A Daughter’s Plight: My Response

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.          madona-recent-college-graduate-6

madona_ayorinde

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.

My Apologies

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.  img_20161012_085051119

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.4dab9cda33bb411a1795c424533210fc

I iimg_20150528_200840.jpgmplore 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.

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 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 andmother-and-daughter-madona-ayorinde-volunteer-event-photoghapher-for-the-day-2 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

In the News: A Sad Commentary

http://patch.com/new-york/bellmore/s/fqyzw/nude-photos-of-long-island-students-being-posted-online-traded-like-baseball-cards

In the ‘olden days’ family members were forbidden to speak up when sexual atrocities were perpetrated upon them by uncle, daddy or grandpa “so and so”.
I believe this was an attempt to protect the family’s “good name”. Mothers and wives were forced to “look the other way” in fear of their lives as husbands threatened them! This mis-guided code of silence did nothing but create a fertile ground for more abuse as those who could have protected themselves from this fate were kept in the dark. Predators were allowed to roam their communities freely! Nowadays, children are armed with tools of discernment and encouraged to speak up even before they are accosted by predators, in some quarters. I would like to see this put in place …in all quarters!

The Long Island community owes a ton of gratitude to ABC Eyewitness News, The Archdiocese of Rockville Centre who “recently sent a letter warning principals of local schools”, and to anyone who feels inclined to share this “so, so sad” news on social media in an attempt to educate and inform parents, community members and our young people on the naivity and unfathomable exploitation of Long Island’s children.

This is one time that otherwise silent social media users should speak up to law enforcement, the adults who set up the site, as well as the boys and girls who have obviously run out of less self-destructive “games” to play.

My call to action is for all parents, school personel, community & faith-based organizations and business to work together at injecting a dose of high self-esteem into those we expect to replace us, properly armed with a legacy our grandchilden will be proud to identify with.

Bridging The Gap: 8 User-Friendly Tips

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.

Madona Cole-Lacy - Bl;ack Voices Exhibition

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.il_570xN.837801766_b03iI 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. Newsday article January 22, 2016 2 IMG_20160131_162844499 (2)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.    
  4. 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.
  5. 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!   
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Be genuine in your interactions with others. People tend to switch off when they realize that they are dealing with the disingenuous. 

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Workshop -Madona Cole Lacy
My Time Has Come Workshop (2)

West African Surface Design Workshop conducted in observance of Black History Month. Wear Your Art: An African-Inspired textile designing workshop.  

     about.me/madonacolelacy

Educators, Scandal, Convicted, Racketeering: A loaded Color-Blind Vocabulary Lesson

Atlanta schools cheating scandal: 11 educators convicted of racketeering

One of the largest school cheating trials in U.S. history drew to a dramatic close Wednesday with a jury finding 11 Atlanta elementary school teachers and administrators guilty of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy to illegally boost….” latimes.com

There are many angles to this unfortunate story that must be addressed if a lesson is to be learned by all from it. When we compromise our integrity and willingly choose to participate in a scheme such as this, we have contributed to the ACADEMIC and SOCIAL DEATH of our children – children who are obviously in dire need of help from a system that appears to be broken beyond measure. This, right up front, is my response to comments and questions as to whether the punishment is too harsh for a crime that was not murder.

It seems to me that these administrators and teachers did not see the need to improve their instructional effectiveness in a manner that would be of benefit to the students they are charged with educating, when faced with the possibility of making money through illegitimate means. They appear to have disconnected themselves from that special relationship dedicated teachers, all around the globe, are known to have with their students. Teachers who belong in the classroom develop and maintain a special bond, not unlike that which parents have with their OWN biological children! These professionals did not only operate with complete disregard for professionalism, they taught their students the most conflicting lesson a teacher can ever teach, when they chose to have their students’ test answers doctored.

There are grumblings in certain quarters about the Judge’s lack of sensitivity that does not correspond with the usual pre-incarceration courtesy that is afforded to ‘white people’. Rather than waste precious time on that trend of thought, I would opt for the lesson inherent in the case that I believe is worth taking into consideration. When we commit a crime, we automatically reduce or even forfeit our chances to negotiate with the mentality or the authority of a sentencing Judge on how the punishment should be meted. To spend time debating this in terms of the racial makeup of the perpetrators, is to further do a disservice to children who, perhaps, may benefit from knowing that when one is found guilty of a crime, they are literally at the mercy of the court, and they may not get a chance “to go home and take care of business before incarceration”. This goes for people of all race and ethnicity who have to deal with Judges who are not all necessarily mono-racial, and have received a vote of confidence from their constituents.

In conclusion, I feel the need to disclose the fact that; even though, I was not brought up in a society or community in which people considered themselves “perfect”, the one undisputed fact I remember quite vividly, is the emphasis on high expectations for the children in the community, coupled with the desire to model good behavior for the children in the community. It was not unusual for children to hear the following rebuke from a random community member: “Act your age”, “Do you see anyone in your household comporting themselves in this manner?” I must add that it was also not unusual for community members to take in and nurture children who were victims of their family circumstance. What I am attempting to leave everyone who reads this with, is that we must resist the temptation to direct our focus on fragments of a bigger picture, and instead, look for ways we can address the need for personal and community development when we or those around us fall short. The true victims of this travesty are the faceless students whose test sheets were tampered with, and the children in the lives of this group of adults who left their thinking caps at home.

Connecting the Dots: Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

As we continue to deal with the effects of Sandy’s visit to our area, we must pause for a moment to extend our thoughts and prayers to those affected by the loss of their loved ones. We also hope that the inconvenience caused to those who have been displaced from

their homes, those who have lost irreplaceable items, and those who are without power, will soon be a thing of the past as the local and federal agencies come together to address and render assistance to them.

We must not forget the women, men who have placed their lives on the line as first responders, and the kind and giving volunteers (some youthful) who are always on hand to answer the call. The media have also played a crucial role in working with the local government and first responders.  A big ‘Thank You’ is in order for those in the ‘helping business’ as well as those for whom it is second nature to rise to the occasion and operate in the capacity of their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. It is our hope that, with heightened awareness of the inherent implications, the necessity for rescuers to further endanger their lives as they go in search for people who choose to disregard the call to evacuate their property, will in time be non-existent.

I share these thoughts with you as a part of the reflective process which my experience of hurricane Sandy initiated in me. I have walked away with a closer relationship with adaptability, resourcefulness, selflessness, resiliency, gratitude and more, as a result of my interaction with people from far and wide.

Natural disasters have occurred from time immemorial, and yet it appears as though we have by default viewed these happenings in a segmented and fragmented manner.  As human beings, we are blessed with the capability of compassionately and lovingly responding to others (be they strangers, neighbors or associates) in times of crises. This is a wonderful spirit I know I must carry with me at all times, and firmly embrace as that common thread which speaks to a familiarity and togetherness with others that is so special!  So special, that I am wondering how one could go about reproducing and maintaining this ‘rush’ at all times – even in the absence of crisis or disaster.  How can we keep this fire burning? I would love to hear your unique ideas on how we can maintain a semblance of togetherness, gratitude, compassion, give and take, with everyone we encounter. I am not calling for a ‘blind acceptance’ or the ‘rubber-stamping’ of values that are obviously at odds with and detrimental to our own beliefs. I am talking about connecting with and showing a basic regard for humanity – the appreciation and understanding of the fact that we are all caring, compassionate and capable beings who despite divergent views and experiences, can position ourselves to make a bigger difference in this world with a slight attitude adjustment.  I will summarize my desire with this quote ,  All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart”– Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me.

In the News

 DA Rice to Parents: ‘Allowing Underage Kids to Drink Alcohol this Prom/Graduation Season is a Crime’.    DA to appear in Social Host PSA to be shown in movie theaters

 MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is reminding parents of teenagers that, with prom and graduation season approaching, adults who provide alcohol to underage party guests will face criminal prosecution under the Nassau County  Social Host law. “Don’t worry about being the popular parent. Be the responsible one,” Rice said. “There is no excuse, no explanation, and no reason to allow underage kids to drink alcohol in your home. Make the correct decision. Remember, parents who host lose the most.” Rice will also appear in a public service announcement produced by the Manhasset-based Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA) encouraging parents to be responsible.

The PSAs will be shown at three Clearview movie theaters in Manhasset and Port Washington beginning on Memorial Day, May 31 and will run for 10 weeks.

 The Nassau County Social Host Law makes it a crime for a host, age 18 or older, to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. Possible  criminal punishments include a fine of $250 for first-time offenders to fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail for repeat offenders.

According to statistics provided by CASA, underage kids who drink are more susceptible to a litany of health problems, including interrupted brain development, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, and there is a 40 percent greater risk of alcoholism in kids who start drinking before the age of 15.