Single to Supported, the dance of a lifetime..

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Very often being a black woman or a single mother in today’s society comes with the need to be assertive and acerbic. It requires a waltz delicate, deliberate, and dichotomous containing the necessary elements of strength and femininity. She always dazzles and amazes as she coruscates across a dance floor of oppressive-culture never losing her balance. She’s a master of the stage and show. A gifted dancer with more grace than Kelly herself. Mesmerizing is her solo performance of art and life…….And then a suitor ask for the next dance. She obliges. Suddenly the movements of the lithe Queen appear to be waggish as a court jester. She finds herself lacking the indispensable skill of “following the lead”.

It is in the heat of the tango, because it takes 2, that she recognizes the strength necessary to acquiesce to another. Due to her novice understanding, in the beginning she may appear subservient or overly-submissive, as she struggles to locates the tempo of his beat. There will be missteps as she rides the rhythm syncing her to her mate.

The consistency of his pace makes it easy for her to become receptive to his spins and dips. Her gravity lightens as she releases the emotional boulders built of narratives, social norms, and black woman rhetoric. She learns the joy of closing her eyes as the music plays. She breathes his genuine embrace as she opens her heart to infinite possibilities of togetherness. She unequivocally trust his direction. It’s as sweet and special as a young daughter learning to dance on the feet of a loving father. Continuing to dance he holds her hand exuding a magnanimous yet virile energy. The sincerity in his speech never waivers as they lose themselves conversing through songs a plenty. Tempos and lyrics change like seasons as they dance, yet their steps stay as synchronous as a marching band or naval cadets.

As she tires, from carrying the weight of her own “black girl” matter but never of her mate, her steps slow and her spirit tarries. Astonishingly they still move as one, allowing the off-beats of the music to be their unified heartbeat. Steady and strong is the powerful voice of their kismet energy. It’s during the mindfulness of this moment that the lyrics of her soul sings softly with the beat of her heart. She intuitively ascertains the salient lesson crafted only for her. An ethereal energy whispers “from single to supported”. Repeatedly she hears “single to supported”. The words pierce the last layer of emotional defense surrounding the gift of vulnerability.

For the diligent skeptic, and cynical romantic, “single to supported” has been an incertitude worthy of aversion. However, here in one of the most important dances of her life she now understands the joy in security. She revels in the freedom of submission. She believes in the power of love more than Vandross himself. She appreciates her King. She reciprocates his love without fear, a boldly walks with him into the uncertain. Remembering her past solo performances allow her the beautiful insight necessary to celebrate her future. This King and Queen build an extraordinary dynasty changing only their music and never their mate.

My truth is I feared support until I realized it’s blessing.

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Colorblind: “the social faux pas”

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In today’s society the idea of diversity and inclusion is often followed with rhetoric of “colorblindness” or cultural sensitivity. The idea that we are all the same and used race to separate us.  And while the social construction of race has been used as a divisive tool for grouping and categorizing our neighbor, the idea of being colorblind, to me, is almost as offensive as calling me a derogatory word. How boring would it be to look out into nature and see all the flowers the same color because they are flowers?  You would miss raging red roses, dancing daffodils, and ostentatious orchids.  This same concept goes for the human race. I don’t need to be sensitive to my beautifully-sun-kissed skin.  I don’t need  your approval of my culture or my heritage.  Don’t be sensitive or tolerant of my blackness, respect it.

Becoming a Senior Diversity Specialist has come with the unique task of creating a Cultural Competency Training Module.  It’s required research abound and rewrites a plenty.  The many documents, journals, studies, and presentations on the subject has made one salient idea clear; no one knows it all.  There are many theories on how to teach people to simply “interact”.  Popular ones are “Cultural Sensitivity Training”, “Cultural Competency Training”, “Diversity Training”, “Multicultural Training”, etc.  Below are examples of a few:

Cultural Sensitivity is being aware that cultural differences and similarities between people exist without assigning them a value- positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong” (Dabbah http://redshoemovement.com/what-is-cultural-sensitivity/)

This theory sounds like tolerance.  If in a world of beautifully diverse people we can only deem ourselves “tolerant” will we each reach inclusivity. “Don’t be sensitive to my Black, respect it”.  Sensitivity training conveys the message that you need to coddle those different than you.  It allows for an undertone of hierarchy because it gives each individual the ability to play “Cultural God”.  In essesnce to be conscious of others but “don’t play favorites”.  It is inaccurate and would inevitably cause cognitive dissonance.  Autonomy and value systems afford us the right to decide if we do or do not like something.  Discrimination, to treat differently, is the ultimate “faux paus”.  Prejudice, preconceived opinion, even worse than the former because you’ve assigned judgment or guilt without knowledge or upon biased opinion.

So then what’s next?

Cultural competence involves understanding and appropriately responding to the unique combination of cultural variables—including ability, age, beliefs, ethnicity, experience, gender, gender identity, linguistic background, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status—that the professional and client/patient bring to interactions.” (http://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Cultural-Competence/)

There is not concrete-all-encompassing definition for the word “Cultural Competency”.  Many trainings take place across America, and even the world, and there is no centralized definition for the word.  Each institution gets to ascribe their own précising definition to the term.  Also, since there is not standard on which the training must be built, and they are all different, how then could anyone be certified as being “culturally competent”?  If you take a training at a Alabama State University and leave to work for Arkansas State University your “Cultural Competency Training” does not follow you.  No one person can deem anyone fully competent.  It is not transferable like a degree or scholastic certification.  So, how can effectiveness be measured?

The word competence is defined as “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently”. In a world as vast as ours, how would anyone ever train or teach someone to respond “appropriately responding to the unique combination of cultural variables”.  It would be a never ending task and learning process.  One would need to spend so much time learning everything about everyone the practice of the learning would never take place.

Over the course of my research the concept of which I’ve fallen most enamored is Cultural Humility.

Cultural humility is the “ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person].[1]” Cultural humility is different from other culturally-based training ideals because it focuses on self-humility rather than achieving a state of knowledge or awareness. “ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_humility)

The concept of this theory or training is simply. “I bow to you.  I acknowledge I do not know everything about you or your culture and I am will to learn”. It is an openness to understanding “the other”.

Cultural humility was formed in the physical healthcare field and adapted for therapists and social workers to increase the quality of their interactions with clients and community members.”  This idea not only allows for objectivity but enlightenment.  There is no certificate to be received upon completion or adoption of this principle, only the reassurance that you are headed in the correct direction and respect of your fellow man.

The charge here is simple.  In a culture shaped by divisive rhetoric and distain for “the other”, take time to acknowledge change first starts within.  Make efforts to push past your own biases.

  1. Utilize tools to help with this such as the Harvard Implict Bias test. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
  2. Take Action. Seek people who run counter to stereotypic views, increase contact with people outside your own demographics, and try to think of things from the perspective of others.
  3. Be Accountable. When confronted with bias, take the time to examine your actions or beliefs. Think of how you would explicitly justify them to other people.

 

(http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/implicit-bias-2016.pdf)

 

Remember that silence is collusion. If you hear something you know to be wrong and you do not address it, you are complicit in the act. Elie Weisel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Do not be colorblind.  Do not see us all the same.  Examine the beauty and the depth of each individual person and culture.  Look past the primary dimensions of diversity and be willing to be culturally humbled at the creatively crafted cornucopia that is the human race.

D.R. Daughters

“My Heart”

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There’s a saying “being a mother is to have your heart walking outside your chest”. It speaks to the bond between mother and child, the biological and spiritual connection between the two. Scientist have determined early in pregnancy DNA is shared between mother and child. Scientist have locate male DNA in the mother’s brain. I believe wholeheartedly, even after birth you are one. There’s a reason you can feel something isn’t right even before you see them.  “My heart’s” name is Jaiden. I am the mother of a beautifully-melanated, black son. I would like to consider myself an activist. A champion for the causes of the unheard, forgotten, and oppressed. However, becoming a mother repurposed my focus and my fight after realizing “my heart” walked around in a world built completely against him.

Today “my heart” and I climbed a mountain. We’ve climbed it before when he was younger. When we began the journey I simply wanted to accrue steps on my Fitbit and have a nifty outing with my son. I was unaware of the many lessons and “truths” that would be birthed during our journey. This particular mountain has an East Summit (known as the “hard side”) and a West Summit (the “easy side”). Being the tough yet fun mom I am; I’ve always only allowed us to take the “hard side”. Armed with our bag containing 3 bottles of water, 2 Slim Jims, and Frito Lay Sunflower Seeds we began our journey.

As I stated we’ve climbed this mountain before when he was younger. Being the normal, energetic, and competitive young man he is, he starts up the mountain ahead of me. As I’m breathing heavily, struggling to keep up, and allowing him to only go so far till I catch up I began to think and take in my journey. I recalled the first time we traveled this mountain. I was so very afraid to allow “my heart” to climb this large, rocky, and unfamiliar structure. I traveled ahead of him to show him where to step. I traveled ahead of him with the rationale that if something fell it would hit me first and protect him.

Truth 1

All parents are their child’s first teacher. The lessons taught most are not the ones coming out of your mouth. They are in what you do. As a mother/parent we must lead. We must be aware of where we step because they will follow. We must be mindful that our risky choices are their possible consequences. Metaphorically speaking, when we make a bad decisions as an adult we see consequences heading toward us like a train in the night. Quickly, we jump and roll off the track. Now, remember children step where you step. So when you jump they jump, right? However, anyone that as every walked with a small child knows they are always one step behind. Even if you are holding their hand, will they make if off the “track of consequences” before the train of your decisions annihilates their future or worse their life?

Inevitably, the further we went the harder the climb. Still struggling behind my prince I realized something even more precious than his leadership, tenacity, and perseverance. He was climbing in front of me and I was unafraid.

Truth 2

I remembered we’ve done this before and I’ve shown him where to step. I was confident that if he couldn’t recall my steps that he could make his own. Most importantly I understood the amazing asset he had behind him if he fell, me. I realized how important it was to allow him space and autonomy even on a mountain somewhat unfamiliar to him. I can catch him if he falls. 

The thought was so powerful to me in that moment I needed a minute. I looked up at my growing Black son and saw him anew. This beautiful creature before me was an entity all his own.

Truth 3

So often we remind our children how similar they are to someone be it ourselves, their other parent, a relative, etc. “He/she got it honest”, “he is just like his…”, “well I did the same thing”. They hear and absorb those things. While we can acknowledge similarities, let us instill in them the truth that they are a brand new creation, never before seen by this Earth. As parents we are guides, endless ethereal tethers, ensuring they fly as high as they want while keeping them grounded in character and wisdom. Allow them the opportunity to be an entity all their own. 

Midway up the climb my prince looks back and admires the view. He offered me the same. I declined and responded, “I’ll wait”, and he laughed heartily. I could see my strong black son getting weary, and slowing in his step. He has given so much so fast he was winded and weary. My charming son agreed to carry our bag of resources up the hill when we began. I imagined halfway up it must have felt like bricks against his back. I’d asked my prince several times, “How are you?” as we walked and talked checking on him physically and each time he said “I’m fine”. We went only a little way further and I stopped. “Give me the bag my love, I’ll carry it.” He looked so relieved. It was time for a quick life lesson. “Take a seat son”. I advised him that asking for help is a sign of strength. It is wise to realize the brevity of your knowledge, skill, or will. “You will hear many things about who you should be as your grow. You’ll be told how to be as a man, a black man, a boyfriend, etc. Never let others expectations of who people think you should be deny you the standards you know of yourself.”

 Truth 4:

We often trap ourselves and teach our young in the cultural, societal, familial expectations that have been set for us or by us. Pushing ourselves or our offspring to succeed is necessary. However, so is learning to ask for help. “No man is an island.” We are all connected and greater together. “E pluribus unum” Out of the many, one.

Now close to the top, our ambition renewed, MLK excerpts playing in my head, we have victory in our eyes. I stumbled and cursed a rock. “Are you ok mom? Do you need help?” “Not this time.”  I was impressed by his gesture, and it made my mind wonder. I advised him that when climbing to the top it’s natural to look back. Behind you will always be someone needing help. It is important not to sacrifice your footing pulling weight you are not strong enough to carry.

Sitting on top of the world with my son was breath-taking. However, I was so exhausted I didn’t even want to sit up!  I laid down on this longest, flattest rock I could find, and informed my sun we should rest and soak up this free vitamin D.  “Wont we get black if we lay in the sun?” “And if we do?” I exclaimed instantly. First my heart stopped from hurt.  Then it raced with anger at these words falling out of my beautifully-bronzed son’s mouth.  The self-hating programming hit me like a ton of bricks as a dark-skinned woman because I remembered these thoughts from when I was younger.  I took assiduous effort in choosing my next few words.  And with a stentorian purpose I reminded my son just how beautiful Black is!  Unbothered by our company on top of the mountain, unashamed of my pride, and undeterred by looks received, I continued my conversation with my son.  “Black is beautiful.  It wouldn’t matter if we sat here till we are the color of my tights, or that spot on your basketball shorts.  Scientifically, black is the absorption of all color.  It is from black in which all colors originate. Black is powerful, therefore Black people are powerful. NEVER let anyone tell you different!! You are beautiful. WE are beautiful.” He appeared intrigued by passion, but ensorcelled by my boldness. As stated in Truth 1 we are the first teachers, and this is nothing to take lightly. I did not make it a point to talk so loud I made others uncomfortable.  I simply continued a conversation with my son about who HE is.  I did not demean, decry, or disparage anyone else’s race or culture, or contribution to diversity while acknowledging my own. I was able to share love without hate.

Truth 5

Often times we, especially people of color, make ourselves small to accommodate the people around us.  We fall victim to hiding our pride and whispering our appreciation for ourselves. Truth is history sometimes an ugly absolute we cannot change, or correct.  It is necessary to hold the information without hoarding and hauling its pain.  If a bulldozer came to knock down my house I have every right to be angry.  However, what I do next is imperative to survival.  If I sit in the rubble angrily shouting my injustices it will be tantamount to death.  If I only go to leadership and government pleading my case, waiting on my judgement, and hoping it covers my cost failure or success is then removed from my hands and given to chance.  However, if I mourn my house, acknowledge my pain an prepare to rebuild or start anew I’ve decided my perseverance outweighs my persecution, and a dream “un-deferred” is my destiny. 

As we headed home life was back to normal.  As the intoxicating thrill of our climb faded like the perspiration from our backs in the air conditioned vehicle. I grew quiet and pensive.  It dawned on me that even though I’ve climbed that mountain countless times before that this time was brand new.  I saw a completely different path and I was aware more prepared for the difficulty and distance this time.

I hold this truth to be self-evident:  I may climb the same “mountain” multiple times before I understand it all, but sometimes the lesson is worth the wait.

The First Mother, The Black Woman


The first Mother, the Black Woman.  To revise and quote the not so elegant words of Nicki Minaj, “all you women is my sons”.  Simply put, in the beginning there was her, the first woman, the black woman.  While it may make many uncomfortable, it is rarely disputed that life started in Africa.  And while it may make some uncomfortable, it is rarely disputed that all ethnicities, races, tribes and people began in the womb of  Africa. Thus making her all humanity.  The Black woman, the Mitochondrial Queen of the world is hereby the undisputed Mother of All.
” Scientists who compared the skulls and DNA of human remains from around the world say their results point to modern humans (Homo sapiens) having a single origin in Africa.”

“Previous studies have found that genetic differences in human populations can be explained by distance from Africa.”(http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070718-african-origin.html)

“We infer from the tree of minimum length that Africa is a likely source of the human mitochondrial gene pool.”(http://dna1.genome.ou.edu/5853/outofafrica/MitoDNA-ACWilson-Nature1987.pdf)

The beauty, strength, and resilience of the black woman is indescribable.  Black women are often the least protected class, yet seek to protect others most.  The black woman fights, marches, yells, and cares for the wounded when called.  Politics have shown us the black woman cast her vote more than any other demographic in America.  In 2012 more than 70% of Black women voted; out-voting white women (65.6 percent), white men (62.6 percent), and black men (61.4 percent).  Often casting that vote believing in equality, change, and protection for her young.  The black woman made up 66% of all bachelor’s degrees given to black students in 2013.  She made up 10% of all doctor’s degrees conferred by post-secondary institutions in 2015. Proving she is still progresses and evolving despite a culture poised against her.  She is the rose growing through concrete.

The black woman is a mighty woman.  She is the mother of many, protector of humanity, champion for justice, and a professor to those who thirst for knowledge.  The black woman carries everyone on her shoulders daily and is often never seen. She may be a “hidden figure” like Katherine Johnson, a rule-breaker like Harriet Tubman, a ceiling-crusher like Oprah, a “sho-nuff-tough-chick” like Angela Davis, or the beautiful woman waiting at a bus stop.  The black woman is every woman, and every one.

D.R. Daughters

 

Making Today Count

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So, as an 80’s baby, you learn of Martin Luther King, Jr your entire childhood! His biography, and trivia are required readings.  You see the picture of his assassination.  Your school takes that long bus ride to the museum in Memphis.  Your parents speak of him in the home. You get out of school for his birthday. And, if you were a child at St. Mark you were probably in a ministry that was in the marade EVERY year. You MLK accent is spot on when you recite parts of “I Have a Dream”.  This collective experience was normal. This was all just a part of life.

Then that 80’s baby turned into a 90’s kid.  I got older. I experienced racism, prejudice, and discrimination firsthand. I push my imagination and visualize what he, and Rosa, and every other person of that time experienced. I close my eyes and hear the hateful words yelled at protest.  I feel the hose on my legs as I march. I see my bloody face sitting in a jail cell are a non-violent protest because I simply wanted to vote. And then it happens, I’m ready to contribute to the cause! I want to fight for freedom, equality, and justice! I have a purpose.

Then that 90’s kids, becomes a millennial and a mother. I experience a paralyzing fear for my son in a divided nation.  I am enraged and petrified simultaneously. He grows in a place where hate is normal and even presidential.  A place that often seems very different that the dream Dr. King spoke of in Washington.

This year January 15th came as it does every year.  I was off work and my son out of school.  I quizzed my son about MLK facts.  We watched speeches on television and observed the day as normal.

However, after all that, my thoughts this year wondered a little further. Dr. King, WAS KILLED, at 39. He was 8 years older than I am now. That hit me like a ton of bricks and has been on my mind incessantly. Now, I consider myself mature, but my twenties were twenties.  It blows my mind to think of a 34 year old man delivering a dream we still quote today.

So, while I have serious concerns and strong opinions about the current atmosphere in the country right now….While I am yet still saddened by the divisive rhetoric I see on my timeline … While I am depleted of energy yet renewed with purpose… I must focus on my change. I must focus on what I can do. How will I assist in the change I want to see today?  Time is always of the essence.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.” Martin Luther King, Jr

THE COLLECTIVE

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It is easy to say “God is ever-present”, “God is in control”, “He is my rock”, “Ye thou I walk”, and every other scripture, song, or saying that has been repeated and engrained in you for years. It is a far harder thing to continue looking your child in the face who looks like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown and not be overwhelmed with fear and hurt. I truly feel saddened and confused. I wasn’t even listening to the news or radio this morning when it hit me. I began to cry uncontrollably. My heart ached. I felt the pain of a people in my core. I knew it was not just mine, it was too heavy. I was hit with a collective burst of confusion, hurt, sadness and anger of a state, a nation, the world. It floored me. When I could finally breathe and had just a moment of clarity the only thing that came out of my mouth was “My God!!!”. This wasn’t a question, a statement, a praise. It was a cry for help. I knew in the two words “My God” He heard me say “help me Lord”, “restore, oh God”, “touch Father”, “move Lord”. Then I remembered why I say, “God is ever-present”, God is in control”, “He is my rock” and every other scripture, song or saying…. I do firmly, boldly, and with an unbridled faith declare; “I believe if OUR community came together more, and with as much enthusiasm, passion and the longing for changing, as we do to protest, to just PRAY, I know there would be an amazing, and astonishing change in the atmosphere. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst.”(Matt 18:20) Right now we come together Sundays, when angry, ect. Our collective “Prayer Network Coverage Map” looks like Sprint service. It’s real pink on the east coast, spots of pink in the Midwest, a little coverage down south. and then large gaps of nothing. Last night there were protest and vigils held as far as England, Australia and more for something and someone that happened in Ferguson, MO. This proves we are connected. ALL OF US, as a whole, one collective body!! Cry that your brother, shot your brother…Own them both (Michael and the policeman) or you are no different that him. Mourn your brother, yell in confusion of racism, feel empathy, and sympathy… but above all PRAY, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING and with expectation!! #MichaelBrown #pray #learn #lean #trustGodpraying