Racism 101 – An Unsolicited Introduction

Evidently, I am no different than most mothers out there. From the moment I first laid eyes on my son as a baby, I knew I would do anything in this world to protect him. I truly thought I could protect him from all the things that could threaten his tiny little world. Little did I know that my incredible desire to shield him from all negativity would not only last throughout his life, but increase by leaps and bounds over time.

Being the African American mother of a male child, is no easy task, especially when doing so alone. The careful shaping and molding of a young boy into a man without any handbook or instructions to refer to. After all, I am not a man. My main hope as a young mother, was to instill the vital morals and values within my son that would later manifest and help to solidify his manhood. There always seemed to be so much to share and make him aware of and that is still true today. I often wish I could pour my knowledge and experience into him as a kind of ‘heads up’ to the many storms that life can unexpectedly rain down on a person. But we all know that it’s impossible to make our children aware of every little thing, try as we might. Trial and error has proven to be a constant teacher in my son’s world and to this day he is still an unsuspecting student.

In spite of some kicking and screaming, my son made it into manhood. It’s so interesting to watch him evolve a little bit each day. There are times when I am stunned by the level of growth and transformation taking place. Sometimes life allows him to ease into situations and adjust at a comfortable pace, while there are other times when life slams him hard, forcing him to face the oftentimes deafening music of real life.

A couple mornings ago, my son woke me up at 6:00am to tell me about an incident that happened while he was delivering newspapers on his route, one of two jobs he holds. I was stunned by what he was saying, so much so that I sat up in bed with a spring-board like reaction. He proceeded to tell me about his encounter with a man in the wee hours of the morning during his delivery. It didn’t take long for my son to figure out that this man was a full-fledged racist. This particular morning, my son was late delivering the newspapers and as a result, he crossed paths with an ugly evil that he was not expecting. My son said he asked the man three times if the paper he was about to deliver belonged to him, as the man would not move out of his path. The man just stood there like a statue, not moving left nor right, backward or forward and not responding in any way. My son finally gave up and carefully maneuvered around the man and threw the paper past him.

This action seemed to set this peculiar being off. He started yelling at my son while to calling him a monkey and threatening to report him for throwing the newspaper to close to him. Really? This man then proceeded to grab the paper up from where my son had tossed it and began to dismantle it. My son asked the man AGAIN if it was his newspaper. The man started spewing the word monkey and other racial slurs in an onslaught of negative rapid fire. Thankfully, the man’s words were not bullets, or my son may have met with a very different outcome.

No doubt the verbal attack penetrated my son as a human being far deeper than any bullets could have. I’m sure my son didn’t tell me every word that was exchanged between the two but I’m sure he had some choice words for the bigot that stood before him. My son did express that this is 2015 and that here this man was with these ignorant prejudices and distorted beliefs of years long since passed. Years that have transpired yes, but unfortunately have left their relative behaviors and backward thinkers behind.

I have to say that as his mother, I felt my heart breaking twice over as he told me this story; once for the pain and shock it must have been for him to encounter this hatred full on, and secondly for the pain of knowing that the one thing I wish I could spare him from the most, blatantly introduced itself without warning nor provocation. There was nothing I could do about it. If only there was a channel I could change and flip to another station. Unfortunately, it’s an ugly life truth that exists in full living color on a seemingly never ending wide screen. Everyone plays their role in life and then in walks an unwanted extra, onto the scene without solicitation.

How do we prepare our children for the outrageous and vicious behaviors of others that can break out at any time? I don’t think anything really prepares them until they’ve actually met this ignorance face to face. I’m just thankful that things ended with my son walking away. In spite of the nature of this incident, he handled the situation like an adult and didn’t allow it to provoke him into doing anything he might later regret. I couldn’t be more proud of him. As ugly as this incident was, I am confident that it has cemented a much needed awareness in my son that he will definitely need as he continues to walk out his life journey!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

Multiple Choice(s)

 

All of us have had to make choices at some point in our lives. Some have been easy and required little to no thought, while others have been difficult and required much consideration. You might be someone who finds it stressful deciding what you’re going to where to work every day. Or you might be the person that undergoes much stress in deciding which shoes go better with an outfit for an upcoming fancy gala. No matter how superficial or crucial the decision(s) may be, a choice has to be made; a stand has to be taken. Now, you can always opt to simply do nothing. But how far will that get you?

According to the Associated Press, a New York teenager by the name of Kwasi Enin has recently been the talk of the  national news media. You might question why? This student found himself in a most unique situation;one that I’m sure was the envy of many. Incredibly, Kwasi had been accepted to all 8 Ivy League Colleges. As if this wasn’t extraordinary enough, he was also accepted to several New York colleges. Is there no end to this teenager’s potential? And just think….he’s just getting started!

Kwasi’s parents, Ebenezer and Doreen Enin, who both emigrated from Ghana in the 80s, have always encouraged both Kwasi and his sister Adwoa to excel academically according the Associated Press reports. Evidently, the message was heard loud and clear! A.P. also states that Yale has always been a top contender for Kwasi in terms of his choice of colleges. A recent visit to this prestigious university’s campus tipped the scale as Kwasi made his decision. He liked the fact that everyone was welcoming and that he had met many geniuses during his visit. Kwasi also noted that Yale’s residential college system is good to all of the students as reported by AP.

The Associated Press reports that Kwasi wrote a passionate essay for his Yale college application where he expresses his love of music. Yes. He is also an outstanding musician! Surprised? Hardly. Even though Kwasi has a great love for music, it is not the direction he is headed. He aspires to become a physician and will be attending medical school.  Wow! Quite a lot to absorb for a student who is only 17 years old. But something tells me that he will do just fine. Kwasi Enin was faced with a huge decision and he had 8+ selections to choose from. After careful consideration, he weighed all his options and made his choice.  How would you handle it if you ever find yourself  faced with multiple choices?

What would my grandma say?

 

I often wonder what my grandma would say about so many things if she were alive today. She had such high hopes for me and my siblings. My grandma had a unique way of making each one of us feel like we had a special and individual relationship with her. It takes a special person that can make so many feel uniquely special, all at the same time.

I can’t help but feel that my grandma and I shared the most unique bond of all. I was the firstborn and my mother has often told me that my grandma fell in love with me instantly as a baby. So much so that she actually kept me for the first nine months of my life!  This still amazes me when I think about it now in my adult life. It started off that grandma was only going to keep me for a couple of weeks to give my mother a little break. A couple of weeks became a  month, two months, so on and so on until nine months quickly rolled around. My mother actually had to insist that my grandma give me back which my grandma of course did, but reluctantly.

Sometimes, I think my own bonding time with my mother suffered some as a result of the first crucial months being spent away from her. It’s almost as if there’s some kind of unspoken disconnect that exists between my mother and I, even to this day. Now, let me be very clear. My mother and I love each other to pieces, but I often feel that intangible missing link that casually floats between us.

My parents used to take my siblings and me to stay with grandma for the summers. We would cry when our parents dropped us off and we would cry when they came to pick us up. Oh the fickleness of children! My grandma would always promise that one of those old days she was going to come back home with us and stay for a couple of days! But until that time came, we just cried like babies when we had to leave grandma at the end of our summer visits.

This one particular summer visit had quickly come to an end. I knew there was a chance that grandma might come back with us this time, but I also knew that she probably wouldn’t. To our surprise,  grandma announced at the very last minute that she would indeed be traveling back home with us for a visit! We were beside ourselves with joy! We didn’t have to be sad about leaving grandma behind  because she was coming with us this time! We couldn’t have been happier!

I had recently learned to “french braid” my hair and had been promptly given the job of braiding all three of my sisters hair as well. Can’t say that I was happy about that but practice makes perfect, right?  Even though my grandma preferred wearing a wig, she was so excited about my new braiding skill, that she wanted me to try it on her as well. I happily braided her hair that weekend. I don’t know who was happier – me or grandma. Grandma only stayed for a few days as she was preparing to move the next weekend into a new house closer to town. She was so excited about us visiting her there in the future summers. That next weekend, my dad went to pick her up for the move. He could see my grandma sitting in her chair by the window as she had often done while watching and waiting for us to arrive in the summers. My dad knocked and knocked but she did not come to the door. My dad went and got someone to help break open the door. Sadly my grandmother had  passed away in her chair with her coat on waiting to go to her new surroundings, but she never made it. I still remember the day my father came home and broke the news to the rest of the family! I learned later that she had passed away with the french braids that I had done still in her hair! My grandma was indeed a special woman and I still feel a bond with her, all these years later. I hear her quiet encouragement when I am hesitant about a new project or adventure. I wonder what she would think of what I’ve accomplished thus far. Would she be pleased with the adult woman I’ve become? I would love to know what she would make of the world and all of the changes that have taken place since she passed away all those years ago. What would she think about all the things I’ve gone through in my life so far? I may never know the answers to these questions but I do know that grandma is somewhere smiling and marveling at everything. She may not be here in the flesh but she is always here in spirit! I will always love you grandma!

Do you believe in miracles?

 

 

Do you believe in miracles? If you’ve never experienced a miracle, your answer to this question might be no. After all, these so-called miracles seem to happen to “other” people, not you. You’ve heard about people coming so close to death, they could almost taste it. Or how about the person that experienced a near miss in a car accident that by all appearances should have been fatal? Yes, these instances definitely fit the category of “miracle”. But again, if you’ve never had the the pleasure of encountering a miracle, it may seem like a bunch of hogwash to you.

And who could blame you? You’ve had some close calls yourself, but you never went as far as to claim them as “miracles”. You were once tossed over the side of a boat due to choppy waters. You hit your head on the edge of the boat just before you hit the water. Thanks to your quick-thinking boating buddies, your life was spared as a result of them diving in and bringing you back above water and into the boat. You lost consciousness and could have certainly lost your life but you were spared. Miracle? Some might say, absolutely! You might call it sheer luck! But you can’t help but acknowledge that death almost kissed you on the head that day, but you chalk it up to some kind of winning streak or odds being in your favor. Even though, this accident happened several years ago, the memory of it is still as fresh in your mind as the water was that day you went crashing into it. There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t  think about it. But the question still remains…..do you believe in miracles?

 

June 2017
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