A place where Black Mothers can celebrate excellence and motherhood.

9:00 AM

New Mommy Monday! Meet Crystal and Charlee!

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Meet Crystal Drakeford, the mother of Charlee Marie. Crystal is an active member of
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated (Hey Sorhor!) and a big advocate of
supporting our nation’s Veterans. Charlee Marie is a curious one-year-old who loves
making music with her mom’s pots and pans and enjoys bike rides with her dad. Keep
reading to hear about their wonderful transition from infant to toddler! 

     State your name and baby(ies) name

      Hello, my name is Crystal Drakeford and my daughter’s name is Charlee Marie and we are new residents of Charles County, Maryland.

     How long have you been a mommy? 

     I just reached the one year mark of being a mom. Yayyy!!! One down and a lifetime to go.

   What is your favorite thing about motherhood so far? 

   Something gets added to the list every day because Charlee is at that stage where she
is exploring and learning new things, and so am I. Charlee is teaching me to be the
best version of myself and she brings out the best in me!  It’s hard to pinpoint one
thing because motherhood is so pure and every moment is special.
From her warm hugs and excited eyes when I pick her up from daycare to the moment
she decides to share her favorite snack with me. As a mom, I cherish every second and I
look forward to our continuous journey. 

   What are you struggling with right now? 

 Charlee is a new toddler who is constantly exploring and experimenting, and it can be a
struggle with taking a proactive approach to the unknowns. We, of course, childproof
everything to reduce the opportunities for mischief and distraction, but Charlee somehow
finds a way to get into something. She laughs at me when I say “no” and sometimes it
hard for me to keep a straight face.

  What is your goal as a mother of color?

 My goal is to teach her self-love and provide her with the needed tools so she can be
anything she wants to be. I want to teach her that God directs her life and no one is
perfect; we are all beautiful creations of God and we each have a purpose. I want to
teach her our family history and keep her grounded in our culture and morals. I want her
to be reminded of her roots because even now, people ask me if she’s Asian due to the
shape of her eyes and skin tone. “No, she’s black!”

         How are you balancing your roles now that you have added motherhood?

I’m blessed to have a strong support team who is with me every step of the way. And you learn that you can’t always do everything, so prioritizing your to-do list definitely makes a difference. It gets hard sometimes because I work full time, I try to remain active in my sorority efforts, I try to stay in tune with my social life and I’m a fulltime, breastfeeding mom. I will always put my daughter’s needs first, so sometimes schedules can go completely out the window. I use to try to get everything done, and that’s not always the case when you have a little one depending on you. I learned that self-care includes saying “no” once in a while so you’re not stressed out and have more time for what’s important.

 Are there any experiences that are shaping your approach to motherhood?

   Every experience has an effect on what your next steps would be. Motherhood for me is full of the unknowns because I’ve never been a mom before, but I do my best in planning as much as I can. Also, being part of a mom tribe and reading blogs, such as this one, has helped me along the way. It has opened me up to a diverse way of approaching the different stages of motherhood.

  If you have any advice for a mother of color to be what would you tell them?

You’re not the first and you won’t be the last! Being a mother of color in today’s period requires being more than a mother. So continue to pray and remain strong. You Got This!

You can follow Crystal and Charlee on Instagram Here

5:33 PM

To Thee Only Sigma Gamma Rho.....or Delta Sigma Theta?

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Black Greek life is so beautiful; founded in the face of adversity and a climate that resembles our society today, they brought so much to the lives of young and old Black Americans. While they are sororities and fraternities they are still businesses and run like such. Money is essential to our existence yes but the biggest piece of our continued existence is the tradition. Yes! Tradition is everything in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) some of our organizations are over one-hundred years old while some will be celebrated 55 years this September.

I was blessed to join THE best sorority in the NPHC, that's right! Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated. We were founded November 12, 1922, at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana by seven school teachers. We are the only sorority in the NPHC not founded on the campus of Howard University. We have over 600 chapters including Germany and Japan. I became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated (SGRho) in 2012 at the age of nineteen. Being apart of my organization the last six years has been everything and more, it has also been a way for Tatiyana and me to bond as we have two junior organizations that are made up of daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, mentees, the list goes on. Recently, Tatiyana was inducted into the 'Rhosebuds'; they are ages 7-11 and when she is twelve she will transition in the 'Rhoers' our junior sorority that serves ages 12-18 where hopefully she will attend college and become a member of SGRho.

Our organizations are a way for us to instill pride, tradition, community, collegiate excellence, etc. to our children. We purchase them cute paraphernalia adorned with 'future *insert org* and take endless pictures and gush with tingly feelings as their little hands hold up our sign. Tradition is important to us, we see in the age of social media posts of new initiates posing alongside an old photo of their mom/dad that joined that same organization 25+ years before. There is great pride in watching an older soror help her daughter march to the probate area or watching as she pins her now soror. I watch that and say, "I hope I get to call my daughters 'SoRHOr' one day. Jamal talks about how he can't wait until our son goes to Bowie and joins Eta Zeta (Alpha Phi Alpha) like he did because he wants to have a son in his chapter like his two older bros have. (First off...nvm LOL)

The question always comes up though, "What if Tatiyana and Jahara join Delta or Zeta?"  I'm not going to lie I always tense up a bit, or when someone from another org asks Tatiyana to throw up their sign and she declines with, "That's not my organization." *Proceeds to hold up Sigma* (That's my girl!) I tell people, I'd rather her be the best AKA they have ever seen than to be the worst Sigma and tarnish our name." It's dramatic but its real, I want her happy. Even if that means we will not attend the legacy luncheons at Regional and boule. There have been many children who have decided on another organization and their greek parent(s) are okay with it and then there are some who cannot handle their child joining another organization.

A few weeks ago, a mother who is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated published a lengthy backhanded compliment to her daughter for joining Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. Many laughed at the post, many bashed her mother for even going to such great lengths and many said that she should just get over it. I could understand all sides of it, especially since two of my favorite cousins went on to join AKA and Delta, I chose SGRho. I understood this mother's hurt and I also understood how she was projecting her life unto her daughter.

When does it go from tradition to projection?

I am a firm believer in 'conscious parenting'; acknowledging your child as an individual versus an extension of you. Those who believe in conscious parenting refrain from things like "That's my mini-me." "you are a reflection of me." We take every opportunity we can to give space for our children to make choices and create their identity separate from ours. It is really a challenge; especially as a Black mother and one apart of an organization that thrives on tradition and legacy. It goes deeper than allowing for choice and creation of identity it is also a choice to be mindful of your interaction with your child(ren). How is your tone? what are your expectations? What is your self-regulation? So much of these things can truly improve the quality of the relationship with your child when you are mindful of your actions and remember they are human too. 

In fact, I hope that my decision to raise them with consciousness will draw them to SGRho or something that aligns with what I have encouraged them to adopt as their own values. Either way, life will go on and tradition will still continue...

I choose conscious parenting because I want for my daughters and me to have meaningful interactions. I want them to know that they have a reflective mother that will always prioritize the quality of our interactions versus making them following in my footsteps in everything. They may not go to college and that's okay. They may not be into Lacrosse or cheerleading and they may not join Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated and that's okay as well... I will support them but I only pay for ONE sorority lol. That's my boundary and Tatiyana knows that is the furthest I dare go...

As expected, you gain many friends being apart of a sorority in and outside of the actual organization. Many of my close friends are AKAs, Deltas, and Zetas (other NPHC Sororities) and I can count on them the same way I count on my sorors. Our letters bring us together and our character, personality, and love seal the bond. When I was pregnant, my closest Delta, Zeta and AKA sandz came all the way from New York just to help with the baby shower, finish up shopping and help set up the room for Jahara. It doesn't get any better than that. My kids refer to them as 'aunties' and I know that should anything happen to me (God forbid) my LS, sorors, and sister-greeks in my life will step up to the plate and be there for my family. I hope they're saving coins for their poodle nieces should they choose to join anything other than SGRho too, LOL.

As for those mothers who are heartbroken when their daughter choose another organization, that's okay. They have every right to feel that way it's how they express it which can make it damaging. I'm certain that the mother and daughter have a tight relationship especially with her daughter defending her which I respect. I hope that her mother finds peace in her decision and finds joy in her daughter being happy as a Delta than miserable as a Zeta. After all, our children are not our canvas to paint.

Are you a member of a Greek organization? what do you feel about your daughter choosing an organization other than yours?

9:19 AM

Black boy joy with a unique touch! Meet Tiffany and Caleb

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Caleb is a happy 2 year-old boy (he will be 3 in June) who is a lover of cars, ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes, trains, music and just a few weeks ago, on March 21st, we were diagnosed with autism. I am Caleb’s mother and his diagnosis came after a long year of me being concerned and 5 months of me vehemently demanding answers and advocating for a diagnosis.

My initial concerns about Caleb started around when he was 18 months and were primarily based around issues with feeding, speech and his repetitive behaviors, which we used to call baby OCD. By the time he was 2 I had raised my concerns with two different pediatricians. Once at his 1 year check-up and again at his 2 year check-up. I was told we’d re-evaluate my concerns at his 2.5 year check-up to see if he would need speech therapy. Around this time, I was starting to mention my concerns to family and friends in an attempt to get validation of my feelings. I was usually met with statements that intended to comfort: “He’s a boy! They develop slower.” “Caleb does things in his own time; nothing’s wrong with that boy.” “He’s a normal toddler.” 

Caleb and Tiffany
Despite the intent, these words didn’t help. However, not everyone had the same response.  I was comforted by those around me who said, “You’re his mother. If he is diagnosed with something, that doesn’t change anything.” “Caleb is brilliant, who cares what the doctors say.” Those words are the words I focused on because at the end of the day I knew Caleb was different.  I never thought there was anything wrong—I just knew he was different. A mother always knows!

Almost immediately, I started researching autism and sensory processing disorder and I recognized my child in the stories even though none of the faces looked like his. I read up on successful and even famous people with autism and quickly realized that Caleb could and would have an extraordinary life but again none of the success stories looked like him. What saddened me is that the most successful people with autism were a result of early intervention, which I learned is not common in minority communities. It would be easy for me to blame the system but the more I thought about it, and the more I experienced, the more I realized that our own communities and ignorance played a role. What if I had listened to all those comments about Caleb being fine and just waited to see how he developed over time? His pediatrician definitely wasn’t as concerned as I was. What if I was afraid of a label and let my own fears deter me from following my intuition?

The only reason we ended up with our speech referral a month before he turned 2.5 was because he was dismissed from daycare for behavioral issues and the daycare’s director was kind enough (and brave enough) to say something is not right! Caleb is frustrated and he can’t communicate and you need to speak to your pediatrician. She knew that this wasn’t just terrible twos and so did I. That day I called the doctor and got our referral. Within the first two weeks of meeting with his speech therapist, Caleb was already speaking about 75% more.
This is when I knew that this was just the beginning of the journey for us. A journey I would document in great detail on my blog A Mama Bear and her Cub.

The following weeks were a world wind of advocating. I was given referrals for occupational therapy and the ear, nose and throat doctor. We got his hearing checked and got on a 6 month long waiting list to see a developmental pediatrician and the entire time it was only his speech therapist who mentioned that Caleb’s symptoms COULD be associated with autism. I persisted on, almost to the point where I felt bad for pushing the issue. I didn’t want to wish this on us but with each appointment only part of my concerns was addressed. It didn’t feel like anyone was giving me the whole picture. I still had so many questions, so many whys?

I am persistent by nature and once I get an idea or task in my mind, I am set on completing and completing it thoroughly. So although we were seeing specialists, I continued to do my own research. My blog opened up so many resources for me. I created a social media account specifically for A Mama Bear and her cub and followed and connected with all kinds of resources. I followed occupational therapists, speech therapists, mom blogs, autism awareness groups and sites. As a result, two pivotal people reached out to me.  
The first was an occupational therapist in Kansas who gave me advice on what to look for in not only therapists working with Caleb but also the type environment in which he received treatment. The other was ex-coworker and friend who had been touched by my blog because her son was diagnosed with autism a year ago and she had not shared that with anyone except her family. She reached out to thank me for my bravery.  She was another African American mother. My story mirrored hers so far—she was the validation that my mama bear instincts were right which was both scary and a huge relief.

She informed me that each state had FREE federal programs for autism screening and services and sent me the link to my agency here in Florida. She was the ONLY person who had ever given me this information. Until that day I had been paying the copays for my insurance to get Caleb his therapy. I thought about all the African American families who may not have insurance, who may not know about this FREE FEDERAL program that is in EVERY STATE and is for EVERYONE despite their economic status or their household income.  

In my opinion, this was yet another reason why I did not see images of people who looked like Caleb when I researched success stories of people with Autism. Were they not getting access to this early intervention program? The program I am referring to is called something different in each state, in Florida it’s called Early Steps and is available for children from birth to 3 years old. Every county has their own division typically associated with the local children’s hospital. I learned about this when Caleb was 2 years and 7 months old and he was enrolled right away.  I took advantage of the opportunity and in doing so we were able to get a diagnosis sooner than if we had to remain on that 6-month waiting list.

Getting a diagnosis is a WIN…PERIOD! It’s a win for the child and a win for the parents. This is a win because having a diagnosis opens up additional resources and opportunities for early intervention. Autism is not a disease but if identified early  it can be treated with various therapies and assistance from professionals for both the children and their parents. What parent doesn’t want or need additional assistance?! Additional love and attention poured into these babies who absorb everything is always a win in my book. Children with autism are not less than— they are just different. And they need people who will think outside the box and take the time to get into their world to help them navigate through it.

Did I cry? ABSOLUTELY! The morning of the appointment I had my game face on, I gave myself a pep talk. I even asked my mom, who accompanied me that day, “Are you ready?”  I laugh now because I was the one who wasn’t ready. The minute I heard the words “I am diagnosing Caleb with moderate level 2 autism” I fell apart. I was not ready. It’s never easy to hear that your child may have it harder than the rest. The facts are he is a BLACK BOY IN AMERICA WITH AUTISM. The sentence alone is frightening without the autism aspect and that just compounds it.

I took my 5 minutes of heart break (maybe it lasted the rest of the day) and then got back to being a mama, a ferocious mama bear in fact. My research will always continue, as long as there is air in me. There is nothing that I won’t find and track down to help Caleb live his best life. I am so excited to continue to advocate for my child. It is a power beyond what I even experienced when I became a mother. It is a fire that burns in me to protect and educate by any means necessary. I don’t need to keep on looking for people that look like Caleb who have done great things because he will be great regardless. It is my hope that he will be the face for others. It is my hope, that by advocating and taking every opportunity such as this one to write our story that parents don’t let fear stand in their way. Autism is going to be a lot of work, I know that. I accept that. But it is not going to define Caleb or his life. Every day he develops a little more and it’s a great joy to watch.

Toni Morrison once said “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

I’ve already started writing and it won’t stop anytime soon.

You can connect to Tiffany and Caleb on their blog Here and on Instagram

April is Autism awareness month, for more information on autism awareness for Black children visit: Autism In Black