Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"It's hard when all they want to be are rappers and football players." - Elementary School Principal, LAUSD

Jasai - 30
Los Angeles, CA
2 children - 1 boy (11), 1 girl (5)

I. Am. Done.

This is what I feel after a week of having been pissed, blown away, astounded, dumbfounded and down right numb with disbelief; just tired, heart sick. And oh yeah... DONE!

I am the parent of a child being educated in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Undoubtedly one of the worst, most inept, racially marginalized school districts in this nation.

I will not belabor the particular incident that sent me to this place – it causes me anxiety that I would not wish on my worst enemy but suffice it to say, as a result, I demanded a meeting with the brand new principal of my son’s school.

In short, what will follow are the words out of his mouth after having spent nearly twenty minutes discussing how my son was volunteered for a program that acts as an indicator to future schools and administrators of a child with learning/behavior issues in the classroom:

J: Let me be frank with you Mr. McGee, I have an issue with the way that it seems that black boys in this district are systematically held to an expectation of underachievement or considered to have, at the slightest hint of misbehavior, some larger emotional, social or psychological issue. Issues that would rarely if ever be attributed to their white counter-parts when exhibiting similar behaviors.

His face reddens, he breathes deep...

Mr. M: Well Mrs. M, let me be honest with you, there are a lot of imperfections in our district, as in every district. Teachers and administrators are people and people unfortunately often have biases. It is difficult for some teachers when they try to reach little African American boys that come from the inner city or ...the projects. When they don’t have fathers in the home or strong male figures it is difficult to get their attention.

J: (nodding) uh huh

Mr. M: When all it seems that these little boys want to be is football players or rappers, the teachers feel as if they do not want to learn.

J: My husband is in the home. And the little boys who do not have fathers in the home should not be punished with low-expectations and generalizations by teachers who are uncomfortable with them or ambivalent about their futures.

Mr. McGee: Your right Mrs. M and it takes people that will keep sounding the bell, saying something so that one day things will change.

J: Well, since my daughter will be starting here next year, I think this school should be about the business of educating its teachers and faculty about the realities of dealing with people unlike themselves. They should maybe get some training in diversity as the face of this school is becoming more diverse every year.

Mr McGee: (nodding slowly) Yes we... well we would like to see things improve and we need people to keep sounding the horn on things like this.

The conversation went on like this for much longer than I would impose on you. And at the close of it, when I informed him that I was a writer, knew the power of words and a carefully placed letter or two and would be looking into getting some diversity training at our school, he winced out a smile and asked underneath a bit of nervous laughter:

Mr. McGee: You wouldn’t like to come and talk to the kids about writing would you?

J: Sure I would. You set it up.

If you are the mother of a little black boy or young man I implore you to sit down with him and ask him the following questions. Encourage him to be open and honest about his feelings as they relate to school.
There is a plague on our houses - on our communities. A plague that will surely wipe us out if we do not become brave, speak up, take nothing for granted and insist that the educational system that we invest our hard earned dollars in, do a full and fair job of educating our children, especially our boys. We demand it and will stop at absolutely NOTHING and NO ONE, to get it.

1.) How do you feel about school?

2.) What do you think your value is to the educational system.

3.) What value do you think education plays now and will play in the future for you?

4.) How do you think the educational establishment (teachers, principals) views you?

5.) If you could change one thing about the way you are being educated on a day to day basis, what would it be?

6.) What is your favorite subject?

7.) What do you want to be when you grow up?

Send your son’s responses to Jasai at 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd, Box 406, Burbank, CA 91505. Be sure to include his name, age, grade and the school district he is being educated through. We can do this mamas. We can make them listen. We can make a change. We can make the difference. If we don't, no one else will.
Please forward this post (by clicking the envelope below) to every mama you know. Got mama friends with no email? Print it and pass it around.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

redemption vs. red socks

April 26, 2006

Salina - 34
Los Angeles, CA
1 child – son (11)

I need to share with someone. I just found this blog. This is the first time ever that I am blogging but today I had such a remarkable moment with my son.

He's eleven going on twelve and today was an amazing day. I see he's becoming more open and comfortable; not an easy task when you're a Cancerian boy being raised by a Cancerian mom - no buffers to assuage the dramatic mood shifts and the maelstrom of manic-like behavior I sometimes rain down on him. After my periodic ranting and raving ends, I apologize, telling him that mom is just "having one of those days". That he is the greatest and most wonderful human being I know. I can tell he believ
es me, but still, there's the ambivalence about how much he can and should say sometimes.

He never really knows how the dirty clothes balled up in the drawers, the missing homework assignments, the uneaten lunch stuffed under the car seat in his effort to destroy evidence of wasted food, or even the occasional lies, will affect me. On a good day, we can just talk about it, I encourage him to reflect and keep becoming his highest self. On those dark days where I wake alone in a bed, after ten years of single parenthood; those days when the palpable loneliness, albeit self-induced, overwhelms me, I snap, yelling, screaming, and literally pressin
g him into a corner. I'm loud; so much that my voice alone can send him into paroxysms of fear and shaking. Of course my heart breaks and I go crying in the bathroom, cursing myself for not being able to talk with him; for showing those traits and ways of the adults who tormented and tortured me as a child.

Yesterday however, was a new day. I explained to him that mommy's yelling and screaming is never okay. I apologized for the example it sets, told him about PMS, and the fact that I battle clinical depression. It's not him, it's me.

"Is there medicine you can take for PMS mom? Is there something you can take to make your moods better?" A wonderful, brilliant young man he is.

I assured him that on those days, I would speak less, and breathe more slowly, so as to not get near the brink again. This was a revealing moment - in his eyes was the hope that my words were sincere. Never again I decided, would I allow my anger to amplify my voice to the level that it broke my child's spirit. Never again would I allow my battle to compromise the relationship between my son and me. The thought that he, would become as I: the proverbial mother-less child, unable to even speak to Her. We talked some more and I could see that he believed me.

The Universe gave me my first test this morning. I noticed he had on red socks, a direct clash with his standard school uniform, and basically a potential threat to his safety. Today was a sad morning, so rather than joke, I asked him directly – “Why?”

“No clean socks,” he assured me, forgetting that I had just done laundry four days ago. "None in my drawer. I didn't see any clean socks."

I took a deep breath, remembered our deal, and calmly told him to go and find socks. After a few minutes too long he appeared, clean white socks in hand. This was the moment of truth. How would I respond? I didn't. I simply said "I need to trust you, and it's hard when you don't tell the truth." My response was met with a stunned silence. He looked at me, swimming in relief. "Ok mom. They were hard to find ‘cause they were in a different drawer. I didn't look hard."