Raising kids while striving for upward mobility in the big, bad city …

Fellow Busy BLK Mamas

So glad you found me. This blog is an outlet to talk about the joys, pain, frustration, laughter and love that goes along with being an ambitious and (hopefully) upwardly mobile mother of color raising children in the increasingly expensive city of NY. I hope through telling my stories that I can provide solace to other moms in the same situation because sometimes I know it gets lonely but I know I am not the only mom seeking to find her place in the world, live her life on her own terms (well somewhat) and still raise bright, insightful, independent yet compassionate citizens of the world. Let's discuss, sex, sexuality, career aspirations, share recipes and coupons (I know...Boring!), politics especially those impacting the lives of our children and our upward mobility, neighborhoods - anything that makes our lives easier... or harder. I look forward to sharing my stories and hearing yours, hopefully this blog can make all of our roads just a little bit easier and a little less lonely to travel. Tanya - A Big BLK Mama

Latest

The Cafe: Big BLK Mama’s Curry in a Hurry!

I know as a mother of a brood of children how difficult it can be to be a working mom and still feed your children a balanced meal that still allows you to do the other things you need to do before you fall into your bed. I am quite proud to say that I have been honing that skill and can probably give Rachel Ray’s 25 minute or less meals a run for their money and trust me they definitely taste better!

I warn you however, all the measurements in ingredients are educated guesses. I rarely if ever measure anything when I cook a meal. I have been cooking since I was 14 and I have learn to “feel” the approximate measurement. I encourage all to do the same considering their families dietary needs and tastes.

I prefer all of my ingredients as fresh, organic and as unprocessed as possible. You will always find there are appropriate subs (i.e. already ground pepper vs. freshly ground or minced jar ginger vs. ginger root) however, trust me your flavors pop and blend together better with fresh ingredients.

This is NOT a traditional West Indian curry. This curry is a base, you can always add until your hearts content, try raisins or dried apricots with almonds, add veggies like fresh broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I find this is a great dish to “hide” veggies in for my veggie hating son.

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Where is Your Anger?

Kelley Williams-Bolar served only one day of her 10 sentence and I guess that is something we should feel good about. The coverage she received in the blogosphere and the independent media (she received little national mainstream media coverage) I am sure helped to secure her early release. However, she is still a felon in jeopardy of not getting the teaching degree she worked long and hard for to do what we say low income folks should do: lift themselves up by their bootstraps. And why is she a felon? She didn’t rob a bank, cross state line with drugs or abuse her kids. She did something far worse in the eyes of the state of Ohio, she put them in a public school in the “wrong” part of town.

And the biggest travesty? Most of you reading this may not even know her name.

I am angry and this anger has been permeating my soul for the last three days since I became aware of this story by way of Twitter. I am angry at a system in which there is now win. In a supposed “post-racial” (whatever that means) society that still somehow finds the arrogance and audaciousness to continue to utilize the criminal justice to keep us in place. And while there has been much dialogue in Black America about the criminalization of Black Men this system is deliberately rigged against poor, single Black mothers and much of the scathing commentary about poor single black mothers have come from our own community. But I digress.

I know there are some eye rollers. There will be the detractors of all colors who will say “it’s not race, it’s about class”, I say you miss the point. In a heterogynous country like ours, with a long history of racial driven oppression, classism is merely a tool used to facilitate racism. You are living on another planet if you think otherwise.

But back to Ms. Bolar, who stands convicted of “defrauding” the public school system. She had the audacity to use her ex-husband’s address to enroll her children in a school in his county, in the suburbs and where she felt her children had a better chance at a more well rounded education.

I hope the ludicrousness is making your blood boil.

It is reported that she was “warned” and was offered the option to keep her kids in the school and pay $800 in tuition (because as a single mother that should be fairly easy). She refused and then found herself being arrested.

The racism and classism is blatant.

What is most concerning to me is why this is not a national example of the pitiful education system of this country?

Why did this woman feel the need to do something illegal (the fact it is illegal is a whole a completely different story and post) to get what should be a basic civil right for every child – a decent education?

This is nothing more than post de facto segregation and the response by the state of Ohio to this was a throwback to the civil rights era.

Yet there was not a civil rights response from our folks.

There were no protests (at least none that got coverage), no pundits sounding off on either the left or right and no real organized response. Yes there were tweets, sharing on Facebook and a petition on change.org that has already received nearly 35,000 signatures but where is the in-person activism? Every mother despite race, creed or class should be offended by a mother being jailed who was forced to put their child in another school because the one in her own county/neighborhood was sub par.

President Obama gave a State of the Union address that was filled with rhetoric about quality education and innovation yet I was disappointed that a highly educated black man was also unable to articulate the systemic racism and classism that has been a constant roadblock to quality education that has most likely been one of the largest factors responsible in the continued marginalization and cycle of poverty in our communities.

And this is where we need to step up. Many of us have felt that because we now have access to more consumer wealth that we are somehow free yet continually the water, food, air and education are so subpar that it is not a far reach to call them civil & human rights violation. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad we can organize and activate through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr but we also need to make sure we are taking it to the streets because I can’t understand how anybody can feel good about having a Black president when Black mothers are being jailed for educating their children.

Sins of The Mother

This past Sunday was “Natural Hair Day” on Twitter which meant that each story told by women of color involving natural hair put the hashtag #naturalhair. It was exciting, inspiring and down right hilarious to hear women and some men talk about what natural hair meant (or didn’t mean) to them.

 

But it also got me to thinking, while I am truly happy to be nappy my journey here was a hard one and I am finding it just as difficult a struggle trying to instill pride into my daughters about their beautiful bouncy, thick, soft and nappy tresses.

 

 

Eight years ago I was un-be-weave-able! I regularly spent 2-500 bucks on hair and weaving. I wasn’t bald, my natural hair was shoulder length but that was not enough.

 

I have memories of my mother as a girl raking a large tooth comb through my hair as I clawed and screamed, as I begged and pleaded; all the while she berated me for having nappy hair.

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No Resolutions, Only Actions

I am sure the blogosphere is going to be crawling (or is already crawling) with reflective posts on what we aspire to be next year. How next year will be our year and how we will actualize our potential in 2011 and a bunch of other Tony Robbins-esque shit.

I am certain I am coming off as a self righteous, cynic who is above New Year’s resolutions but alas I am not. I am not different. I will make my minuscule mark in the blogosphere by adding my own resolutions. And I have like many in the past made these resolutions that I pursued with enthusiastic veracity in the beginning but lost meaning and my participation fairly early on. They merely became empty declarations. Fossilized words lost in the recesses of my mind, usurped by old habits, familiar traits and daily routines.

This year is different for me.

For many the 20’s mean absolute unattached independence defined by world travel, cocktail & happy hours, casual dating (and sex) and disposable income. For me it was a decade of constant struggle and each year didn’t necessarily mean less struggle. My early 20’s were confusion and seeking my place in this world. Learning what it meant to be a mother, financial instability, multiple jobs and feeling stuck in the welfare system. As I came closer to my 30’s there has been  more drive, more focus, more blessings, more children, more education, more personal freedom and more clarity around where I fit in. Less apology around what people envisioned for me and what I envisioned for myself. Less apology around living my life not only for my children but for myself and for having my children be the motivation that fueled me, not the excuse for my personal failings. However, there are still so many obstacles that I have become comfortable with. Financial instability is one of them, my children’s education and finding independence in my career.

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Satan Get Behind Thee

I am writing this when I know I should be doing other things. I have a proposal I really need to work on, several dozen emails to follow up on and its actually taking me like 3 hours to do what should really be a super short blog. I keep allowing myself to be disturbed by my Tweet Deck. Instead of turning it off, I keep engaging in dialogue that is not in anyway shape or form productive or work related. My HS buddy turned fashionista Shauna has taught me how to wear these inherited vintage sequined sweaters, I have retweeted about Snooki and her God awful literary (I use the term loosely) endeavor and I showed off my ugly new glasses. All makes for an interesting night but the fact is I am bullshitting my time away.

It has been three days and I really have gotten nothing done.

Maybe it is the holidays, part of me tells myself I am a work horse so I deserve a few days off. Everyone does. But I am of the belief they should be planned. I am at a critical stage in my life.

I feel guilty.

I spent 135 bucks on myself two days ago. I got my nails done, hair done, everything done, done. I’m fancy huh?

Granted I was looking like Damien Marley.

My cuticles looked like the victim of some nervous induced massacre

and

my eyebrows made me look like an American Werewolf in Paris.

We live off of 1100 bucks a months. I could have done my own nails, twisted my own locks and tweezed my eyebrows but shit I already have enough work. Looking in the mirror everyday was bringing me down.

I feel rejuvenated. I need to work on the bags under my eyes but I still feel guilty.

Because while I needed the indulgence, it wasn’t planned.

Satan is all up in my head. I want to expel the guilt and get back on the productive track…

Deep Sigh. In the words of Winnie the Pooh: “Oh Bother.”

Nekkid, Rugged & Raw

The first blog post…

This is where I should talk about why I started this blog, how it will help you and me (how cathartic) and a little bit about me. Well that’s all so boring (and it’s encapsulated in my “about me” page).

I figure I might as well just jump in.

I, for the most part am extremely happy in my life. Well…that’s overstating a bit. My life as of late has been a helluva a rollercoaster. Well…that’s a bit of an understatement.

Oh dear.

I love my children, I love the work I do. I love my man yet all is not right. Half of my days seem so hard to bear and I lay down spiritually exhausted wondering: “What is my next move?”, “How did I get here?”, “This is going to get better, isn’t it?” and mostly the “What am I doing wrong question?”.

I don’t mean to sound like a Sad Suzy or an Existential Ebony, my life is not all bad but it is forever a grind. I can’t seem to escape the welfare system, although I despise the counterproductive entitlement it continues to facilitate in poor communities. My relationship with my fiance and father of my children is unravelling faster that a cheap sweater and I often feel like The Little Engine Who Could but just hasn’t quite yet.

And on top of all of that I walk around with this impenetrable exterior. I keep most of the things going wrong in my life to myself. I am outwardly in a continual state of Pump Your Fist in the Air, Sista! Smiles and passion and uplifting diatribes and somehow I am not always sure if I believe what comes out of my mouth. When people say they find me inspirational, that they believe in me I become uncomfortable, it scares me. I am partly certain I will disappoint them.

Now I may sound like I am ready to mix up a mean End-it-All Cocktail but there are somethings that no matter how bad I seem to be beating myself up that keep me going.

My kids have the best smiles in the world and they never stop dancing. Because I make my own schedule, I no longer feel as if I am missing out on their lives.

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The Babies Love Mexicans!

Imagine a Siamese cat with oversized ears who thinks he is a Chihuahua and fantasizes about grandiose adventures in an effected Mexican accent. This is the protagonist of one of my kid’s favorite children’s books Skippyjon Jones.

And I have to admit I like him a lot as well. For several reasons.

Skippyjon Jones is fun. He is a cat with a large imagination much to the chagrin of his no nonsense mama and to the amusement of his antagonistic little sisters. The platform for his adventures come from small tasks like a time out or getting into his mother’s spices and grow into adventures where El Skippito has to banish the evil Bobble-ito (in reality a bobblt head toy in his room) or treacherous yet silly trip to Mars (covered in his mothers Paprika).

What I also love is as much as it is fun it is educational. The author loads this book with rhyme, alliteration and hyperbole using both english and Spanish and often mashing both of them up to create words like Purrito. Kids are learning important mechanisms of speech and becoming more literate all the while staying engaged in the character and the larger story.

Lastly, while the author Judy Schachner is a white woman she pays homage to Mexican and Chicano culture without pretense and mash ups of English and Spanish are reverential not parody. (although I am sure some of you will probably disagree) I never get the feeling that she watched countless episodes of Cheech and Chong and decided to write a children’s book. The fact that Siamese cat wants to be a DOG tells kids (and some adults reading this book) that it is OK to admire someone else, another group of people and that sometimes we can find solidarity with a group of folks to whom we were not born (and yes I am serious). Its a great way to start a larger conversation with your youngins about another culture using characters that are universally relatable (who can’t relate to a cute and precocious bi-species cat?).

Be mindful that the book is mostly hilarious because of the authors illustrations take care to savor the illustrations and let your kids ask questions. Also if you are not a native Spanish speaker it might not flow the first read through, read it by yourself BEFORE you share with the babies.

“Oh, my name is Skippito Friskito/And I heard from a leetle birdito/That the doggies have fled/From the gobbling head/Who goes by the name Bobble-ito!”, is not going to exactly roll off your tongue the first time out.

Also you may need to break out your Englis-Spanish dictionary if you are not a fluent speaker because your child is sure to ask you, “what does ‘la casa perrito’ mean”. But do not worry you can buy the book with an accompanying CD.

Check it out for yourself you may find that it turns out to be an awesome Christmas gift for your child, niece, nephew or grandchild.

BTW, they also make board books for soon-to-be readers!

Have you read Skippyjon Jones? Let us know what you think of the series of books.



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