My beautiful daughter is ten years old. She is amazing, a track star and honor roll student. She does competition cheerleading and cheers at her school. She is popular at school and a class ambassador. As her father, I have enjoyed many dates with her where I treat her the same way I envision a decent young man treating her eventually in life. She binge watches Nailed It on Netflix, still looks for swings at the park, climbs trees, and looks forward to going to the playground.
Now, imagine some grown man or woman sizing her up and eyeing her down. A predator wouldn’t think twice about her innocence and could care less whether she is a track star who has dreams of running in college or her cheerleading back handsprings, handstands and tucks. This knowledge would only get in the way of the predator’s vile plans. Swings, trees and playgrounds will definitely be a thing of her past if a predator was successful. Predators wish to strip children of anything that allows them to enjoy their childhood. The predator’s hope is to develop her a child into the dependent slave whose mind is taken over, stripping the child of mental, emotional, and spiritual stability. As a man who would die and live for his children, I instantly think in my mind that I wish a muthafucka would. That I would kill anyone or anything that would want to harm my children in that way. While this may be true, as the father who was given the gift of helping my daughter lay the groundwork for a wonderful life I have to approach this in a more strategic manner.
Obviously, this conversation is being sparked by the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. A series that has brought light to the entertainer’s personal exploits where he would target young underage girls. These exploits left him feeling in control but yet diminished the teenage years of the young girls that were a target of his acts. Truth of the matter is what R. Kelly has done is well known of in black communities. Which in no way, shape, or form makes these deplorable and heinous actions excusable. Generations have passed and rape, molestation, and child endangerment has dwelled within the back of our closets with a rug draped over and we ask the victim to never uncover this truth about their lives. This leaves them scarred emotionally and mentally with seemingly no place to go. If one has ever loved, supported, or cared for a survivor then suppressing a numbing and hurtful life changing event would be the last thing that we should ask of a victim because silence is a killer.
I don’t have all of the answers, and I struggle at times to find the right ways to engage my daughter with topics of this magnitude. What I do believe though is that I, as a caring man in her life, can partner with her mother and other caring women in her life to garner the right words to start the conversation. Yes, I think it’s a conversation men need to have with their daughters to show them that a man can care for you in a way that’s other than sexual and physical in nature.
Surviving is realizing that centuries of predatory acts can only be prevented by not hiding our children from despicable acts but by giving them the proper tools needed to recognize predators. Surviving is unpacking those generations full of skeletons in our closets and allowing our children to be present so they can see that being a victim is not a mental death sentence, and it can be overcome. Surviving is knowing there will unfortunately always be a demographic of people who coddle, protect, uphold, and even assist predators that we are attempting to keep away from our children. Predators go where children are, such as cheer competitions, track meets, playgrounds, and even at home. Let’s equip our children with knowledge to protect their lives now and in the future. It’s a conversation that is long overdue.
The first week of 2019 offered us an informative and nauseating—yet necessary— docuseries on Robert Sylvester-the-child-molester Kelly, better known publicly as musician R. Kelly. Rumors about Kelly’s predilection towards teenage girls were confirmed, and allegations of his constant, consistent abuse of women were laid bare. For most people familiar with the self-proclaimed “pied piper of R&B,” the doc uncovered nothing new. Kelly’s career has been haunted by his predatory perversions since the ’90s (Read: We know this fool is a nasty ass creep. Who names THEMSELVES “the pied piper,” a character known for leading children off a cliff with music? A NASTY ASS CREEP IS WHO).
But seeing the episodes professionally compiled, coupled with heartbreaking images of parents trying desperately to communicate with their brainwashed, sequestered daughters, brought Kelly’s ghosts of misdeeds past (and present) to life in 2019. What remains most frightening is the number of people who continue to support his nasty ass. Most of Robert’s supporters fall into the 40+ age bracket, meaning they are too damn old and have too many gigabytes on their data plans to fall for the okie doke, and therefore should absolutely know better. They’ve convinced themselves that the survivors are lying, but like the old folk say: “Everybody ain’t telling the SAME lie on you.”
He has male and female supporters alike, which should make any decent human being cringe in horror. The female supporters are quite the conundrum; for starters, they’re absolutely too old for him to find desirable, so if they’re holding out hope that their fandom will win them a place in Robert’s heart, bed, or song lyrics, they are sadly mistaken. Additionally, as a woman, they should be fully aware of how young girls are routinely targeted for sexual abuse by older men, and usually suffer in silence. They probably have girls in their own households or families who have been abused, but after seeing their reactions to the R. Kelly situation, will never say a word.
Most Generation Xers/Xennials were in middle or high school when 25-year-old Kelly hit the music scene with the group Public Announcement. The group found fast fame with their debut album and New Jack Swing sound, which was hugely popular in 1992. The album produced enough hits for Kelly to venture out solo, and the next year his “12 Play” album became one of R&B’s sexiest chart toppers. Even though most were too young to engage in the activities Kelly crooned about, he cemented his place in that generation’s musical consciousness and earned hardcore fans. During this time, he was also known to be a constant presence outside of Kenwood Academy, his former high school, propositioning (or having members of his crew proposition) the girls attending the school. Due to his fame, it was an easy task, and he readily avoided ridicule and resistance from surrounding adults. Let’s hear that one mo’ time: a 25-year-old man was able to prey on girls aged 13-17 for years, at their school, just because he had popularity and money.
Where were the administrators? The teachers? Where were the big brothers/cousins/uncles/daddies who would whoop a dude’s ass for this? Where were the cops, who were supposed to be protecting and serving these CHILDREN? (Allegedly, Kelly had police officers on his payroll then and now to keep him out of trouble. There is currently no evidence to support this claim…besides the fact that he is still walking around as an unharmed, free man.) Is the proximity to money and power so intoxicating that people are willing to offer up young girls as a sacrifice to have it? In the case of R. Kelly, it seems that way.
Around this same time, Kelly was grooming 14-year-old label mate Aaliyah Haughton as an artist…and as a lover. He was lead writer and producer on her 1994 debut album, whose “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” title was, in hindsight, a reflection of his relationship with the singer. (Newsflash: Robert BEEN a bold ass, nasty ass MFer.) As much as they attempted to keep it under wraps, people detected something untoward going on in this supposed mentor/mentee situation. The docuseries produced witnesses that revealed 27-year-old Kelly’s illegal marriage to Aaliyah happened due to a pregnancy scare when she was 15, and that forged documents were produced to claim she was 18 (the marriage was annulled by her parents months later). After the annulment, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and severed all ties with Kelly and his crew (See? This is what happens with parents who cared more about their child’s welfare than fame, fortune or even HER career).
Amid sexual harassment charges that were settled out of court, what brought Kelly’s behavior to the legal spotlight in 2001 was the now infamous “pee tape”—a video recording of Kelly and an obviously young girl (said to be 13/14 at the time of the recording), having sex with and urinating on her. This young girl was actually the daughter of Kelly’s guitarist and niece to his former background singer turned protege, Sparkle. According to Sparkle, when she found out her niece was being sexually abused by R.Kelly, she went to her siblings, but nothing was done. When asked to testify in court, Sparkle identified the young girl on the tape as her niece, but the girl and her parents refused to testify. Due to their refusal, R.Kelly has never been found guilty of any legal misconduct and has remained free to wreak havoc upon others. (See? THIS is what happens with parents who care more about fame, fortune and their careers than their child’s welfare.)
The doc goes on to highlight victim after victim of Kelly’s manipulative abuse, some of which are still, to this day, under his control. Timothy and Jonjelyn Savage went to the media with their claims that R. Kelly is holding their daughter Joycelyn hostage, refusing to allow her to contact them. Joycelyn later appeared in a TMZ video denying the claim, yet it was reported by a former Kelly employee Joycelyn was coached on what to say, and Savage’s father points out where you can see someone signaling her in the shadows on the recording. Angelo and Alice Clary, whose daughter Azriel has not talked to them for three years since turning 18 and running off with Kelly, attempted to get Chicago PD to do a wellness check at the studio where she is allegedly living with Kelly. CPD’s hands were tied, however, and the parents were denied any access. The Savages and Clarys are still fighting to contact their daughters, and reportedly, Kelly is facing criminal investigations in both Georgia and Chicago after the docuseries aired.
That it took a major network to air a 6 hour, 3 day special for most people to pay closer and more serious attention to this situation is mind-boggling. This should serve as a wake-up call in our communities to not only #BelieveSurvivors, but to also remove celebrities and people with money and influence from the pedestals of immunity when it comes to harming our children. No song is worth more than a child’s innocence. No amount of money is worth selling out our youth. For those that want to continue to support deviants like R. Kelly, step your ass in the name of sexual assault and criminality from now on—because you have no idea what the word love means. The faster we #MuteRKelly, the less likely anyone in the future will have to proclaim #MeToo from his reign of terror.
As we embrace another holiday season and go about our shopping, eating, and greeting of our family members I would be remiss if I didn’t express my wishes for our most precious resource, our children. So I sat down to pen my wishlist for them personally and for the adults who make critical decisions that affect their lives educationally and into the future.
- I wish our kids didn’t have to endure school closures and transitions that put their lives in turmoil. More importantly, I wish the adults who have control of this would re-examine the urge to use this as the only resort. It negatively affects kids more than you all admit to know.
- I wish parents would create a more organized coalition, and seek to develop common strategies to bring a better education system to our kids. Accountability should be a key goal of this coalition as we seek to partner with entities who have our children’s best interest at heart. Let’s break down the walls of these silos that we operate in and realize that numbers and a clear, precise, and well-spoken demand is our greatest strength
- I wish the Orleans Parish School Board and Supt. Henderson Lewis would practice and show some leadership as it relates to our school system and engagement with families. They have yet to articulate a plan to garner more quality schools or seats to parents or the community whom they serve. I also wish they don’t believe they can close their way to quality seats because that would just be simply irresponsible and careless.
- I wish those previously mentioned school board members would do the duties of their elected jobs and visit more schools to talk to more families. I’m guessing the people that you say you serve should at least know who you are, just a thought.
- I wish nonprofit organizations, the Education Research Alliance Of New Orleans, and similar entities would stop getting money to study us and maybe that money could actually be used to help make education better in New Orleans. I believe we’ve been guinea pigs long enough. If you don’t have the answers by now, then it must be you.
- I wish Ed Reformers would stop thinking that all charter schools are good and that things are better in the New Orleans education system. They aren’t and we’re not. Plus, please don’t try to debate me on this with studies done by the Education Research Alliance Of New Orleans. They lack real human stories and humanity. I find most of these studies are bias research anyway. If you want the truth get it from the source.
- I wish teachers weren’t afraid to speak their mind and were free to use their talent without fear of being let go by the reigning CEO of the CMO operator that they work for. We know that’s why they fired all of those veteran teachers, but this needs to get better because teachers are the light keepers of the future.
- I wish that we begin to work together for the future of our children. I wish that this entire metropolitan area realizes that the success of each and every one of our children is the only way to see a better tomorrow in our communities and respective cities!
I am quite aware that all of these wishes are truly attainable if we come together behind a unified goal. All of our ideas, thoughts, and opinions matter and can lead to a better New Orleans for future generations. I promise to do my part, will you join me?
I was recently honored by my peers with the highest recognition of my 11 year career so far. I was nominated and voted by my faculty and staff as the winner of the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year for my elementary school in Jefferson Parish, Washington Elementary.
They say do what you love and you’ll never truly work a day in your life and though I couldn’t love what I get to do in life more than I love teaching my students…it’s a whole lot of work. As a single mom, and a Kindergarten teacher, I am no stranger to “thankless” jobs with incomparable rewards, but to have the people around you take notice, and take the time to stop and lift you up in recognition that what you do with passion and purpose is having a significant impact…there is no greater feeling!
I get to encourage, and empower our babies at their foundation as well as help build their character. I am a part of a faculty and a community in Kenner that over the past decade have become my true family and friends, and I cry every year at the fifth grade graduation when I watch class after class of my former Kindergarteners leave my school and go out to face the world. I am still in shock and surprised by this honor, but mostly I am humbled and so incredibly grateful to do this work that I love and will continue to give it everything I have, because I was called to do so.
As I sat in an Alexandria, Virginia conference room along with other powerful, thought-provoking, expert parent-leaders, strategizing and organizing upcoming movements in the world of parent advocacy, the topic came up about the equality/equity picture. Yes, you know the one that has been used and circulated more times than any of us could probably name. The ballgame, the fence, and three individuals being affected by their positions as it related to the fence. Then UPLAN parent leader, mother, wife, and child-expert, Bianca Scott, said one of the most revolutionary and groundbreaking ideas I have heard in a while, “Why don’t we just tear the whole fence down”?
Eureka! The breath of fresh air that a simple question gave to a room was exhilarating. In fact, the thoughts birthed in me from that challenge are of a new and progressive way to address matters that have been stewing in the education swamp for quite a while and with no fresh or innovative ways to rectify the issues
First, let’s start with the repeated use of ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ in pictures, sentence, articles, and blog posts. I am also a perpetrator of this act as I used the picture and dialogue in a previous blog on the topic. But, this was before my liberation, something most keepers of the gate don’t want. Why? Because it would be an end to their reign, dominance, and in many cases their financial flow. What the use of both of these words simultaneously does is aid in the confusion of the very groups of people (families) that it is intended to help. Many of us have pondered about this topic. Written on this topic. Listened to panels and explanations on the topic, which frankly means to me that its use is not sufficient and vastly outdated. If you have to go through the trouble of explaining this topic to education professionals, then imagine the exclusion that it causes to students, parents, and families.
I actually found another picture and story that added the use of the word liberation to the same “equality/equity” picture and story. That addition speaks of reimagining the idea and in fact tearing down the fence, subsequently freeing everyone one who was blocked, while also opening up the dialogue to ideas by the very people affected by the topic of fairness. Literal liberation and a voice.
Still, education entities promote the equality vs. equity model. This clearly states to me that the broad education village is satisfied with repeatedly supporting an idea of providing a service that would keep students, parents, and families dependent on them rather than empowering families or celebrating the power families already possess.
The convening in Alexandria, Virginia of strong and capable parent leaders was supported by NAFSCE as a way to not only engage but to empower and partner with powerful parents. If the education system in America is going to be better, then the leadership has to understand that any decisions, plans or goals will never be met as long as family engagement doesn’t seek to empower families and as long as families are seen as tokens in these plans. Without a significant admission that forward progress will only be accomplished by inviting and welcoming the very people who are being served, the education system in America is nothing more than a dog chasing its own tail. You are going in circles and will never go anywhere.
I believe the failure to acknowledge that the conversation about equality and equity is outdated and needs to be totally overhauled is a blatant attempt by the powers that be to keep families dependent. They know exactly what they are doing. It amazes me that in 2018 there aren’t any creative or innovative ideas coming from education leaders and that they fail to hear the voices of a large body of child-experts, the parents. 2019 offers a renewed chance to move forward in a new light but the switch has to be turned on first. If the switch is never turned, nothing will be accomplished. But, we as parents have our flashlights and we will keep presenting our demands!
Gina Womack, the executive director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) went on to lead the campaign to close the country’s most notorious juvenile prison and continues to fight for services and treatment for Louisiana’s children.
This video is about families who were looking for help for their children and being unable to find the help they so desperately needed.
Latoya Douglas and Dana Wade refused to sit idly by and allow test scores and hasty community/political leaders to decide the fate of their kids’ school. Without prior training, these two mothers organized and mobilized what is today called the ‘Parent Advocators’. This group was not only successful in keeping their kids’ “failing” New Orleans charter school from closing, they also led the charge to improve its letter grade and the overall culture of the school.
Listen to the podcast here
This post was first published on http://teachyourownkid.com
For the record, I’m not certain teachers can really afford to teach if speaking in terms of financial compensation. After spending so much time criticizing the limited representation of teachers of color, especially males (1.81% nationally), in New Orleans schools, I’ve had to seriously question whether or not teaching is even a career that would allow black men to adequately take care of their families, as society subscribes men to do.
A recent report concluded a significant reduction in the probability of high school dropout of economically disadvantaged males occurred when black male teachers are assigned to black male students during grades 3-5. Persistent inequities within our culturally diverse and nationally attractive city, make our schools more than just an engine for the instruction of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Our schools are home. Our staff is family. Both, often providing the basic needs (food, security, belongingness, etc.) that some students, unfortunately, are unable to receive from their families within their homes due to varying circumstances. More often than not, we immediately respond to the oppression of black women within our society, frequently overlooking the stress black males experience based upon the expectation(s) to carry the weight of the world because men are supposed to be strong. This shows up in our society either as men financially supporting the household or physically responsible for laborious tasks or emotionally bearing the burden of the fear and pain associated with just being a black man in America, especially within the country’s current racial climate of overt injustice and racism.
As stated in an NEA TODAY report, “Where Are All the Black Male Teachers?”, featuring African American first-grade teacher Robert Ellis’(CA) and Latinx math teacher José Luis, Vilson’s(NYC) there are concerns on the limited representation of educators of color and compensation:
He is a believer that teaching is still noble work. But when the conversation turns to teacher salaries, he can understand their reluctance. Since becoming a teacher, Ellis has learned to live frugally and take in occasional renters to make ends meet. It’s what makes doing the work he loves possible. In society, money matters, says Vilson, whose mother wonders why he doesn’t leave teaching to become a computer programmer, a job that would pay him more.
Much like my impact as a woman of color within schools where the staff demographic is predominately made up of white women, it doesn’t take long for these men to establish and build rapport and trust with students, particularly students who struggle behaviorally and/or academically and support them in achieving more opportunities for success. If representation is too limited, the likelihood of becoming exhausted from the expectations to provide so much support to so many students can result in walking away from a career that is vital to our youth and community.
Our black and brown men face and overcome insurmountable odds and their journeys need to be shared and connected to students of color to aid in their growth and development. They need to be supported by school networks and leaders in order for this to not just happen, but to persist. Additionally, black males need to be recognized as more than behavior interventionists and/or paraprofessionals, because quite often, the male presence is often desired to act as a disciplinarian for misbehavior.
Limited support to foster these professionals is why local education recruitment organizations like Brothers Empowered to Teach BE2T are so critical to our community.
We recruit people of color–particularly black men–to explore careers in education, utilizing a formula that tackles the two key factors that keep black men from such a path. As much as 33% of college-bound black men will drop out by sophomore year. Of those who go on to graduate, they are not considering the teacher programs that are available because they do not resonate with them and they are too short and insufficient in preparing teachers that are culturally competent and content strong. We have to concurrently attach them to school, working with kids, and train them to be incredible teachers.
I have recently had an opportunity to see some fellows’ engagement with my students, and their presence and impact is felt immediately. As math instructor, Douglas Butler of L.B. Landry- O.P. Walker College and Career Preparatory High School in New Orleans explained to me,
I believe men can afford to teach because teaching is bigger than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teaching from a male’s perspective enhances the craft with survival skills. What I like to call, How To: How to provide for your family. How to protect your identity. How to pay bills. How to raise a child. And lastly, how to be a better man in America.”
Until politicians and schools make improvements in teachers’ compensation and support,
perhaps, what one may lack in compensation and support, can be gained through the satisfaction of the output of necessary service work within a community where our future leaders need it the most.
Click here to read more about BE2T and their efforts within the community.