The Cost of Poverty Experience

advocacy, assumptions, blacklivesmatter, corruption, Faith, God, hope, humanity, Racial Reconciliation, testimony, Transformation

Recently I decided to participate in a poverty simulation with Unite Greater Dallas. It was called COPE, The Cost of Poverty Experience. I was given the role of a 10yr old AA boy. My character(who is a real person) has African-American mother and father.  His mother is a stay at home mom and expecting another child. His father is employed and rely’s on public transportation to get around. The family can only afford a one bedroom apartment so therefore my character sleeps on the couch and to top it all off has ADHD and is beginning to act out.

*From this point on I will type as if I am in character.

We were told to get in character as much as we could. All of the families where taking an hour of our day to fast track what it is like to live a month in poverty. We were given folders which outlined our assets, expenses and activities that needed to happen that month. For instance, my families assets where a T.V. and Stereo. My mother had to go to a prenatal appointment, both of my parents had to make it to AA and they had to get my ADHD medication.  That’s just a few of the responsibilities my parents had. Each 15min equaled one week in the life of my family.

The first week I had to go to school first. Meanwhile my parents were running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to pay bills, purchase bus passes, work, buy groceries, go to AA, Pawn shop, prenatal ect. I was let out of school 6min into the “week” and told to go anywhere. I chose to go home and wait on my parents to get home. As soon as they got home they were trying to figure out a plan to get through the next week while assessing what they did and did not accomplish. I just sat there.

*The facilitator got everyone’s attention and asked who fed their family that week. Out of 10-15 groups only 2-3 families raised their hand.

The next week I went to school again and instead of waiting until I was released I left early. I went straight to the food market and stole a banana. I was then arrested for stealing. Time was up. It was time to go back home and prepare for the next week. I let my parents know that I was arrested and they continued trying to figure out what to do for the next week.

*The facilitator announces that it is spring break.

My parents look at each other and are like “what are we going to do with him?”. They are planning to pawn the stereo and the t.v. so that they can pay the electric bill and then realize that they shouldn’t pawn the t.v. because I’ll need something to keep me occupied. They figure out the plan and in the meantime are “gifted” with a free voucher for my ADHD medication.  Let week three begin.

Well, while they are trying to pay the electricity I am left with nothing to do so I take it upon myself to find something to do. I stole food from strangers(wasn’t caught), smoke cigarettes with the local dealer. My dad catches me on the street and took me home. He gives me a lecture on drug usage and I throw it right back in his face. I get back out and steal money from the local store and then I am arrested…..again. My mother noticed that I was in jail and comes to try to get me out. Due to my parents not showing up to my last hearing(because they were unaware) they could not get me out and CPS got involved. TIMES UP!

Week four happens…..

By then end of the month I was arrested twice, only my father made it to AA, my mother had to choose between going to her prenatal appointment or getting my  ADHD medication because each required a co-pay that they could not afford. She went to her prenatal. CPS was involved. My dad tried to by alcohol but they were closed when he went. I remember my mother telling me to go the faith center after school in week four. I did not. Why? Because at this point I did not trust adults. I kept getting in trouble for doing things that I felt I needed to do. I was hungry and my parents needed money. I was off my meds for the entire month and there was not a single fun thing that I did with my parents. I felt like a burden and I’d be even more of a burden once my sibling was born. I even remember how if felt hearing my parents rejoice when school was back in session. They had somewhere to put me.

*I’m stepping out of character now.

Each time I was arrested I was bawling. This wasn’t an act. Like I said, the character I was playing is an actual child. That alone is what pierced my heart to the core. As I described my experience I could not stop crying. My husband and I have worked with at risk youth for over ten years. We know what they are going through. We know youth who have gone to juve. We hear their pain and we have walked with them. But this…..

This situation broke me. 

I saw a child who felt alone but I also saw parents that LOVED this child but had to do what they had to do just to survive. I saw parents who are battling addictions and the system only perpetuated it. I didn’t mention and we did not know, but we, as an African-American family were treated differently. The people who played my parents where white but we all had to wear red bracelets which signified that we were an African American family. The people who played “resources” had to treat us with various biases. We did not know this until the end.

I chose to participate in this experience because of Abide. As I’ve been looking more closely at my community I realize that things must be handled even more delicately and the people must be central to any programs in place.  South Dallas has a history that is filled with a tremendous amount of pain via segregation, racism, corruption and sheer hatred of its people.  Dallas has a treacherous history of KKK involvement and Fair Park(an entertainment hub for people in DFW) has a history that screams of White Supremacy.  But this is the history and history impacts our future. So as I look at the past of my community I can see better how to serve in the present. One way is through relationships. Breaking patterns of distrust is a key element here and I know that it’s going to take a solid foundation in biblical truth that will help guide us.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8

And just as it took generations of oppressive systems to create this beast, it will require a tremendous amount of time and patience to heal a community that has suffered much trauma. But let us not put God and His capacity to bring about restoration in a box. I have much hope for Sunny South D. The poverty experience did what is should have done. It broke me and it should break you. My hope is that our hearts will break for what breaks His so that we may be driven to seek racial conciliation and the physical, financial and spiritual restoration of our city. My hope is that God will use the people of South Dallas(fellow image bearers of Christ) to heal the hearts of those in positions of power and cause everyone to pursue further introspection of ones own heart.

Someone asked me recently, if I could share one thing about South Dallas, what would it be? Today my answer is that South Dallas consists of your brothers and your sisters who are worthy of dignity, love and respect. We are image bearers of Christ and we must not be forgotten or looked upon with pity. We are Sunny South D a place where hope lies and dreams can come true. We seek gospel centered justice and that power lies in not us alone….but you.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  – Romans 12:3-8

 

#recess

Every person who works with people needs to experience COPE. Every teacher, politician, government employee, healthcare worker…everyone. Please find one near you and register. http://www.unitethechurch.org/cope

Remember that we can take a vacation from work, a break from reality but you cannot take a “break” from poverty.
https://www.dmagazine.com/frontburner/2015/07/dallas-fort-worth-has-the-worst-income-inequality-by-neighborhood-in-the-u-s/

And So It Begins….

activism, advocacy, assumptions, blacklivesmatter, Consistent Life Ethic, corruption, Faith, God, health, Racial Reconciliation, racism

 

 

 

I’ve had my share of disagreements and I will admit to having some very passionate moments where I have lacked sensitivity with my words. I remember those days because they weren’t too long ago. 2016 was a beast for the black community. We literally wanted it over and then 2017 proved to be just as traumatizing. I suppose with cell phones, social media and the internet, accessing information that was intentionally and unintentionally hidden has created an awakening of sorts.

What awakening do I speak of?

Have you heard the term, “stay woke”? Well, It means to be aware of or actively attentive to important facts and issues of racial and social justice. I know that many of us(people of color) have experience a great deal of trauma since waking up.

I once lived in this bubble. A bubble that “protected” me from my culture…black culture. I blame the devastating impact that white supremacy has had on the psyche of many poc in this country. This idea that “white is right”. I mean, who can deny that this country was founded on this mentality and practice? It was NOT founded on biblical principles otherwise we would not have had chattel slavery. Don’t start with “but the Bible had slavery,” because if you have a proper understanding of biblical servitude you will know that American slavery was a whole notha beast.  They are not the same, not even close. My pastor who is also a dear friend, broke this down recently and it made so much sense.

My ancestors were not people according to the founding fathers. They were cargo that could be tossed overboard at any point, beaten within an inch of their lives, raped by their “masters”, bread to create more slaves for their personal profit and the economic gain of this great country. And centuries later we see how it has had an active role in breaking down the family because, to make a slave you break the mind, body, trust, unity….you name it.

We have generations of people who are only known by the person that owned them. My last name is Smith, my maiden name is Spencer. My sister recently tracked our name back to our slave owner and it listed all the slaves he owned. We do not know EXACTLY where we come from. Africa is a Continent, not a state or country.  It seems many people forget that somehow. This great continent where we seek diamonds, oil, coffee, cocoa, you name it. This RICH continent is where my ancestors were stolen, stripped of person-hood and then created into chattel. And now, here we are still slaves via the 13th amendment. Even more now than back then but I digress…..

Shall I list the systemic ways in which poc are discriminated against? How about via…Housing, Education, Healthcare, the Wealth gap, Government Surveillance, Drug Arrest, Immigration Policy, Infant Mortality, Maternal Mortality. etc……

So….here I am. Reconciling the fact that I know of so so so many black people of whom I call my brothers and sisters that have done phenomenal things for this country. I mean they literally built this country….MY ANCESTORS along with immigrants and native people….the myriad of “HIDDEN FIGURES” that include doctors, scientist, inventors, politicians, soldiers, activists, feminists, you name it. Many of these people are eliminated from the history books(even executed) as if they did not exists.

So, do I have the right to get angry? THE HELL I DO. But how dare anyone say that I am a “deliberate divider”.  I can show you division. Division would be like a war zone. The black voice and body coming unhinged would destroy any chance of unity this country has. We are walking around in systems that were never meant to benefit us and facing deliberate racism DAILY and implicit bias DAILY and we are dying DAILY.

What do we do about it? Well, we push all that rage and tremendous amounts of hurt down to deepest part of us and it comes out in a couple of ways. One being that our health is severely impacted by it and second(which is personal)…our activism or advocacy. The past year has proven that I have been impacted in both ways and I have realized that radical racial reconciliation is the calling the Lord has on my life.

I may offend, I may make people uncomfortable and I may very well call you out on racism. BUT I work hard to keep myself in check via accountability and staying connected to the Father, so that bridges may be built. Just as I mentioned in my last blog post “Am I a house negro or a field negro?”

I am neither,

I’m just a woman seeking justice through the lens of the gospel.

*This comment is tame compared to what many of my brothers and sisters in the faith experience. They experience death threats for doing the exact same thing(by advocating Gospel centered social justice). I suppose I should expect the same in the future.

*If you would like to contribute towards my efforts you can make a monetary donation via paypal by clicking  Donate

Thank you

#recess

Am I a house negro or a field negro?

activism, advocacy, blacklivesmatter, Consistent Life Ethic, corruption, feminism, pro-life, race, Racial Reconciliation, racism, Transformation

Am I a house negro or a field negro?

I will boldly say that I am neither.

I stand in a position that is often times…..lonely.

A position that on one hand those who hold a form of privilege by having white skin are offended by my blackness and on the other hand the very brothers and sisters that I fight for, question my blackness. I’m either “aggressive” to some or a “token” to others.
Well, damn.

As my girl Destiny said…

“Oppression is oppression is oppression. Anytime we dehumanize members of the human family, it is dangerous AF.”

It is….

So what are we going to do about it?

I refuse to live in the echo chamber of pro-life politics which fuel the policies that have little regard to the actual PEOPLE affected by those policies.

And I refuse to be in the field screaming, “YES! LET MASSA’s HOUSE BURN!!!!”

NO.

Don’t be fooled by my pro-life feminist stance. I stand in a position that highly respects those who are fighting for the lives of the unborn AND respects the many black women who are fighting for reproductive justice.

Don’t peg me as someone that’s ignorant.
I’m just a unicorn who actually is more interested in building bridges and finding common ground.

I’m going to scream this…

PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM BLACK FEMINISM AND REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE ACTIVISTS!

PRO-CHOICE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM MEMBERS OF THE PRO-LIFE COMMUNITY!

PRO-LIFE, PRO-CHOICE, BLACK, WHITE, LATINX, DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN ETC. THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM THOSE WHO UPHOLD A CONSISTENT LIFE ETHIC!

Back to me….

What I am doing is standing in the middle attempting to be authentically me…

And that me is a black woman breaking free from the influence of white supremacy. A Black woman who will call out bigotry and racism, a black woman who is constantly seeking to understand MY culture and MY history and the impact the past has on the present. A black woman who seeks to dismantle systems fueled by hate and create a world where every.single.human being is valued.

A black woman who can forgive and think independently from the tribe.

Today my pastor had a great word coming from Colossians 3:12-17

“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

How do we bring about change? How? Without compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience we may as well keep doing what we are doing.
The divide will continue and people will die.

I’m sitting in the middle with the complete understanding that without Christ…

I’d be in the field.

Don’t get it twisted. There is such a thing as righteous anger. I’m choosing to combine the rage that the field produced, with the compassion, kindness humility, meekness and patience that only Christ can provide. This combination shatters walls of oppression and only then will we see radical unifying change take place.

Listening to respond does nothing. Listening to understand saves lives.

#recess

RE-A-CESS

advocacy, Birth, corruption, Faith, feminism, Focus, God, health, hope, hurt, pro-life

When I came up with the title of this blog I did not notice my nick name in it (Cess), or how in this current season of life I would be re-assessing how I do…life. I truly was blind to it and went way deeper into the definition of what a recess is and how each letter represents each member of my family.

Well, here I am. Re-assessing so much. Shall I begin?

I took a random break from that place my friend Brianna calls facey-space and it has been AMAZING. In a way I’m dreading getting back on but I’m also excited about how I will utilize my time on social media and how I can better the world around me through my words.

Through this time I realized I allowed the burdens of this world to cloud my vision. Now you may be wondering what my vision is. Well…..I envision creating a better world. Most specifically a better world for not only my children but for women and children. Yeah, I also have a bent towards women and children of color. As a chocolate skinned woman I am well aware of what is going on around me. I see, feel, taste and smell the poison that this world is pouring into our lives. I’m especially sensitive to racial inequality, systematic racism, and anything that places people of color(of any color I might add) as secondary to our white brothers and sisters.

Anyways, I’m re-assessing so much. Like for instance. How much negativity do I allow in? “Protect your space” is something I hold dear and I encourage you to do the same.  We could never abolish all of the corrupt sinfulness of the world but we can limit how much we allow in our sacred space. We could allow it to drown our thoughts to the point of self devaluation and hatred toward others or we can tighten the knob on the faucet and just let a few drops in every now and then. This allows you to process it all and then decide what you will do with it. You might let it sit there for a grip. But it’s a slow fill.  When the knob is loose the faucet is wide open. You then run the risk of a flood. Let that $hit drip.

Focus. When I allowed the faucet to remain open I then lost my focus. I wanted to do everything to make a difference all while doing nothing.  So, now that I’ve got that faucet dripping and darn near closed I am able to focus on things that matter.  What are the things that matter to you and what are you doing about it?

Well currently the focus has been on self-care, marriage and children. Through my work as a doula I have become more vocal about my pro-life stance and have since been pushed into this wold of advocacy. During my time away I finally opened the drain and let the problems of the world flow down through the pipes all while stopping up the plug and leaving the few things that I can manage in the sink of my heart and mind.  What am I going to do with it? Well…. a lot.

I’m kind of nervous but I’m overwhelmed with so much anticipation for what the Lord has in store. I see change. Change in feminism. Change in healthcare. Change in what pro-life means. I see structures that lead to the oppression of people torn down. I see women being helped through the crisis so that they have hope during their pregnancy and beyond. I see empowerment and a change of heart. I see woman and children saved. I see many more advocates. I see a NEW WAVE of empowering women and understanding what that means.

I feel this is the time for a shameless plug. Have you heard of Doulas For Life or New Wave Feminists? How about The Guiding Star Project?  Well, if you haven’t you should check them out right now. We are in the aftermath of a storm. Generally a storm brings destruction but in the end it’s up to us to figure out how to pick up the pieces and put everything back together.  So instead of putting them back where they use to be we are making new buildings that are more structurally sound. Instead of everyone re-building their own structure alone, we are building together. We are assessing how and why the buildings were not able to withstand the storm, and our hope is that the new buildings we create will not only withstand future storms, but will provide shelter for those who are in the midst of their own personal struggle.

“If you want to get rid of the weed you must pull it up by the root. Let’s uproot the system and plant a seed that bears fruit.” – Cessilye

#RECESS

https://www.facebook.com/doulasforlife/

https://www.facebook.com/NewWaveFeminists/?fref=ts

http://www.newwavefeminists.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheGuidingStarProject

 http://theguidingstarproject.com/

 

 

 

 

 

2016

Birth, blacklivesmatter, corruption, Faith, Food, God, health, hope, hurt, institutionalracism, Jesus, Motherhood, pain, Parenting, race

What comes to mind when you think of 2016? Is it the Presidential election, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, senseless deaths….Haiti? Is it social media, bathroom rights, Cosby, Kanye, The Kardashians, and Katherine Jenner? How about mommy wars, breastfeed shaming(to cover or not to cover), GMO’s, Vaccines and all those holistic dr. deaths being suspect.  What about police brutality, riots, Dallas, the New Jim Crow, Flint and …the wall.

I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking….damn.

Some of you are probably wanting to stop reading right now, but wait.

I know that this year has bene rough to say the least.  I personally left tha book(you know what I mean) right before the election. I needed to. As much as I wanted to change the world for my children the world was wrecking me.

I’m an empath.  Google it….With that said this year has been a tough one.

I initially thought that this blog entry would be about how amazing 2016 had been. Because when it’s all said and done there is a laundry list of things that I am so thankful for. It’s been a whirlwind but a good one. The tough times have brought me to a place of self reflection and healing.

The thing is…I want to encourage you. Instead of marinating on the brutality of this past year or wishing for it to be over I want you to close your eyes for a while and peel back all the thick layers of hurt and pain until you come to something…beautiful.

Keep peeling….

Peel it off…

keep on going…

almost there….

Have you found it?

Now once you’ve found it I want you to reflect on it. Go deep. See if anyone else could have possibly been affected in a positive light. After that I want you to go searching for more. It should get easier. Pretty soon you just may be focused solely on just how amazing 2016 has been. Notice I didn’t say “was”. Because 2016 is not over. You still have a few more days to make incredible memories.

Can I share something beautiful with you?

In Oct. I found myself on the verge of a mental breakdown. My husband and I were not speaking each others love language, I was overwhelmed being at home all day with three kids under five. I was always tired, I missed being fit and dancing like I use to, I was sad. Sad because my family life is not how I imagined it would be. Sad because of all the tragedy in the word and my eyes being opened to oppression and institutional racism. People of color feeling hopeless and babies dying in the womb because women feel they have no way out and a government that keeps people trapped into an oppressive mindset and way of life. I could go on and on at the things that were plaguing my mind but let me get to the good stuff.

The good stuff is that I know for sure that I needed help. I’ve suffered with depression on and off for years. And post partum depression can develop anywhere from a few weeks to a year after delivery. Is it possible that if you have your babies every 2-2.5 yrs like me, that you never fully kick it? Maybe, all I know is that with a little help from some natural supplements(I’m not talking about the ganja 😉  Although, that stuff has some amazing properties if you can get it legally(obey the laws of the land ya’ll).

Anyways supplements helped me and dare I say it(to all my agnostic and heathen friends, don’t tune me out) Jesus. I’m serious ya’ll. If there is one thing that has remained constant in my life it is Christ. The one that saved me. The one that listens even when I may not feel He is. The one that keeps me going. The one that I will always and forever give glory to. I’ve joined a local BSF where we study the Word. Not devotional, no….BIBLE STUDY. It’s been amazing. But most importantly, my relationship with God is growing. I’m grounded or shall I say rooted.

I encourage you to give up the desire to be “tha man or woman” and lay your burdens at the cross. Just lay it out. Everything……then wait. Wait for His direction and be prepared for whatever that is. Sometimes it is in line with what you want and then sometimes it reminds you that your desires aren’t His desires. People often misquote Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

They usually take out the first part of that sentence and say “Girl you know God will give you the desires of your heart”…………..WRONG……but right. Who or what do you delight in? If you aren’t delighting in the Lord then……marinate on that for a minute.

My husband teaches our children this saying. “I am what I am by the grace of God, by the grace of God”. Now repeat that.  Rap that piece. Add a little shoulder bounce and beat to it. I’m here to remind you that “You are what you are by the grace of God, by the Grace of God”.

So if you don’t take away anything from this year, take away that…and carry it into the new year.

Romans Road – Romans 3:23, 3:10, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 10:17

John 3:16

Ashe,

Cessilye

#RECESS

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