The Black Girl in Maine Podcast has arrived

The podcast has dropped! In it you will hear MamaC speak from the heart as you would expect.

I first met Shay Stewart-Bouley aka Black Girl in Maine through her writing, and presentations on antiracism and decentering whiteness. We have been on panels and symposiums together and share our stories of raising Black children in Maine, the whitest state in the country.

Shay and I get raw and real on transracial open adoption, impacts of daily racism and microagressions on the boys, unpacking whiteness, and why I left my 9-5 as a newly divorced single parent. The episode explores if and why I’m qualified to do my work as an equity and inclusion facilitator in schools, and as a 20th centurty family formation coach working with individual clients.

This podcast marks the true arrival of me knowing what I do best, and how I choose to share my unique and valuable experience with the world.

Please consider making a contribution to support more podcasts from Black Girl in Maine Media if you like what you hear. It was indeed an honor to be invited to participate on this nationally and internationally recognized platform. I look forward to hearing your impressions after you give a listen.

Keep questioning how your beliefs are serving you, and hold your littles and your loved-ones close.

Fresh new look for Mama C

Introducing a new fresh look for MamaCandtheBoys. I love how aligned it feels with the new direction my life has taken. It is hard for me to express all the gratitude I feel for the many opportunities I am being invited to explore for my work in the world around race, equity, supporting 20th century families and our schools. So naturally I decided it was time for a little line up and a fresh coat of paint!

Did you know there are over 1000 MamaC subscribers? I am so thankful for this growing audience each time I send out a new post. To celebrate I am running a special Premium Coaching Package for anyone who signs up by December 15th, 2018 for 2019 Coaching. I wanted my subscribers and long time readers to know about it first because the slots will go quickly.

To learn more about what my coaching practice is about and the special offer please go here. The recent opportunies to work with clients has been the most exhilarating shift. It’s like my blog coming to life through deep listening, personalized support, and sharing.

I asked one of my newer clients Emily if she could explain what it’s been like working with me. In her own words; “Working with Catherine has been an incredibly supportive experience. Catherine will skillfully guide you to uncover your own answers to some of the toughest questions surrounding trans racial adoption, race, birth family relationships and more, by guiding you deep into your own heart. Catherine is thoughtful and efficient in her work as a coach, drawing from her skills in guidance, deep listening, and her own experiences, she will help you to not only feel supported in this new adventure, but challenged in beautiful and meaningful ways.”

Bonus: for the first three new clients I register I will include a fifth session free! Imagine that.

Take great care and continue to hold each other close.

Tie it up and take it down

Last night my son taught himself how to tie a tie with the help of YouTube and Google. He was so pleased he even posed for a picture and gave me permission to post it.

Then he put it on Snapchat that he had figured it out so any of his other basketball team mates (who have to wear a dress shirt and a tie to school for game day) could reach out for help. This morning he received two phone calls asking could he; “get to school early and help tie my tie”. “I got you,” was his reply. He raced out the door to get there early and help. I wasn’t only thrilled for him, I was relieved.

Watching your child feel joy in their accomplishments makes it all worth while. Parents and schools must work together to make this happen in and out of the classroom.

So last week when he almost lost the opportunity to play on the team because of some incomplete and missing work in two classes everyone came together to support Sam turning it around. We communicated a shared belief that school always comes first. He agreed that he had gotten too chill about following through and he had to change it up. Within a couple days he was caught up by coming in before school and staying after. By Friday everyone agreed he could play in the first game Monday.

Working together brought to my attention a very concerning word choice to describe this academic intervention. I was told that he was on probation to explain the process.

After two emails to the administration and his teachers explaining how probation is a term associated with the carceral state (all things prison related) and thus reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline they listened carefully. Within a few days the school reworded the forms based on district-approved language. They will no longer use the term in dialogue with students or each other.

Often an academic intervention that is meant to be helpful takes on a punitive connotation or vibration in the larger system in subtle ways that gather strength over time. As a parent of Black boys it is critical that I remain vigilante about these often nuanced messages, and speak up immediately. As a white parent my voice in naming practices that support racism in schools is critical to bringing it to their attention. A practice can be racist without conscious intention. How his school immediately addressed the practice when it was brought to their attention is what can happen when we choose to put students’ success first.

Thank you for using your voice to call attention where it is needed too.

If you would like help advocating for your child in a school setting Mama C Coaching can help. Our first conversation is always free.

Don’t touch his/her hair. Admire it instead!

Over the weekend Marcel and I bought two children’s books featuring Black protagonists, written by Black authors to enjoy and then pass along to one of the preschools in the city to support their diverse libraries. One other unifying characteristic of these two books is that they are also a celebration of Black hair.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, (picture book ages 5-12) winner of the covetted 2018 Kirkus Prize is described as; “One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.”

I certainly learned early on the necessity and importance of Black barbershop culture for both Sam and Marcel. (In fact so much so is the setting of one of my most well-known and widely published poems; Black Enough.) This story vividly captures the ritual and deep importance of the barbershop hair cut and culture to a young African-American boy. The dynsmic illustrative painting style matches the celebratory poetry of the narrative.

“Don’t Touch My Hair” by Sharee Miller is as much a story and celebration of beautiful hair and identity as it is a vehicle for introducing empowered language for young girls in particular to have control of their body and what and who touches them. Courageous young Aria takes us on a realistic and magical journey of self-discovery and finding her voice to help the reader understand what she needs and how to arrive in a similar place of self-advocacy and joy.

Call to Action: Would you consider calling your local bookstore and ask them to order three copies of each if they don’t already have them? Explain that you’re getting a set for yourself and giving a set to the local elementary or preschool. (They can keep a set on the shelves.) This will remind them how important it is for them to support Black authors, publishers, and have Black protagonists in the children’s books available to their audience. At the same time gifting these books to the elementary school gives the message how important it is for all children to see Blackness centered at story time. It would also be a really helpful conversation starter for teachers who are managing successfully (or not) the “don’t touch my hair” request of students in the classroom.

According to Marcel he still manages and deals with this all the time in middle school. He shared that his friends are allowed to touch his hair on the first of the month only-and only once. But they still have to ask he said. He was relieved to see his experience both at the barbershop and in the hair patting captured so well.

If you have other hair related children’s book titles featuring protagonist’s of difference please share them in the comments below.

And then all this happened.. in a week???

A little homage to hugely deserved papa love started the week.

by Marcel
by Marcel

 

There was the thrilling victory playoff game that Sammy pitched five out of six innings, and may have had at least one homer…

 

wind up
wind up

 

followed by a meeting with the jeweler to design one of these:

 

Shrek's ring design, take one
Shrek’s ring design, take one

 

Wake up the next day, and go to the championship game, and win decisively. Sam’s team grew exponentially as a TEAM. Everyone contributing something critical to the cumulative VICTORY.

post victory huddle
post victory huddle

 

where friendships were the real win...
where friendships were the real win…

 

During all this, someone else suddenly finished first grade and became a member of a PACK.

leader of the pack
leader of the pack

 

Followed by my successful delivery of this breakout session to a gathering of early childhood educators in Augusta the next morning.

Color in the classroom
Color in the classroom

And when all is said and done, I close my eyes and see this magical place.

Trees where I hope to get hitched beneath
Trees where I hope to get hitched beneath

 

I can talk about race in the classroom

Over the last few months I have been researching and designing a unit that any parent, volunteer or teacher could use in an elementary school classroom to foster a race positive environment that enhances the cultural competence of the group. I have been collaborating with Sam’s 3rd grade teacher, who opened her doors wide to the offer after I had been volunteering all year-once a week during math (of all things-not my forte). After building relationships with the students, and her, it was an easy and seamless transition for Sammy’s mom to be reading stories and talking to the kids about who they see, and often don’t see in books.

I can see myself in the books I read
I can see myself in the books I read

The impact of this unit-which we delivered once a week for four weeks-is palpable in her classroom.  The comfort level students have with talking about people of all colors, about race, and difference, and the changes we all can make on our communities is evident in their larger discussions now about history, fiction, and current events. It feels different when you walk in the room–a cohesiveness that I didn’t feel before exists now.  Granted, I am biased. But, as soon as I find a way to measure such a shift empirically I will!

This weekend I will be presenting this curriculum along with other components of my; “I can talk about race in the classroom” workshop to administrators, educators and education majors in Augusta. A few months ago I presented another version of this to a group of students pursuing a masters in counseling. This June, I am speaking to a symposium on early childhood educators. This is wildly satisfying work, and after years of volunteering to do it, it is gratifying to be sought out and paid!

Eventually I hope to offer the curriculum itself through this site, or another avenue. This was one of my big goals for working part time this year, and it feels really exciting to see it in action. Have any of you done work of this nature in the schools in your community? What were your discoveries? Or if you haven’t but would like to, what do you feel would be most helpful to get you started with your planning?