The Silent Grief That’s Plaguing Our Girls

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by Leatrice Burphy, Guest Blogger 

There are no words to adequately describe the heartbreaking and tragic ending to a life short lived. Bobbi Kristina was one of too many young women in the grieving girls club, whose cry for help was often ignored or misunderstood. Her death is a grim reminder to every adult; children cannot cope with loss or emotional trauma without a support system. When there is a lack of guidance in a grieving child’s life, they tend to look for love, comfort, and refuge from the wrong people and influences. This is a wake-up call for America. Sometimes, your love and pep talks are not enough to save a young person impacted by tragedy.

I read once, “Grief is the most powerful emotion, yet it is the one emotion, we are taught the least about in our society.” In the light of all that is happening in the country right now, it’s time to start an open dialogue with our younger generation about this silent killer. The truth is, you never get over a death, it is something you learn to live with. Grief does not get better with time, it just gets different.

Often the “forgotten grievers” in our culture, people underestimate how fragile and vulnerable young people can be in that state of mind. Bereavement puts them at a higher risk for alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, depression, mental illness, violent behavior, suicide, promiscuity, truancy, and the list goes on. Because children and teens are not taught how to handle an emotional crisis beforehand, recovery is highly dependent on their support system. In some cases, this may require professional counseling.

We were given a glimpse into the private world of Bobbi Kristina after Whitney Houston died. While the reality show aired, there were red flags Bobbi Kristina was a ticking time bomb. What caused a greater concern for me, were the family and friends who acknowledged the problem, but did not stage an intervention. There should have been a unified force to get her into rehab and grief therapy. For a young person greatly affected by death, divorce, domestic violence, and addiction; she needed more than prayers, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

Bobbi Kristina endured a life filled with anguish but did not have the mental capacity to cope with it. Studies show girls self-medicate to numb the pain and escape emotions caused from traumatic experiences. As a result, they will most likely battle drug and alcohol abuse. Often ridicule for being rebellious and out of control, this girl was actually hurting and crying out for help.  The writing on the wall was crystal clear in her interview with Oprah, tweets on social media, and last text message. If there was an intervention for Bobbi Kristina, the outcome of her story could have been one that brought a smile to our faces, instead of tears to our eyes.

Burying a twenty-two-year-old whose potential we will never know, hits close to home. Like Bobbi Kristina, I am also a part of the grieving girls club. A year after my father lost his battle to illness; my brother was murdered at twenty-two. I had no idea that magnitude of pain existed, and it rocked me to the core. “Grief affects everything you do, and it can disrupt every aspect of your life, in ways you least expect.” But I can attest, therapy (creative or traditional) and a strong support system can save a young person’s life because it saved mine.

How can we fight for the girls, like Bobbi Kristina?

(1). We need to break the silence in our homes, schools, and communities because grief knows no boundaries.

(2). We need to advocate for laws that will require grief therapy for young people and grief training for the adults responsible for them.

(3). We need to create long-term grief support programs where our grieving youth can find a safe haven, in the company of their peers who understand their loss.

Just like I never stopped praying for Bobbi Kristina, I will never stop fighting for our future in the grieving girls club.

LeatriceLeatrice Burphy is the founder of A LEGACY Left Behind, Inc. The 501 (C)(3) organization provides grief support and mentoring services to young ladies in the DC Metro Area who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. Inspired to give a voice to children and teens who are often the “forgotten grievers” in our society, she has created a platform to raise awareness about the impact of grief among the younger generation and the lack of support programs and resources available to them. In 2014, Leatrice was honored with the Next Generation Award from the Business Resource TV (BR-TV) for her philanthropic work in the DC Metro Area. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the United Nations Association.

 

St. Jude Returned to CBC to Thank The Divine Nine

By Ebonie Johnson Cooper, St. Jude Blogger

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Presidents of the National PanHellenic Council Organizations stand proudly with their awards from St. Jude.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is truly a magical place. When I visited in the spring of 2014, my mind and my heart were opened to the life-changing work of the men and women there. So when I left I committed to being a life-long supporter of their work. My commitment was renewed last year when I walked in the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk, interviewed the founders of Black Girls Run! for their unique fundraiser for the research hospital, and undoubtedly when I attended the St. Jude NPHC reception during Congressional Black Caucus Week. Well, just last week I attended the CBC reception again and I was reminded why I love St. Jude.

The face of childhood cancer holds no bias and no prejudice. But thanks to the spirit of St. Jude founder, Danny Thomas there is hope for those children who do experience a cancer diagnosis. Thomas believed that “No child should die in the dawn of life,” and to this day St. Jude operates under those words. About 11,630 children age 14 and younger are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year. One in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before their 20th birthday. For African Americans in particular, approximately one in 375 African-Americans is born with sickle cell disease each year. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has one of the largest and most active Sickle Cell Disease Programs in the nation. St. Jude treats approximately 800 children per year with sickle cell disease. Bone marrow (or stem cell) transplantation is the only cure for sickle cell disease. The cure was first performed successfully in 1983 when St. Jude patient, Kimberlin George received a life-saving blood transfusion to cure her Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She became the first person to be cured of sick-cell anemia. St. Jude rarely performs this procedure because a perfect bone marrow match is so rare and the complications are risky. However, progress St. Jude makes in helping patients live with sickle cell, pain-free, is phenomenal! This work could not be done without the generous support of individual donors, corporations and community organizations like the Divine Nine of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

To date, the NPHC organizations have collectively donated nearly $2 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They have done so through various individual programs including, St. Jude Sunday of Hope, the faith-based program where churches are recruited to collect one love offering for St. Jude; St. Jude Give Thanks. Walk. that took place in nearly 70 communities across the country; Girls Night In, a peer-to-peer fundraising event where members host individual social gatherings; and St. Jude Game Day. Give Back., a peer-to-peer fundraising event where members host Super Bowl parties to benefit the hospital. Last month, members of the Divine Nine joined the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer across 58 cities. Delta Sigma Theta served as a Gold Sponsor, and Iota Phi Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho,  and Alpha Phi Alpha served as Bronze Sponsors.

At the CBC reception, St. Jude recognized and thanked the leadership of the Divine Nine. We heard patient stories and were no doubt blessed by the voice of Vivian Green. Just like last year, I left the reception renewed and enthused to advocate for the work of St. Jude. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I could not be prouder to know my sorority is committed to the work of such a life-changing place.

Dare to make a difference! Stand with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and help make a difference in the lives of children living with a devastating diagnosis. “Because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has the freedom to focus on what matters most—saving kids regardless of their financial situation.” Learn more about how you can partner with St. Jude and help fulfill founder Danny Thomas’ dream of a day when no child dies in the dawn of life.

We’ve Got the Political Power: 3 Reasons Millennials Need to Vote

Source: ivn.us
Source: ivn.us

by Monica Reid, Guest Blogger

What comes to mind when you hear the number 78 million?

78 million is the current baby boomer generation. What generation could be larger than 78 million?

As it currently stands, the millennial generation is the largest and most diverse generation in American history with a whopping 95 million people. The millennial voting strength has increased as a result. In 2012, millennial voters ages 18-29 comprised 19% of the electorate. According to the Center for American Progress, millennials are a full quarter of the voting-age American public with 46 million potential voters. This is in comparison to the 39 million block of voters older than age 65. Needless to say, we are a force to be reckoned with! However, are we truly aware of just how much political power we possess?

However, are we truly aware of just how much political power we possess?

#1. We can change the political direction of this country.

In 2014, millennials only comprised 13% of the electorate compared to 19% in 2012. This represents approximately 14 million fewer millennial voters. The 2008 presidential election was a peak year for youth voter turnout with 52%. However during the 2012 presidential election the turnout dropped to 45%. In nonpresidential elections, we definitely see a trend of lower voter turnout among millennial voters. However, the relevance of our issues is not isolated to just presidential elections. A number of elections take place every year that determine the composition of our local city councils, state attorney’s, governorships and our state legislatures. As millennial voters, and specifically black millennial voters, seeking to influence policy and successfully implement legislation of interest to our communities, continually engaging in our electoral process is vital. Every election is important. In 2012, 43% of voting age millennials were people of color.

#2. Our Votes Impact Black Lives Matter.

We’ve all seen how the instances of deadly force used toward black men and women by law enforcement have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ve seen how their actions are impacting elected officials at all levels of government and bringing issues of racial and criminal justice reform to the forefront. Continued civic engagement by millennials in keeping elected officials accountable, electing candidates that support our issues and encouraging other members of our community to get involved will be crucial.

In Virginia, a coalition of civic organizations is doing just that – seeking to engage more black residents in Northern Virginia in the political process. The Northern Virginia (NOVA) Coalition is a collaboration of 30+ civic and faith-based organizations in Northern Virginia focusing on African American voter registration, education and empowerment. Through its “NOVA Votes: Educating and Encouraging the Black Vote Campaign,” we’ve been able to reach thousands of black voters in Northern Virginia. Between now and the October 13th deadline, we are launching an aggressive voter registration campaign to in Northern Virginia in preparation for the November election. This is a perfect opportunity to get more involved and engaged! We are always looking for new collaborations, partnerships and volunteers to help us reach our goal. If you are interested in learning more or in volunteering, you may contact nova.coalition.events@gmail.com.   

#3. If we don’t show up we cannot complain.

As millennials we are notorious for bluntly expressing how we feel. Sometimes our arguments warranted, other times they are baseless. In the case of our communities and who is in leadership, we will have zero legs to stand on if we don’t vote. Local votes are not as complicated as presidential ones. Because fewer people turn out to vote, the greater our chances are to get who we want in office. Learn when your local elections are, educate yourselves about the candidates and SHOW UP to vote. If you don’t, you cannot complain.

We have the political power to change this country. Let’s get to it!

monicaMonica Reid, a graduate of George Mason University where she received a B.A. in Government & International Politics and Economics and a Masters in Public Administration, has been a leading force behind social and civic awareness for a number of years. A dedicated public servant and a government relations professional with over 8 years of professional experience, Monica has worked to promote civil awareness, political engagement and advocacy throughout the Washington Metropolitan Region.

#BlackLivesMatter Rally: I Was In the Number

by E. Johnson Cooper, Chief Millennial Officer

My view from Saturday's rally.
My view from Saturday’s rally in D.C.

 

Before the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, before the non-indictment of the NYPD officers who killed Eric Garner, there was what only seemed to be a movement of hashtag bangwagonism plaguing our timelines. Before we got slapped in the face twice in three weeks by local judicial systems, all there seemed to be was anger, looting and pointless protesting and I wasn’t interested. I questioned the intentionality. I questioned the purpose. I questioned if this moment would or even could become a movement. However, in the days, weeks and months that followed dedicated groups of activists remained steadfast and have inspired me in the least likely of ways.

I remember the day In August my friend and fellow Aggie, Erika Totten called me. “I want to do something on the ground in Ferguson. What should I do? How should I get started?” My own feelings about protesting aside, I advised her to connect with those on the ground and see what their needs were. I told her to think strategically and make sure above all else, she helped to get the community what they needed. I didn’t hear from her after that but I saw her moving. I didn’t agree with a lot of what she was doing but I saw her hustle. I got especially annoyed last month when protesters held up traffic in D.C., disturbed shoppers and of all things, tried to stop the Macy’s Day Parade! I heard the chants, Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, and I saw the “Die In” demonstrations but no one could tell me the point of it all. I’m mad as hell too but how is inconveniencing regular ol’ folk going to get my point across? I want change too but why disrupt the lives of those who had nothing to do with the injustice? It just didn’t make sense to me. But the more twisted the reality of injustice became following the non-indictments, the more I began to search within myself for an answer.

Last Sunday my Pastor raised up the history of social justice and the presence we have to have in the moment. I left church and I began to think about what exactly was happening in our country. I happened onto social media and a post from Erika popped on my timeline. I needed to call my friend. She didn’t answer but I left her a message simply saying I was checking in on her and wanted to make sure she’s okay. The next day Rev. Al announced on the radio there would be a rally and march in D.C. to demonstrate to Congress how urgent the need for legislation is for cases that involve police and unarmed individuals. He spoke in such a way that I got it. I needed to be in the number.

Erika challenging the organizers of Saturday's march to let the Ferguson protesters speak.
Erika challenging the organizers of Saturday’s march to let the Ferguson protesters speak.

After an internal debate with myself Saturday morning, I finally made my way to the rally. I left too late to catch the march but I was right on time for the rally. As I walked over to the stage area all of a sudden my eyes began to swell up and my chest got heavy. I pushed back my emotions and focused on just getting there. The amount of people standing together for one cause was overwhelming. I stood in awe of the faces who looked like me and especially those who didn’t look like me. I saw children standing along side their parents. The kids may not have fully understood what was happening but surely they knew that moment was important. Speakers from Ferguson to National Action Network to local protesters addressed the crowd. I didn’t know any of them, except one. When I looked behind the local protester speaking I saw my friend, Erika. I smiled. She was doing what she said she would do when she called me back in August, making her voice heard for a change. I felt nothing but joy and love for my friend and the hard work she’s been putting in. (I wasn’t there for the moment that has become the internet sensation. But it seems we all saw the folks from Ferguson because of her.) Before I could release my emotion, Rev. Al took the stage and spoke a word that brought everything full circle for me. He said, “We may not all agree. We may not use the same tactics. But we are all here for the same reason.” He couldn’t have said it better.

After we heard from Eric Garner’s family, Michael Brown’s parents, Tamir Rice’s mother, John Crawford’s father, it was time for me to go. I had heard all I needed to hear. I needed to find Erika. After only a few moments I found her behind the stage in the press area. “Erika!,” I yelled. She turned around and smiled. She came over, we embraced and all I could do was cry. All of the energy, emotion and frustration all let out onto Erika’s shoulder. She held on to me and told me it was okay. “It’s just all so overwhelming,” I said to her. “I know it is but I’m glad you’re here.” “Me too,’ I said, ‘me too.”  As I departed the rally I could hear the voice of Amadou Diallo’s mother coming from the stage. Tears began to fall again.

My weekend ended at church yesterday for Faith Solidarity Sunday. I proudly wore all black and held my hands up with the congregation as a sign of surrender and solidarity during the benediction.

There are certain moments in life where being present matters. That moment is now. While I may not agree with how protest groups choose to get their voices heard, I now understand their point. If we have to gather at the steps of Congress twenty more times until legislation is passed, then I’m there to be counted in the number. The voices of our generation are rising up, I hope folks are ready.

Walking with Thanks & St. Jude

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Tammy & I at the finish line!

 

My weekend unintentionally ended up being a weekend of giving. One of those giving activities included the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk. I walked the 5K route on The National Mall in Washington, DC with one of my best friends and sorority sisters, Tammy. Walking with Tammy was significant because we both support the work of St. Jude and we’re both members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a Gold level national partner for the event. D.C. was one of more than 65 communities nationwide that raised funds and awareness for children battling cancer and other deadly diseases. As a community, D.C. raised over $187,000 for St. Jude! Go us!

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Kayla! One of my favorite St. Jude patients. I’ve never met her but every time I see her in a video her spirit fills me up!

I was thrilled to be participating in the Give Thanks Walk with many supporters, donors and friends of St. Jude. The pre-walk zone was filled with enthusiastic volunteers and banners with the happy smiling faces of the children at St. Jude. As National Partner teams and individuals gathered together, runners, and tourists on The Mall looked on showing their support with smiles and cheers. Although Tammy and I never found our team, lol, we started the walk fancy-free, footloose and cold- VERY cold. Walking along the Potomac made it feel about ten degrees colder than it probably was but we kept our spirits high and strides swift. Lol. The St. Jude volunteers along the way helped to keep our energy up with cheers, chants and – more smiles. I even joined in on a cheer- ok, maybe two. 🙂

Between our talking and very fast walking, Tammy and I finished the walk in just under one hour. We took a few obligatory photos along the way and of course, at the finish line. I completed the walk feeling better than when I started. I thought about the kids who will be saved because of the treatment St. Jude provides. Knowing that my friend and I have had a small part in such a magnificent impact was enough to make my day. (Special shout out to my travel buddy Tameka who donated to my walk campaign!)

Here’s to HOPE! I can’t wait to do the walk again next year! Below are a few photos from the big day!

Stand with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and help make a difference in the lives of children living with a devastating diagnosis. “Because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has the freedom to focus on what matters most—saving kids regardless of their financial situation.” Learn more about how you can partner with St. Jude and help fulfill founder Danny Thomas’ dream of a day when no child dies in the dawn of life.

 

Divine Giving to St. Jude by The Divine Nine

Final Photo: Richard Lee Snow (ALSAC, at mic); Mark S. Tillman (General President – Alpha Phi Alpha); Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson (National President – Alpha Kappa Alpha); Thomas L. Battles, Jr. (National Vice President – Kappa Alpha Psi); Antonio F. Knox, Sr. (National President – Omega Psi Phi); Ebonie Johnson Cooper (Representative – Delta Sigma Theta); Daryl Anderson (Executive Director – Phi Beta Sigma); Stacye Montez (Executive Director – Zeta Phi Beta); Bonita M. Herring (National President – Sigma Gamma Rho); Robert M. Clark, Jr. (National President – Iota Phi Theta); and Richard C. Shadyac, Jr. (President & CEO, ALSAC)
Final Photo: Richard Lee Snow (ALSAC, at mic); Mark S. Tillman (General President – Alpha Phi Alpha); Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson (National President – Alpha Kappa Alpha); Thomas L. Battles, Jr. (National Vice President – Kappa Alpha Psi); Antonio F. Knox, Sr. (National President – Omega Psi Phi); Ebonie Johnson Cooper (Representative – Delta Sigma Theta); Daryl Anderson (Executive Director – Phi Beta Sigma); Stacye Montez (Executive Director – Zeta Phi Beta); Bonita M. Herring (National President – Sigma Gamma Rho); Robert M. Clark, Jr. (National President – Iota Phi Theta); and Richard C. Shadyac, Jr. (President & CEO, ALSAC)

We don’t hear enough about the philanthropic giving of fraternal and social organizations within the black community. We know the organizations collect dues and provide local programs but they also provide financial support to causes that affect our community. These causes include education, breast cancer awareness, nutrition, HIV & AIDS prevention and yes, childhood cancer, to name a few. One such childhood cancer cause is my favorite, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I first learned about the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s partnership with St. Jude when I visited the campus back in May. I remember being so excited to see the Kappa’s Sunday of Hope wall. As a fellow PanHell member, I felt an immediate personal connection to the hospital. I later learned that all nine of the black Greek-letter organizations have committed to supporting St. Jude year-round. To date, the organizations have collectively donated nearly $2 million to St. Jude. They have done so through various individual programs including:  Sunday of Hope, a faith-based program where churches are recruited to support St. Jude; Give thanks. Walk, an annual walkathon in over 70 markets across the country; Girls Night In, a peer-to-peer fundraising event where members host individual social gatherings; and Game Day Give Back, a peer-to-peer fundraising event where members host Super Bowl parties. Coming up on November 22, team chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. will walk in the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk as National Gold and Silver Level teams, respectively.

To thank the organizations, St. Jude invited members of the organization’s leadership to be recognized during the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend. The evening was amazing! St. Jude brought their Memphis hospitality to Washington, D.C. Not to mention, the National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., asked me to accept the award on her behalf, as she had to attend another event. ME?! Little ol’ me?! I humbly and graciously accepted. I think it took me about a week to get over the shock and another few days to stop welling up with happy tears. However, nothing compared to the emotion-filled presentation by St. Jude patient-celebrity Kimberlin George.

Kimberlin and I. She's so amazing!
Kimberlin and I. She’s so amazing!

Kimberlin took the stage strong and proud like the fighter she is. In 1982 she became the first person to be cured of sick cell anemia. She was cured by the doctors at St. Jude with the use of a life-saving blood transfusion to cure her Acute Myeloid Leukemia. As we all sat and listened to Kimberlin tell her story there wasn’t a dry eye in the room – including her own. She ended her remarks by reminding the NPHC organizations how important their support is and how grateful she always will be to the St. Jude community. St. Jude isn’t just a place where she was cured, it is a home away from home and the staff are like her family.

Kimberlin’s name is just one of thousands that St. Jude has saved. The research center would not be able to do the work it does without the generosity of organizations like the Divine Nine. Patients like Kayla, Khamoni andEthan may not be here were it not for the hope St. Jude gives to them and their families.

I’m proud to be a member of the Divine Nine. It makes me even prouder as a St. Jude blogger to know my sorority believes in and goes the extra mile for children who need us so much.

Dare to make a difference! Stand with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and help make a difference in the lives of children living with a devastating diagnosis. “Because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has the freedom to focus on what matters most—saving kids regardless of their financial situation.” Learn more about how you can partner with St. Jude and help fulfill founder Danny Thomas’ dream of a day when no child dies in the dawn of life.

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To join a team, form a team or donate for the November 22, St. Jude Give Thanks Walk, visit givethankswalk.org

Check out highlights from the St. Jude/ CBC reception:

Pon Di Replay: A Re-Cap of My Trip to Barbados

We love us some Chasity Cooper! She’s a millennial on the move who believes in giving. Chasity is involved in her community in DC and most recently took part in an Atlantic Impact cultural immersion and mission trip. Read and enjoy!

CHASITY S. COOPER

It’s hard to believe that last week this time, I was traveling across the beautiful island of Barbados. From enjoying local delicacies of dolphin (also known as mahi-mahi) and macaroni pie, to walking on white sands and swimming in clear blue waters, I definitely enjoyed my first experience in the Caribbean and look forward to my next visit.

But my trip wasn’t solely focused on getting an awesome tan and enjoying rum punch — it was about exploration, discovery and independence. If you can recall, back in mid-May I raised over $1,500 for a Detroit-based non-profit called Atlantic Impact. Winning the blogger challenge not only afforded me the opportunity to travel to Barbados, but I also got the chance to know seven really bright and inquisitive high school juniors. Each of them had their own unique talents, stories, struggles and ambitious, but were over all grateful to have the…

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