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What a sad, strange trip this has been. As the not-guilty
verdict came through in the Trayvon Martin case last Saturday, the rage and despair of centuries and
centuries of injustice hit once again, and the tears came, hot and bitter. No
justice for Trayvon Martin. As a mother, fear gripped my heart for my 20-year-old son, and the other sons of this country; young men simply trying to make their
way home, whose lives could have just as easily been taken by an armed stranger
who didn’t think they belonged.
I hate to burst the bubble for anyone who thinks we live in
a post-racial society, but quite frankly, we do not. This case sets a
terrifying precedent. It feels as though we have somehow created an environment where there is no punishment for shooting an unarmed young man of color. This verdict has sent a message to this country that, sometimes, our sons can be taken from us and that their killers can get off without any legal repercussions. Nobody wants to hear this,
because it’s so ugly and dreadful, but it means that in America there is less
of a value placed on the life of an African-American. How can we protect our
kids from the George Zimmermans of the world?
I am trying to see what I can do to turn my anger and sorrow
into action. How many petitions can I sign? How many calls can I make? And how
many rallies can I attend until I feel any better? Until I believe that I have
secured some safety and justice for our children and others? There are just so
many wrongs at play here. I see a civil and human rights atrocity, flaws in
Florida’s legal system, irresponsible gun control laws, and the “needs
improvement” state of race relations in this country.
I shudder and I hug my son a little bit tighter every time he leaves the house.
I imagine the fear my son would feel if a stranger in a car
were following him on a dark night, and what could happen if he confronted that
stranger. I shudder and I hug my son a little bit tighter every time he leaves
the house. He understands, but he won’t let it rule his life.
In 1968, writer James Baldwin wrote these words: "To
persuade black boys and girls, as we have for so many generations, that their
lives are worth less than other lives, and that they can only live on terms
dictated to them by other people, by people who despise them, is worse than a
crime, it is a sin against the Holy Ghost." Baldwin was so wise. Did he imagine that the
words he wrote some 45 years ago would still ring so painfully true today? He
probably did. All of our children are
gifts, and all of our children are worthy of fair treatment and respect. As parents,
we must teach our children that they are the same as other children, that they
have the same rights, and that they must be able stand up for themselves. We
need to create a legal environment where these civil rights flourish.
Lives shouldn’t be dictated by fear. I won’t guide my son in that direction, and I
wouldn’t encourage other mothers to either, but we must take whatever steps we
can to keep this from happening again and again. It’s a treacherous battle with
no clear end in sight, but it’s one worth fighting for. The Department of
Justice will reopen its investigation of Trayvon Martin's shooting death, and
for this I am grateful, but Trayvon’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal
are harsh reminders that we still have a long, long way to go. We need to do