The following is a social media posting I woke up to on the morning after the 2016 Election Day
“Accurate description of how I feel right now:
In the sixth grade, I found out that the KKK still exists…that it wasn’t an entity that solely existed in my history books like the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and outright literal slavery in the US, but that it was an organization that still exists to this day.
My first reaction wasn’t irritation, rage or frustration. It was fear. Deep, bone-chilling fear that produced sobs that wracked my 12 year old body. And I only had one concern in response: will they kill me? Can I be killed for no reason?
If I try to fit in and I don’t talk slang, and I tell everyone I don’t like fried chicken or grape drink, if I cringe along with the white people in my class when slavery is brought up in history class…IF I DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, EVERYTHING TO ERASE MY BLACKNESS, WILL THEY KILL ME ANYWAY BECAUSE OF MY SKIN?
And of course, those sobs were hysterical. I realized that I could not totally protect myself. If someone was out to kill black people, they need not wait until I open my mouth. They need only look at the skin I was born in and can’t change.
It was the moment I remember feeling the most afraid and impotent. That is how I feel now. I can’t move past this question that it’s a shame I have to ask: will they kill me? Will I survive to see the next president elect in 2020?
Way back in middle school, I eventually concluded that I was overreacting and my life wasn’t truly in danger. I was overly emotional and easily frightened.
Over ten years have passed since then and I’m struggling to stay rational, to not give in to fear… But I heard how he spoke at rallies and the debates, I heard his soundbytes, I heard how his supporters spoke and how they behaved…and I can’t tell if I’m overreacting this time.
And that’s what terrifies me the most.”
My dear daughter, Madona Ayorinde,
As the mother of that middle schooler and 10 years later, a young adult who is trying to make sense of life on her own terms, I want you to know that it is at times like these that you work at unleashing qualities of the firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
The seeds of sensitivity, high self-esteem, love and appreciation of the humanity of mankind, empathy and much more that have been embedded in you are now yours to use.
I wish I could make you a promise that moments like these will be few and far between as you blossom into full adulthood, but I can’t, as the reality of life as I know it dictates otherwise. The trick is to use the tools that are available to you in a manner that will bring about self-preservation in the physical and mental health sense of the term, with little or no chance of feeling victimized by the shenanigans of this sometimes cruel adult world. I implore you to always operate from the mindset that: it is not the hand that life deals you that defines you, but it is the way you handle what is thrown at you that defines the essence of life for you.
I am sorry that for you there were no satisfactory explantions that could have protected your 6th grade mind set from what you discribe as bone-chilling fear when you learnt that the KKK was not merely a group that once existed, but one that was and is now alive and well.
I am sorry that current events have taken you back to reliving the nightmare that no child should have to experience, as adults around them espouse hatred, racism, bigotry, insensitivity, ignorance, lewdness as the status quo.
I am sorry you once entertained making changes to the essence of your being and or buying into the stereotypes that a cross-section of white America has in place for its black counterparts, in order to fit in and escape the wrath of the KKK.
I am particularly sorry I did not read between the lines at that time to identify the emotional trauma you experienced, for you know my parent-school alliance initiative would have been stepped up to include tools that the school would have had to put in place to address this important issue in a manner that would have been of benefit to not just you, but to the rest of the school. Surely, you recall from experience how important it was to me that the school reinforced the basic universal personal development values I taught you at home.
Having said this, my daughter, I want you to know that one cannot be adequately prepared for the complexities of life. We know not when and in what form societal ugliness may come our way. It is for this reason that I will again stress the importance of readiness through the implementation of self-improvement tools.
I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you. I ask you to do this bearing in mind that the only competition you have to contend with is YOURSELF. Allow me to draw upon the gift of Grandpa’s wisdom, as I say to you: “Festine Lente.” Hasten slowly, as in act decisively, yet thoughtfully! I ask you to take your time to figure out how you can tap into the academic discipline, life-skills and orientation you have received thus far, to turn around what you perceive as an eminent license for nationwide ugliness, danger, and unsettling behavior. If I know of anyone with the capability to do so, it is you. “Let your light so shine…”. You know Dad and I have your back, and that we are here for you.
A Mommy Disclosure
What you may not fully realize is that, as a United States Citizen and Citizen of the World – with deep community and family values that were instilled in me at an early age in my country of birth- I am automatically a good candidate for some form of discrimination, rejection, and the issue of fitting in – more often than I care to recount. This, my child, is in no way to be confused with the occasional misunderstandings that occur in the normal discord of life! It is the waging of all-out war in the…just because.. department!
The ‘God News’ is that even though the scale may tip more to the side of the undesirable, it is not everyone that I know or encounter that is this lacking or needy in character and spirit. I suspect by now, you are asking how I manage to appear so ‘sane and composed – most of the time.’ I can tell you what I do not consider to be viable options: withdrawing into isolation, cutting ‘these people’ off (this is not possible as they are all over the place), a tit-for-tat stance, a feeling sorry for self response or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. How I deal with this is to position myself to continually search for positive ways to prevent this phenomenon from overshadowing my sense of self. Maintaining a sense of self mindset in each unique encounter helps me emerge from the lion’s den emotionally, socially and culturally intact. Also, please note that if I were to internalize the negative effects of this dynamic and allow said perpetrators to take control of my life, I doubt that those touching sentiments you and your brother, Samuel, recently expressed to me on my birthday would have ever found their way to me in a hurry.
I will now summarize the personal development tools of my response in easy-to- read quotes I have formulated:
Personal Development Madonarisms by Madona Cole-Lacy
1. Since there is no patent on societal ugliness and propensity to minimize humanity, do not assume there is one to prevent you from unleashing the qualities of a firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
2. Use fear and anxiety as tools to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you.
3. Those of us who have lived long enough know that bigotry, racism, and many more “isms” that are in place to suppress and diminish others are alive and well in all shapes and sizes.
4. Whenever we consider directing our attention toward the avoidance of stereotypes meted out to us by others, we unwittingly position ourselves to accepting the hate they espouse. Hatred for self is as unlikely to cause the unenlightened, unfeeling and uncaring to love us more, as self-empowerment is as likely to chase these characters away from us -each time! You know which one to go for!
5. I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that give you joy and satisfaction in knowing that you can indeed be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not necessarily mean well for you.
6. We must approach life knowing that the path to being an Agent of Change begins and ends with us. This change is only accomplished when we operate from a place of understanding that the change we desire is the change we want to be …and the first step to this long and sometimes arduous haul begins with us.
God Bless You, My Daughter.
Mom, Momeeeee, Mother, Madona Catherine
As I take stock of all that I have learned about the rich history and culture of Black Americans, and Black pioneers around the world as a whole, during the month of February that has been officially designated for the observance of Black History, I cannot help but ask myself how that knowledge and the accompanying mindset can be translated into respect and regard for self and others. My hope is that a large number of us have made a worthwhile contribution to lifting up and keeping Black History alive by engaging in activities and participating in events that can only help people of the human race understand that there is indeed a common denominator inherent in all citizens of the world that is anything but common. For there is so much more to this “common” denominator. It is binding, it is healing, and possesses the ability to forgive and assuage fear and ignorance…and yes, it can quite easily yield the opposite result when it is not given the attention it needs to flourish.
In addition to my contribution to the Black History Month enrichment process, I was blessed with knowledge that I otherwise would not have received had it not been for those who made major contributions by sharing so many “Firsts” by Blacks that were virtually unknown to the masses before now. I was elated to see establishments make a move towards spotlighting people of African descent here on Long Island – a move whose time had come, in light of the unsettling racial climate in this country.
I invite fellow Americans and African Americans to join me in enjoying this sense of pride and desire to understand the rich legacy of people around us, in a manner that will stay with us way beyond the last day of February.
As America welcomes Women’s History Month; followed by Asian Pacific American Heritage, Older Americans Month and Jewish American Heritage Month in May; I want to take it upon myself to ask everyone who understands the need for these special observances, to plan on making some move toward gaining a little bit more knowledge of and appreciation for the spotlighted groups.I hope that those who do not understand will be open to a briefing from those who do. This, of course, is only a sampling of other significant upcoming observances of various ethnic and special interest groups that make up the diverse fabric of the American culture!
Let it be known that as I make this request, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that some would say, “Why should I care about this or that group?” My response to that question is as follows: If for no other reason that is remotely obvious to you, you should care because the bliss of ignorance must be superseded by the folly of wisdom if we expect to be treated with respect, empathy and even sympathy when it is our turn. We cannot allow the unwillingness to make wholesome connections to lead us down the path of ignorance.
Newsday Jan 24 2016 (‘Dynamic, multi-ethnic art’- page E6)
The tone has been set with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Black History Month Cultural Enrichment activities leading the way to more opportunities for Americans to find that common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. Let us not miss out on the power of cultural enrichment and social enlightenment that will subscribe to the greatness and security of our neighborhoods and country. What we do with this opportunity will augment the process through which we can make the world a more congenial place in which we can all proudly take on the responsibility of healthy engagement, and build a firmer foundation on which the next generation of the human race can stand. This mindset, by the way, is race, ethnic and gender neutral; and calls for those who are now referred to as “those people” to be equally engaged and appreciated by those who may not have given this a thought in the past.
In conclusion, I would like to offer executable tips on ways we can go about obtaining and maintaining a much-needed cultural enrichment, social enlightenment and racial harmony.
The following starter ideas can, in part, be attributed to my observations last month
- Don’t exclude yourself from discussions that are meant to uplift, empower and educate-in person, on LinkedIn, on Facebook or other social media portals-simply because you can’t see yourself relating to “those people”.“Those people” exist in all neighborhoods on all corners of the world, and could use some refreshing input laced with sensitivity and a desire to connect in a healthy way with them.
- Make it a point to converse with an associate or co-worker whose race, ethnicity or social group is being celebrated at the time. This would work well within group settings of professional and community organizations where, more often than not, people are brutally prejudged.
- If you have young children or teenagers in your life, hold a discussion with them to find out their opinion on, or knowledge of the culture or history of the highlighted group for that month. Don’t forget to share helpful resources with them. Encourage them to hold discussions with seniors in the community. This can be arranged with Senior Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques etc.
- Go on a themed exploratory trip to the library, utilize google, see what Wikipedia has to say and visit museums, art galleries and other places that can assist you with a horizon-broadening experience. Write a poem on your impression, do a painting or come up with your own creative form of self-expression that would suggest growth.
- Remember that you can neither be held responsible for the atrocities your ancestors might have perpetrated on others nor be pigeonholed as the ultimate helpless victim of circumstance, if you don’t conduct yourself in ways that bring to life the negativity of past experiences or support the perpetuation of the selfless victim syndrome. We cannot wish away the mistakes of the past, but we can surely work toward improving the present climate that we have inherited by acknowledging the resulting pain, hurt and confusion; and formulating a language that will generate camaraderie and healing instead of stone-throwing, name-calling and worse!
- When in doubt, show LOVE, connect with EMPATHY and unleash KINDNESS. These three tools are versatile enough and come in color schemes that do not ever lose their luster without much effort on the part of mankind.
- Cast aside the built-in suspicion which invariably leads to defense mechanisms that keep your radar up in the company of people you are meeting for the first time. Be open to interacting with people from whom you may potentially learn something new.
- Be genuine in your interactions with others. People tend to switch off when they realize that they are dealing with the disingenuous.
West African Surface Design Workshop conducted in observance of Black History Month. Wear Your Art: An African-Inspired textile designing workshop.
Valentine’s day in perspective
Story of St. Valentine
“The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.
During the last weeks of Valentinus’s life a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome’s history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.
“Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?” Julia asked one day.
“Yes, my child, He hears each one.”
“Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you’ve told me about!”
“God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him,” Valentinus said.
“Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!” She knelt and grasped his hand.
They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”
“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.
On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. On each February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world.“
Self-Empowering Saturday For College-Bound High School Students, Graduates and Their Parents | Bellmore, NY PatchPosted: July 7, 2015
It is Countdown time to yet another Mother’s Day experience for me! With all the hard work she put in to earn herself a final semester GPA of 4.0, my daughter deserves to be lauded publicly. It is with great anticipation and excitement that I look forward to commencement day! I want to apologize ahead of time to other proud parents and relatives for blocking their view, in the event that I experience difficulty staying seated when my daughter, Madona Ayorinde, walks across the Wellesley College Stage to receive her Diploma on Friday.
I find that celebrating my children’s growth and accomplishments on a regular basis serves to strenghten our bond and keeps a much needed line of communication open as I play my Mommy Role as their unofficial whether-you-want-to-hear-it-or-not Consultant on the lessons of life. This is even more exciting and meaningful as a team effort, with full participation of my husband.
In spite of her demanding schedule as she prepared for the ending of her final year, she was able to take the time to reach out to me and her grandmother in a very special way.
내가 당신에게 너무 madona 사랑
I love you too, Madona.
Please accept my sincerest wishes for an eventful, productive and meaningful 2015. I wish you all the health and prosperity that you may wish for yourself. It is also my hope that as you reach out for a brand new canvas of life’s experiences in 2015, you will not neglect to include in your supplies box, the tools of 2014 that you used to positively affect your life and that of the people around you.
Along with the aforementioned tools of healthy engagement, we must employ the all-too-often evasive tools of self-examination and self-engagement! This honest conversation we hold with ourselves will, undoubtedly, help us examine our missteps, our misspeaks and our follies which we sometimes unwittingly have used to damage, or outright kill, the spirit of people who have looked up to us for guidance, support, leadership, emotional security, or even a simple connection in times of emotional need.
If this is beginning to look like a list of tools in its own right, it is because it certainly is. I suspect there are as many who would willingly take on this self-examination, as there are those who are not quite prepared to take this journey as yet. For those of us who are not quite there yet, the good news is that when we are ready, this process will cost us nothing. Thankfully, it begins and ends with us, and can be turned on when we are truly ready to take the leap.
Another related move that is necessary for the actualization of all the wonderful wishes that have been sent our way, is for us to develop heightened and renewed awareness of how to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Allow me to share some suggestions that might help this process along.
Let us aspire …
1. To eliminate the tendency to bully, arm-wrestle or indoctrinate those we regard as highly susceptible to our manipulative ways. This insecurity-based modality makes us a perpetual target, robs others of the joy of celebrating us and sends the wrong message to our children.
2. To refrain from being dismissive of people we believe have “nothing of consequence” to offer us. For this says more about our ineptness and our inability to grasp the concept that everyone matters, and that people are placed in our lives to help us grow and see life from a fresh and healthy perspective. This gift is simply priceless – everyone grows, and everyone wins!
3. To operate in a manner devoid of the mind games vindictive people play to get “even”. There are other effective ways to make our feelings known that will earn us much respect – even in the eyes of our enemies. Out with the ugliness of organizational, institutional, community and family thuggery! Civility always wins!
4. To refrain from the thinking that racism and discrimination will go away without any effort on our part. We must try to avoid sending poison darts at anyone – our own kind included. It cannot be disputed that some of us project hatred and resentment toward others because we can’t be bothered to relate to the common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. In some instances, all will be well as long as “they know their place” in the restrictive mould we have crafted for them. Also, have you heard? Tokenism is on its last leg. Let us be the first to eradicate this poisonous self-esteem buster, and make sincerity-in-engagement the new normal, replacing tokenism with full inclusion based on equal opportunity.
5. To gain a full understanding of why staying on the ground when “life” knocks us down, is not and never will be a viable option. Let us not take our innate ability to pick ourselves up off the ground lightly, for we must remind ourselves that there would be no talk of “knocking us down” if we were naturally meant to stay on the ground.
6. To operate with the awareness that there is no justification for the perpetration or tolerance of insensitivity and rudeness. We can always take the high road and find a way to say or do something that makes a positive contribution to our legacy.
7. To seek professional help if all this looks like jargon to us. Otherwise, let us strive towards defining and re-defining ourselves with a promise to touch the life of someone – anyone – we believe has “nothing of consequence” to offer us in return. We can make this a positive move towards receptivity, which should open our hearts and minds wide enough to allow for the manifestation of all the fantastic wishes and prayers we have been showered with this new year.
I conclude with a prayer that people from around the world will keep in the forefront of their minds the thinking that true legacy-building has more to do with the exceptional ways we have related to humanity, and less to do with the material wealth we leave behind. Material wealth is disposable. Unhealthy family, institutional and community dynamics can only result in destructive and unwholesome legacies!
The legacy I speak of consoles us and give us strength to go on when our loved ones depart from this world. It compels us to follow the footsteps of those who have touched hearts and minds in their quest for excellence and altruism. As my father’s soul rests in peace (1921-2014), I promise to do my utmost to uphold his rich and admirable legacy. Even as I miss him so much, I am consoled by the major contribution he has made to the lessons of my life!
Again, I wish you a Happy New Year. Please do not hesitate to share with me the details of how you incorporate these tools and those of your own into your life’s journey. I would like to hear how you have chosen to receive the warm sentiments you have received.