Thursday, May 28, 2015

Be Patient-The Black Family Can Be Restored
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
During a recent conversation on Black America, I was frustratingly told by the black male I was conversing with that people of African descent are doomed in this country.  He referenced the “ghettoes” where so many Black Americans live, the mass incarceration of black males, and the disenfranchisement of black men in particular from corporate and entrepreneurial areas.  He finally suggested that blacks should become more global, and that many should leave this country altogether and go live somewhere else.
Though I agree with many of his arguments, my rebuttal was that not all African-Americans have the financial and psychological resources to even seriously consider living somewhere else.  After that statement, I posed this question to him: ‘Do you agree that socioeconomic conditions in Black America would be better if our families were intact?”  He paused for a moment, and then responded: “Getting Black families in order is NOT going to happen.”
His response really depressed me.  I thought of Tupac Shakur’s lyrics on his social commentary song “Keep Your Head Up,” when he said, “There is no hope for the youth and the truth is there is no hope for the future.”
I can’t help but be optimistic, but I do wonder if many people in the Black community feel that individually we lack the discipline to control ourselves sexually, and make rational, responsible decisions about producing children as part of a stable family unit.
At screenings of my documentary film “On My Own,” which explores the epidemic of black single motherhood and broken black families in this country from historical and social standpoints, I sometimes hear statements of out-and-out defeat during the Q & A segment of the program.   When I look back on those comments, the responses make it clear that some African Americans feel that the pattern of absent fathers in Black households is so long-standing and deeply-rooted that prospects for resolution are bleak, to nil.  We all are aware of the problem and of its magnitude and ramifications, but too many of us seem to have thrown our hands into the air and just given up.  That will get us nowhere.
Recent Census data and other research have proven that we can reverse these trends if we continue taking aggressive, positive and proactive community measures.  Lowering rates of single motherhood, for example, will provide a stable environment for childrearing and a healthy example for children to follow as they grow and mature.  We all know that the family is the basic social unit, and that a weak family structure leads to a weak community.  Loving, caring, nurturing parents foster loving, caring, and nurturing children, who carry those traits with them throughout their lives, and use them as both bedrock and stepping stones as they enter into personal and professional relationships, open businesses,  enter public service, and myriad other social activities.  As they succeed, they help uplift the socioeconomic status of fellow Black Americans by tearing down barriers and being positive role-models.
The black community can turn our family dynamic around.  Positive change has already begun.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released data announcing that black teenage pregnancy among 15- to 17-year-olds is down by 52 percent, and down 36 percent among 18- to 19-year-olds.  In addition, the Urban Institute has reported that between 2007 and 2012, births among black millennial women dropped by 14 percent.  In fact, it decreased among all races.  Hispanics saw the largest drop at 26%, and for white women, there was an 11 percent decrease.  Study participants cited financial challenges and being unmarried, and not careers, as the reason for pushing back motherhood.
I believe the biggest progress we have made is found in the simple acts of admitting that there is a major problem, and acknowledging that fathers are needed in the home just as much as mothers are.  We are openly and honestly talking about it, and that’s innovative and progressive.
Black males remain an issue, and unrelenting focus must be placed on promoting marriage and fatherhood, and sexual responsibility, through mentoring and national black dialogue.
The next step is for all of us to educate the younger generations on the importance of an intact family and solid-as-a-rock participation by both genders in the home.  Black single mothers, the largest group raising black children, must take the forefront in educating their children on the importance of healthy marriage and sexual responsibility.  Black leaders, and governments at all levels, must combine forces to help repair the extreme damage that has been done by external societal factors, including slavery, the 1960s outsourcing of factory jobs, discriminatory welfare practices targeting poor black mothers, and the 1980’s crack/cocaine epidemic.
People of African descent have a long and successful history of overcoming historical and social adversity.  Fixing the broken black family must remain in our social crosshairs at all times.  We are a strong people, and we can do it.
To purchase a copy of “On My Own” click on the link below:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

We Dream Too
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
I was an 11-year-old girl caught up in the matrix. Self-conscious about my looks and deeply melanin-infused skin. My appreciation for my beauty came soon when my sixth-grade teacher Ms. Price teacher — on our first day of class — pulled out a book on Ancient Egypt and told all the African-American and Dominican kids in the class that we would learn about our real history.

I spent a lot of my young years as a dreamer—obsessed with cartoons and writing poetry. I liked dolls but I never played house. I never envisioned myself as Molly the homemaker. I witnessed dysfunction in my home for many years, which eventually made the difficult transition to a single-mother home. I didn’t know what a stable, healthy, two-parent home looked like—something I rarely saw in Harlem, where I lived as a child.

During my formative years, I recognized that my self-esteem and would have been more solid if I had a loving father around to dote on me. The large numbers of fatherless homes in our community hurts the progress of Black folks in America. From its inception during slavery, the Black Family in America morphed into a traumatic and unstable structure.

This MLK season, I dream of an American society in which little Black girls and Black boys don’t suffer abandonment issues because they lack the loving and positive presence of both their parents. I want them to grow up to be more psychologically sound than the generations before, devoid of family baggage. In a trying world, family must be our safe haven—a foundation to prepare and to protect us.

My dream requires a serious national discussion, more fatherhood/single motherhood organizations, and an effort by our entire American society to restore the importance of two-parent households. As adults, we must work to provide better environments for our children than the ones that we knew.

I hold great hope for the future because many of us do our best to better the family experience for our young people—a powerful contribution to the future of our nation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Systemic Racism in the Police Department is a call to focus on Black Families

By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
As people of color in this country it is really time for us to construct an organized national agenda.  The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell and other black males by the hands of police officers coming to the light, it appears that the national agenda might be systemic racism within the police department towards black males in particular.   I don’t think this should be our national agenda. 

I’m pushing for getting the Black Family together and here’s why.  I was shocked when I heard that half a million dollars was raised in a crowd funding campaign for Officer Darren Wilson.  Now that is organization and a community coming together to protect and support one of its own.  Strong families are the premise of strong communities.  Where is the Black community’s organized initiative to support the Brown Family, the Martin Family, and the Garner etc.? What's the strategy to push our national cause to Congress? 
We always look to see what Reverend Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson is going to do while the youth, myself included,  take to social media, which really produces no results.

I was listening to Troi “Star” Torain’s show “Stop the Police” a few days ago and he factually stated that there is no “Black Community”.  “If we do not own the local bank, credit union or supermarket in the neighborhood, we just live there.”  I wish we would really get this.  I think this is why the police and other institutions feel they can treat us the way they do.

I look at all of the young men protesting in Ferguson and I can’t help but feel like their fathers should be guiding them on more effective ways to deal with how they are treated by the police and their overall feelings of disenfranchisement in American society.  But most of these young men most likely don’t have their fathers in their lives, which continue a pattern of instability, misplaced anger, and lack of guidance.  This is why stores and churches, some black owned, are being destroyed in Ferguson.  We have to understand that we are going back to these same communities to live.  

I am not trying to steer attention away from the many black males that are killed or mistreated by the police but I am merely saying that the Black community in America has a lot of other problems to honestly face.  This is the time to tackle all aggressively! I definitely believe that Hip Hop music needs a total lyrical overhaul.  Many artists out now like Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Nikki Minaj lyrics do nothing to motivate our people to be modern day freedom fighters and innovators.

Looting, social media, and protesting is not the way to enact change!  We've done this many times before.  It's not working for us.  I am totally a grassroots philosopher starting with family structure. I believe black mothers and fathers together in stable households must raise our young men and women to be positive leaders and upstanding citizens.  My documentary "On My Own" made me realize that fathers and traditional families are so important to our community's future and our movement to attain equal human rights in America.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why Step Fathers Must Bond with their Step Sons
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw
A colleague of mines was telling me about his 15 year old nephew who now lives in a group home.  He told me that his nephew’s father isn’t around but his sister did remarry years ago and has since given birth to two more children.   He told me how his nephew’s stepfather would administer strict and aggressive discipline when he misbehaved but failed to spend time with him to develop a loving relationship. 

Then my colleague gave his own assessment of his sister’s current family dynamic.  He said to me, “I told my sister when my nephew was younger to make sure that her husband was bonding with his stepson to establish a genuine relationship between the two.  She didn’t make sure it happened.”

Lately I have been hearing a lot of stories of boys still rebelling in their households even if there is a father figure there. What I am specifically addressing is boys who grow up in homes where there mother has remarried.  What then happens is a battle between a grown man, and a boy, that believes he is the man of the house, and it’s all-out war.  This leaves the mothers in a comprised position. 

The age of the boy when the stepfather marries their mother is a major factor on how the stepson-stepfather relationship in a lot of instances will blossom.  If the boy is really young and doesn’t really know his father and the step father asserts himself and takes on the role from day one this could fill any psychological abandonment issues or unfamiliarity that the child has.  The step father and mother are the adults in the situation and have to do all they can to ensure that the child feels loved and acknowledged by his new stepfather and also develops the respect for the new “father” figure that is now in the household.  If the boy’s father is co-parenting with the mother, a discussion needs to be had where all three adults establish positions and the real father and mother must let their son know that you have a bonus father that you must respect and listen to also.

I will say this.  Mothers must allow their husbands to parent their sons from previous relationships.  The bigger picture is that boys needs fathers to raise them so the mothers must take a step back if they want their boys to get the full lessons on being disciplined, being effective, and manhood that the stepfather inherits teaching to the boys in the household. 

Stepfathers must also understand that they have a responsibility to step up and raise their stepson putting the same effort as they do with their biological children.  It’s very important that the stepdads of the world know their duty.  A substantial percentage of families are comprised of children from previous relationships.  Since the traditional family is believed to be one of the factors that socialize boys, stepfathers must fully embrace that stepsons despite biologically belonging are their responsibility and fall under their parenting.  Their progress in life falls just as much on them as the biological parents.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Boys Need Men in Their Lives to Keep Them in Line
By Rachel Miller-Bradshaw

The Good Men Project
I have a serious situation going on in my family right now.   One of my nephews is acting out in the worst way.  At first we all attributed it to him being a teenager and his hormones are raging.  We figured it is a teenager’s job to put their parents through hell.   But then my nephew began to get really disrespectful and full of rage.  This of course pushed my sister to point of feeling like he couldn’t live with in her home anymore.

We are close knit family full of women with my mother being the matriarch.  During a trip to the beach recently my nephew, usually a guarded young man, expressed that he feels like part of him is missing since his father isn’t in his life.  He honestly admitted that he knows that this is the cause for most of his behavior.  I explained to him that no matter what he feels about his father’s absence that he should always love his mother because she loves him and provides him all he needs and even sometimes desires.

But there is one thing that is missing and my sister can’t provide it… the discipline, brawn, and effectiveness of a constant male figure in his like.   As women we pretend like we can do it all and be it all but we can’t take away the fact that children respect and even at times fear their fathers or male figures in their lives in a way that we as women don’t evoke.  Maybe it’s our loving and forgiving nature, our nurturing, or just our physical makeup.  Whatever it may be, I’ve seen boys act up with their mothers and straighten up quickly when their father or another male figure in the picture steps in to check them.

This isn’t the first nephew I’ve seen go through this.  Time and time again I have heard stories from friends, colleagues, and church members, all single mothers, expressing the behavioral difficulties of raising their boys.   The commonality is the reality that these boys’ fathers aren’t active in their lives and there isn’t a male figure who has stepped in to fill the void.  The community of earlier times doesn’t exist to help chip in to make sure boys aren’t in the neighborhood getting into trouble.

Today’s young men need constant structure in order to prepare them for tomorrow’s life challenges.  I see this with my nephew who likes to go to bed late at night and then struggles to get out of bed in the morning for school or other daily events planned.  If discipline is needed, a boy, is more likely to listen to his father whom he won’t even dare consider being disrespectful to or stepping out of line to.  Boys need visuals.  If they have a direct male figure to use as a model of what being a responsible man is, it teaches them in a more effective way than any program could do.

I believe my nephew will be okay because he does have male figures.  He inherited a great uncle and has a great god father in addition to the pool of professional female family members that are helping to structure him and praying for him every day.  My concern is really for the boys out there that don’t have this support.  How to do we reach those?   Do we continue to do all we can to get these fathers back in their sons’ lives, do we continue to tell women to make better choices in men or do we get back to a community mindset?

Whatever should be the plan we have to do it soon because we have a lot of boys stepping out of line and we need the men in our society to pull them back in.