness.MEandMs.F