Acquaah:A Biracial girl lost in Kansas

How do I teach my white family that Black Lives Matter? Let me introduce myself-My name is Acquaah, I am twelve years old. My father is from Uganda and my mom hails from Kansas. I am sure that you have figured it out by now that I am a biracial person. I am involved in a kerfuffle. Kerfuffle is one of my favorite spelling words. My teacher is creative when it comes to new spelling words.

I am experiencing two heavy duty problems. I am unable to decide which is more important. So I will just shove on and talk about them. My mom and I have moved back to her home town of Inman, Kansas. My parents are divorced and I don’t see my father at all. We live in an all-white neighborhood and my school is all white. During family holidays I am the only person of color there. All my relatives say, “we don’t see color”. These words make me feel more separate from everyone at the party. Sometimes my grandfather makes racists comments. I want to confront him, but I am too nervous to do it. I want my mom to help me confront him. When my mom and I are alone we talk about my grandpa. She says that he loves me no matter what he says. This is hard for me to believe. I want him to love the Black part of me too.

At school people say to me you have nice clothes, but your hair is weird. Do you wash it? How can you be half African, do you speak African? I want to yell at them and tell them there are many languages and dialects spoken in Africa. I want to tell my mom that my teacher wants me to talk about the inner city and how hard it is for urban kids. She also wants me to talk about slavery. Ugh! I want this to stop. I begged my mom to talk to my teacher about who she thinks I am and where I lived before. My mother is reluctant to talk to my teacher. I think my mom is embarrassed because she agrees with the people who say racism is a sticky subject. These people generally say” Oh, I’m not racist” if you bring up the subject of racism. I know that my mom loves me, but I don’t think she is strong enough to fight for me as a Black person.

I have some options: Wait six years until college; Go to boarding school or ask my father if I can live with him. If I choose to live with my father, would I be able to adjust and live without my mom? I have researched boarding schools for children of color and they are mostly on the east coast. I understand that no situation is perfect, but I need a release from the stereotyping, questioning and assumptions about me. How will I cope being away from my Kansas family? Waiting until college would be too difficult. I need to be with people who at least have a glimmer of understanding that Black Lives Matter. I respect that I am of two cultures, however I long for both parts of me to be respected by my teachers, grandparents and school friends. To be continued……

Helen’s Big Change

I am a thirteen-year-old black girl and my name is Helen. I have never had the good fortunate of having a black friend; boy or girl. Why? One might ask how I was placed in this unfortunate situation. My story takes place in a big city. This sentence sounds like something from a mystery book which I enjoy reading. When I think about the hallways of my school, I see white sails quietly moving down the hall. These sails are the people in my school.

Until last year I didn’t think about the fact that nearly everyone in my school is white. In fourth grade I began to think about being one of two or three black kids in my school. I am not sure why it took me such a long time to realize this. My mom never mentioned it. Usually when something makes my mom uncomfortable or she is unsure that she is doing the right thing she doesn’t talk about the situation. I wonder. I am on my schools’ hockey team. Last year we had a winning season. My coach tells me that this winning had a lot to do with me. I wonder if they only like me because I helped the team win.

I try hard to ignore the kids in my school who call me a black nerd. Being called this hurts my feelings and my teammates laugh about it. They say it is only a joke. I feel bad about the treatment that I receive from the teachers. I feel that they don’t care about me. I feel ignored and unprotected. Why do they let this name calling go on? My mother didn’t talk to me about my problems at school.

One day she said we are leaving this school. I was happy and sad at the same time. I had gone to this school for a long time and I enjoyed playing on the hockey team. I wouldn’t say that I had a lot of friends. I did have a few but, mostly I felt alone during the school day. My mom took me and my three brothers to a school with all black children. I was afraid of these new kids. Would they beat me up, steal my money and talk ghetto talk? I was sure they wouldn’t be like me. I was polite, rarely ever talked back, never used swear words and my hair was neat.

The new children were amazing and they treated me kindly. They were happy to be black and had beautiful hair styles. This was a first for me. I realized after many weeks that at my old school I wasn’t excited and happy to be a black person. Another thing I realized was that I had a lot to learn about being a black girl. This new school makes me feel like a top rate person. In one of my classes my teacher said, Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.

Is My Mom an Alcoholic?

My name is Herkemer Heindlick. Go ahead and giggle I’m used to it. It must happen twenty times a day. People smirk or giggle about my name. Some people say, are you Black? That’s a funny name for a Black person. Mostly the people saying this are white. This drives me batty (another of granny’s sayings) my classmates think white people are the smartest people on earth.

I always remember to tell myself that having the name Herkemer is the least of my worries. Some adults believe that kids don’t have much to worry about. That life for kids is a bowl of cherries,(which I enjoy) but If my teachers who happen to be adults knew what I worried about; I wonder if they would think life is a bowl of cherries for me.

Dear reader, you must be saying spit it out kid. I know that writing about your problems is supposed to help, so I’m about to do it. My grandmother would say my car has stalled. I’m trying to jump start it. Here is the big Worry. I am worried about my momma and the amount of liquor she drinks. My parents are divorced (another worry). Momma has always drank copious (my new word) amounts of wine. I like the air that cools my mouth when I say it. She always drank lots of alcohol, but when papa left she really revved up her drinking. I don’t want to officially declare momma an alcoholic, but I have collected some evidence to help me make an educated decision. The books I read and the people I ask (I made sure to tell them that my questions were for science class), tell me about the signs to look for. Sign one: Drinks everyday Sign two: Drinks a bottle or two at one sitting, Sign three: Some days the person is unable get out of bed. Sign four: Angry and sad at the same time.

These are my momma’s behaviors that I read about, but she has other behaviors that bother me. Momma sometimes is unable to take me to school. She pretends that I am having an unscheduled fun day off. When I have this day off, momma usually sleeps most of the day. The other problem is momma’s yelling. She is a colossal yeller. Mostly she yells at me, but not my little sister. I feel sorry for my sister because it seems that she doesn’t have a momma, only a tired drunk person on the couch.

My teachers tell me that my speech and writing are like an adult’s. There are times that I need to be an adult at home because of momma’s illness. One of the books that I read said that being an alcoholic is an illness. I am eleven years old and very short, but sometimes I feel like a mighty oak tree because of my responsibilities.

Next week is our week with papa. I have a great time at papa’s house. We cook, play games, go to the park and have interesting conversations. We are active at dads unlike at momma’s where we stay inside and play with our electronics. While at dads, I worry about momma. Will she drink too much? Who will take care of her? I love mamma but I want to live with my papa because living with mamma is too hard sometimes. I get stomachaches from worrying-about my mother. When I go to college I plan to study how to become a social worker. I wish my whole family could go to see a therapist. My friend Duckie’s family goes to a therapist. He says it is fine and they get along much better now.

Maybe I can convince my momma to go to a therapist. I could ask my papa to talk to mama about going to therapy, but she hates him and wouldn’t listen to anything he says. I will continue to think about how I could convince momma to get help for herself. I am really worried and sometimes I feel all alone.

Jabari’s Safe Place

Jabari’s is an eight-year-old African American boy who was adopted by his European American fathers. Jabari’s biological parents were abusive and neglectful. He was left in his crib for hours all alone. As a toddler Jabari was found alone wandering near the freeway.

Jabari’s fathers like most parents want a quality education for their child. They enrolled him in a predominately white private school that serves mostly wealthy families. The school diversity outreach arm was short. His classmates and teachers did not validate his culture. Who was he to identify with and who were his role models at school? Did the teachers have the same expectations for Jabari as they did the white children? Jabari was separated from the other kids if he was involved in a playground dust up. The other parties were allowed to decide where they wanted to play and then Jabari was sent to another area to play by himself. His parents weren’t told that he was separated from the other children. The teachers asked that Jabari go to physical therapy to help with his hand writing. The school determined he was autistic without a professional assessment. His frightened parents’ took him to visit a school that treated children on the spectrum. While visiting the school his parents’ immediately understood that he was not autistic. The school suggested that he be evaluated by a neuropsychologist. While on a field trip a museum display was destroyed. A group of children and the teacher blamed Jabari. Luckily for Jabari a parent volunteer stood up for him. She said that he was not involved; that another child committed this infraction. This blaming cycle would take place many times.

His dads determined that it was time for Jabari to find a new school. Jabari’s new teacher immediately made a connection with him. She felt that he was smart and would excel if his needs were met. Those needs were: to feel safe and supported; peers and staff who he could racially identify with; authentic praise and constructive criticism of his academic/social performance.

The neuropsychologist came to the new Afro-Centric school to test and evaluate him. The doctor was surprised to witness the opposite of how Jabari’s behavior was described by his former school personnel. The defiance and physically attacking peers reported in his previous school was non-existent. The teaching staff tackled the writing problem by helping him learn to form his letters. He had not been taught how to form letters at his previous schools. Soon he was writing legibly and feeling proud of himself. He understood that his new teachers had high expectations of him. Jabari was used to being singled out and ostracized, but at his new school he was told by his classmates that he was welcome to play with them, but not too rough. Every infraction was not up for long involved discussions and his concerns about his peers were taken seriously. During school wide meetings, Jabari learned that everyone makes mistakes and they can learn from them.

The results of his psychological evaluation showed that Jabari is a typical seven-year-old child who has some anxiety about abandonment. Of course this makes sense because he was essentially abandoned by his biological parents. The neuropsychologist was pleased that he found a new school community where he could grow, learn and have his culture validated.

Jabari is thriving academically and socially. The school has regular contact with his fathers and they feel supported by the school which was the antithesis of what they felt from his previous academic setting. Jabari has now been in his new school for a year and a half. He is known for his keen sense of humor, deep critical thinking and having a smile on his face.


Outdoor Close Up Portrait Of A Cute Young Black Girl - African P
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.

Find out more about the Meadows-Livingstone School by click here

Aisha’s Disappointing School Experience Part Two

blackgirldreadsHi, it’s Aisha. As you may remember from my previous story, I was not feeling comfortable at my middle school. The middle school admissions director called my old school to say that I appeared to be sad and was repeatedly late or absent. They were right I was sad. I felt no connection to the other students or teachers. I felt that this middle school had no idea of who I was or what I was feeling. They didn’t seem to understand Black children at all. The principal of my old school called my mom to inquire about the situation. Happy days-it was decided that I would return to my old school until the end of the semester. I continued to feel a bit conflicted. I was happy to be back at my old school, but I wanted to be with other seventh graders. My old teachers understood how I was feeling and they gave me seventh grade equivalent work. I worry about where I will go to school next year. I can not stay in grade school forever. The rest of the semester was comforting because it was familiar and almost everyone liked me.

The semester is over. I sang a solo, danced, led the choir, and played the drums at the annual Steppin’ Up ceremony. This ceremony is a rite of passage to launch us into the outer world. Once again it was a joyful and empowering time for me.

I had big plans for the summer. I’m going to circus camp and to a six week performing arts program. I eagerly anticipated my fun filled summer however my fear of the next school year lingers.

Summer is over……..

I have a new school assignment. This new school is a public school. I hope to find friends of many cultures. The first day greets me with a few students of color and several kids that I know from camp. So far so good.

I have been in school for two months now and I have not connected with many people. I know that my new school is nothing like my old one and that I must use what I have learned to make the best of my situation. I am hopeful that this will work out for me. I will give it my best effort.

Check out a real Afrocentric School here

Aisha’s Disappointing School Experience Part One

blackgirldreadsHi, my name is Aisha, I am eleven years old and I feel rewarded and lucky. My story starts September during my fourth grade year. My mom took me to a new school. The school seemed to be in a forest in the middle of the city, so far so good. My Mom and I entered an inviting, brightly painted building. The art on the walls made my mom and I gasp. We are both artists so we were enchanted. Something else caught our eyes and wouldn’t let go. They were posters showing black people and the great deeds they performed. I had never heard of these people. I was super excited. We were invited into the office by a lady with locks and a warm welcoming voice. Hum. She asked me about my interest and she paid attention to what I was telling her. I wondered if all the teachers at this school would listen to me and call on me when I knew the answers. At my last school I felt ignored by my teachers and very few teachers or students looked like me. On the wall in the office I saw pictures of people who looked like me and the lady told me a few stories about these children; some who are now adults. I’m sold, sign me up. My mom and I had a good feeling about this school.

Summer drug on and on. September arrived and I’m off on a new adventure. I stayed at this school for three years. I met a lot of good, kind and funny teachers. I took some interesting classes: African Civilization, African dance, art, politics, tennis, swimming and choir. Of course we had the regular classes; math, reading and spelling. These classes were fun because a game was usually part of the learning. The reading books were exciting and full of children of many cultures. I was in a band and a performing arts program at this school. I don’t have a father, he died but, at my new school there are several men teachers who were great father figures. So you see at this school I was happy, excited, fulfilled and loving myself.

My teachers say it is time for their little bird to fledge. I am off to seventh grade at a new school with different teachers and new friends.

The summer went by fast because I went to two camps. Hello September and new things. This school is in a mansion and almost all the students and teachers are white. My old teachers told me about this and that people would make a lot of comments about my hair, skin and that I would hear lots of stereotypes about people of color. I’m glad that they warned me, but when I heard these hurtful words, they still came as a surprise and made me feel awful. The other children said that my locks look like crispy barbecued Cheetos and that my skin color was too dark. On the way to school on the bus, kids would talk to me however, when we arrived at school they disappeared for the rest of the day.

I felt that I could not identify or relate to the students or teachers at this school. At my old school it felt good to be a black person. At this new school, I felt out of place, sad, bored and that blackness was weird. One teacher told me that perhaps they would find some other colored people to enroll. I wanted to yell at her that we don’t call ourselves colored and neither should she.

I wear my earphones in class and lay my head down on my desk. I am starting to miss a lot of school and I have sad doomsday feelings. I constantly feel like an alien in a strange land.

What will happen to Aisha next? Stayed tuned for part two.