Here’s What Happens When You Take a 9-Year-Old to See ‘Selma’

By on Jan 25, 2015 | 4 comments

So, I took Le Kid to see Selma last week. Although I LOVED the film I wasn’t going to take it him; I figured seeing the violent clashes between police and protestors would be too trill for his young eyes. I mean, I could barely stand to watch, and was on the verge of tears for most of the film. Still, after watching Our Friend Martin on MLK day, Le Kid said he wanted to see Selma too because he “wanted to learn about the King.” I milled it over for a little while, asked other parents for advice, and even tried to talk him out of it. But I finally decided to let him see the film because he was adamant he could handle it and he wanted to know more about Dr. King. Before we got to the theater, I tried to prepare Le Kid (or scare him out of seeing it?), letting him know that some of the scenes might be upsetting and that if he wanted to leave, it would totally be okay. I almost changed my mind at the last minute, but we went to a matinee anyway. The opening caught his attention. It’s jarring, loud, and sad, but he made it. I breathed a sigh of relief, but knew more graphic (yet very, very important) things were coming. When protestors clashed with police Le Kid wanted to know why some white people were so racist back then, he talked about wanting to hulk smash them, and thought the protesters were right to stand up for justice. When the Bloody Sunday scenes came, he didn’t cry (like me), but leaned into side and flinched every time someone got hit. After the film Le Kid was full of questions (and opinions), so we talked about the bad ol’ days of American history, which included slavery, Jim Crow, and rampant racism. I told him his great-grandma grew up in the South and she had to live through segregation, and he said he’d ask her about it too. Score. Although I was nervous about taking him to see the film, I’m glad I did. Kids are amazingly smart and resilient and WANT knowledge. I’m glad I was able to expose him to some of America’s troubling history, which opened the door for us to discuss it more. Most importantly, though, I’m glad I was able to capture some of his thoughts on video, and now we’re sharing it with you. So take a look at one 9-year-old’s opinion Selma. And if you haven’t seen it, GO!   Have you and/or your #BrownBoyGenius seen Selma? What did you think? Related Post After Ferguson, What Do Men & Boys of Color T... Is Free-Range Parenting Dangerous for Brown Boys? 3 Reasons to Participate in #MuseumWeek This Brilliant 11-Year-Old Ferguson Resident Is...

Is Free-Range Parenting Dangerous for Brown Boys?

By on Jan 21, 2015 | 1 comment

A Maryland couple made national news recently after they were charged with child neglect for letting their two children—ages 10 and 6—play in the park alone. Apparently a neighbor spotted the pair on the playground, two blocks away from their home, and called the authorities who showed up at Meitiv’s house and threatened to take their kids away. According to Danielle Meitiv, the Child Protective Services officer dug up an old Maryland statue that reads: “A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.” Apparently, the CPS official felt letting the kids play at a park two blocks away from the Meitiv’s house was the same as being “locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle.” The Meitivs have appeared on several national morning shows calling the CPS official’s actions ridiculous and highlighting other cases of local officials cracking down on parents, like the South Carolina mom who was arrested last summer for letting her 9-year-old play in the park while she worked nearby. While many often bring up their own freewheeling childhood whenever such cases arise, recalling summers spent biking around their local neighborhood or solo walks to school, others criticize parents for letting kids roam around freely, citing safety concerns, crime, and potential predators. Only problem? Crime rates are nearing historic lows and most kids are preyed upon by someone they know, like a coach or a family friend, rather than a stranger trolling the park. Still, many concerned citizens feel uneasy when they see children playing at the park alone and call the police. But is this brand of parenting actually safe for brown boys? I’m not so sure. I can’t help thinking about Tamir Rice during this latest conversation about free-range parenting. Tamir was 12 when someone spotted him playing with a toy gun in a park near his home. Like most kids, Tamir pointed the gun at animals, passersby, and trees, pretending to shoot. The person who called 9-11 told the dispatcher the gun was “probably fake” and the “guy” was “sitting on the swings.” Was he playing cops and robbers? Was he pretending to be a cowboy? Was he taking down the bad guys? We’ll never know because two seconds after police arrive on the scene, Tamir was gunned down. Two seconds. They shot him before the car even stopped moving. Tamir’s mother no doubt felt comfortable letting her son play in the park alone. He wasn’t far from home, and both she and Tamir’s big sister were on the scene shortly after his was shot. I can’t help but wondering how quickly the overreaction to kids alone in public, the fear of young Black boys, and Cleveland’s history of terrible policing collided into one tragic incident. And I can’t help being afraid that it’ll happen again and again, especially to our boys. As the parent of a 9-year-old boy who is full of energy, curiosity, and is tall for his age I want to be able to let him play and explore on his own. We live in a safe neighborhood, so crime is the least of my worries. Still, I don’t let him get too far out of my sight for fear I’ll end up like Meitivs, or worse, my son will end up like Tamir. Parenting isn’t easy, and parenting boys of color can be even more complicated, but we can’t raise our kids in fear. How do you balance the need to give your boys some freedom with your need to keep them safe? Are you a free-range parent? How is it working out for you and your family? Related Post These Brothers Are Authors, Entrepreneurs and Cham... Leland Melvin Has the BEST NASA Photo Ever, But He... 3 Reasons to Participate in #MuseumWeek Check Out the Sneaky Way Police Are Using Social...

Check Out the Sneaky Way Police Are Using Social Media to Bust Teens

By on Dec 11, 2014 | 0 comments

When I was still in the classroom, Myspace, YouTube, and AOL Instant Messenger were all the rage with my students. Instead of passing notes in English class, my students were feverishly texting and IMing each other whenever their teachers had their backs turned. As our society has become more tech savvy, teens and tweens have gone from meeting up afterschool to chat with their friends, to Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagraming every moment of their lives. And police are watching. Recently, Ben Popper of The Verge published an eye-opening and heartbreaking account of Asheem and Jelani Henry, two young men in Harlem whose lives have been turned upside down because of their alleged involvement in a neighborhood gang. Though police and New York City prosecutors haven’t disclosed all of the facts, what seems to have sealed the young men’s fate in the eyes of law enforcement was their social media activity. In each case, police and prosecutors offered Facebook photos, YouTube videos, and Myspace threads as evidence that the Henry brothers were members of a The Goodfellas crew, and therefore complicit in criminal activity under conspiracy statutes. The brothers say being targeted because they hung out with people from their neighborhood is unfair, but law enforcement officials tout programs such as the NYPD’s Operation Crew Cut as a success. “We are coming to find you and monitor every step you take,” Joanne Jaffe, the department’s Housing Bureau chief, told The New York Times in 2013. “And we are going to learn about every bad friend you have.” That’s how Asheem and Jelani got caught up. After pleading guilty to a weapons charge back in 2008 when police found he had an illegal, non-functional gun, Asheem turned his life around. He graduated from high school and even began attending college in New Jersey. But all that changed when police charged him with conspiracy three years later due to his previous affiliation with The Goodfellas. Popper explains: “Determined to fly straight, he kept a clean record after that, graduating high school and heading off to college at William Paterson University in New Jersey. As a freshman, Asheem had finally put some distance between himself and his troubled neighborhood. But in the week of his first midterm exams, his mother called him. ‘You need to come home,’ she told him. ‘The police are looking for you.'” Asheem was confused: “…I asked them, ‘Yo, is that no form of double jeopardy?’ And they said, ‘No, because you pled guilty to the weapon, it opens up [the conspiracy charge]. And because you got pictures with these other guys, they’re saying you guys all knew what was going on.” When a judge told Asheem he’d face 15 to 30 years in prison if he chose to go to trial, he decided to take a plea. Some people will balk at his decision to go to prison for five years instead of 30, but far too often our boys fall into the system that doesn’t care about them and are pressured into taking years-long plea deals instead of spending half their lives in prison. I know; I’ve seen it up close. Sometimes survival is your only option, so you take it. Instead of finishing college, Asheem will be eligible for parole in 2017. While his story is tragic, the case of his younger brother Jelani is even more shocking. Five months after Asheem was arrested and charged with conspiracy, Jelani was picked up and charged with two counts of attempted murder. The evidence? Police said witnesses saw a young, light-skinned Black man fleeing the scene of a shooting, and despite having a clean record prior to being arrested, prosecutors argued Jelani’s social media footprint proved he was a member of the gang. Popper writes: Jelani had never been convicted of a crime, but at the arraignment, the District Attorney’s office described him as a known member of a violent gang. As evidence, Jelani and Alethia say, she pointed to posts about Goodfellas that he had “liked” on Facebook. The judge denied Jelani bail, instead sending him to Rikers Island, one of the nation’s most notorious jails. Jelani spent nearly two years in Rikers Island waiting for his case to go to trial (and refusing to take a plea deal, insisting he was innocent), but after months of delays by prosecutors when additional evidence failed to materialize, the district attorney dropped the case. Scarred by his time in one of the most violent jails in America, these days Jelani is weary of what he posts and likes on social media. “I prefer to just be in the house, not do nothing, be bored out my mind, instead of being outside and being a part of something, which I’m not really.” Despite the large-scale takedowns across NYC (and falling juvenile crime rates across the country), Jelani said many teens still aren’t aware of how their seemingly normal social media activity can be used against them. “People post things just to get likes to be popular,” he told Popper. Though Asheem and Jelani’s story is upsetting, one of the most disturbing bits of information to emerge is the fact that police began social media surveillance of the young men before they were even adults or accused of a crime. In many cases law enforcement officers regularly created fake profiles to sidestep privacy restrictions and gain access to suspected crew members’ accounts. Later, this became the basis for...

After Ferguson: Here’s The Talk That Needs to Happen

By on Nov 26, 2014 | 0 comments

By now you’ve heard about the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. While several folks in Ferguson took the decision HARD, gathering in the streets to express their anger and rage, I’ve been trying to get a handle on exactly how I feel. Based on our Nation’s history, based on the fact that police officers are rarely held accountable in the deaths of people of color, and based on my own gut instinct, I knew the Grand Jury would probably refuse to indict Wilson. Still, the news hurt.  Like most of you, I spent Monday night watching as Ferguson went up in flames. While TV cameras flashed chaotic scenes of people breaking into shops, looting, and setting a police car on fire, I couldn’t even muster a damn bit of concern for those things. Is it right to loot and burn business and destroy property? Certainly not. But watching people who look like you continually disrespected, murdered, and treated like second class citizens in our own country takes its toll. Sometimes, emotions irrupt into actual fires. And while it may or may not be productive to act on rage, stores can be rebuilt, but dead teenagers cannot be brought back from the grave. MLK said it best: “A riot is the language of the unheard,” and maybe after Ferguson puts out the flames folks will start listening. But until then… Is burning down property ok? No. But killing folks is worse. You can rebuild a store, Mike Brown can not come back from the grave #Ferguson — britni danielle (@BritniDWrites) November 25, 2014 In the wake of Mike Brown’s slaying and the Grand Jury decision you will no doubt read a slew of articles wondering if this latest injustice will kickstart a serious conversation about race in America. You’ll also likely see multiple articles about what we–parents of Black boys–will tell our sons. Such articles popped up after both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were killed, and I’ve been asked to write a similar piece now. Honestly, though, I don’t want to tell my son sh-t about how he should deal with law enforcement or some vigilante stalking the streets. My son is not the one who needs the lecture. Here’s the thing. Whether I teach my son to be unapologetically Black,  know ALL of his rights as an American citizen, and move through this world as if he’s entitled to the same rights as his white peers; or if I teach him to be suspicious of police, go out of his way to be as non-threatening as possible, and strip away his Blackness until it’s JUST the color of his skin, it doesn’t matter. America will view him how they want, never mind who he actually is. In the minds’ of many, my son is less innocent simply because he’s Black. In 4 days: Tanesha Anderson – 37 yrs old; Tamir E Rice – 12 yrs old, Akai Gurley – 28 yrs old. All black. All dead. All killed by police. — EstherArmah (@estherarmah) November 25, 2014 Time after time, people of color have to prove we’re not criminals, prove we’re worthy to be included in our own democracy, prove that we’ve earned everything we’ve achieved. So, no. The conversation that needs to go down has to happen with THEM, not us. The powerful, the politicians, the police, and the white folks who cloak themselves in the privilege of not ever having to think about race, until they can’t possibly look away–THEY need the talk, not my son. What’s it going to be America? When are you going to get real about race? When are you going to sit down at your dinner tables and talk about how you clutch your purse when a person of color walks by, or how you view kids of color as menacing and aggressive, even when they’re just being kids? Would Cleveland Police shoot – and kill – a 12-year old white kid with a toy gun? RIP #TamirRice pic.twitter.com/ENxj34JMN0 — Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) November 24, 2014 When are you going to have that talk, America? As for what I’ll tell MY son, I’m about two seconds away from channeling Brother Malcolm. Are you going to discuss Ferguson with your BrownBoyGenius? How do you plan to tackle it? Related Post Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag: #Black... Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With Natu... Why Did He Run? On Mike Brown & Parenting Bro... No Easy Choices: Baltimore Mom Smacks Son to Keep...

#VestorVote? EVERY Parent of a Brown Boy Needs to Watch This!

By on Oct 30, 2014 | 0 comments

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Yes, Boys Struggle With Body Image Too

By on Oct 7, 2014 | 0 comments

Young girls are under pressure to live up to unrealistic beauty ideas, but boys struggle with body image too. Unfortunately, no one’s talking about it. Until now.