This is a true story where the names of the child and mother have been changed. Other pertinent information has been altered to protect their identities.
A little girl named Jamilia came into my office with her mother to enroll her in school. She’s not the type of child people view as cute, sweet and petite. Her outfit of green patent leather shoes, red checked tights and a gold lame blouse made a distinct statement. This girl has verve, confidence and she is styling. Enrollment complete and she is in. Then Jamilia took her place among the other students and soon became a popular school family member.
Jamilia experienced the sweet days of learning and playing. She was truly a school girl and we all reveled in her presence. One day her mom Tatita, came into my office with the news that Jamila had been molested. I asked Jamilia if she wanted to share with me what she told her mother. I gave Jamila a doll to hold on to while she told me her story. She used the doll as a prop to demonstrate what had been done to her. She would tell her story many times during the week to child protective services investigators and police officers.
The social workers and CPS investigators initially did a fine job of helping Jamilia with her fears and pain. The police officer who came to our school questioned Jamilia and then informed her mother that she may be taken away and placed in a shelter. Picture this scene: your six year old daughter has been repeatedly molested and you are being told that she will be further traumatized by being taken away from you, her friends and teachers. During the time police interviewed Tatita and Jamilia, I left my office. Jamilia’s mother came out and reported to me that her child was to be transported across the bridge to a shelter.
I channeled my mother, Lavay, and her fortitude. I boldly stepped into my office and told the officer that we do not release our Black children into a system that may lose or harm them. This was my mantra thought an exceeding long day. The officer stated that I would be arrested if he were not allowed to take Jamilia. I asked him who would take her and where would they take her to. He said that he would take her to living quarters in another town. I told him that we would not send her with a stranger. He was surprised that I thought he was a stranger and in his words he said, “I am not a stranger I am an officer of the law.”
I suggested that he call his supervisor. The supervisor sounded as if she was overworked. She saw no other way to solve the situation but insisted that I would be arrested if the child was not permitted to go with the officer. Once again I was channeling Lavay and refused to allow Jamilia to go with the police officer. After much back and forth between the supervisor and myself, it was decided that the officer would attempt to arrange a safe place for Jamilia.
Jamilia’s mother and I felt less worried at this juncture. We were just about to settle down and wait for another family member to arrive. A knock upon the door brought increased anxiety. A city police officer had just arrived. I hesitantly greeted him but refused to let him enter my school until he stated his business. He told me that he was there to support the other officer. What? He must be joking. He had a gun, handcuffs, a Billy club and an imperious manner. I had no other option but to allow him into my school building. I told him that I wouldn’t let the child go with him and he said he felt like I was interfering with his job. I pointed out that he had these weapons at his ready and I possessed none therefore I was no danger to him. We agreed to disagree. I pointed out to the officer that everyone involved was a person of color and now was the time to stick together and resolve the situation in a manner helpful to the mother and child. He was delighted that I knew of his country (Mali) and wanted to show me a picture of his son and perhaps one day enroll him in my school. This scene is all too much for me. What next?
The aunt arrives to take Jamilia home, however the deal had not been finalized. Knock, Knock What now? I am at the end of the road and see no fork. I answer the door with a heavy, heavy sigh. It is the first officer. Good news at last. He shouts out with a smile on his face “I did it and Jamilia can go home with her aunt!” I shake his hand and invite him back into my office. He apologized to me for the mistakes he made because this was his first case. He told me that if I hadn’t been persistent, that the child would have entered the system.
The system she may have entered begins with a large shelter where kids of all ages are housed together. She also might have been placed in a foster home until the case was resolved. She may have not been allowed to have contact with her family for an extended period of time. The mother, aunt, Jamilia and I were spent after this day long ordeal, but I was able to raise my fist and attest to Women Power. The family left together relieved and happy. Jamila’s eyes shone brightly as she snuggled into her mother’s arms feeling safe and secure.
When I told my husband the story of my incredible day he proclaimed that I was a brave soul and that he would have been afraid he of being arrested if he tried to resist the police in the manner that I had.
I sometimes think about what would have happened to Jamilia if the police officer took her into the system. This innocent little girl may have been abused and/or neglected in the child protective service system. What I feared most though was that her loving, bright spirit may have been snuffed out. I look forward to seeing her shinning smile every school day morning; knowing that I prevented that beautiful Black Girl energy from being destroyed.
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