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Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With Natural Hair: 7th Grader Told to Cut Locs or Face School Discipline

By on Mar 8, 2016 | 2 comments

By all accounts, Isaiah Freeman is an exceptional student. The 13-year-old attends a private school in Virginia, gets good grades, plays sports, and wants to be a geologist when he grows up. So when Isaiah’s principal told the teen he had to cut his locs or get a referral to the office every single day, his parents were perplexed. You see, Isaiah’s been growing his locs since the third grade, and the entire time he’s been attending West End Christian School. But now that his hair has gotten longer, it’s a problem. School officials say the proposed discipline actions aren’t personal, but argue Isaiah’s locs violate the rules. “The rule in our handbook states that hair length is to be no longer than the middle of the neck, halfway below the ears, and not below the eyebrows,” the school’s principal Amy Griggs said. “Even from the beginning of the school year, Isaiah’s hair has become considerably longer,” she told the NY Daily News. “This has never been about his hairstyle, only the length.” Isaiah’s dad thinks it’s about something different, a lack of awareness. “I think it’s a form of not being culturally aware, a form of stereotyping,” Shawn Freeman said. To adhere to the rules on length, Isaiah’s been pulling his hair back into neat bun, but even that hasn’t made a difference. “They won’t give me a legitimate reason why this is an issue now,” his father said. Shawn says rather than cut his son’s hair, he’s looking for a new school for the bright young teen, who Principal Griggs admits is “exemplary.” While we often hear about girls of color being picked on or singled out because of their hair, we rarely talk about boys (I wrote about it here). But here’s the thing, boys need their natural hair affirmed too, especially if they choose to wear it in any other style besides keeping it cut low. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of books or resources that talk about the beauty of boys’ hair, which leads to policies, like the one at Isaiah’s school, that treat their hair like it’s an after thought or something that can and should be easily changed. Has your #BrownBoyGenius experienced hair issues at school? How did you handle it?  Related Post #VestorVote? EVERY Parent of a Brown Boy Needs to ... 5 Apps Brown Boys Will Love No, Shaming Kids In Public Won’t Make Them D... Is Free-Range Parenting Dangerous for Brown...

Let’s Talk About Boys & Natural Hair (And No, Not Just Haircuts)

By on Sep 22, 2015 | 6 comments

I received a question on the BrownBoyGenius Facebook page from a mom in Germany asking about resources for boys with kinky/curly hair. While books, YouTube vids, and blog advice abounds for women and girls with natural hair, resources for boys are extremely hard to find. Here’s the question: Hello there. I am the mother of a Black boy here in Germany and part of a group of parents of Afro/German/Black children, seeking to educate ourselves and empower our children. We are looking for books for boys about hair and/or hair related issues. We know of quite a lot of these books for girls, but none for boys. Can you help us out? Do you have suggestions, know of such books? Sadly, I didn’t know of any books off hand, and a pretty exhaustive search on Amazon and Google yielded few results as well. While I did find some YouTube styling vids (here and here), books encouraging boys to love their hair seem to be lacking. This may be for two reasons: Most people rely on haircuts for boys because it’s super low maintenance Some people view haircare & styling as a “girl thing.” But those of us with sons with afros, locs, or kinky/curly hair know boys need just as much help styling–and loving–their hair too. Back when I was pregnant and found out Le Kid was going to be a boy I was a little disappointed. Like many women, I wanted a daughter. The only upside, I thought at the time, was that I wouldn’t have to worry about his hair. Then….I had a big ol’ baby with a whole lot of hair. Exhibit A: As he grew, so did his hair… So, while I was initially relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with hair because I was having a boy, I soon found out I was completely wrong. Over the years Le Kid’s gotten a few haircuts, grown out his ‘fro over and over again, and now I trim it down every couple of months, wash it weekly, try to detangle it (he hates that), and keep it moisturized. Even though he has A LOT of hair, it’s still pretty low maintenance, too. Score! In terms of taking care of a little boys with kinky/curly hair, I’d approach it just like you would a girl’s hair–keep it clean, moisturized, and fairly neat. A photo posted by Brown Boy Genius (@brownboygenius) on Apr 5, 2015 at 2:23pm PDT If you can cornrow, great (I can’t). If you want to try more adventurous styles, cool (I don’t). But as your son gets older, listen to what he wants to do with his hair and go with that. In terms of images affirming boys with natural hair, Instagram is a great place to look. There are several natural-haired (and stylish!) boys on the ‘gram.  Here are a few: What is this little man thinking?? probably, 'if I'm so instafamous, why am I taking the bus?' ??? #humblebeginnings ? #mista #chilledvibes A photo posted by faroukjames (@faroukjames) on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:59am PDT Happy Tuesday ? when it seems like the sky is gray remember guys the sun always shines thru. #mrcorys #mrcoryscookies #CEO #boss #believe #love #loveit #fashion #fashionkid #flawless #smile A photo posted by Mr. Cory's (@mrcory) on Sep 1, 2015 at 7:04am PDT Just the 2 of us…? A photo posted by M&D tWins (@2yungkings) on Jun 7, 2014 at 7:23am PDT   A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Ashley, Grace, Romeo & Me (@chichiromeoandme) on Jul 18, 2015 at 5:39am PDT While there certainly aren’t a lot of books about boys and hair (ehem, perhaps we’ll tackle that when we launch BBG Books), I found a pair of books–Chocolate Me and Bippity Bop Barbershop–about boys loving the skin (and hair) their in. Like we wrote about a while ago, boys struggle with body image and hair issues just like girls. Unfortunately, parents have to get a little more creative when it comes to affirming the way they look. Following helpful parenting sites, cool Instagram accounts, and reading books with characters who look like your son can help your BrownBoyGenius build healthy self-esteem that will serve him well in the future. What are your thoughts on boys and natural hair? Do you have any books or resources you enjoy? Please share them in the comments section below!  Related Post This Teen Runs a Six-Figure Business & Landed... Looking for Books With Black Characters For Your S... 35 Books Boys Will LOVE! 3 Must-Read Children’s Books About Dr. Martin...

Stand With Ahmed By Encouraging Your BrownBoyGenius to Love Science

By on Sep 17, 2015 | 0 comments

By now you’ve probably heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas teen who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher. Unfortunately for the inquisitive teen, one of his teachers overreacted (probably because he’s brown and his name is Ahmed) and handed his invention over to the police because she said it looked like a bomb. That’s when Ahmed’s horrible ordeal began. According to the teen, he was interrogated, without his parents, for over an hour before being taken into handcuffs and arrested for bringing a “hoax bomb” to school. While Ahmed told anybody who would listen that his contraption was a clock, not a bomb, they still took him in. Thankfully for Ahmed, the Dallas Morning News got ahold of his story and it immediately blew up on social media. Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great. — President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015 Last thing – you did good, internet. You put the smile back on his face. pic.twitter.com/eFdLuyd5rA — Hend (@LibyaLiberty) September 16, 2015 Everybody from President Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg chimed in to offer their support for Ahmed, and the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed began trending worldwide. Ahmed’s story is a sad reminder of the prejudice our sons may encounter when they exhibit a love of science, or anything that isn’t stereotypical. Still, we can’t let their curiosity get extinguished before it can take hold and flourish. While it’s disheartening Ahmed was arrested for trying to impress his teacher, the end result was awesome–he’s headed to the White House, he’ll get to hang out with tech leaders like Zuckerberg, and his dream school, MIT, has invited him to Boston for a tour. Ahmed will probably be just fine, but so many of our boys are getting left out of STEM opportunities…and we can’t afford to let that happen. Recently, I read a New York Times article about people who’ve ditched their low-paying jobs by enrolling in a coding bootcamp and then getting a much higher paying gig. One guy went from making $20,000 to $100,000 as a programmer in just three months. Another, a 24 year old woman, enrolled in an 24-week course and secured a $80,000 job. While most of our kids LOVE technology and can hardly function without some kind of device in their hands , encouraging them to learn how to actually build the things they love playing with will not only give them a deeper understanding of science, but it may also set them up for a lucrative career in the future. Need help getting started? Here are 3 ways you can encourage a love of science in your #BrownBoyGenius Let him play Minecraft A photo posted by Brown Boy Genius (@brownboygenius) on Mar 28, 2015 at 4:23pm PDT I admit, I didn’t understand why Le Kid LOVED Minecraft so much when he first started playing it, and I even thought about cutting down his ‘crafting time. But after doing a little research and seeing how his creativity has flourished after playing the game, I relaxed. Aside from introducing kids to the Earth’s minerals, Minecraft teaches them critical thinking, problem solving, and planning skills. It also can be used to teach math, history, and science. Encourage him to Tynker around Tynker is a fun, web-based program that teaches kids how to code. In Tynker, kids can make games, animations, stories and more using the site’s easy drag and drop visual programming. While it won’t teach your BrownBoyGenius how to build the next blockbuster app, it will introduce him to the world of programming that may serve him well down the line. (btw: sign up for a free hour of code, here) Visit science museums…often! I don’t know about you, but Le Kid and I have spent a lot of time in museums, especially when we homeschooled. Over the summer we visited two AMAZING museums–the California Academy of Sciences + the Exploratorium–and had a wonderful time exploring several different types of sciences. Sure letting your kid play with coding apps and games is fun, but nothing really compares to hands-on activities that stoke their love of science. How do you encourage your BrownBoyGenius to love science? Tell us in the comments below! Related Post This 12-year-old Turns Scraps Into Robotic Toys 7 Picture Books to Read With Little Brown Boys Is Free-Range Parenting Dangerous for Brown Boys? Must Watch: This Sesame Street ‘House of...

3 Back to School Lunch Options That Don’t Include Sandwiches

By on Aug 18, 2015 | 1 comment

Last night, Le Kid and I spent a ridiculous amount of time walking the aisles in Target while he tried to figure out what he wanted to go in his lunch. Like many kids, he picked up boxes and boxes of sugary, empty-calorie snacks that had little nutritional value. Though we were both tired (and cranky), I held firm and vetoed each one (which made him even more cranky). Figuring out what to pack in your kiddos lunch shouldn’t be this hard, I thought to myself, but there was one big ol’ problem holding us back: he did not want a sandwich. When Le Kid first said he didn’t want to take a sandwich I brushed it aside. He couldn’t be serious, right? After all, he’d eaten a sandwich THAT very afternoon, but somehow they were a no go for his lunch? Sadly for both of us he stuck to his no sandwich guns, which left us doing laps in Target trying to figure it out. Also off the list? Lunchables. While they’re super quick, they’re costly and not the healthiest thing on the planet (uhhh…so much sodium!), so I ruled them out too. After about a half hour stuck in Target’s grocery section I had an idea: we could build our own box. I grabbed a Sistema lunch cube, some crackers, a dozen eggs, blackberries, deli meat, and viola! A lunch idea Le Kid didn’t turn his nose up at. The whole ordeal got me thinking about what other options I could come up with that my son would enjoy, while also being healthy. So, in case you’re fretting over your kid’s lunch like me here are 3 healthy options that DO NOT include sandwiches.  #1 – DIY Lunchables Need 1 lunch cube (like this one) Anything you can fix in the box that your kid will enjoy Even though the school year has just begun, I already know this will be my go-to option if Le Kid’s sandwich ban persists. The possibilities are endless, and the combinations will keep your kiddo from being bored. Fill the box with veggies, fruit, crackers, nuts, chopped meats…seriously, go wild. #2 – Pasta Salad Need Cold pasta (or orzo) + added fixings. Pasta salads are another super customizable & healthy way to beat a sandwich ban. All you have to do is cook the pasta, wait until it cools, and then mix in whatever ingredients you love. Want a veggie salad? Cool, add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions. Eat meat? Keep all of the above and throw in some chicken. Throw on some italian seasoning, olive oil, and vinegar to taste, then keep it in the ‘fridge and dish it out until it’s gone. How easy is THAT? Still need help? Here’s a good recipe to get you started. #3 – Chicken fajita pitas Need Pita pockets Chicken Fajita veggies (onion +bell peppers + seasonings) Ok, so pita pockets are like sandwiches, but they’re not. I swear. Sure they’re both made out of bread and wrap around a host of items, but they’re still totally not sandwiches (at least that’s how you’ll sell it to your kiddos, k?). Pitas are FABULOUS, though. You can literally fill them with just about anything, pop them into your kid’s lunch cube and dash out the door. One tip: don’t put things inside that’ll make it soggy. Now…go forth and experiment. Do you have go-to lunch options for your kids? Share them in the comments section below to help us all get even more ideas!  Related Post How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read? Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With...

#MikeBrown: A Year Later, #BlackLivesMatter is More Important Than Ever

By on Aug 9, 2015 | 0 comments

On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. As his body lay in the street, heartbreak and anger and questions and dismay spread through the small St. Louis suburb and right out to the wider world. It hasn’t stopped yet. It’s been a year since Mike Brown’s death intensified the already smoldering movement to affirm the lives of Black folks, and since then we’ve watched in horror as many of our brothers and sisters have been cut down way before their time and turned into hashtags–or not even mentioned at all. According to the Washington Post, 24 unarmed Black men have been shot and killed by police since Brown’s body lay in the street for four-and-a-half hours, a warning to bystanders that this could easily be you. Through their research the Washington Post found Black men are seven times more likely to die by police gunfire than white people, and that doesn’t even account for the women and children who have died by way of a police bullet, chokehold, baton, or Taser. Last November, while we were all still reeling from Brown’s death, and the protests sweeping around America, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by Cleveland Police officers who claim to have mistook his toy gun for the real thing. We gave him a warning, they said, but surveillance video proved that to be a lie. Within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene, Rice was down, a bullet to his torso, and neither officer did anything to help. The tween was dead the next day. Go to school, critics say. Don’t be a thug or dress like one. Follow the law.  Just be nice.  Respect yourself. These are all things Black people are told will keep us alive, but time and time again we’re reminded that nothing will save us from someone’s irrational bias or race-based fear or too-easy access to a gun. Expressing ourselves is seen as “combative” or “threatening;” pleading our case is reduced to being “uncooperative” and illegal; asserting our rights as human beings in America might just get us killed. I started BrownBoyGenius a year ago with the mission to change the narrative about boys of color. Back then I was optimistic. I wanted to change things and I felt this space was one way to help. Last July, I wrote: Those of us who raise, love, care about, and pray for boys of color understand what they’re up against. We understand that there are police officers who might stop them for no reason, shopkeepers who may follow them around, and overzealous neighborhood watch captains who may question whether or not they belong based on nothing but the color of their skin. And while we’re at it, yes, parents of brown boys also understand that our boys are more likely to drop out of school, be a victim of violence, or have a harder time getting a job—even when they’re qualified. But despite the challenges, institutional racism, and discrimination our children face on the daily, brown boys around the world continue to excel, grow, and thrive. And that’s why we’re here. So far it’s been one hell of a year. Our fan base has grown, we’ve highlighted awesome Black boys here on our blog and on our Facebook page, but still…our sons and brothers and nephews and fathers and cousins are still being killed, both by police officers who see them as threats and those who look like them. While my optimism isn’t gone, I’m tired. I’m tired of the killings, I’m tired of watching mothers grieve in public, I’m tired of worrying about my son every time he’s out of my sight. I’m tired, but I will not stop advocating for, loving up on, and fighting for our sons. I owe it to Mike Brown, and all of the other victims of senseless violence, to keep pushing. I owe it to Mike Brown to make this world a better place than the one he left. And I hope you do the same. Related Post Floyd Mayweather Can’t Read Well, But Neither Ca... Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag: #Black... Let’s Talk About Sex: When Did You Have The Talk... No, Spanking Your Son Is Not...

No Easy Choices: Baltimore Mom Smacks Son to Keep Him From Protesting, But She Can’t Protect Him From Police

By on Apr 29, 2015 | 0 comments

A Baltimore mom is being called a hero after she was seen on camera repeatedly hitting her teen son to prevent him from joining a group of youngsters who were hurling rocks at police. Toya Graham told CBS News that when she spotted her 16-year-old son, Michael, among the protesters she snapped. “I just lost it,” she said. “I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out there doing that.” In the video, Graham can be seen punching, slapping, and yelling at her son to “take you’re a** home!” Graham’s frustration is palpable, and as a mother of a son, I understand her fear. Protecting our sons can sometimes feel impossible, particularly when it seems like every week another young person becomes a hashtag. I can’t begin to image how Graham felt when she saw her son amid the charged group of young people expressing their anger and pain over yet another young man killed by police for no conceivable reason at all. No doubt many of the young people felt they could easily be Freddie Gray, and considering the city’s history of police violence, maybe they knew someone who had already met a similar fate in “Black Baltimore.” All of this—how easy it is for our sons and daughters to be killed without consequence–was probably weighing on Graham’s heart when she dragged her son home. Still, I wish she’d handed it a different way. My opinion on hitting kids is clear. I don’t believe it’s a healthy or effective long-term discipline strategy. There’s just too much evidence that says that hitting not only makes kids more aggressive, but it can also change the way their brain works. And let’s just keep it real. While many people will mightily claim that being hit as a kid kept them out of trouble, prisons and graveyards are full of people whose parents never spared the rod. While I’m not judging Graham for using any means necessary to get her son out of a quickly escalating situation, far too many parents subscribe to the notion that they’d rather beat their kids than let the police do it. But here’s the thing. The police will do it anyway, no matter what you do. Spanking “discipline” and “respect” into our children hasn’t stopped white supremacy from lynching, abusing and shooting them to death. — Terrell J. Starr (@Russian_Starr) April 29, 2015 The police don’t care if you choose times outs or belts, or if you smacked your son every time he got out of line or not. The police don’t care if you taught him to say yes sir or no sir, or curse like a sailor or not. The police don’t care if you had “the talk” about how to interact with them or not. As we’ve seen time and time again, respectability won’t save anyone. It didn’t work in the Civil Rights Movement when men and women put on their Sunday’s best to confront racist cops who still brutalized them, and it doesn’t work today as kids are admonished for wearing hoodies and sagging pants, as if it actually matters what they have on when they are abused and killed. The police do not care. And hitting your son won’t shield him from a system that views him as suspicious simply because he exists. If it did, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now, because parents have been hitting since forever, and it hasn’t stopped the police from doing the same. Each and every time the police kill someone it seems like we wring our hands about what they did or didn’t do to provoke it, instead of questioning why they were killed in the first place. When a NYPD officer choked Eric Garner to death, folks said, “Well, he shouldn’t have been selling loose cigarettes.” When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down within two seconds of police arriving on the scene people questioned, “But why was he playing with a toy gun?” When Rekia Boyd was shot in the head while sitting in her car and minding her own business, people wondered, “Why was she out so late?” When Freddie Gray ended up with a severed spine after making eye contact with an officer and taking off, people said, “He shouldn’t have run.” Sadly, young Black folks—even those raised “right” or hit or talked to constantly—are racially profiled by police officers on college campuses and in neighborhoods. They’re far more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts, and sadly, no amount of preventative beatings or time outs can, or will, stop that. If we really want to protect our children from the police we can’t beat them into submission out of fear, we must push for substantive changes in the justice system; increased economic opportunities for our neighborhoods; better schools; and equal and fair protection under the law. Until that happens we will keep seeing more uprisings across the country. Baltimore is only the beginning. Related Post After Ferguson, What Do Men & Boys of Color T... After Ferguson: Here’s The Talk That Needs t... Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag:...