Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Thursday Rant of the Week - Tyrese! Tag You're It!

So Tyrese gets kicked out of WJKS Kiss in Delaware for talking about liquor stores near elementary schools. Then Tweets it so they have their underwear in a knot about his expulsion. Here is Thursday rant- which I also posted on Your Black World's blog on this subject:

Oh, excuse me... is this the same I Gotta Chick Tyrese? That guy?
The one who could only find two black women for his video filled with women and his response to the why was "I held 2 days of auditions and I  went with the best." Couldn't find qualified black models- funny, I hear that all the time from companies in corporate America.
And his co-artists Tyga and R. Kelly. Really? That Tyrese? Tyrese said liquor store comment to get black folks distracted from the mess he is in for casting a certain look and type of woman in his video- hoping the black blogs would pick it up and support him , and on that he was he was right. 

Liquor stores should not be so prevalent in black communities period- neither should guys who date young girls. And as for Tyrese in his video I Gotta Chick- he has a drink (liquor) and a cigar (smoking) and a bunch of young girls grinding on anything that walks- including each other(sex) in that same video? What, and I should be happy about this bland statement he made in Delaware? Call me when Tyrese takes a stand like that in New York or Chicago. Maybe I might turn my head. For now, he needs to be boycotted along with the radio station I never heard of in Delaware for making a further mockery out of anyone not sharp enough to see his hypocrisy. I'm Just Saying. Next!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How the Godfather of Soul James Brown Helped Me Deal With Troy Davis' Execution

Looking for some way to make sense of the Troy Davis execution, I thought over and over again about the fact that he refused his last meal. Not that his act of refusal was more important than any other aspect of this case, but in it - his refusal that is, I was hoping to find some solace. I needed some meaning, philosophical or otherwise, that I could share with my son to help him, heck to help both of us deal with the execution of Mr. Troy Davis--an act that left us both speechless.

I was not sure if Mr. Davis would have refused his last meal had he known that unlike in 2008, he would not be granted clemency. Either way, there seemed to be more to it than met the eye. Was it an act of power, a demonstration of faith, a snub? Maybe it was all of the above. Around the dinner tables of his executioners, however, Davis' name would likely be no more than a bump in their conversation. "We executed that Davis boy tonight, honey, would you "Pass the Peas? Then Mr. Davis' name would probably drift off of their lips until the next execution hit the paper.  I decided to look to James Brown for more prophetic song titles to help sooth my angst, and his music was on point. James Brown helped me Get on the Good Foot.

The traditional last meal offered to inmates on death row (Texas last week abolished the last meal tradition), has been in existence since pre-modern Europe. The last meal, considered to have roots in superstition, was a symbolic gesture- more for the benefit of the executioners than the soon to be executed prisoner himself. Accepting the meal typically meant that the prisoner made peace with the host, and willingly participated in a symbolic oath of truce passing on all vengeance. In other words, in accepting the last meal the condemned was believed to forgive the executioner, the judge, and witness(es).

The last meal ritual was also supposed to prevent the condemned from returning as a ghost who would haunt those responsible for their killing. Well, I hope Georgia has Ghost Busters on speed dial.

When they decided to execute Troy Davis, people all over the world lifted their voices and picked up their pens like Mama used to pick up her Lickin Stick and gave Georgia one good whoopin. The opposition to  the execution of Troy Davis crosses gender, racial and generational lines. It spans beyond this the nation borders to foreign lands. Mr. Davis' death will not be another notch in Georgia's capital punishment belt. His cause is now much bigger than his questionable guilt.

When Mr. Davis was executed you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had to look around to make sure I was still Living in America. People from all walks of life begged Georgia "Please, Please, Please," Georgia, don't do it. Witness after witness recanted their testimony, and the world watched in disbelief. When it came close to the time of his execution, groups banned together saying in light of all of the evidence you wouldn't dare execute a potentially innocent men, would you? Georgia's reply?   Try Me.

So, despite protests in America, Paris and London, petitions signed by hundreds of thousands and pleas from Bishop and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and The Pope himself, at 11:08pm on September 21, 2011 Troy Davis was put to death.

This Is A Man's World, but not for just any man. Lady Justice still sneaks a biased peek through her blindfold in the application of constitutional rights for some men.

As for Mr. Davis, there was new evidence but he would not get a new trial. No lie detector test. No clemency. Nothing. Prepped for the lethal injection, in his final words Mr. Davis again asserted his innocence from his death bed. Yes, Troy Davis Said it Loud, then he closed his eyes for the last time, black and proud, forgiving those who put him to death.

Georgia, like James Brown, I Got The Feeling, your death penalty days are soon coming to an end. Although you think you are Superbad and can do whatever you like, I for one am Gonna Have A Funky Good Time making sure that Troy Davis' death was not in vain. It took me a few days to get over it, but today I can see the silver lining in this cloud and I Feel Good. I spoke with my friends and my son- who was really distraught over your actions- and I know what I have to do, Get Up Get Into It and Get Involved. Here are just a few things I am going to do, and I welcome anyone who wants to change the environment of America for our youth to join me or any cause to make Troy Davis' death a catalyst for positive change.

Susan Taylor
1. I'm working with Susan Taylor to advocate for mentors for at risk youth through her National Cares Mentoring Program. This will help to keep our children safe, focused and on the right track. They need to know that they need NOT become Troy Davis but rather advocate for themselves, their peers and be the change they want to see in this world.

Lisa Nichols
2. I will continue to promote and support Lisa Nichols - listed in Essence magazine as one of the 28 Most Influential Black Women-  and her Motivating the Teen Spirit program. Lisa helps young men and women and adults transform their lives, so those headed for trouble can turn their lives around, and those who want to achieve more greatness can get there like she did. Lisa is one of my  mentors and I will remain in the transformational conversation to make sure I stay grounded and growing as well.

Judge Hart welcomes Me & 3L Participants
3. I will press forward with my program; 3L: Lawyers, Leaders and Lunch which is designed to increase high school graduation rates of young black men and other youth, introducing them to careers in the legal profession and politics while in public school.

4. I will continue to support fatherhood programs, our children need their fathers at home, and if not at home definitely dads must be active in their children's lives.

5. I will aggressively seek to reach all 10 million single mothers in the US alone with my talks and books for women, primarily single mothers. I will push and ask you to assist me in getting my book series, Single Mother the New Father, a vital book series that provides essential tips for women raising kids and holding up a household on their own. 

6. I will continue to use my skills as an attorney and work with my peers colleagues, friends and organizations to prevent such a travesty of justice from ever happening again on my watch.

2010 IMD Great Men of Excellence
7. I will expand my efforts to showcase Great Men of Excellence each November 19, on International Men's Day so the world will see much more than the negative aspects of manhood, especially black manhood. Black men like men of every race are smart, talented, valuable, worthy of respect, and their fate shall not be determined by the prison system.

Yes, Georgia - look out because it's on like Popcorn. Those of us who were shocked last week by Mr. Davis' death will be mobilized to deflect that Cold Sweat we had when you injected the killer cocktail in Mr. Davis' arm.  We will  Get Up Offa That Thing because you can't keep us down- so get ready for The Big Payback! Death penalty, don't get too comfortable because those of us who are against you will not give up the fight. Troy Davis is dead, but death where is your victory? I for one was too trusting in the system and that it would work for Troy Davis. I know differently now and I'm ready this time. Death Penalty, Papa's (and Mama) Got A Brand New Bag and Papa Don't Take No Mess.

Cathleen Williams is a practicing attorney, author and advocate for families living in the city of New York.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

At School's All Over New York- It's Raining Men!

This rainy morning in NYC is Dads Take Your Children to School Day. Over 120 schools all over New York from Brooklyn to Buffalo participated and the men were out in big numbers. At 7:30 AM  I watched as Dad after Granddad after uncle after Dad walked their children into school buildings this morning. The men did not just drop the kids off, they mingled for a while to hear keynote speakers, have breakfast and at PS 136 they even played a little basketball.  Men were all over the schools, whether they were on their way to work, out of work, going in late or coming from work- men filled the hallways and the auditoriums to participate in this eventful and important day. The smiles on the children faces indicated they were happy about Dad being around. One child was overheard telling his friends that his Daddy was next door in the auditorium. The schools treated the Dads well and welcomed them with open arms, telling them to come back as often as they could. The father's networked with teachers, administrators and each other. And some of them talked to me. It was a beautiful sight to see. Look out for my blog and film footage later this week, You can see for yourself, NYC Dads Care!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Dear US Open, How You Treated Serena, It Wasn't Cool-

Serena in the championship match

Congrats to Champion Samantha Stosur from Australia and to American finalist Serena Williams. BUT, What the US Open did was not cool, if I can borrow the words that Serena spoke to the chair umpire during the match.
Serena Williams, the only American woman standing, ... the only American in the championship at the US Open last night, 9/11 of all days, lost in straight sets to Sam Stosur of Australia. The fact that all of the Americans lost at home is not my primary issue. That happens a lot at the Open. As a matter of fact, but for Venus and Serena, we would have lost the majority of all of the major tennis tournaments in the last 10 years. My issue is that on American soil, we are so fixated on money that we chose to ignore the best interests of the women players in this tournament. 

The weather made the Open a challenge to coordinate all last week. Rain delays made it impossible to get the matches in so that the finals could be played on schedule. That said, the women played the semi finals on Saturday- the day that is usually reserved for the Woman's Final Championship match. The women were moved to play the finals on Sunday-normally reserved for the men. The men played the quarters and semi finals on Saturday also, but they were given more than 24 hours of rest and will play their finals a day later on Monday, allowing them a good amount of rest before the final match. 

Great, I think the men need the rest, tennis is a grueling game. Hard on the body. But the women need at least 24 hours to rest between matches as well. Here is what happened. On Saturday, Serena played the #1 Seed Wozniacki after the men's match late Saturday evening. Knowing that the winner of the men's match  would not play again until Monday afternoon, the USTA should have had the women play first and let the men play into the night. Instead, the women waited while the men played - time that they could have spent recovering and resting up for the Championship match the next day. This decision by the USTA proves that common sense is not so common.

 Billie Jean King, Chris Everett, Martina Navritilova, WHERE ARE YOUR VOICES IN SUPPORT OF WOMEN's tennis? Yes we now pay the women well, but do we have to kill their bodies in the process?  Most tennis fans suggest that the decision was because the money to be made on a full day of tennis is more important to the USTA than one unlucky American female player. 

Why couldn't the women play on Monday giving them the same amount of time as the men to rest. Was it that the USTA wanted to cash in on the Sunday matches? Is is because it is only woman's tennis- no big deal to the USTA or the fans? Is this typical of women's sports? I heard no outcry about this from the commentators male or female. I did  not hear any of the women players protest either. Am I the only person who sees a major problem with how the US treated possibly the best American female tennis players in the history of the game? I dare not play the race card, but I must ask this question, had this been Lindsey Davenport, Jennifer Capriotti or the true darling of American women's tennis Chris Everett -would the US Open/USTA have made the same decision?  I am just asking.

Women continue to have to fight for equality in professional sports. Even the prize money was unequal for years. The Australian Open started paying women equal prize money to the men in 2000. The French followed and reluctantly Wimbledon followed suit as recently as 2007. The US Open who has paid women equally for over 3 decades still thought it not robbery to make the women play stressful matches back to back.

After I ranted and raved at the television about Serena's  loss, I took a step back and watched her response. When Chase reps handed her a check for more than half a million dollars, she grinned like a Cheshire cat and talked about how great her opponent played. And her opponent did in fact play great tennis, but, Serena's level of play was not the same as it was throughout the entire tournament. So, what changed? Serena was visibly pooped. Beat down. Exhausted. Worn out. Mind you she didn't show it physically, but it showed in the way she played. It doesn't seem right to me, and it certainly was not cool. 

Serena was fined 2 Grand for the not cool rant
In the second set, Serena was down a set and fading fast into the second set of the match. She was trying to boost her own confidence and she hit a winner- or so she thought, and yelled to herself "C'MON"- as loud as tennis players yell when they get excited. Problem was that the point was not yet officially over and therefore was not yet a winner. The chair umpire penalized Serena for screaming during the point and gave a very critical point that would have been Serena's to Sam. Serena was clear about telling the umpire: "You have it in for me and I promise you, that is not cool."
Well, what was not cool was that she was on the court at that time in the first place. So, taking Serena's words, bold and underscored  I redirect them to the US Open and the USTA. Acknowledging that the women play less sets than the men means that you realize that their bodies are different. That putting less stress on the women is appropriate for the professional game. Why then would you have the women play final matches in less than 18 hours after the semifinals? It begs the question and I was flabbergasted, until I took a look at the prize money:

SINGLES (Men & Women - 128 Draws)
Serena and Sam
Winners (1)
Runners-Up (1)
Semifinalists (2)
Quarterfinalists (4)

What the US Open did to the women last night, it might not be cool, but it sure does pay well. As I watched Serena accept her check with a grin as wide as the Brooklyn Bridge, and her gorgeous diamond earrings glistening in the moonlight, I thought let me get back to work helping women understand how to help their children achieve excellence in life through sports. (Single Mother the New Father, Volume 1 : Sports, by Cathleen Williams). Serena's parents did a great job helping her keep focus. Many American's wanted Serena to win last night. I know I did. We can harp about how uncool so may things were, but at the end of the day, she was paid very well and she will be back next year. We can and should write to the USTA in support of the women on the tour, regardless of their race but in the meantime, let's get something positive out of this experience.

What is the lesson? Serena understands how to play this game- literally and figuratively. It is truly a reflection of life. How are you using this experience to help you or your children understand what happened to her last night? Did you explain this life lesson to your boys and your girls? Did you encourage your daughters to see the inequity and to stand up for the women and for themselves when they see injustice, but to not let it ever stop them? Did you encourage your boys to see the similarities in how the women were treated here and how women are often treated in other institutions in their lives? Did you show them that it is not the way they should treat women blindly without seeking the equity in all situations? 

Furthermore, unless they are writing a letter to the USTA, there is no point in  wasting time being upset over Serena's close to a million dollar loss? Instead teach them to be great sportsmen and women like Serena was last night, and show them that they should always be prepared to win. The most important thing however is that they show up. Take the time to provide them with the training they need to compete effectively in their sport and in life. Show your children what it takes to get to the top and how to conduct themselves when they get there, despite the inequities they may face.

There are very few Americans that made it to the semi-finals of the US Open and Serena was the ONLY American to make it to the Championship. That in itself is a lot of pressure. Add that she is the only black American to get past the round of 16 male or female, and the only black woman besides her sister in the woman's tournament and you get even more pressure. The Williams sisters are the only black women to win a major tennis tournament since Althea Gibson. Gibson, the first black woman to win a major tennis tournament won the French Open in 1956 and both Wimbledon and the US Open in 1957 and 1958, that was over fifty years ago.

Did you know that a black American male has not won a major title since Arthur Ashe who won the US Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970 and Wimbledon in 1975? Did you know that Arthur Ashe is the ONLY black American male to ever win a grand slam? Surprising huh? What can your children - whatever their race, learn from those facts?
I wrote a book to help women learn how to effectively use sports to raise their kids, Single Mother The New Father, Volume 1: Sports. If women took advantage of the sports world and understood how much it could help their children, an entire industry could open up to our kids. In this time of economic crises in the United States, it is important to use everything at your disposal to help your children be successful. Sports can help them get a better education, and as shown by the way Serena handled herself in the end last night, it can teach us all an awful lot about life. Just as in life, it is all how you handle yourself, and how you look at things. When you handle the worst of situations and you don't let the situation handle you, even when you lose, you win. Thanks Serena, you taught us well. See you next year!

I'm Just Saying,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration: The Number One Thing You Must Know When Looking For A Mate (and 3 tips to help you close the deal)

Many people will tell you to write a list of characteristics, both physical and personal that your perfect mate will have. Rarely does anyone show you how to come up with that list or an example of one that works. When I hear people mention what is on their list they often say they are looking for someone who is cute, has a great body, a good sense of humor, likes walks in the park, is tall, dark, handsome, loves his mom, can cook, likes kids and so on...(at least that is what I see most on dating websites).

Those traits/likes etc., do nothing to help you understand if you will get along with that person. It does nothing to get you to the heart of your beloved's heart. The one most important thing to do when deciding what is important in a mate is to keep it simple. It's the little things, the simple things that tell whether your mate has integrity and the capacity for love.

Things like, I rarely get routed to his voice mail - he always takes my calls and he always returns them- he respects me.

She does what she says she is going to do, I trust her word.  

She is fresh, clean and showers every day. I just threw that in, but hey hygiene is important, no one wants a stinky partner!

He is never volatile or violent with me, his mother or any other woman. No explanation necessary, I hope. 

He is not over the top jealous when I smile at another guy/ she doesn't lose her mind when the waitress smiles at me.  She/he is confident and trusts me.

We can disagree then laugh and still enjoy our meal. He/she lives int he real world and we can work things out.

3 Tips to help you close the deal:

1. Don't be so judgmental. Especially those of us in church and who have religious beliefs. Avoid being egotistical and thinking that you are holier than every person on earth.
2. Relax. Just like dogs smell fear, people feel when you are uptight. Take it down a thousand.
3. And finally allow yourself to feel and follow your intuition. You usually have a gut feeling when someone is not right for you. Trust your gut and keep that simple to. You do not need a reason. You do not need validation. You just know. If it feels bad let it go.

Trust that the mate you are looking for is looking for you!

Cathleen, in Effect

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Everette Howard, dead at 18. He won the battle but lost the war.

The statistics say that young black men are about 50% on average to graduate from high school with their white counterparts. In Ohio the graduation rate is 41% for black males, lower than the national average. The racial achievement gap is now greater than the national average. I could cite report after report that states the reading level, the math scores, the higher rates of violence in public schools and on and on lead to a devastating future academically for black males. To top that off there is a documented public school to prison pipeline that is reported in newspapers around the world every year. Add to that single parent households and the numbers of black males who fail in the "system" is said to be even higher.

Everette Howard beat all of those odds. Even in Cincinnati where black male achievement is so low that there is a call to action to reverse the failing trend. Everette, an athlete, ranked in the top ten percent of his high school class. He was captain of the wrestling team, a support to his teachers, he taught Bible study, fed the homeless, and did I say he did great in school? So well that high school was not a deterrent to his success, his three Rs were great actually, he was considered an excellent writer. He beat the odds, graduated high school and was on his way to college. On scholarship. For two sports, wrestling and football. This young man made it. Except for one thing, in his desire to stop a fight, he was in a confrontation with police. Police who likely knew that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics(BJS), black males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6.5 times that of white males. Maybe the campus police at the University of Cincinnati  assumed Everette was or would be the 1 in 8 black males in prison on any given day. Maybe, because so few make it to college, maybe because there are so few present in comparison to their white counterparts on any college campus...maybe these campus police assumed he had no right to be there, that he was a threat. Maybe they could not imagine that an 18 year old black male on a college campus was in an Upward Bound program two weeks shy of beginning his own college career. Maybe that is why young Everette Howard, was tasered by a campus police officer when he approached them at University of Cincinnati last weekend. Maybe, the officer was so shocked to see a young black man doing the right thing the right way was such a shock to his reality that his first thought was to taser him and then handcuff him on the ground.

Is the problem that the officer responded to his reality, that only 6 % of the students on the UC campus are black? That only 3.6% of the faculty at UC are black? Is it that the campus police officer sees so few black people, least of which are black male students on college campuses around the country including his own, that he assumed that this young man made him feel unsafe? The officer made the decision that Everette Howard deserved to be tasered, not listened to, despite the fact that Everette was the one who was on the side of peace and safety, for which the officer himself stands.

Lastly, let me say this. In all of the commentary about Everette Howard we see mention of his mother and in some articles it says his parents. In one video of his mom we see her with an unidentified woman holding her hand. There has been no mention of Everette's dad. I wonder why that is? This young man has a father. Somewhere. Even if he passed away he has a dad. I wonder why in so many articles about young men, their fathers are not mentioned? It bothers me to see this. There is the assumption particularly when the boys are black, that there is no man in the mix. Even I assumed he is the son of a single mom, but there is no mention one way or the other of his mother's marital status. This is a message to fathers of black young men: the world needs to see men hurting, crying, caring and fighting for your children, too. Black boys are in a battle for status, excellence and achievement.

Black boys need of mentors, fathers, examples and support to help them avoid prison, death and statistics that predict their demise in so many different ways. Even when they are successful, like Everette was, they may win the battle. Everette did. This young man, on his way to college and even more success--a good guy, one who made it past all of the doom and gloom predicted for black boys and young black men. He made it, he won the battle. But until we make changes in the reality of what "is" for black men in America, until the hearts and minds of everyone watching-- including police, especially police-- changes, black men will continue to lose the war. And the outcome of the war affects us all- every color, every gender every creed.


What happened on campus and the messsage from Everette's mom.

Black Boys Report

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration: Beautiful People Do Not Just Happen

In short, if you have struggled, you have fought the fight worth fighting. Beautiful people are not born, but they do grow. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Maid, Mother, Victim

A recent article in Newsweek, "The Maid's Tale," by Christopher Dickey, tells the story of IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged rape victim Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid at Sofitel in New York. In assembling the case defending Strauss-Kahn, Diallo's entire background is being questioned, from her relationships with seemingly nefarious persons to her role as a single mother. But is it fair to bring Diallo's single motherhood into the case against her statements? Working as a hotel maid, Diallo makes $25 per hour, and her days are not short. One has to ask, is the Strauss-Kahn defense asking the right questions? Why would they seem to believe that being a single mother would implicate falsehood in Diallo's statements? The role, as we know, is not a negative one, but rather one that takes strength beyond what most parents can understand. Shouldn't being a single mother instead show Diallo's positive qualities, of being able to provide a decent life for her family? Perhaps the Strauss-Kahn defense should be asking if her family is happy, provided for, and has a healthy home life, as being a single mother should not be thought of as a detriment to one's character. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Inspiration

In our lives as parents, it's so easy to take each day for granted. We know what it is to love a child, of course, but it never hurts to remind ourselves every now and again. Here is your first of many doses of  Wednesday  Inspiration, for that time of the week when you may need it most.  


Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Your Child’s Coach a Sexual Predator? by Cathleen Williams, Esq.

A suit filed in March of 2010 brought major allegations about widespread sexual abuse of young swimmers throughout USA Swimming. The suit claims since 1993, at least 32 swim coaches at clubs around the country allegedly abused their swimmers.
A 61-year-old coach of a girls’ soccer team in Virginia was arrested on charges of producing child pornography by secretly videotaping girls changing into bathing suits at his home.

A 44-year-old man was alleged to have used his position as a father, neighbor and youth basketball coach to gain access to and rape at least two girls and molest three others.

A man was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy he met while coaching bowling. The man, who was previously convicted of molesting a child and was a registered sexual offender, had been charged with second-degree sodomy. And the list goes on.
Hofstra University education professor Charol Shakeshaft estimated that 1%-2% school coaches are sexual abusers. The NAYS (National Alliance of Youth Sports) estimates there are 3 million volunteer and school coaches in the United States, or approximately 6,000 coaches nationwide with records of sexual abuse. While it seems impossible that so many incidences of sexual abuse of child athletes can continue year after year in the United States, the fact is that there are not as many protections in place for child athletes, on school or private sports teams, as most parents believe.
Coaches with winning records have been moved from district to district without charges filed against them for any number of reasons. The bottom line is that parents must take the ultimate responsibility to make sure that the school or organization providing a child’s sports experience is doing everything possible to protect children from sexual predators. Parents should also implement protections of their own to prevent any adult from abusing their child. Using the list below, parents can make it very difficult for a coach who is a predator to abuse a child athlete:
Background Checks.
Background checks are required by some organizations that hire coaches, however it is not mandatory for every sports program. As a parent you are entitled to know if the coaches have received a background check and how thorough and far-reaching the investigation is. Even when a background check is required, parents should understand the checks are not fool proof. Violations that are over twenty years old may not show up, or the coach may have never been convicted of sexually abusive behavior. If a child predator pleas to lesser charges the sexual abuse will not show up on his or her record.

Talk to children about sexual abuse, and the tricks abusers will use on their prey.
Parents must invite their offspring to talk about their sports experiences, and explain to children (without making them paranoid or afraid) what is appropriate conversation and interaction with their coach. Educate children about appropriate and inappropriate coaching behavior, and encourage them to discuss anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, afraid or embarrassed.

Go to your child’s games and practices, and get to know the coach.
Parents should ask questions about their child’s coach and inquire about his or her qualifications. Observe how the coach interacts with your child, and how your child responds to the coach without interrupting the game. Anything that appears inappropriate should be questioned.

The best sign that a child has been sexually abused is when the child states that he or she was abused. Children often are afraid to tell anyone that they have been abused, so when they do, listen carefully and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect your child.

Look for the signs of sexual abuse.
• Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
• Seems distracted or distant at odd times
• Difficulty at school— drop in grades, behavioral problems, or truancy
• Has a sudden change in eating habits
• Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
• Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
• Develops new or unusual fear of the coach people or places
• Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
• Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge
• Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
· Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth

Establish the rule that your child should not travel or be alone with the coach.
Sleep over’s and time spent with the coach at his or her home and other places away from the location where the team meets or where your child is alone with the coach should be avoided at all costs. Explain this rule to the coach and to your child.

Communicate with other parents.
Establish a buddy system with other parents. Talk about the sports experience with other parents and set up car-pooling etc., so your child is not left alone at practices or games.

While there are many instances of sexual abuse in sports, there are also thousands of safe sports environments for kids, and the vast majority of coaches are excellent people that your children are safe with and can be trusted. It is up to all of us to make appropriate reports when foul play is suspected, and to support the coaches that are dedicated to making children’s sports the positive experience it should be.

For further information about how to keep your child safe in sports:
Child Help USA
National hotline and website offers support in response to all child abuse and can link you to local reporting agencies.
National Council of Youth Sports Child Safety Packet including the official NCYS Recommended Guidelines for Background Check Screening in Nonprofit Youth-Serving Organizations
Call NCYS at 772-781-1452 or email

To report sexual abuse of a child by a non-family member call your local or state police department or law enforcement office.

Cathleen Williams, RN Esq. is a registered nurse and attorney with a private law practice in New York City. She is the author of Single Mother the New Father, Volume 1 Sports- The Mother’s Playing Field.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Are they failing in society or is society failing them? 3 Ways to Alter The Quandary Facing Young African American Men

Are young black men failing society or is society misunderstanding or overgeneralizing these young men and the choices they make? I have a theory/observation. This is not a scientific column backed by documented research, because even though I did research on this topic, there was little other than life experience, the experience of friends and colleagues and divine inspiration that lead me to support my theory. So I ask that you indulge me for a moment and consider the possibility that maybe just maybe there is a side to this dropout conversation that is being overlooked.

Last weekend I attended a college preparation program that featured a panel of college students who told the high school-ers in the audience what college is like, how to get in, stay in and do well. One young man mesmerized the crowd when he told his story. You could hear a pin drop in this room of about 100 teenagers and their parents. No one moved. MM is a student at City University of New York in the MD program. He is an intelligent, very mature, responsible and caring young man. When he spoke about his choice to attend City College he stated without shame or hesitation that his mother, that he could not go away because his mother is a single mom and needs to be protected. He did not provide circumstances or particulars, but he was adamant about the fact that while he was going on to become a doctor, he would not do so in such a way that his mother would be left to fend for herself.

As he spoke, I could feel the love this young man had for his mother. I could just sense how much she did for him. I could smell the lunches, the cookies and the breakfast in the morning and feel the aches in her bones from being up late nights doing whatever she could to make sure he would be able to focus on his schoolwork. I could hear her pleas for support and resources for her son, and my knees began to burn and tears welled up in my eyes as I stood there and watched this young man, just from the thought of the many nights his mother spent on her knees crying out to God as she prayed for her son. This young man was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, without even seeming to notice it.

I recognized his stature. I recognized his heart, I recognized my life in his eyes. You see my son, although he went away to school, has the same concern about me. He loves me, and just like MM he appreciates all that I did for him as a single mother. He also cares deeply about my well-being and like it or not, he walks in the role of protector and provider-- despite the fact that I always told him that I am the parent. No matter what, many young men are innately protectors and providers, the question is when does that need to protect their family, their single mothers kick in? And when it does what does the young man choose to do?

If there is no man in the house, it is likely to kick in prematurely, and like MM and my son Sean, many young black men grow up before their time. They may not have had a man at home, but they understand what manhood means and they step up way too soon, even when not encouraged by their moms to do so. Society demands it of them. They have to worry about police, crime, death, healthy issues, peer pressure, gang violence, drugs, girls, identity and more. They take all this on and they still realize that real men are responsible. They are protectors, providers, they do what they must to make sure that their family is well. Real men take care of their business, even if they are 16 years old in high school and struggling with their grades. They will not ask a struggling single mother for money. They will not leave their mom alone to fend for herself. They will not ask for money if they are in school and she just lost her job.

They worry if the family is about to be evicted. They cannot help themselves. The choices they make to help out may not be good ones, but they will not sit idly by and let the family go down without doing something. Not the responsible and caring young men.

For those young men who are not doing well in school from their early grades, having been routed through special education classes, failing grades, suspensions, poor standardized test scores, substandard educational programs and more... logic may say "I am not accomplishing anything in school, my family needs to eat... Let me drop-out and make some money.." That is the critical moment, and by then the system has already failed these young men.

When this revelation hit me after listening to MM intently - I wondered what happens to the the young men who like he and my son did excel, but are unable to cover the costs associated with college. I spoke to a friend about it and he shared an interesting story with me. A young man he mentors is one such student, good grades, excellent focus, great potential, but he would not apply to college. Deadlines came and went, and everyone was asking this young man why he would not just submit the applications. With his grades, he was a shoe in for some of the best universities in the country. After much prodding and near threatening him to submit his college applications he confessed to my friend that his single mom simply did not have the 65 dollar application fee. Embarrassed, ashamed, unsure what to do or who to turn to for money, this young man would rather suffer in silence and forgo college than burden his mother or ask someone else for the application fees. Yes, I know fees are often waived, I know anyone would likely have given this young man the money had he asked, but in his mind he had to do this on his own. My friend cut the young man a check right on the spot and within 24 hours the college application was submitted. That was a young man with a mentor. What about all the young men without a man like my friend in their lives?

Are these young men failures? Are they just bad boys who cannot do the work and are headed for prison? Are they mentally unstable products of special education who cannot do any better, or is it that maybe no one has dedicated time, resources, focus and concern enough to help these young men work through their problems and overcome the obstacles? Children are not here on earth to raise themselves. None of us can get through life alone. No matter how smart, how rich, how blessed. I submit to the world that the 60 percent or more of young black men who drop out of high school do not do so because they dream of being a high school drop-out hanging on the corner, listening to Lil Wayne. I just do not believe it. Nor do I think that every young man who is selling drugs, pimping, and living a life of crime dreamed of living such a life.

I certainly do not condone the choice to be a criminal, but I do believe that as a society we must reconsider how we are educating our children, and look at what is going on in their lives and their homes. It is not good enough to allow young men and women to walk through life at tender ages with 800lb gorillas on their backs.

Each case requires further investigation, but I know enough young men to know that many of them have had to grow up way before their time. Yes, the absence of fathers is a problem. A major problem. So is the absence of male mentors, quality teachers, straight talk, resources and cash.
As a nation it is essential that we refuse to accept an epidemic of drop-outs among any population of students in the United States, gender, race or nationality notwithstanding. Throwing all black boys in the cesspool of incompetence and ignorance is the easy way out. What we have to do is look for ways to change the outcome, and be on hand to help black boys improve their academic experience from the day they begin the school experience. Looking at high school is a little very very late. Let's start early, let's push hard and let's shift this paradigm. First, let's change our conversation about black boys and education from what is negative to what is possible. All this negative talk about black boys and the dismal education statistics creates a mindset of failure in a young boy before he even enters middle school.
Second, let's find a way to make it lucrative and inviting for qualified young black men who do make it through college successfully to become teachers. Men need to see men in the classroom. And Finally, third, find a young man, your child or not, and encourage him to go to college. To go to college he has to graduate from high school with the right type of diploma. Not every diploma will get you into college and the local/GED diplomas may not be accepted for college admission or certain employment positions, and are disproportionately issued to young black men. If we as a community of caring adults set the eyes of young black men on college from the time they are in elementary school, and guide them adequately through academia- graduation from high school is implied and far more likely. We must do this, we can do this, yes we can.