Friday, March 30, 2007
Girl in Texas prison controversy to go free early
Teen is first of possibly hundreds to be freed from a scandal-ridden juvenile justice system
By Howard WittTribune senior correspondent
March 30, 2007, 8:26 PM CDT HOUSTON
Shaquanda Cotton, the black teenager in the small east Texas town of Paris whose prison sentence of up to seven years for shoving a teacher's aide sparked nationwide controversy, will be released Saturday morning, prison officials confirmed on Friday. Her release, ordered by a special conservator appointed to overhaul the state's scandal-ridden juvenile prison system, is the first of what could be hundreds as a panel of civil rights leaders begins reviewing the sentences of every youth incarcerated by the Texas Youth Commission to weed out those being held arbitrarily.
"We have no confidence in the system that was in place," said Jim Hurley, spokesman for the conservator, Jay Kimbrough. "And this case is an example of what we expect to happen if something wrong has been done to youths being held inside that system."
Shaquanda, who is 15, had no prior criminal record when she was incarcerated a year ago under an indeterminate sentence that could have lasted until her 21st birthday. Her case rose to national prominence and became the focus of ongoing civil rights protests following a March 12 Tribune story that detailed how a 14-year-old white girl convicted of the more serious crime of arson was sentenced to probation by the same judge.
Shaquanda's case occurred against a backdrop of persistent allegations of racial discrimination inside the Paris public schools; allegations that are the subject of a continuing probe by the U.S. Department of Education to determine whether black students in the district are disciplined more harshly than whites.
"When I learned about this case, I thought, this just looks so bad and smells so bad it made me hurt," said state Rep. Harold Dutton, the influential chairman of the Texas legislature's juvenile justice committee. "I told [prison officials] I wanted her out of there immediately.
The superintendent of the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex in Brownwood, Texas, where Shaquanda is being held, called her mother, Creola Cotton, Friday afternoon and told her she could come pick up the youth, Cotton said. But because it is a five-hour drive from Paris to Brownwood, and the weather in the area on Friday was severe, Cotton said she couldn't reach the prison until Saturday morning to get her daughter. Later Friday, prison officials, who had not told Shaquanda of her impending release, allowed her to call her mother.
"She thought they were bringing her to the office to tell her I was not going to be able to visit this weekend like I was planning because of the bad weather, so she was already crying," Cotton said. "I said, 'Oh, I'm still gonna come see you tomorrow. But you're going to be coming home with me.' She nearly fell on the floor."
Officials said Shaquanda was being released on 60 days' probation to allow her to access state health and counseling services. But after that, she would be completely free, they said. Cotton said her daughter would not return to the Paris public schools but would pursue her GED at home. What effect her release might have on the legal appeal of the youth's case, now pending before a state appeals court, was unclear.
Since she's been in prison, Shaquanda said that she had grown despondent surrounded by other youths who were hardened criminals and that she had tried to commit suicide. Her sentence, which ultimately was up to the discretion of prison officials, had twice been extended, first because she would not admit her guilt as required by prison regulations and then because she was found with "contraband" in her cell; an extra pair of socks. Those sentence extensions drew the attention of Kimbrough, who was confirmed by the state Senate on Thursday as conservator of the youth prison system, which has been rocked by a sex scandal over allegations that guards and administrators coerced youthful inmates for sex.
Kimbrough, a former deputy attorney general, said last week that he was convening a special committee to examine the sentences of all 4,700 youths in Texas juvenile prisons to determine how many might have had their sentences unfairly extended by prison authorities—and that Shaquanda's was the first case he intended to review. Prison officials said it was Kimbrough who personally ordered Shaquanda's release on Friday.
Since the Tribune's first account of Shaquanda's case, her story has been circulated on more than 400 Internet blogs and featured in newspapers and radio and TV reports across the country. Two protests demanding her release were held in Paris and a third, to be led by Rev. Al Sharpton, was scheduled for Tuesday.
Even before news of Shaquanda's impending release broke Friday, the Lamar County District Attorney's office, which prosecuted her and pressed for her to be sent to prison for up to seven years, made an abrupt turnaround and said the youth had served enough time and ought to be freed.
"Let her out of TYC," said Allan Hubbard, spokesman for Lamar County District Atty. Gary Young. "Hell, she's done a year for pushing a teacher. That's too long." Hubbard also backed away from claims he and Young made this week in numerous media interviews that the judge in the case, Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, had had no choice but to send the youth to prison because her mother had testified that she would not cooperate with probation officials had the judge sentenced the teen to probation.
On Thursday, Young's official Web site contained this assertion: "This juvenile's mother (Creola Cotton) told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation." But a review of the full court transcript shows no such testimony. In fact, Creola Cotton repeatedly answered "yes" when asked in court whether she would comply with any conditions of probation that the judge might impose. On Friday morning, after an inquiry about this discrepancy by the Tribune, the district attorney's Web site was altered to read: "Through her actions of non-cooperation, Ms. Cotton told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation."
Copyright (c) 2007, Chicago Tribune
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Criminalization of Children?
A Paris, Texas resident took the Free Shaqaunda movement to task for claiming or assuming Paris, Texas is racist. In a post to this blog, the commenter disagreed that the harshness of Shaquanda's sentence was due to her race, rather it was due to the criminalization of children in the wake of Columbine and 9/11.
Read the comment excerpted below, click on the link , and tell me your thoughts.
If you want to see where a huge portion of the problem comes from, try checking www.texaszerotolerance.comand click on their link of reported abuse. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of cases of children who have been criminalized for what would have been considered normal behavior prior to Columbine and 9/11. Shaquanda's case is just another example of a political system that holds school children to higher behavioral standards than the adults. She deserves a break, and I think community service would have been a much better choice for punishment.
Texas Youth Commission to Review Shaquanda's Sentence Extension
Today's Washington Post:
A spokesman for the Texas Youth Commission, an agency recently turned over to a conservator because of long-ignored allegations of sexual abuse of incarcerated juveniles by facility employees, said the extension of Cotton's sentence will be examined.
Youth facility supervisors can extend a juvenile's sentence until he or she turns 21 for any number of infractions. About 45 percent of the more than 4,600 juveniles have received extended sentences in recent years. Allegations have been made that sentences were extended arbitrarily and to intimidate
Although forbidden by law to comment on a specific juvenile, Youth
Commission spokesman Jim Hurley said that "the publicly cited case of someone getting a term extended for having contraband which turned out to be an extra pair of socks is indescribable. It is beyond belief, if it is true, and we will have a panel reviewing each of these cases."
Shaquanda Cotton's Sentencing Exemplifies Rehabilitation Gone Bad
Read complete article
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Free Shaquanda Cotton In The News
Uproar over Texas teen‘s imprisonment
27 March, 2007
By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press
The Socialist Worker Online
Racism On Display in Texas Town
By Cindy Berringer
CBS Dallas/Fort Worth
Teen in Jail Prompts Racism Rally in Paris, Texas
By Steve Pickett
The Paris News
Smiley: 'It is time for a new movement'
By Mary Madewell
From "On the Black Hand Side: FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON - Update #2: Worldwide Prayer, Sat. March 31st!
Mighty Bloggers--Thank You
For Shaquanda Cotton--Cyberspace Mattered
Tribune reporter Howard Witt hasn't seen a reaction to a story quite like the one he got after writing about a controversy in the small Texas town of Paris.
If you had Googled the black girl's name, Shaquanda Cotton, the day before the story was published on the front page of the March 12 edition of the Tribune, you would have gotten zero results. On Monday afternoon, there were more than 35,000 hits.
The story has been picked up on more than 300 blogs around the country, many of them concerned with African-American affairs. It has generated thousands of postings to Internet message boards.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Shaquanda May Be Released Soon!
CHICAGO TRIBUNE UPDATE
Texas reviews scandal-plagued juvenile prison system
By Howard WittTribune senior correspondent
March 26, 2007, 8:02 PM CDTHOUSTON --
The sentences of many of the 4,700 delinquent youths now being held in Texas' juvenile prisons might have been arbitrarily and unfairly extended by prison authorities and thousands could be freed in a matter of weeks as part of a sweeping overhaul of the scandal-plagued juvenile system, state officials say.Jay Kimbrough, a special master appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to investigate the system after allegations surfaced that some prison officials were coercing imprisoned youths for sex, said he would assemble a committee to review the sentence of every youth in the system.
The goal, Kimbrough said, is to release any youth whose sentence was improperly extended without justification or in retaliation for filing complaints. In his initial review of sentences, Kimbrough said, he had found many questionable extensions, adding that some experts estimate that more 60 percent of the state's youthful inmates might be languishing under wrongful detention.
Such a mass emptying of a state's juvenile jails would be unprecedented, experts said. Among the leading candidates for early release is Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old black girl from the small east Texas town of Paris, who was sent to prison for up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at her high school while other young white offenders convicted of more serious crimes received probation in the town's courts.
Shaquanda's story was the subject of a March 12 Tribune article that triggered hundreds of Internet blog articles and thousands of message board postings and led to a nationwide letter-writing campaign to the Texas governor decrying perceived racial discrimination in her case.
Cotton, now 15, has been incarcerated at a youth prison in Brownwood, Texas, for the last year on a sentence that could run until her 21st birthday. But like many of the other youths in the system, she is eligible to earn earlier release if she achieves certain social, behavioral and educational milestones while in prison. But officials at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex have repeatedly extended Shaquanda's sentence because she refuses to admit her guilt and because she was found with contraband in her cell--an extra pair of socks.
"I do have an interest in that case," Kimbrough said. "Based on what I've already seen and heard, that's exactly the kind of thing I want to know more about, if that typifies in some way why sentences are being extended."
Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas chapter of the ACLU, attended a meeting in Austin on last Friday where Kimbrough outlined his sentence review plan and invited civil rights groups to nominate members to the special review panel.
"Everybody in the room thought we should take Shaquanda's case first," Harrell said, because of its high profile. But if the teenager is released, Kimbrough noted, the decision will have nothing to do with whether she was the victim of racial discrimination in the schools and courtrooms of Paris, as civil rights groups have alleged. Instead, it will be based on whether she has been treated arbitrarily by prison officials since she has been incarcerated.
Texas' juvenile prison system, known as the Texas Youth Commission, was first rocked by scandal last month after revelations surfaced that two administrators at a youth prison in west Texas had allegedly coerced sex from inmates for years and that prison officials and local prosecutors chose not to pursue the cases. Since then, the scandal has widened as reports surfaced of cover-ups and alleged sex abuse by guards and administrators at other prisons.
More than a thousand investigations have now been opened. Meanwhile, Kimbrough discovered that 111 employees of the youth agency had felony arrests or convictions and another 437 had misdemeanor arrests or charges.The top leadership of the youth commission was forced out, the board overseeing the agency resigned and Perry essentially placed the commission into receivership when he appointed Kimbrough to clean up the mess.
Texas state legislators are rushing to pass bills to overhaul the juvenile prison agency. Civil rights advocates have long been concerned that Texas' system of indeterminate sentences for youths places too much discretion in the hands of prison authorities, who retain the power to hold or release youths at will. Now the sex scandal--and the concern that some victimized youths may have been threatened with longer detentions to keep them quiet--has prompted Kimbrough to examine the entire practice.
Nearly 90 percent of juveniles incarcerated inside Texas youth prisons were sent there on indeterminate sentences that could run as long as their 21st birthdays. But many of those inmates become eligible for release after serving only nine months, if prison authorities are satisfied that they have completed all the steps, or "phases," of an elaborate behavioral modification program.
"The system is wide open for abuse and corruption," said the ACLU's Harrell. "How difficult would it be for a 12-year-old kid to file a complaint on an assistant superintendent of a facility when that assistant superintendent is actually the one who is sexually abusing her and that same person gets to decide when she gets out? Basically the official gets to say, 'Comply and keep quiet or I'll keep you here until you're 21.' "
Harrell, who will serve on Kimbrough's sentence review panel, said the members intend to be careful not to release truly violent youths who ought to remain behind bars." If kids have behaved violently, then those are the ones that may very well have a justification for their sentence extension," Harrell said. "But most of the cases I have heard about have to do with petty instances, like Shaquanda's contraband socks."
The "phases" system also contains a built-in Catch-22 for youths, like Shaquanda, whose legal appeals are still making their way through the courts. One of the first phases that must be satisfied is a requirement that youths admit their guilt--an admission that would instantly compromise their appeals.
For his part, Kimbrough says he feels a sense of urgency about his review."As fast as we can do this, that's my goal," said Kimbrough, a former deputy attorney general. "Any time the government is holding somebody that ought not be held, that's urgent to me."firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Shaquanda's Father Dies
Mrs. Creola Cotton did not tell Shaquanda of her father’s death until today. She delayed breaking the news to her until she could do it in person, rather than by phone.
Shaquanda has received a blizzard of cards and her family sends their thanks.
Investigation Continues at Paris School District
The Other Dream Girl
First African American Woman Dean of a US Medical School
Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., has worked in private practice, for the U.S. Public Health Service, and on numerous committees, and in 1993 was the first African American woman to be appointed dean of a United States medical school.
Musically Talented but Chose Sciences
Born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in a housing project, Barbara Ross-Lee faced discrimination as a young African American woman. Growing up in inner city Detroit, she and her sister shared a fondness for show business, performing with their brothers and sisters in the church choir. But while Diana Ross pursued a career in music that led her from urban poverty to celebrity as the lead singer of the "Supremes," Barbara Ross made her mark in the sciences.
No Federal Funding for College When Ross Attended Wayne State
Barbara Ross began her pre-medical studies at Detroit's Wayne State University in 1960, during the growth of the Civil Rights movement. Although a few medical schools offered admission to minority students there were no federal or private funding to help support students from poor families.
Forced to Abandon Goal of Practicing Medicine
At Wayne State, her pre-medical advisor did not believe women should be physicians, and so she declined to authorize Ross's request to study human anatomy as her major. Ross graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry in 1965 and, abandoning her original goal of practicing medicine went on to train as a teacher.
Opportunity and Sacrafice
She joined the National Teacher Corps, a federal program, in which she could earn a degree while teaching simultaneously in the Detroit public school system. After completing the program in 1969, a new educational opportunity arose. Michigan State University opened a school of osteopathic medicine in Pontiac, a Detroit suburb, and so Ross applied and was accepted. As a single mother she needed help with childcare to be able to focus on her studies, so she sold her house and moved in with her own mother.
After graduating from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1973, Dr. Ross-Lee ran a solo family practice in Detroit until 1984, when she joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a consultant on education in the health professions.
Dean of College of Osteopathic Medicine
In 1993, Ross-Lee became the first African American woman dean of a United States medical school. She remained dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of Ohio University until 2001. During her tenure there, she reformulated the entire course of study, and drafted a women's curriculum, earning a reputation as a "change agent."
"It is my goal," she said, "to establish a seamless continuum of education rather than all of the fragments that we have now; to be able to incorporate learning strategies as opposed to the old memorize-and-regurgitate methodology; and to train a physician who is just not technically skilled but who is also capable of being responsible and accountable for the health status of the person he or she treats." For Barbara Ross-Lee, medical education is a collaborative enterprise between teachers and students, which, in turn, influences the interaction between doctors and patients.
In 2001, Dr. Ross-Lee was appointed vice president for Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology, and in 2002, she became dean of the New York Institute of Technology's New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.
This article and photo are from the National Library of Science, Changing the Face of Medicine and are used in accordance with NLS copyright.
Free Shaquanda Cotton!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Paris Texas Case Highlights Challenges Faced by Black Children Across the Country
Judge Who Sentenced Shaquanda Cotton Fears for Community's Safety
Paris NAACP Calls for Timely Release of Shaquanda Cotton
Friday, March 23, 2007
Little Bay Area schools dream big hoop dreams
OAKLAND: McClymonds kids overcome obstacles on, off court
Read this article by Chip Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle.
These are my kids, evey last one of them.
This is my school, class of '67.
We play Saturday night at 8:00 PM at Arco Arena, Sacramento.
McClymonds-Oakland (28-3) vs. Fairfax-Los Angeles (27-5) for California Interscholastic Federation state boys Division I basketball championship
Go Warriors!We are known as the School of Champions for a reason.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Chittlin's and Chopsticks Welcomes Jackie Onboard
Low Property Values
Good Ole Sixties
Memorial to Lynch Victims
Good Ole Fashion Blues
Paris, Texas Faces Flood Threat--From Crocodile Tears
In today's Paris News, writer Phillip Hamilton bemoaned:
"With Lamar County Fairgrounds used as a backdrop, there was another lynching Monday — a journalistic lynching that started at the hands of Chicago Tribune senior correspondent Howard Witt."
Lynching Metaphors R Us
Using highly emotional lynching metaphors, Hamilton describes how Paris, Texas is being wronged:
"Doused with racially charged words like "starkly segregated" and word pictures of blacks scalded with hot irons and finally burned to death or hanged," Paris is being burned at the media stake by a journalist that didn't get the whole story poking the hot irons and igniting the fire."
Hundreds March to Free Shaquanda Cotton
Chanting "No justice! No peace! close to one hundred (I orginally wrote "hundreds" marched, but a Paris reader pointed out that the number of marchers was less) Paris, Texas residents, members of Millions More Movement, and New Black Panther Party marched on Paris Independent School District Administration building Monday afternoon.
Read the complete story by Josh Edwards in The Paris News .
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Heads in Trees
I’ve had a hero for years in an old sister girl who’d been accosted in her home. I saw her on the evening news. She shot and killed the intruder. An interviewer asked her was she sorry she killed him. The camera zoomed in as the stately grandmother thought about it.
“Well, I woke up and he was standing over me in my bedroom. I didn’t invite him and I didn’t know him. What we got to talk about?”
I’ve got a new hero, maybe not to replace Stately Grandmother but to add to the pack. My daughter and I were channel surfing on Friday, the day before St. Patrick’s day. We stopped on a news item, I assume, that showed a group of mostly black folks standing around a big tree.
So there you have it. If you really want to know, ask an old sister girl.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Chocolate, Guppies, and Me
Summers, I take my ten-year-old swimming at the Sam Pannell Community Center as often as possible. It’s a wonderful place with access for those in wheel chairs, wading pools, islands, and a big water slide.
Usually there are so many little children of color there, the pool looks like a big bowl of guppies with a few koi tossed in.
Being a Multi-tasking Goddess, I usually work while my kid does guppy stuff. Other parents wait too; some even join in the fun and swim with the little fishies.
We had been there a little over an hour when a boy about 8-years-old came and stood in front of me. I looked up.
“May, I have a dollar, please?” he asked.
“What do you want the dollar for, baby?” Black women of a certain age love to call young people “baby.” I am of a certain age.
“To get something at the snack bar,” he said.
“Is it open?”
He nodded with a certain solemnity.
I reached in my purse and gave him a dollar. He smiled, thanked me, and speed-walked away (there’s no running—and the life guards don’t play.)
Why had that little boy come to me? I looked around. I was the only one there in full grandma mufti—gray hair, glasses, comfortable, loose fitting clothes.
I like to think I have a kindly face. I like to think the little boy knew instinctively that the village is still intact and he can still count on an elder being there when he needs one.
He was a cute, little, chocolate kid, with puppy dog eyes. Maybe he worked me. That’s okay, too. It’s hard out there for a kid. And besides, I got just as much out of our interaction as he did. He got a dollar and I got to be grandma for a moment to a cute, little chocolate kid, with puppy dog eyes.
Don't forget Shaquanda Cotton!
Mother's Lesson #7
These are the young men of our family. Handsome fellows aren’t they. They have the capacity to eat twice their weight in junk food, buttons, and tin cans.
This is a bottle of “Seabuck 7.”
It is made from seabuckthorn berries. The ancient Chinese and the nice lady at Nugget Market said seabuckthorn berries will:
- Rejuvenate my body and mind
- Enhance my immune activity
- Support my circulation and a healthy cardiovascular system for me
- Fight free radicals found in my body
- Contribute to healthy cell membranes and smooth, glowing skin
I believed them. I paid $30 for a month’s supply.
Seabuck 7 requires refrigeration. There-in lies the rub. Remember the handsome young men above. Seabuck 7 would have been an aperitif for them.
I had to protect it.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Free Shaquanda Cotton: Leave Shaquanda Notes of Love!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Children Don't Belong in Prison
Children don't belong in prison.
In Paris, Texas or Sacramento, California children should not be imprisoned, especially for percieved sins of their parents.
Fourteen-year-old Shaquanda Cotton should be freed from her indeterminate sentence in a Texas prison immediately.
Last night I spoke with Shaquanda's mother, Creola Cotton. Shaquanda tells her she's tired and she doesn't know how long she can hold on. Ms. Cotton says Shaquanda has attempted suicide more than once.
Shaquanda enjoys receiving cards and letters, says her mother. She can receive mail at:
Ron Jackson Correctional Complex,
Unit 2, Dorm 4
P.O. Box 872
Brownwood, Texas 76804
Ms. Cotton also requsts that we write letters to Texas Governor Rick Perry asking him to intervene on Shaquanda's behalf.
I'm sending Shaquanda a card and writing the governor. I hope you will ,too.
Letter to Editor of Paris News re Shaquandra Cotton
The Paris News of Paris, Texas, today published a rather balanced article on the imprisonment of 14-year-old Shaquanda Cotton for shoving a hall monitor, admitting that the story has made headlines across the nation.
The following is a letter to the editor I submitted to The Paris News:
I’m calling on Governor Rick Perry to intercede on this matter and secure this child’s freedom from persecution—persecution because of her mother’s civil rights activism.
Governor Perry the world is watching. Don’t let this be another Tulia.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Black Child Lynched in Paris, Texas
For seven years.
The rest of her childhood.
In March of last year, fourteen-year-old Shaquanda Cotton was sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving a white hall monitor at her Paris, Texas school. The adult monitor says he was not seriously injured.
Shaquanda is a first time offender. She has no prior arrest record. She did cause no serious injury, but that didn’t matter.
“A 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.”
Now she spends her days and nights at Brownwood Prison trying to stay out of reach of the 2,500, murders, robbers, sex offenders and other violent, habitual offenders she is imprisoned with. She has tried to commit suicide to escape her nightmare.
Just three months earlier, the same judge who sentenced Shaquanda sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.
"Sometimes I feel like I just can't do this no more--that I can't survive this," Shaquanda says.
Brownwood prison is currently at the center of a state scandal involving a guard who allegedly sexually abused teenage inmates.
(fathers, brothers, sisters,uncles, aunties, cousins, too)
I can't stand to see this child suffer like this. She's already been in that hell hole a year. We must do something.
I tried calling her mother to offer support and to offer her a share of my meager funds, but her number was unlisted--can you blame her. I was able to get through to Brenda Cherry, the civil rights worker mentioned in the Chicago Tribune story. I left a message at her home and I'm waiting for her to return it.
I'm ready to load my car and head for Paris. Anybody want to travel with me?
This post is based on the Chicago Tribune story, "To Some in Paris, Sinister Past is Back" by Howard Witt, Tribune Senior Correspondence, published March 12, 2007. Please read it for additional background.
Monkeys, Puppies, and Pocketbooks
When my friend, Em, told me about this, my first thought was this must be another of those urban legends. You know, like the one that claims a certain fried chicken place puts a male contraceptive in its batter to keep the black birth rate down.
But, no, I looked it up myself. The Onion didn’t make this one up. It really happened. Three sixteen year-old-girls participating in a literary forum at John Jay High School in New York state read a passage from "The Vagina Monologues" and actually used that most powerful word.
Incensed, my friend Em demanded, "What were the girls suppose to call it, my thing-a-ma-gig, my good girl, the mysterious delta of my love, or sing-song it like Mary Poppins-- one of my boyfriend's favorite things?"
We didn’t have that problem when I was a wee thing in Tucker, Arkansas. Well-raised, little, Negro children knew boys peed from their puppies, girls from their monkeys, and their mama’s had a big ole pocket book to do whatever she had to do.
Get some burqas for those girls, and send them down to Tucker to spend some time with my kinfolk.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
This is My Brain on Motherhood
I asked my husband to wash it for me and he immediately made excuses. He's usually pretty good about helping me with things, but I understood his refusal. You see, in years past, that whole "help me wash my hair," was--how can I put this delicately--a coded foreplay invitation. His refusal was based on the fact that he was sorting clothes to wash. The only thing on his mind was his work wardrobe. I could have explained that I really needed help but the thought sounded like too much effort when I ran it past my brain.
By the way, I have a unique relationship with the sentient being I call my brain. It a fun place that goes off in myriad directions and paths without any input from me. I know I've sounded crazy or arrogant trying to explain to people that I like the way my brain thinks. It's not that at all because I have no control over it. Like a toddler it's forever doing and saying things that I didn't expect, couldn't have anticipated, and often find embarrassingly "cute."
Anyway, the brain said don't explain to husband just go find somebody else to help you. I said, "yes, master," and off I went. I have two kids at home right now, our 25 year old son, Geoffrey and our 27 year old daughter, Regina. Geoff is a twin, his brother lives in Austin, Texas. If any mother has more helpful, wonderful, sons I haven't met them.
Geoff's bedroom door was open and he was putting on a shirt over his tee shirt. I asked him. He said he was on his way to a Kings basketball game, but he would do it when he comes home. He kissed me and took his leave.
I hadn't seen my daughter yet this morning. It was time to confer with the brain. Regina is a wonderful child too. Anybody that likes her will tell you she has a very giving heart. But people never explain a person's heart unless it's something the casual observer can't see. Brain told me to wait and see what kind of mood she was in first. She just appeared to let her puppy outside. I asked, she said yes. She never once looked at my hair like she was wondering how to wash the snakes.
Aren't kids great? I love motherhood.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Slavery and Dental Hygiene
Fourth Grade Slavery Lesson
When my 29-year-old was in the 4th grade, the curriculum called for a more in-depth study of American history. There were two African Americans in her class, but she was the only one there the day her class discussed slavery.
Apparently neither I, nor the well meaning, liberal, parents of her classmates had done an adequate job of explaining to our children that aspect of our shared history. The students felt burdened by the information. My daughter’s burden had to do with her being the only direct descendant of American slaves in the room--fourth graders don’t like to stand out, for any reason—and she was worried about her Nana and Poppa being in the clear (The class hadn’t gotten to the Emancipation Proclamation. I can imagine how the children of illegal emigrants must feel.)
Apology but No Reparations
Her classmate’s unease had to do with the unfairness of the whole slavery thing. A few of them even turned to my daughter and apologized to her for it. This only made it worse because 4th graders have a peculiar sense of justice.
Peculiar Sense of Justice
I had seen this justice come into play on my niece’s last visit. She and my daughter, two 4th graders, had been doing their morning grooming when the little girl unintentionally spat a mouthful of toothpaste suds on my daughter’s wrist. My niece apologized sincerely and, unbidden, held her wrist out to my daughter who, without hesitation or any sign of anger; spat her sudsy mouthful on to it. That equalized things for them, and they went happily about their day—cousins and best friends.
Please Don't Let Them Vote
Don’t ask me what this means for us in our current discussion of our American heritage and slavery. The only think I can think of is don’t let 4th graders vote on reparations.
Obama's Ancestors May Have Owned Slaves--BIG DEAL!
Friday, March 02, 2007
Why Do I Do This?
I was married to a man who is now my friend but whose eyes, during our marriage, used to glaze over whenever I spoke.
I am a dolphin by nature constantly seeking out others to communicate with at extremely high frequencies.
Late at night I like to shout into the darkness of the blogosphere and listen for an echo.
Here are some of the blogs that occasionally echo back (the rules allow me to name only five):
And here is an invitation to any of them share why they blog.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Boys, Mothers, and Lovers
I think you know by now, I am madly in mother-love with my otter-eyed, 22-year-old son.
Rachel’s comment about her 7-year-old reminded me of a conversation my son and I had when he was that age. This is how it went:
“Mom, what’s a virgil?”
Having majored in English I had to still my beating heart before answering.
“A virgil,” I repeated. “Use it in a sentence.”
“You’re a virgil!” he spat.
“Oh,” I said. “Who called you a virgil?”
It figured. Joshua had three teenage brothers.
“A virgin,” I explained, riffling through that thesaurus in my head for a definition that didn’t involve maidenheads or miraculous births, “is a person who…hasn’t done something.”
“Uh, yes,” I said, “Like It.”
We were both quiet for a moment, then he otter-eyed me and asked, “When you get married, do you have to do It?”
I thought about it. There was no law, to my knowledge, that required a married couple to have sex. One could have a platonic marriage.
I didn’t realize my son was holding his breath until I replied in the negative. “No, you don’t have to have sex when you are married, but I think by then—when you’re old enough to get married—you’ll want to.”
He shook his head. “Not me, Mom. I’m going to get married and I’m not going to do it—ever!”
I think I’ll call him up and remind him of that pledge.