“And how are the Children?”
When Rosalind “Bee” Harris contacted me to share with me her dream of expanding her already 30-year-old, award-winning publication to a market in Baltimore, it was like a dream come true. When she told me the Urban Spectrum franchise would be honoring the mayors in our respective cities this month, I was initially overwhelmed by the challenge before me. In all my years in journalism, I’d never been to City Hall. As the managing editor of The Afro-American Newspapers, the mothership of Black media in Baltimore, I traveled to Denver, Colorado under the tutelage of the late Black press pioneer George Curry to cover the historic election of former President Barack Obama, but I’d never met the mayor of my own city. I was nervous, but ready.
To keep it 100: I didn’t sit down with Mayor Catherine Pugh this week as the editor of the new Baltimore Urban Spectrum magazine. I sat down with Mayor Pugh as a former Baltimore City Public School student, a former Baltimore City Public School secondary English teacher, a mother, an adoptive parent, youth advocate, and fellow alum, who knows Baltimore’s story so intimately; I spoke from the place of someone who has vicariously experienced the trauma of gang violence, drug addiction, illiteracy, mass incarceration, and poverty in an overcrowded classroom of students I taught at a high school up Edmondson Village, where I grew up. And honestly, my intentions were to put politics aside for a second, and have a candid conversation with Ms. Catherine E. Pugh about how she plans to move Baltimore forward on a community level.
When I sat down with the mayor, I found myself in the presence of a relatable, approachable, down-to-earth, no-nonsense elder of the community I hold dear. And in an atmosphere like that, our conversation flowed like living water from one village keeper to another.
So I shared with her the premise of an article I read a few years back at a professional development workshop for teachers, entitled “And How Are the Children” by Patrick O’Neill. And the premise is this: When the priorities of the community to protect the young are in their proper place, peace and safety prevail.
Like O’Neill, “ I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared about in our own country.
“I wonder if every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our community... I wonder if we could truly say without any hesitation, "The children are well, yes, all the children are well."
So I pose to you, the people are Baltimore: Where do our priorities lie? Is it going up to the school to check the teacher, or is it revisiting your style of parenting following your active participation in a parent-teacher conference at your child’s school? Is giving your children everything you didn’t have growing up-- without instilling in them the principles of work ethic, respect for authority, and the value of a dollar-- a style of parent that will yield a productive citizen once our children leave the nest?
I ask this because I too am guilty of telling my child who and what to be and how to behave without explicit instruction. When I realized this i was initially overcome with denial, than guilt, and then confusion. I was raising my kid the best way I knew how. Growin up, I just knew better--probably because I was raised to fear my mother more than anyone--or anything--in the world. While that worked for me, because but it won’t work for my daughter simply because this generation is fearless--and I love it; I want to cultivate it, not squelch it. This generation was born fearless, and , even in the little time they’ve spent in this life, they are ready for change. So, what are we, the adults, going to secure a better future for not only them, but ourselves?
As single mothers, are we perpetuating the brokennes in our families by hiding behind our strength and success? Are we giving our children’s fathers equal access to their seeds--even if they’ve missed one, or many, child support checks?
Are we chasing the illusion of reality TVs house wide life, knowing full well that most of our men aren’t ballers and rappers, and that many are risking their freedom engaging in illegal activities to provide for our families while others are sacrificing their egos for minimum wage jobs to be present and accounted for in our communities?
How are we saying thank you?
Are we speaking life into the kings of our culture? Are we affirming their greatness when we return back to the hood after marching around the office all day in the stilettos we wore crossing the stage to receive our college degrees? Are we reminding our fathers, sons, uncles, brothers and cousins, who incarcerated under fickle U.S. policies, of their royalty? Are we standing in the gap for them or are we just pushing through and breaking ceilings, but still in our feelings because “good” black men are hard to find?
The truth is my beautiful Black sistas, the strength of our men is firmly rooted in the womb of our femininity. In some crazy, round about way, in all they do they do for our families.
I took on the Baltimore Urban Spectrum, because I believe through storytelling we can bring healing, wisdom and empowerment to the villages throughout Baltimore City.
Let us wake, rise, and manifest the City of Baltimore in living color.
Live. Love. Be more.
- Tiffany C. Ginyard, Baltimore Urban Spectrum Editor