Mommies in Black and White

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Category: Ignorance / Race (Page 2 of 7)

A Thank You Letter Leads to a Powerful Gift From J.T Brown

JT Brown Jersey

This past February I posted a Thank You letter to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s right winger J.T Brown. Much to my surprise, my post went viral. Mr. Brown himself even reached out to our family. He sent a very heartfelt and inspiring letter to my sons. His words of courage and understanding in the sport of hockey will continue to guide my children.

J.T Brown also sent our sons autographed jerseys because, as he said, he is their fan as well. My boys were so excited that J.T Brown sent them a letter and jerseys. Our oldest exclaimed, “I can wear this my whole life time!” My husband couldn’t help but to point out the irony, “Leave it to my Liberian wife, who hates the cold and has zero experience in hockey to connect with a professional hockey player.”

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

In Liberia we say, “Sharing your blessings with others will come back to you and the generations after you.” J.T Brown, your generosity to our family will bless your family for generations to come. You’ve made this Liberian Hockey mom proud beyond measure!

God Bless,

Jebeh

Taking a Stand: Athletes, Voices, and the National Anthem

I’ve given it a couple weeks to sit. Sometimes I like to just let ideas stew – mix, absorb, penetrate, and reform again as something more holistic and refined. I’ve wanted to comment, to jump in, to make a point, but I don’t think I was ready.

A few week ago, Colin Kaepernick started gaining attention for his protest demonstration during the national anthem at an NFL game. The story has continued to progress with more athletes joining in the protest and in turn more responses and opinions shared on national and international media. Interestingly, Megan Rapione’s attempt to kneel in solidarity with Kaepernick was thwarted by the Washington Spirit ownership. Another demonstration of power structures determining which voices can be heard?

I don’t want to dig into the politics of it all, but as a sports fan, I want to point out the immense power that professional and collegiate athletes have. They have the power to change the conversation, to call attention to issues that we should all be concerned with, to share their voice and the voices of so many like them.

Whether we agree with their methods or not, we must at least recognize that athletes, like all of us, are whole people. They can’t and shouldn’t shed parts of themselves when they step into their role as athlete. While the professional atheletics system operates in a way that positions athletes as commodities, as “stock” to be traded, developed, bought and sold, they are actually living, breathing humans. They are people with real lives and real experiences both on and off the playing field.

As we’ve pointed out many times in this blog, you can’t understand someone else’s point of view, perspective or version of reality until or unless you have walked in their shoes. Until you have experienced life as they experience it – day in and day out. That goes for everyone, including our military – many of whom have taken offense to the anthem protest, and our professional athletes – many of whom have been on the front lines of race relations and issues in their own communities.

My thoughts might still be disconnected and confused regarding this issue. But, in the end I believe in freedom of speech – the right to a voice and the power that comes with a collective voice. I believe in using the platforms available to you to project your voice. To fight for the things you believe in. We all should. If we don’t, we are seriously undermining the values upon which our United States government was formed.

So, If I was to encourage anything in those who are reading, it would be to encourage others. Support athletes like Kaerpernick, Rapinoe, and J.T. Brown in their quest to open dialogue and have honest and true responses to controversial issues. They are not, as athletes, commodities with a single purpose. They are people, with experiences, perspectives, and knowledge that can reach so many and hopefully influence others along the way.

As a Bulldog alum and former Bulldog athlete, I want to end with a shout out to J.T. Brown. He used his voice to bring perspective to a controversial stance by the coach of the USA Hockey at the World Cup, John Tortorella. Brown’s approach and ability to articulate the idea of perspective was powerful and spot on and quite frankly probably something few in that particular audience (hockey) had considered before. His willingness to speak-up, to use the platform he has as a professional athlete gives me so much hope. Hope that little by little people will listen, open their minds and hearts, and slowly but surely change.

 

 

 

She lives black, she lives white in America.

jen and jebI made a decision to not use this blog to comment on social injustices, blatant ignorance, or racist and violent actions that play out in national and international media. Those stories feel so BIG. They make me feel hopeless, powerless and they push a button deep inside that says our problems, our issues as a society are so large that I cannot affect them. I cannot make change. I cannot FIX it. And all I want to do is fix it.

So, I’ve avoided the BIG issues. The scary stories. The headlines. By talking and sharing about the little things, the day to day, the minutiae of an interaction, I feel like I have some power, some control. I feel like we make progress toward breaking down barriers, eliminating stereotypes and seeing each other as human-beings.

I CAN make change in those daily interactions.

Our hope is that each of our readers feel empowered in the same way.

But, this story, this week is just too big to ignore. As our state, our communities and our country mourn, make sense of and grapple with the fear that continues to control actions, Jeb and I wanted to try to make clear how our same, but different lives feel.

Jebeh and I were born in the same year. We grew up 10 minutes from each other in very similar communities. We met at college and found out we shared childhood friends. In college we had the same major and overlapping social circles. We married Andy(s) and had kids at the same time – our firstborns 12 days apart, our second children only minutes apart. We now live a mile from each other in very similar homes and neighborhoods. We have similar socio-economic status. We are in the same social circles. We are both educators, communicators and are engaged in our community. But our realities are different…


She Lives: 

Jeb: I fear driving down my street. I’m hyper conscious of my blinker, stopping completely and following all the traffic laws.

Jen: I don’t think twice about throwing my kids in the car, buckling as I pull down the street and rolling through the stop sign if no one is coming.

Jeb: I get followed when I walk into a high end clothing store. They don’t ask if I need help.

Jen: I get approached when I walk into a high end clothing store. They ask if I need help finding anything.

Jeb: I’m asked if I’m the nanny.

Jen: I’m asked if I’m a stay at home mom.

Jeb: I’m scared for my sons. I’m scared that others will judge them for the color of their skin. I’m scared that they will be targeted because they are brown.

Jen: I’m scared for my kids. I’m scared that they might get hurt playing or make poor choices and suffer the natural consequences.

Jeb: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them to always do exactly as a police officer or other law enforcement person tells them. This is SO important.

Jen: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them if they ever need help or are in trouble they can run to a police officer or other fire and rescue personnel.

Jeb: People stare at me.

Jen: People smile at me.

Jeb: My blackness is challenged when people see that I’m married to a white man.

Jen: My marriage is accepted at face value because we “match.”

Jeb: When I’m by myself with my children, people question whether I live with my ‘baby daddy.’

Jen: When I’m by myself with my children, people smile and tell me I’m doing a good job.

Jeb: I fear that someone I love might be the next hashtag…

Jen: I fear that my kids will learn about hashtags and social media when they are too young to understand the dangers.


We are the same. But we are different. I do not live as Jebeh does. I do not fear as Jebeh does. I do not carry the weight of my skin color as Jebeh does. I live free. I live white.

That awkward moment when you are the punchline at a comedy club

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good joke. My family members tease me and say that “Jebeh has no shame.” I’m a beautiful, black, confident woman. But, some things are entertaining and others are just offensive.

Last summer, my friend and I went for a much-deserved ladies night. We ended up at a local comedy club we’d both frequented before. We knew the unwritten rule: do not sit in the front row or  you’ll be part of the comedian’s set. We chose to sit at the table furthest back.

It didn’t save us. Some random guy dressed in a grey hoodie, who was inebriated (so I thought) sat at our table (uninvited) and said to us, “Oh man I can’t do this, I feel like sh**.” That random guy then headed to the stage. Surprise! The drunk hoodie guy was the headlining comic. I looked at my friend and we agreed, it wasn’t going to end well.

He was not funny. He grasped at straws and got only nervous laughter in response. Then, Mr. Hoodie-Comedian went on a racist rant: “I wonder what it would be like to be a slave master?” “You could get anything you wanted and wouldn’t have to pay them.” The crowd went wild. Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

My friend and I felt like we were at a Klan rally. Mr. Hoodie-Comedian then pointed at me across the audience and said, “There’s one black lady in here and she’s in love with me. She would be my slave any day.” The crowd roared with laughter. After his set, he gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.” I pushed him off and left in disgust.

I was so angry at the white man who decided to offend me for a few laughs. More disheartening was the crowd’s response. I know comedy is not for the faint of heart, but that kind of comedy was not worth our time or anyone’s time for that matter.

At moments like that I try to reflect on my life and the people in it. I remind myself of what I have accomplished, of the family I have built and the friends that have my back. If I compare those things to where that comedian was in his life, the anger just melts away. My laugh is the one that is heard. Next ladies night, we’ll hit up a movie instead.

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