The Praying Mom GiveAway

This is my first giveaway. If it works well then I’ll dive right in (see earlier post about learning about giveaways), if not, then I’ll support others but not do it myself…here it goes….

In honor of Lent, Women’s History Month, and Moms I’m giving away a Mom’s Devotional Bible and journal. What you have to do to win is:

1. Follow me on Twitter @MamiNgwa (2 points)

2. Tweet about the giveaway (1 point)

3. Leave a comment on my blog about this giveaway (3 points)

Giveaway ends on March 31st 11 p.m. EST. Winner announced on Blog, Twitter, and FB on April 6th.

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I’m a Mom of a Black Boy in the U.S.: A brief rant

I have lots to share from events this past week and this week, but I’m going to start with this:

This week I’ve hugged, kissed, cuddled, and nurtured my son more than in past weeks. I’m feeling ultra protective. Now that I am a mom I understand that need/desire to protect your child from all harm in whatever way it takes to do so.  My heart feels so heavy and broken for Trayvon Martin’s family. I’ve been watching and listening to all the news about this incident and I’m trying to maintain a sense of calm and sanity. But as a mother of black boy in America it is difficult to not have all kinds of irrational thoughts and feelings.

I grew up in a diverse household (Black, White, Latino) and neighborhood. My parents (a mixed race couple) never mentioned race relations and when I encountered a situation that seemed rift with any kind of ism (race, sex, etc.) we talked about it. But prejudice, discrimination, oppression were not part of my vocabulary until I went off to college. I was pretty sheltered and naïve. In college I learned what it meant to be a minority in America.  Students of African descent made up almost 3% of the population at UCSB. It was possible that I could be the only face of color in a lecture hall of 300. I didn’t think twice about it. Then there was this incident that I will never forget. The short version: a good friend (African American) got into a fight with a Caucasian boy at a club and my friend ended up in jail. It was probably the 1st time in my life that “being black in America” really hit me.  After that my awareness was up and I noticed many things that I may not have noticed before.

Living in Atlanta I felt comforted by the number of people of color and especially the number of people of color in positions of authority and power. AND living in Atlanta I also got to see lots of racism and prejudice – after all it is the south and despite growth, population change, etc., etc., etc. there’s still plenty of racial tension

So now I’m a mom of a boy of African descent. I’m a worrier by nature although I’ve tried to quell my worrisome thoughts – they just interfere with reality. But the shooting of Trayvon Martin has me in worry-mode again. I can’t for the life of me begin to understand how an individual can shoot another one and not be arrested. I’m not a lawyer nor do I pretend to understand the intricacies of laws in different states, etc. But it just seems to be that murder is murder and requires some action.

I feel helpless, somewhat hopeless, scared for the future my son will live, worried that I cannot truly protect him from harm, and angry that authorities are slow to act. As a social worker and educator I teach justice, in my own life try to live a just life and create that type of world, but incidents like this leave me often speechless and wondering if what I (we) do is making a difference. If it were your child who had been shot by a man as he walked home from the store, would you not want someone to take action?All moms have these thoughts I’m sure, but only moms of black boys need worry that a white vigilante will shoot her son because….why?…

Wear a hoodie, sign the petition, make some noise for justice!

 

Remembering Kendra: The World of Giveaways and Prizes

Yesterday I was thinking about my former co-worker and friend Kendra. She is beautiful, funny, and had (probably still has) energy and enthusiasm that could rarely be matched!  That girl knew how to live and enjoy life!  Kendra are you reading?

Kendra & I often discussed our hair

I’ve been exploring the crazy world of giveaways. My friend L.G. told me that one way to increase blog readership is to participate in giveaways (we have a research project going on so I wanted to increase blog readership to get more study participants, otherwise I blog just for fun).  For those of you not in the know about giveaways – there is a whole world out there of mostly mom bloggers who review and giveaway products – all kinds of stuff for kids, household, garden, kitchen, trips, etc., etc., etc.  Most of the stuff is really good and/or useful, fun.  So what I’ve learned so far is that it requires you to be on FB and Twitter and to have a significant number of followers, you need a PayPal account, an active blog with a good number of followers, and often you need to use a program called Rafflecopter® that manages the giveaway entries.  You basically have a part-time job once you start blogging and joining in giveaways.  Yesterday I spent 2 hours just looking at all of the opportunities and trying to figure out how to use Rafflecopter.  I felt crazy…and then I remembered my former co-worker and friend Kendra.  Back before the internet, before cellphones & text messaging, before blogs, before any form of social media, Kendra was excited and obsessed with contests and giveaways.

Kendra would fill out (by hand) 3×5 cards with her name & address and mail them (via U.S. Postal mail in an envelope with a stamp – quaint huh?) to the party sponsoring the contest.  She would do this with great enthusiasm and religiously. It was amusing to watch and her excitement was quite contagious! But can you imagine sitting down and taking the time to hand-write hundreds of 3×5 cards and then mailing them out in an effort to win a prize?! I think she actually got to go on a show called Supermarket Sweep and she might of won a lipstick from Mac (my memory is kinda foggy but I know she did win something!).

I was complaining yesterday that I was getting confused by the instructions to join the giveaways (you have to fill out a form, post a comment on a blog, sometimes find a sponsor, pay $1-$5, follow someone on Twitter, “like” on FaceBook…) filling out 3×5 cards by hand seems so much simpler! Kudos to you Kendra for being a pioneer (in my eyes) back in the day before the onset of today’s technology that’s supposed to make winning prizes easier.

In the end, I’m on the fence about the giveaway world. It’s time consuming and with a full-time job, hubby, and toddler I’m not sure the payoff (more blog readers) is worth it.  But if you’re into winning free stuff and want to connect with a wide world of moms (and some dads too) then I encourage you to jump right in and join the world of giveaways.

The following shout-outs are unsolicited:

Here’s a small sample – Check out: Mom Giveaways, She Blogs, Mom Bloggers Club, and/or Mom Blog Society

There are also several bloggers that participate in giveaways, so if you follow their blog you can join in the fun: The Family That Laughs Together, Savvy Mommy, Family Focus Blog, Adventures of 8 (she’s my tribe chief),

A messgae from Million Moms Challenge

Dear Friends,

How many more women need to die in childbirth because they have little or no access to medical care, before the world says, enough?

International Women's DayToday is International Women’s Day. The UN is currently hosting the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). For two weeks each year, world leaders come together to discuss the status of women and girls around the world. Last Friday, I joined the conversation at the UN, in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child initiative. The session, called “Keeping Promises and Measuring Results,” focused on accountability taking responsibility and reporting back on what governments and international organizations are doing upholding their commitments to improve the health and lives of women and girls.

Speaking from the floor, World YWCA General Secretary and Commissioner Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda made an impassioned plea that women must be a driver not beneficiary of that accountability. “We are tired of dying. We are tired of burying each other on the way to the clinic,” she said, urging greater health access for rural women.

Commemorating International Women’s Day means answering that call. It means pushing for education, safe pregnancy, safe labor and delivery, and healthy babies.

As we raise our voices, we create more space for others to be heard—those who don’t have a voice. Yet.

What can you do to honor International Women’s Day? Take action.

    1. Go to millionmomschallenge.org/action and choose an action. Join the conversation and share a post from our blog or community — stories that highlight women across the globe.
    1. “Like” us on Facebook, and then share our page with your friends to spread the message of healthy outcomes for all mothers and babies around the world. You could post:
    1. Follow us on Twitterand tweet:

A Rant about Malls, Indoor Playgrounds, & Older Kids

So I’m in love with the mall for a different reason than when I was a teenager. Thanks to my friend L.G. for cluing me into the indoor play areas ta the mall. This is a good alternative for cold weather. But I am grouchy about guardians of older kids who are not cautious and considerate of the younger smaller kids.

Today I discovered that a good time to go to the mall with your toddler is 30 minutes or so before the stores open. N has been sick but today must have had cabin fever because he kept reaching for the door knobs and crying. I took that as a sign that he needed to get out (without a full command of language I’m still in the phase of guessing what my son wants or needs, it’s often funny for us and sometimes frustrating). So we headed to the mall. I figured a little bit of running around at the indoor play area would be good. And then we could walk around the mall (he likes to push his own stroller), eat some rice (his favorite food) and come back home. (For the germ-a-phobes reading: I took lots of sanitizer and tissue to counter N’s runny nose and dirty hands…truth be told, I also had cabin fever after ALL day Saturday inside doing nebulizer treatments and blowing his nose!)

Parent tip: The indoor play area at the mall is not so crowded before the stores open; in fact there were only 2 other kids my son’s size and age when we arrived.

But then the mall opened and more children poured in. In my circle of friends, we “scold” each other’s kids if need be. Culturally and generationally I would also “scold” or “correct” a stranger’s child.  I grew up in a time when anyone (family, friend, neighbor, or stranger) could set you straight if you were not behaving or if you were engaging in less than appropriate behavior.  I’m keenly aware that this practice is not so common now and that there are some parents who might be offended by you doing so with their child and may even become angry with you.  It’s a hot topic, here’s an older blog about this issue). So I’m cautious about speaking to a stranger’s child.  But if my child is involved, then I’m speaking up.  The older children at the indoor playground were running around without regard to the younger and smaller kids, often bumping them or stepping on them.  I waited for the parents of two particular older boys (ages 7 and 9 maybe) to tell their kids to be more careful of the younger kids, but nothing happened.  So when one of the older boys bumped my son and he fell I asked the older boy to please be more careful.  He looked me up and down and rolled his eyes and ran away. Rude, of course, I thought.  I looked for his guardians, who were his grandparents and who when I looked their way seemed to be intensely engaged in a conversation and did not make eye contact with me. I let it go.  Another mom of a younger smaller child smiled at me and mouthed “good for you.”  “Good for me” o.k. and if more parents spoke up to correct rude or rough kids then it wouldn’t be such a big deal to do so.

I noticed that the moms of the younger children kept telling their kids “Say ‘excuse me'” or “Honey, you have to share.” Even though our kids were still too young to understand all of that. The older kids were just let loose without any supervision or correction for unruly behavior.  Not cool.  Maybe it is because parents of younger children are more cautious due to the child’s size and uncertainty of new things and activities.  But I think that in general all adults should make kids of all ages and sizes aware of each other’s space and give lessons on how to play with others.  If not, I’m right there to offer my two cents worth! Because as the cliche saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month and the theme this year is “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.”  I am not a huge fan of celebrating fill-in-the-blank month.  Our identities should be discussed and celebrated daily.  That being said, I have a strong passion for the promotion of girls and women furthering their educational journeys.  Thus, in celebration of the National Women’s History Month theme, I submit the following comments with the disclaimer that I am a female faculty member who occasionally teaches the History of Higher Education and a course focused on social services with women clients – I am a feminist of sorts and am passionate about equity for girls and women across all aspects of society.

Dr. Susan Hockfield’s announcement that she would be stepping down from her post as the sixteenth president and first female president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology got me thinking.  Since women first began enrolling in and graduating from four-year degree granting institutions, a lot of positive movement has occurred for women in higher education.  At the same time a lot of work for the equity of women in colleges and universities still needs to be done.  As an example, Oberlin College which has been one of the most progressive colleges in our nation, admitting women and African Americans before most institutions in this country, did not have a female president until 1994 (Dr. Nancy Schrom Dye), that is 161 years after its founding date!

As a African American female professor I stand on the shoulder of the many women before me who paved the road for women in higher education; and there is still a lot of work to do in promoting the attendance of women in college and promoting their leadership in those institutions.  Currently only six of the twenty-nine public institutions of higher education in Massachusetts are led by women (Bunker Hill Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Middlesex Community College, Salem State University, and Quinsigamond Community College). According to the American Council on Education, approximately 23% of the colleges and universities around the country are led by women.  New England is loosely considered the birthplace of higher education and to have less women than the national average leading our colleges and universities is a shame.  Women (in particular faculty and administrators) are still relegated to the status of a minority (Sociologically speaking as defined by Richard T. Schaefer) on college and university campuses

There are many issues pertinent to women in higher education.  Among those issues are: (a) the number of women enrolled in and graduating from programs in the sciences, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – although increasing, the number is still low. In 2006, 15% of all female first year students planned to major in a STEM field compared with 29% of all male first year students; the highest percentage of females in this category major in the Biological sciences; (b) full-time faculty appointment and fair pay for women faculty – AAUP’s Faculty Gender Equity Indicators report states that women make up 39% of full-timer faculty nationally compared to men who make up 61%; the same report found that “across all ranks and all institutions, the average salary for women faculty was 81% of the amount earned by men”; (c) conditions on campus for working mothers – many campuses do not have private space for lactating mothers, changing rooms for mothers who may need to bring their baby or young child on campus, and many college and university campuses do not have or partner with any type of child care facility; and (d) violence against women on college campuses – while both men and women are victims of sexual assault, women are disproportionately

So who’s working on these issues? Who cares about the status of women on college and university campuses? Anyone who is on a college or university campus should care and should make steps to work on anyone of if not all of these issues.  We should not sit back and wait for AAUW or the AAUP to take action to solve these problems.  Contribute to a scholarship that supports girls majoring in the sciences, math, and/or engineering; write your legislator about supporting pay equity legislation, adequate FMLA; rally campuses to have facilities that support new and working mothers (daycare centers, changing stations, lactation rooms); fight back against cultures of violence against women as promoted by college athletes, fraternities, and/or alcohol use by minors.

As part of national Women’s History Month, contribute to a scholarship that supports girls majoring in the sciences, math, and/or engineering; write your legislator about supporting pay equity legislation and an adequate Family and Medical Leave Act; rally campuses to have facilities that support new and working mothers; and fight back against cultures of violence against women as promoted by college athletes, fraternities and alcohol use by minors.

Women’s voices on college campuses are an important part of this nation’s culture and vitality.  More women in the STEM fields helps the nation be more competitive internationally; equitable appointments and pay for female faculty allows for greater collegiality and productivity; support for working mothers helps to decrease absences and increase morale; and greater safety for women on campus promotes empowerment and creates an environment of mutual respect.

It is incumbent upon all of us, male and female, to take a pledge—not just this month, but on a daily basis—to become more pro-active in supporting gender equity and safety on college and university campuses.

Hair and Cultural Awareness

Observations and Ramblings about my hair and some recent encounters related to hair:

I teach a range of courses in a School of Social Work. One of the courses I teach is a course on diversity. In social work we refer to the use of skills, ways of thinking and behaving, and understanding in such a manner that a person’s various identities are considered – cultural competency. I’d have to write another blog just to fully cover cultural competency, but suffice it to say that it can occur in many small and larger ways in any number of contexts.

A couple of days ago I was pleasantly caught off guard when the director and owner (CB) of my son’s day care center complimented me on my hair.  Like many women I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my hair and have changed my hair more times than I care to remember.  Hairstyle, length, and texture are especially touchy subjects for women of color.  Hair can be political for women of African descent living in American (think of the puffed out afros of the 60s and 70s). People sometimes have strong negative reactions to natural hair, braids, dreadlocks, etc. stating that none of the mentioned styles are professional (that’s another blog post for another time)

semi-natural

Semi-natural

Currently I am wearing my hair semi-natural. Semi because it still has chemical in it and it’s not completely natural and I’m putting styling product in it to enhance the natural kink (or curl as the styling product states on the label). Needless to say my friends who have known me for some time might ask “What is going on with you and your hair?!” So anyway…it’s cute in a “I’m not sure what to really do with it” way. I’ve been thinking a lot about raising a son who sees his mom with natural hair so that he knows that beauty is not necessarily about straight relaxed perfectly combed hair. I’ve never had strong feelings about what’s going on with my hair until I had my son, so this is all kind of new. I typically change my hair a lot but it has nothing to do with wanting a certain type of hair, it has more to do with boredom and the fact that I have options and it’s fun to play around with hairstyles, wigs, braids, waves, etc.  Anyway…as I was dropping my son off CB was in the room and she just commented on my hair being natural, she said she liked it and that it worked for me because I have a pretty face. I smiled and laughed because it was something my mom would say! But I felt nice…most Caucasian women I’ve known don’t know enough about black hair to know when my hair is natural or not. My friend PC always notices my hair and sweet in her encouraging comments and questions – it’s always a nice cultural exchange! My pleasure in CB’s comment had less to do with me being cute and more to do with my satisfaction that I knew the day care we chose really had a culturally competent leader (as required by NAYEC).

Day care center teachers are notoriously white and female. So enrolling our African American son in a suburban day care center caused me some anxiety. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and until I moved to Atlanta had not seen African Americans in the majority let alone in positions of power and prominence. And I don’t expect great diversity where my son goes to daycare because the center, while adjacent to a city full of immigrants, is located in the suburbs. I chose this day care because it is owned and operated by a woman, it is not a franchise chain, and it is close to home. The teachers are wonderfully nice, my son is safe, well cared for, learning new things, and the kids are incredibly cute! I teach cultural competence for a living and write about it as often as I can. It is a skill that encompasses many levels of understanding, behavior, and thinking. It is more than just knowing when a black woman’s hair is natural versus straightened with chemicals. In this context this simple small exchange said a lot to me. The fact that CB displayed cultural competence around something as benign as my hair was a pleasant bonus!

Flashback to a week ago when my son and I were at the mall with my friend BD (culturally competent Caucasian woman). We stopped to play at the indoor playground. I was a little bit nervous because he’s young (15 months) and the children there are appeared to be at least 3 years old and older. But in fashion true to himself, my son jumped right in there with the other kids and slid down the slide (head first) and climbed into the cars and ran around the carpet enjoying himself as if he had been there a thousand times! There was a little girl who was about six years old or so and she was the type of child that likes children younger than her – you know the type who will end up being a teacher or a social worker – she kept holding the hands of the younger kids, but in particular kept wanting to hold/lift up my son. Her mom kept telling her to let my son run on his own and to not hug/hold him. I was bordering on being annoyed and thinking “how cute.” And then she patted his head and said “He has fluffy hair!” My friend BD looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said “It’s time to go.” So we smiled, scooped up my son said “bye” to the little girl and left.

Do you take on a 6 year old around cultural competency? Probably not. I’m an educator so maybe the “right” thing to have done was to say to the girl “Yes, different people have different kinds of hair, that’s what makes the world so beautiful” or something like that. But I’m not always in my culturally competent educator mode and sometimes I just want to enjoy my time out with my family and friends. I’m hoping that the little girl will grow up to meet many different kinds of people with many different types of hair and that she will appreciate each person and her hair for who she is!