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.

Who Speaks For Us: Are We Straight Outta (Conscious) Hip-Hop?

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By Ebonie Johnson Cooper, Chief Millennial Officer, Friends of Ebonie

I finally went to see Straight Outta of Compton last weekend. I thought it was awesome. In fact, it’s was No. 1 at the box office for three straight weekends. #GoCube. I expected it to be pretty good, but I was not ready for how much the movie imitated present-day life.

Set in the mid-1980s to the early-1990s, Straight Outta Compton tells the musical journey of rappers, Ice Cube, Easy E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella also known as N*ggas With Attitude (N.W.A.). The group’s “started from the bottom now we’re here” story was filled with highs and lows, but I was especially intrigued by the influence police brutality, systematic racism and discrimination had on some of N.W.A.’s music. From their experiences they recorded their most famous anti-police song, “*uck the Police.” As the movie depicted scenes ranging from innocent teenagers (including N.W.A. themselves) being stopped and frisked to the Rodney King beating, I kept thinking is this set 2015 or 1986? Socially, not much has changed since the coming-of-age of NWA. Their music is just as relevant today as it was then. 

There was a scene in the movie where the group members were convinced that because the Rodney King beating was caught on video that the officers would automatically be found guilty. However, as we all know, none of those officers were found guilty. Neither were the officers in the Amadou Diallo case, Trayvon Martin case, Mike Brown case, Eric Garner case…need I go on? Why are we still fighting the same fight from the 80s and 90s? If rap music was the equivalent of social media in the 80s and 90s N.W.A. would be voices within the #BlackLivesMatter movement for sure.

After watching Straight Outta Compton, I see Ice Cube in a brand new light. I admire him for taking a stand and being the voice of his generation. I admire the courage of Easy E to speak out when the highest federal law enforcement agency in America, aka The FBI had N.W.A. on their most wanted list. N.W.A. did not back down and they did not stop. When the police in Detroit tried to intimidate them and told them not to sing “*uck the Police” at their concert they did it anyway.  They knew that their music was shedding light on what was really happening in their communities. They knew that by using music to touch their fans someone was going to hear the truth. Where is that today?

We live in a society driven by music. So much of who we are and what we do today is influenced by music. What or where would we be if more artists took an N.W.A stand? Or what would happen if those who do speak out got the same appreciation as those who exclusively rap ratchet?

I don’t really listen to today’s hip-hop music, however when I do hear a song all I hear is foolishness. There is no struggle, there is no “F the police “there is no why didn’t he get indicted.” All you hear are fake thugs trying to be real when there is truly a genocide happening to our people. Watching Straight Out of Compton convicted me. It made me think, who in our generation’s hip-hop music could be an N.W.A.? Who is our Ice Cube? I shared this post idea with a few friends, and they offered these artists as possible hip-hop revolutionaries of our time:

  1. J-Cole – For his latest album, outspoken lyrics and humble presence in the Black Lives Matter movement
  2. Kendrick Lamar – For his outspoken lyrics and his song, “Alright” which has been called the new black anthem.
  3. Janelle Monae and Wondaland– for their song “Hell You Talmbout” and social justice protests that take place before their concerts in each city

Additionally, back in January Mic News offered “These Six Rappers are the Defining Voices of #BlackLivesMatter.” Five of the six artists I’ve never heard, but that could just be me. #ImNotThatCool.

I’m not saying N.W.A. was perfect. Despite what the movie showed, I know a lot of their music was the anthesis of black power. However, in my opinion that’s the fabric of being an artist. They used their platform to the best of their ability to seek change when a change was needed. It is my sincere hope that artists with a message get the platform they deserve. And for those artists that do have a platform, they begin (or continue) to use it in a way that will not only entertain but also educate, inform and raise the level of consciousness of those who look up to them.

#IAMYBGB: Clemmie Perry

Clemmie PErry

 

The golf course or the green is where business deals happen. Big deals, small deals and those in between happen on the golf course. There’s a power on the course that provides the opportunity for banter, negotiation and real-time deal closing. Despite the power on the green, there is a shortage of women and definitely a shortage of women of color. Clemmie Perry, founder of Women of Color Golf and Girls on the Green T, has made it her mission to change this.

When sharing her story of learning the game Clemmie told Forbes, “It was exciting, and I was making all these new friends and contacts. It opened a whole new world for me. But I also realized when I was out on the course, I rarely saw women who looked like me out there.” She also saw the need for young girls of color to learn the game. So she started Girls on the Green T to work with girls ages 14 – 22. The girls receive weekly golf lessons as well as establish mentoring relationships and take classes in health and financial literacy. “This is a world many of these girls never even knew existed, let alone thought they could gain access to. We can be an entry way for them to see a different kind of future,” says Perry. “We’re trying to prepare them to enter into a diverse and quickly changing world.” (Forbes)

We salute Clemmie and her team on a job well done! Learn more on Clemmie Perry and her work to bring women and girls of color into the world of golf here.

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#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.

Our 2014 #GivingTuesday Top Charity Picks!

 

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We haven’t done a Giving Tuesday Top Picks List since 2012. It seemed fitting that we make an old thing new again and help you find an organization to support today on #GivingTuesday.

What IS Giving Tuesday, you ask? We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Started in 2012 by the 92st Y and the United Nations Foundation, we now have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. Who are we to deny you this opportunity to give back?!

That being said, here are a few of our faves. Go a head make it rain on ’em.

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Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture: The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.

Black Benefactors:  A Washington, D.C – based giving circle comprised of individuals, businesses and organizations dedicated to addressing the societal ills facing the African American community in the DC region.

St. Jude Children’s Research Center: St. Jude is unlike any other pediatric treatment and research facility. Discoveries made here have completely changed how the world treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. With research and patient care under one roof, St. Jude is where some of today’s most gifted researchers are able to do science more quickly.

Dance Theatre of Harlem: Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a performing Ensemble, a leading arts education center and Dancing Through Barriers®, a national and international education and community outreach program. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem was considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times, 1971). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts.

First Book DC – provides new books to children in need. The DC chapter is helping to increase literacy rates in areas where poverty levels are at an all time high. Donate $10 and that equals 4 books!

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents — as well as millions more through television broadcasts.

H.O.P.E. Scholarship InitiativeThe H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Pursue Education) Scholarship Initiative was founded in 2010 by two Howard University alumni committed to serving their communities. The organization’s philanthropic efforts are geared toward rewarding deserving students with scholarships through the assistance of grassroots level fundraising and corporate sponsorships.

Epitome of Soul: Epitome of Soul, Inc. strives to partner with community organizations to equip, empower, and encourage performing arts high school and college students to strive for academic excellence and cultural growth.

African American Board Leadership Institute: The mission of the African American Board Leadership Institute is to strengthen nonprofit, public and private organizations through recruiting, preparing and placing African Americans on a broad range of governing boards.

Add your organization and a link to its donation page in the comment section below! Sharing is caring!!!!