GUEST POST: HOW TO PAY FOR AN HBCU EDUCATION FROM A MOM WHO’S DOING IT

By Tauleece Thomas, Esq.

Financing a college education is often one of the most daunting tasks that parents face on their parenting journey. There are so many questions to ask and answer as our children approach that ultimate decision of where they will matriculate after high school: Do we take out loans? Do we do the community college route? How can we find enough scholarship money to meet the need? Along with these very real questions of finance, many parents are also struggling with questions about which type of university will best suit their children. Should they send them to a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) or an HBCU (Historically Black College or University)? In our community, the love for HBCUs is sometimes jaded by the belief that HBCUs are “too expensive”. This misguided premise truly amazes me because HBCUs were founded to provide educational opportunities to those with the most limited resources. Have costs increased over the years? Absolutely! But so have the offerings and opportunities that HBCUs make available to our community. So, let’s explore some options, ideas and avenues for removing the “too expensive” moniker from any conversation about our beloved HBCUs.

You might be wondering, “Who the heck is this chick?” Well, I am a proud HBCU graduate (Howard University Class of 1992). I am the wife of a proud HBCU master’s program graduate (Prairie View A&M University Class of 2013). I am the mother of a proud HBCU graduate (Prairie View A&M University Class of 2016). And I am the mother of two proud, current, HBCU students (Prairie View A&M University Classes of 2018 and 2020). Yes, I am ALL ABOUT the HBCU journey! I value it! I love it! I live it!

Even before we became parents, my husband and I made TWO decisions:

        1 – Our children would attend HBCUs for their undergraduate education.

        2 – Our children would NOT take out loans for their undergraduate education.                                                    

To make these decisions feasible and attainable, we decided to adopt several mantras…philosophies…or family premises:

A’s = MONEY                 You can pay for school with your MIND              You can GET PAID to go to school

Our family hashtag: #wedontpayfordegreesaroundhere

Our family hashtag is one that we take VERY seriously. Being able to “pay for school with your mind” is a very real and attainable goal. It does take a bit more of a concerted effort on the part of parents and students, but it is completely feasible to not pay one red cent for your child to attend some of the best institutions of higher learning that this country has to offer. Excuse my colloquialism for a moment, but “ain’t NO education like an HBCU education”!

By now, you’re thinking, “Ok, sista…I’m with you on this. But, HOW do I do it?” I’m glad you asked that question…. here we go:

THE INTERNET IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

There is this WONDERFUL thing called the internet….and with a search of the right terms, parents and students will find a whole world of obscure and unknown scholarships that are out there and available. Since we homeschool, we simply turned “Scholarship Search” into a required course in the 11th and 12th grade year for our students. The vast array of scholarship search websites that are available is astounding. And while much of the information will likely be duplicative from one site to the next, there is always the possibility of finding hidden gems on one site that aren’t available on all sites. Make your internet search relevant to the schools and areas of study that your student is interested in pursuing. Also, access experienced counseling for scholarship search assistance. If your student is in public or private school, consider requiring him/her to establish a regular meeting time with the school guidance counselor as a way of staying informed and aware of scholarship opportunities and deadlines. This should be done at the beginning of the high school career, NOT in the last year.

KNOW THE TYPE OF SCHOLARSHIP THAT YOUR STUDENT IS MOST LIKELY TO BE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE

Understand the difference between merit-based scholarships, which are based on academic performance, and need based scholarships, which are based on financial need. For example, because of our family’s income level, my children have never qualified for many need-based scholarships. The couple of times that they did, it was because we had multiple students enrolled in college at one time, so our need was seen as greater for that reason. There are also scholarships that are specifically for students who plan to attend HBCUs. They are available via local alumni chapters, corporate alumni chapters and endowments set up by alumni that are administered by the university. Broaden your mind and thoughts about where scholarship money may be available and then tap those sources. Apply, apply, apply, apply, apply and apply some more! Consider creating a spreadsheet list with the scholarship name, application deadline, award amount, reference requirements, and notification date as a way of charting and tracking scholarship applications. Most applications are online now, but having this document is a great way to keep a personal eye on how your efforts are progressing.                        

NO SCHOLARSHIP AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL

A full ride academic scholarship does not always have to come from one funding source. If a student is able to aggregate scholarship awards and cover the entire cost of his or her education, then THAT is also considered being on full academic scholarship. Don’t shun those $250, $500 or $750 scholarships…they really do add up! The smaller dollar scholarships are sometimes the easiest to apply for and receive. A short essay, often no more than 500 words, is usually a standard requirement. So, if your student shuns writing, start working on improving his/her outlook on the power and purpose of being a good writer.

GET INVOLVED IN PRIVATE ACTIVITIES/GROUPS THAT OFFER SCHOLARSHIPS TO MEMBERS

Organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, Jack & Jill, Rotary Clubs, Masonic Lodges and other private membership entities regularly offer scholarships for students attending college who have participated in their organizations. These scholarships are often overlooked and go unclaimed as students don’t see the long-term value in joining and participating in these organizations. However, participation in these organizations often add value to a student’s resume, impart lifelong skills and create highly beneficial networking relationships that all can, and often do, lead to more scholarship opportunities. [Editor’s note: also consider athletic organizations and remember to apply for scholarships offered by local Black Greek-letter organizations (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, etc.)]                         

ATTEND PRE-COLLEGE SUMMER PROGRAMS AT HBCUs

Most HBCUs have wonderful summer programs for students desiring to gain access and exposure to what that university has to offer. These summer opportunities often provide “insider information” about scholarships that students can apply for, when applications will be available and valuable mentoring experience with university students and staff. When a student attends and performs well in a summer program at an HBCU, he/she is seen as a valued future student for that institution. Some summer programs are free, and some have a cost. But no matter the cost, the value is in the fact that the student and his/her family have made a deliberate and substantial connection with that particular HBCU.                              

And finally… THE MOST IMPORTANT tip for funding an HBCU education is to change your mindset and improve your expectations! If you believe and expect to be able to afford an HBCU education for your student, you will make it happen!

My husband and I are now on our third student attending an HBCU, and we have yet to pay one penny for tuition, books, room and board or fees of any kind. Our oldest graduated in 2016….completely debt free. Our two current students have excess scholarship money EVERY semester such that they never have to ask us for money for anything. Heck, sometimes, I want to ask THEM to break me off a little piece of change! Our youngest two students are already primed and ready to find their niche and pay for school with their minds as well. 

Guest Blogger CiCi: Never Came

Never would I ever think that I would be the one telling the story from this side. 

But they told us never to say never anyways, so I guess that is where I first went wrong.

The second misstep happened when I slept with that dude without a condom.

This guy that I barely knew and probably didn’t have no business messing with in the first place had convinced me, through no major provoking, that I was safe with him.

And I believed it.

That was my bad. 

Many of us have done it though. 

You know, slipped up.

But this slip up was more like a punch to the throat. 

Sometimes, we get fortunate in these circumstances. 

We admit to our doctors a lapse in better judgment, anxiously succumb to a STI screening, pray extra hard and somehow all the results come back negative.

Whew!

We learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and then keep it moving.

But then sometimes, we test positive for something.

Most of the time, it’s something that can be treated and forgotten about.

I don’t know, something like chlamydia or trichomoniasis.

You know, something nobody ever has to know about. 

You take your treatment. It goes away. And you can act like it never happened. 

But then other times, that positive test result is heavy.

In my case, it was the HIV test that came back positive.

Heavy, heavy. 

Still a lesson. 

But definitely not one I thought I would ever have to learn.

NEVER did I ever think that it would be me.

Not that I thought I was special or nothing…

… but that was the thing – I wasn’t special at all.

I wasn’t doing anything different than anyone else around me.

Nothing that I thought would put me at risk of contracting HIV. 

I was just having sex.

Unprotected sex. 

Sex that rewarded me with a lifetime of medical treatment and regret. 

That was over a decade ago though.

Over ten years of me having to relive bad decisions I made so long ago. 

I’ve had to learn how to fight for Love of Self in a world that gives me so many reasons to be ashamed.

But I got it. 

And I’m holding on tight. 

Isn’t it beautiful how we still find a way to smile after all that we have gone through?

We all do. 

HIV doesn’t define me. 

Neither does the abuse. 

Or the depression. 

Rather, I see them as bruises that I wear boldly and proudly as they are pieces of what has molded me into the woman I am today. 

And for that, I am grateful. 

Of course, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have done at least two things differently: 

I would have insisted that the guy wore a condom  

and refrained from sex with him until we had both been tested for HIV. 

But HIV was never gone catch me. 

Honey Child, 

When them folks tell you to, “Never say never” –

I would listen. 

Cus sometimes, never is closer than you think. 

+ Ci Ci + 

GUEST BLOG: OPEN LETTER TO SOCIETY

I’m sleepless I’m up thinking how society tells me my double D tits should have gotten me a lot further by 40 years old than they have. Now they say they’re starting to droop, my time is expiring. Society didn’t take my royal melanin into consideration, I look in my 20’s…

They say I’m beautiful with a great career. I’m considered successful by most but the oxymoron is I’m a single mother.

Society rings loud the failure of not having a man’s last name. Society says I as a woman must long to wear a big white dress and be subservient to a man. It’s my duty to serve a him…

Who is he? I’ve read all the fairy tales, even kissed a few frogs. Does he exist? I do not know, all I’ve met is disappointment and continuously scolded how, “Nobody is perfect, nobody will… be perfect I must accept someone’s flaws and settle down,” but all I hear is Settle.

I am not comfortable in settling, not even with myself. But I am comfortable with self. Society needs to listen when I say I have no interest to share my bed, to share my bathroom or my home. I’m nobody’s maid. I’m not doing a man’s laundry. I don’t enjoy doing my own. I’m not a maid, a cook or therapist of adult emotion. I’m an entertainer I control your emotions. 

I will Not serve or submit or Settle, as I am just not her….I’ve tried. I am not a man’s helpmate. Society needs to stop trying to correct me and tell me I just haven’t met him yet. Trying to convince me that the 20 year goose chase I was on while dating them was not successful ….the success was finding what I lost …..self. Energy transfer is real, I am more comfortable single. The most laid back person has bad days if you care without cautions, those can become your bad days. 4 years ago my goose chase stopped and I’ve never been happier. I’m single.

I never played wedding or wife. I never fantasized about the day or the life after…I always knew I wanted a daughter and I got that! 

I knew I would entertain and I got that.

Society says these Double Ds shoulda open doors, got me a raise, a house, a car, a new family but I would lose or hyphenate my name to carry the name of a forefather I don’t know but let go of my grandfather whom was hands down the best man I will ever know.
Society says I need to pay for a piece of paper, legal fees,  a wedding, a reception, then joint taxes. 

Society is money hungry looking for ways to fill their collection plates.

Society can kiss my ass. I think for myself as I live for myself as I now know how to Love myself. A man is merely a trinket all women don’t desire to hold on to the same trinkets till death do them part….
By Anonymous–


www.TeamCherieJ.com

GUEST BLOG: I WAS ALWAYS MY MOM’S KING, PROBLEM IS SHE’S MADE SURE SHE’S MY ONLY QUEEN!

Yes, I am a grown ass man and admit being a King and never a prince has caused me issues in my adult life. See my father left my mother with 4 children to take care of. By the grace of God, entertainment has my back so I was blessed with good jobs that support my family. Meaning my mother and siblings. I became my mother’s King instead of her son.
It was my house we lived in instead of hers. It was my choice what we ate for dinner…because of these allowances from my mother, she in return became my Queen.

At the age of 15, I met a beautiful girl who I fell in love with. She was perfect in every innocent way possible. This had nothing to do with dating or sex but in my mind I had long term plans for her. She was indeed going to be my wife one day when we were both ready. Only problem my mother despised that idea. Which at the time baffled me. This young lady was also in the entertainment business, she was beautiful inside and out and extremely hard working. How my mother could find fault or flaws within her made no sense. 
I always wanted to be my mother’s hero so I sat my feelings aside. I am now 45 years old and never pursued that young girl the way I wish I would have because of my mother. Truth be told I am 4 babies mommas in now, single again and never have been in love again. I have traveled, dated and done all I could to find that feeling I had as a teenager. Long story short that perfect, flawless, love of my life hates my mother because of her antics (understandably so my mother was very rude to her for no reason) and has moved on. She is now married with a family.


I admit to living a self destructive lifestyle. It started as a teenager as a way of rebellion. Which continued as an adult due to my issues with substance abuse. (I am working on it.) The relationship with my mother is strained. I was her cash cow which left me pretty penniless and struggling. I struggle to support my own children because my Queen’s children (my siblings) were well taken care of by me. Please don’t get it twisted, I’m thankful I was able to do for my family but because of it, I am NOT able to do the same for my children. Which gets me labeled as a deadbeat Dad by circumstance because the “Assumption” of all entertainers is We are Rich! 


I am writing this as a grown man to single mothers trying to raise boys. Please don’t make your son your King! Kings need examples, Queens. It’s okay to allow young men to be a Prince. They need time to learn and grow as a male before they are forced into manhood. No son should bare the responsibility of a grown Queen. I am not just blaming my mother, my father was a coward and dead wrong for allowing me to bare his responsibility. Cherie is my homegirl and I understand this is advice for my sistas so please don’t feel attacked. 
Had my Momma allowed me to date that young girl, my whole life could be different. We could have been an amazing force together. She is still beautiful inside and out and working as hard as ever. She’s remained successful without me. She is what I needed. Sure it may not have worked, but I would have learned that on my own if my mother would have allowed it. I needed to learn that on my own. Now I live with “what if’s” and NO healthy female relationships including the relationship with my mom! 
I see a cycle Queens, I am not the only King….


Anonymous–


www.TeamCherieJ.com

GUEST BLOGGER RENEE – MY TRANSGENDER CHILD

On June 14, 1996 I had my first child, he was the perfect boy you can ever meet. Well raised by me only. I knew he was special at the age of 5. When they say mothers know first, yes they do. I knew at that age he was different but kept it to myself. 


His father only donated his sperm, he hated me because when I was pregnant I wouldn’t get an abortion. I remember going to a clinic doing an ultrasound and the doctor telling me I’m at the weeks where we need to talk about the procedure that will be done in 2 days, and you have to take 2 pills. One pill will open the cervix and the other pill will push the fetus down enough so the doctor can perform the procedure. I looked at my cousin and said, “I’m out of here.”  From that day on forward he never took care of his son financially, never given him a talk, never took him to a ball game, or hugged him. 


At the age of 6, I lost a custody battle to the father. He took me through hell and back. At age 11, I regained full custody. From this incident he refused to see or be a part of his life. During my son’s high school years he became more comfortable with himself, his father really stopped acknowledging him because he was gay. When my son was sent off to his prom, his father never came to see him off or attend his graduation. For some reason, I think that hurt me more than my son. After high school my son began taking hormone pills. It was hard for me at first, but I still stood by him. A year after my son graduated, his brother by another woman graduated from high school. My son and I went to see him off to the prom and their father was there as well. I watched and overheard their father discuss how expensive the prom was that he paid for it.  At that moment I was so hurt knowing he helped the other mother but not me. My son for the past 14-16 years will still go over his father’s family house but the father will never speak or acknowledge him. 
As of today, his father still doesn’t  accept the fact his son is a transgender and now he won’t acknowledge his other son who happens to be gay.  I’m doing my best to make this long story short, my life is like a book with my son. It has been a journey. Some times I beat myself up, and I still don’t know why it hurts me so bad that my son’s father won’t accept my son. He’s really a great person and I love him unconditionally.

GUEST POST: SEXUAL ABUSE CHRONICLES

Warning: For sensitive readers, this guest post was written by a sexual abuse survivor and some readers may find the details to be upsetting.

My name is Infiniti, I’m now 22 years old with a 1-year old child. I am a survivor of sexual molestation.

I am remembering my life based off elementary school, to middle school and high school because I can’t remember my age at these times in my life. I tried to forget honestly, but I can’t. In elementary school my stepdad touched me, he would wipe his penis across my butt back and forth while gripping on to my waist. I was just a young girl, but I knew it was wrong.

When I was in middle school my mother met my second stepdad. He was beyond disgusting he would wait until my mom would leave and answer her room door naked intentionally. He also touched me and showed me his penis, he walks in the kitchen and swiped his penis on my butt, he use to look at my butt and his penis would get hard, he tried to get me alone with him multiple times but I never would and then he brought me my first phone and started texting me at night asking me to come out my room. Every time I knocked on my mom’s door to ask her for something, he would answer naked.

He tried to rape me while home alone with him. It’s something I don’t think I will ever heal from. It’s hard to digest because today she’s (My Mother) is married to him.  My own Mother didn’t believe me. When I tried to tell her what he did.

Then there’s my dad… I used to live with him one morning before school he told me to lay with him until it’s time to go and I’ll never forget what we were watching Sponge Bob he laughed and reached his hands inside my shirt then squeezed and gripped tightly on my breast and brought me closer to him and pulled out his penis. He placed it on my butt then he pushed me off the bed and took me to school. He tried to bribe me with $5 not to tell I didn’t take the money and I got out the car and ran.

I acted out in school that whole day as a cry for help and the school called my mom and told her I was acting up. She beat me!  I told her why I was acting the way I was, and I could still feel those welts on my arms, legs and back. I told her that dad touched me, she called and asked, he lied. He lied to me, he lied to himself, he lied to my mom, he lied to god, he lied!  He said he didn’t do it and for me not to talk to him ever again. It hurt my soul cause I always wanted a bond with him.  I always wanted to be daddy’s little girl. I deserved that. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was a child.

Still to this day, I always felt like I messed that up by telling my mom what happened when I should have kept my mouth closed.  I still feel the same way I shouldn’t have even said anything.

 

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

 

Note from Cherie: Reading this story broke my heart. I met this beautiful, talented young lady earlier this year but never knew the struggle she was living with. I need you to know telling was the right thing, love! I apologize your mother went into denial and didn’t have your back. Unfortunately, we see this cycle time and time again. Mothers internalize the situation and instead of defending their child they get defensive against the child and refuse to believe they could have made a bad choice in men.

60% of all black women are sexually abused by the age of 18! That means that there is a LARGE PERCENTAGE of predators in this world!

Infiniti, I need you to know first, I believe you! Second, I love you. Third, you are not alone in this world. Your hurts will be forever scars you will carry that will one day make you into the resilient Warrior Queen you are becoming! Stay strong for your child and let’s be the generation who breaks the cycle of abuse. Thank you for sharing this story. I know there is a reader out there who has lived the same reality with you. Many Blessings, Cherie’s World loves you!

GUEST BLOG: AN AUTISM JOURNEY – WHY I CHOSE TO HOMESCHOOL

My 13-year-old son, Johnny, was diagnosed with autism when he was 4-years -old. Johnny started Pre-K and attended the brick and mortar school until the second grade. By the second grade, I was done with both schools! They were doing the most {messed} up in school! My son was secluded from the kids in his classroom and wasn’t allowed to sit at his desk. His teacher was allowed to decide if she wanted him as a student in her classroom after he was already assigned to her class. He also wasn’t allowed to play at recess with his peers. He was placed in a storm shelter that the school used as a classroom for him along with his special education teacher. I sat inside the Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting fighting for my son to be able to be in a classroom with his classmates and I was told, “No!” I refused to sign an IEP! Parents, please be aware that it is your legal right to refuse to sign an IEP! Do not allow the school to bully you into signing something you don’t agree with. They will be upset but who cares?! Their reasons for being upset are because most of the time they don’t like doing the work that is required in the IEP because it is too much like asking them to do their ACTUAL job! I thought that my IEP team would be more supportive and knowledgeable about what we needed to better serve my son. The lack of support from both schools proved that I was the only advocate for my son. Dealing with the school system was extremely overwhelming. I even found us as an autism advocate, who like myself, the school hated to see coming. She would attend all of my son’s IEP meetings with me and would speak on my behalf we would have a list of things that we thought would be beneficial to Johnny’s education. The way that she fought for my son’s rights was admirable and I will never forget her. She was my inspiration to become an autism advocate!
The school called the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on me and opened a false case against me stating that I was “neglecting” my son because I decided to take him off of his Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) medicine (the meds were causing him to grow female breast and it started to become difficult for his teacher to wake him up from his naps). They also stated that Johnny was seen walking on our main highway at 3:00 am. SMH! The lies that were said about me were outrageous and for months I was investigated DCF would do random pop-ups at my home. She took us to the autism center where he had to be retested for autism for her records. She also took us to the JD McCarthy treatment facility for children with autism to see if he could be accepted for a 30-day “monitoring” I had already decided against that as I wasn’t leaving my son in a facility. I cooperated with the caseworker. I had nothing to hide nor had I committed any crime. I was doing what I thought was best for my son. My caseworker was extremely resourceful and begin to point me in the direction to link me to services that were beneficial to us. I was investigated by DCF for months before the case was closed due to a lack of evidence that supported their claims of child neglect or abuse.
I took back the reigns of control and unenrolled my son out of school in October of 2014 – he had just started the second grade. The principal bought the forms to our home, I signed them and that was it! Johnny currently homeschools with me and he attends Epic Charter School an online academy that we love! He meets with his teacher once a week here at our local library and is getting ready to go into the 7th grade! He receives occupational therapy once a week and speech therapy twice a week through teletherapy which is convenient because it’s done through the Zoom video chat app, it also saves us a drive every week to Oklahoma City. His teacher is amazing! And so is our IEP team. This is the first time where I have felt like our team cares and we finally fit in somewhere. Homeschooling and autism are challenging because of the way that Johnny learns I have to always come up with ways to fit his specific learning style whether that is cutting his school day from two hours a day back to thirty minutes a day or using counters to help him learn addition and subtraction. But it is not the end of the world or punishment to any parents because I have spoken with parents who blame themselves for their child’s autism. Keep fighting the good fight for your children as you’re their biggest advocate!
                                                                                                                       Lashanda Wallace, Inc.
                                                                                                                             Autism Advocate

Guest Blogger: Tia M. Ivy

My name is Tia M. Ivy, around 2010/2011, I begin to notice nodules in my armpits then later in other areas of my body. It was not until 2017, that my Primary Care Physician diagnosed me with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. My Primary Care Physician did a physical examination, prescribed antibiotics and advised me to follow up with a dermatologist. During my dermatology visit, a boil was swabbed to rule out any other skin conditions or infections. Hidradenitis Suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes painful lumps and nodules to develop in the armpits, groin, breast, thigh and anal regions. It is believed that the disease is caused by an obstruction to the hair follicles and inflammation of the sweat glands. Hidradenitis Suppurativa is  more prevalent in women and African-Americans. Some studies have found that 30 to 40 percent of affected individuals have at least one family member with the disorder. On the average there is a 7-year delay in diagnosis.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa usually develops around puberty because this is when sweat glands are activated by hormones called sex hormones which increases during puberty. I believe I have had this disease my entire life. Around age 12 or 13, I began to have issues with deodorant. My underarm perspiration was stronger in smell than most young girls my age. There were many years of trying to find deodorants that would prevent or reduce perspiration to help with the odor.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa affects every aspect of your life. I frequently deal with bouts of depression, anxiety and severe pain due to the lumps and nodules. There are days when I do not want to get out of bed or go to bed around 6 p.m. and not wake up until the next morning. Going to the grocery store and shopping for groceries is difficult. Running simple errands is exhausting.

While there is no cure for the disease, there are treatments which help manage pain, reduce and prevent the formation of lumps and nodules. In September 2015, the Food and Drug Administration approved Humira for the treatment of moderate to severe Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Other treatments for Hidradenitis Suppurativa are antibiotics which help to reduce inflammation and stop new breakouts; corticosteroids that are injected into the lumps; pain medications that help relieve discomfort and surgical excision that removes the area affected by Hidradenitis Suppurativa. In October 2018, I underwent surgical excision to remove Hidradenitis Suppurativa from both my left and right thighs. In August 2019, I will undergo surgical excision to remove Hidradenitis Suppurativa from both my left and right underarms.

My advice to any that is suffering from Hidradenitis Suppurativa is to be hopeful and maintain a positive outlook. Learn everything you can about Hidradenitis Suppurativa, just maybe you might be able to help someone get an early diagnosis. Get emotional support for yourself, seek out other individuals who are also dealing with a chronic disease and find a new hobby.

GUEST BLOG – GOING TO WAR FOR MY BLACK CHILD

This week we are featuring a guest blog from Serrieh H. of It’s Hard out Here for a Hippie.  Read about her experience raising a Black child in America.

 

I am of Lebanese and German decent. My daughter is Black.  I can say this even though my heritage is not African American. Because in this society having one Black parent means she is Black.

Why is that? There is a saying in the Black neighborhood I used to live, “Black blood is so strong because Black people were the first race on this earth.” It’s a positive idea that can empower our Black youth, and I do acknowledge the scientific fact that the first people that walked this earth were African. It’s sad to say, I do not personally think that is why my child is considered Black in America.

There are some deep rooted stems of systematic racism that exists in our society today that no one can deny. Facts are indeed facts. I say all of this so that a complete picture is painted when I give you my perspective on raising a Black child as a non- black woman in America. It doesn’t just stop at educating yourself on how to brush those beautiful wondrous black curls or how to keep their skin from getting ashy but you must also be ready for WAR.

Ready for the war that American society has raised on the Black woman. A war that no matter how much we as fair skinned women empathize or fight with our black sisters, we will NEVER get the full scope of understanding on what they go through on a daily basis. So if we do not have that complete understanding, how we will give our daughter or son the tools she/he really needs in order to cope with being Black in America.

Now don’t get the two confused.  I love my daughter just as much as a Black mother would. I want the best for her and want her to have all of her dreams come true. I suffer when she suffers and when she is in pain I want to take it away from her. I can teach her right from wrong and how to be kind and generous to all creations on this earth. I can teach her to think for herself and be courageous and proud to be a strong woman, giving her a sense of independence and self-esteem that so many of our young women lack today. I can give her the understanding of something greater than us, that we humble ourselves to teaching her deep spirituality while also showing her how to have some fun too!

If you are not a person of color and you are reading this, I am almost sure you are probably thinking, well damn isn’t that enough? Any child would be blessed with a parent that can give them all of that. But the truth is, I can give her even more, but I cannot teach her how to be Black in America.

They day I figured this out I hate to tell you was not some epic moment when I was spiritually awakened with this self-knowledge. I was actually at Mc Donald’s in a white part of town and it was winter which in Los Angeles may not be considered winter at all for most. It was a time that the beaches became empty and that natural tan that fair skinned Southern Californians are known for was fading away.

My baby, who was almost four at the time, although pretty fair skinned for a bi-racial child held her tan tightly around her body and kept her deep caramel glow for most of winter.  We just finished ordering and all of the sudden this White lady who was about forty came up to me. She made her way through the crowd and left the line to approach me and say, “Wow, your baby’s skin is sooo amazing, how do you keep her that color, does she tan?”, in a shrill pitched voice which I noticed caught the attention of several other patrons.

I am looking at this damn lady waiting for her to smile or laugh because I know she had to be telling me a really distasteful joke that she must have thought was appropriate to tell. But she didn’t move a muscle, instead she just stared at me in my face as I was knelt down adjusting my daughter’s coat looking up at her. She was dead serious and was almost demanding an answer from me as if I was her child. She looked down at my daughter with such disdain and disgust, that I knew her comment came from a much darker place than just not knowing any better.

It was at that moment I knew I could prepare my daughter to conquer the world but I could NOT prepare her to be black in America.  I could not prepare her for what it would feel like when someone like this lady went to war with the color of my child’s skin.

As much as I felt like physically pushing this lady out of my face and really going to war, I knew I had to teach my daughter ways to handle racism without her fists. As a Black person in America, a physical altercation could lead to much more than just night in jail. I had to give her an arsenal of words to use as weapons to protect herself from the undeniable fact of what she would be facing as a Black woman in America. I needed to show her how to defend herself without losing herself in the process as she entered the battle field of American society.

I shot a few choice words back at this lady to show my daughter not to ever accept such racism when it is fired directly at her. I stood up slowly, fiercely facing her woman to woman, got really close to her and said in a calm and steady voice, “Are you f**king kidding me, do I take my kid to tan? How ignorant could you really be and who the hell would take their four-year-old child to a tanning salon?” I then yelled so everyone could hear me that was already trying to listen, “Her skin is so amazing because she is mixed with beautiful strong black blood!” I swung my daughter onto my hip, grabbed my food and stared at everyone in the eyes daring them to say something to me as I stormed out. I was shaking trying to get in the car and to be honest I was bewildered, upset and then completely enraged. It was my first of many wars that I would battle for the color of my child’s skin.

I realized it would not be enough just to teach her not to see the color of someone’s skin and give her the knowledge that we are all created equal although it seemed the right thing to do. The cold hard truth was it would actually be a disservice to my child as she would not have the privilege of just not seeing color.

I now knew how important and crucial my role as a non-black mother would be to my Black child. I was going to have to fight for my child, go to war for my Black child and make sure she had the tools to know how to be black in America.

How did I do that? The first step was to accept the fact that it is ok to need a village and that I could not do this alone. I had to give her some sense of black community. She needed to feel her roots with other black people. She needed not only her strong mother in her life as role model but she needed strong black women and men in her life as role models too. I realized by not providing this environment to my child, I was actually taking away more from her than I could ever give her in replace.

I also taught her about her heritage and what black people went through in the time of slavery. The triumphs and battles they fought so she could be here and feel like she actually might have a fighting chance. I never let her forget she was black but also showed her the strength and beauty of that part of her heritage. It is important to make sure to highlight the great positivity and unity that the black community had and has today. This is something you cannot get from the main stream media but I promise it is there, you just need to be open to seeing and seeking it. I showed her that I loved all people and especially had a respect for my black brothers and sisters, embracing the magic that they have in them which in turn empowered her. I filled her with knowledge of not only the oppression black people went through but also the amazing accomplishments and the great attributes they contribute to society as a whole.

In essence I celebrated her blackness.