Saturday, February 21, 2009

And On A Lighter Note

I just bought the new India.Arie CD and I have to say that I absolutely adore it. I enjoy listening to all the songs but I do have my favorites that I repeat as I am rolling in the Silver Bullet. #13 hit me right in the chest as I listened to it for the first time on my way to my hair appointment. I mean, the words just reached me right where I was emotionally and spiritually. I literally cried. It reminded me that no matter what happens in my life right now, God has my back and I don't have to act crazy or feel betrayed or disappointed. He's right here. That song was a great reminder. #16 is also a great affirmation to a broken, tired spirit.

This is definitely a top pick of mine, and I rarely buy CDs (because I can't afford them). But when I heard she had a new project I went right out and bought it because I can trust that she is going to put out some truly genuine and creative music.

I may even go so far as to say besides her first CD, this is probably my favorite of hers. It is worth a listen...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Challenge of Closed Doors

I was reading FullComplexity's blog, and she was talking about closed doors. Sometimes life doesn't go the way you planned or the way you thought it would. Sometimes you wonder what you did wrong. But as we all fight through disappointments and let-downs, broken hearts and uncertain futures, I think the point is that we do draw closer to God. Challenges do make us pray "harder", seek God's face more, inquire of His wisdom when we simply don't know what to do or what's coming next.

This past week was like that for me. But I have been seeking God in a way I haven't done in a long time - past merely the calisthenics of a dull faith. The struggles I have faced in my own family have caused me to be more concerned about other children in foster care and other families that are being torn apart. It has made me listen more closely to God's voice - not so much for the whys but the hows.

How does God want to use me in a season of pain and hurt and shut doors?

How does the encounter with the disruption of my comfort zone change how I view the world around me and the people in it?

How can I actualize the purpose of God birthed from my own experiences to impact others?

The closed door my family experienced a week ago today has not dissuaded me from the fight. It has merely given me ammunition to attack the unseen enemies that are trying to destroy children and teens, families and communities. I began to see the bigger picture. That closed door made me realize there are other opportunities to change the things in this world that make my blood boil and God's heart grieve.

I began to look and I found answers to some of my questions concerning the foster care system and what we can do to change it for the sake of the children wrapped up in it. If you get a chance check out the following reports that help highlight many of the issues here in Michigan that make the system so screwed up:

(1)"Cycle of Failure: How Michigan Keeps 'Throwing the Fight' for Children and How to Make the State a Contender Again"; Produced by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and Written by the Executive Director, Richard Wexler (Published online February 18, 2009) - This was featured in NPR news today ironically as I was writing this entry.

(2)"Race Equity Review: Findings from a Qualitative Analysis of Racial Disproportionality and Disparity for African-American Children and Families in Michigan's Child Welfare System" (Published online January 16, 2009)

Both reports have their slants and as with any socioeconomical dissection of state and federal programs, there may be people that disagree with the findings. DHS actually disagreed with the "Cycle of Failure" report's findings and stated to NPR this morning that it was filled with inaccurate stats and information. But regardless of the skeptics, I believe both reports are worth reading - specifically the second one.

My point in saying all this is that when challenges present themselves, figuring out ways to address those challenges can help us overcome and facilitate change. When doors we thought would stay open are shut, utilizing opportunities to grow is so necessary.

At least that is what I am trying to do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Retrospect

I have had some time to really think about the best way to fight for my family during this time. I have decided that covering my family in prayer is genuinely the best way to handle the foster care concerns we have, to protect my brother's rights as a father, and to ensure that no other family has to battle with the racist, greedy, hypocritical actions that can present themselves within the parameters of the policies and idealism of systems meant to protect children.

I am not willing to say that we should do away with the foster care system entirely. The purpose by which it was established is still necessary so long as there is abuse and neglect in this country. But I am saying that there needs to be an overhaul within the ranks of management and in the placement of children. So, instead of fighting against the entire practice of protecting children, I have decided to get right in the midst of the system and in my little area of the world impact lives and systems and practices.

How do you show people a better way of doing anything worthwhile? By showing them. How do you effectively teach families and communities how to improve and become safe havens for children to grow and live? By teaching them. How do you respond to negative institutions and systems? By either infiltrating or renovating, by becoming a part of them and changing them from the inside out as much as humanly possible, or by formulating a new, different system entirely.

I have never been a person that likes to sit on her hands. I'd rather be doing something about the problems in my world, the world I can directly impact. I'd rather walk in the fullness of what God has called me to do. I'd rather be challenged.

When I told my best friend Toya what I was planning to do, she told me that she would not discourage me, but that I would learn alot. She worked as a Child Protective Services worker for a couple years, and just recently switched to become a Foster Care Monitor - supervising workers at an outside agencies that place children and follow up with care plans for each child. One day I hope to do the same.

But for now, I'm okay with the possibility that I might get angry with certain issues I encounter; I might come home crying or full of angst about some situation I encountered at work that day. But at least I'd be getting right in the trenches. I may not be able to save every child or teen. I might not be able to help heal every family. I may not even be able to rewrite some flawed policy. But I will be able to DO SOMETHING.

That is the whole point of life, I think - TO DO SOMETHING WORTH LIVING FOR.

The situation I have encountered wiht my niece is not a new one and not the only one I have had to take a step back and scrutinize. It is not the first time I have had to ask the question, "Is there any way I can impact this problem? Is there anything I can do to change a situation for a child?"

I worked at a residential center a few years ago that made me ask these questions of myself. I disagreed that children are commodities. I hated that the children and teens I developed relationships with felt like they had dollar signs tattooed on their foreheads. I hated that even I missed the point of the mission. So when it was time for me to go, I decided that if the chance ever presented itself again, I would not repeat that mistake. I am and a deeper challenge has presented itself. The war I am fighting for my family is a war for all our families in one way or another.

And for this reason, I am called for such a time as this...

Friday, February 13, 2009

And the War Rages On

The court hearing did not go well at all. The judge dismissed our concerns and decided to leave the children in the inappropriate placement where they are. No one cared about what my niece and her sisters are suffering through. But we are going to fight on...if for no other reason than that we are making stand against a corrupt system.

I can't go into the lies the Case Worker told against my family.

I can't go into the concerns my mother raised to the judge that were subsequently swept under the rug.

I can't go into the pain I feel that my niece will continue to suffer humiliation at the hand of a foster mother that will do anything for money.

Though we are battling with the system, until my niece declares that she wants to live with my mother and I, I will not fight to remove her any longer. I will not be able to talk to or see her until the Case Worker says so (which is not likely to happen since she is convinced that her seeing me is detrimental to their cause).

But I will be fighting for fathers' rights and family rights and especially children's rights. My brother has not lost his rights to his daughter and likely won't but the way things have gone in the judicial system, my niece will have a hard way to go without us for the next two years or so.

It breaks my heart that I will not be able to have a say so in what happens to her but she is not my child. If she were my child, she would not be living in this mess.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Lieu of the Court Hearing

The court hearing regarding my niece and her sisters is this Thursday. I want to say I am nervous about the chance we will have to speak to the judge about moving the children's placement until a decision is made about terminating their mom's rights. I want to say that I hope that he won't dismiss my brother, my mom, and me like all these other authority figures (in the "system") have tried to do every time we confront them about the mistakes they have made and are continuing to make. I want to say that I don't trust that the right choice will be made by the judge.

But I can't. I can't say any of those things.

There is a truth that I believe we are standing on - the TRUTH OF GOD. We are standing on the side of righteousness and are trusting in God and not in our own abilities to change the minds of the powers that be. And further more, we know who we are and to Whom we belong. We also know that God wants those girls protected and nothing Satan does will prevent God from having His way. We walk in the favor of God, and what's more, we are praying that the lives of these children will be more valuable to the judge than what a neglectful mother wants, what an agency that is supposed to be protecting the children but are not wants, what a greedy foster mother wants, and what those who sit in seats of power but abuse that power want.

These babies have to matter.

And we are taking a stand by faith to protect the course of their lives. That is more important than anything. The war we are waging is so much bigger than just the three little girls in this situation. There are many, many families that are fighting for the right to care for children wrapped up in the foster care system. And if nothing else, we are fighting so we can show others how to do the same thing.

I am reading a book called Prophetic Intercession written by Barbara Wentroble. This book is more of a guide that teaches Christians how to pray impactful prayers for others. So, this week in anticipation I am praying for the court hearing - that God's will be done, that we are given a voice, and that we can bring these girls home to a place of peace outside of the atmosphere where they are right now.

Please pray with us, whenever you get a moment. We certainly need your prayers. My girls need your prayers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poetry, Center Stage

Last Friday, January 30, I participated in a Poetry Reading Event at a church in Port Huron. A friend of mine, Richard Murphy, asked me to be one of the headlining readers on the schedule and I heartily agreed. The name of the event was what sold me.

My friend is a relatively well-known Christian HipHop artist around our parts and he wanted to do a Poetry event at his church. He titled it: "Testimony of a Ghetto Child." I liked the theme behind the reading - the desire to intertwine our faith in God with the awareness of the social ills in our society.

I wrote and read the following poem for my spot in the evening's line-up:

(Dedicated to the ‘hood I grew up in)

By Myama Myowne Boone

Where I come from, the place of origination
Can only be truly…understood
If you grew up with more bars and liquor stores
Than churches in your ‘hood…

You can only translate my language,
The words that I write and speak
If you are well-acquainted with
Never ever seeing the change that you seek…

Streets named Wealthy, Lake Drive, and Thomas
Held poverty, thirst, and doubts…
Neighborhoods with more children than fathers
Perpetuated beliefs that the ghetto could spit you out…

There has always been music, sounds, energy
Reverberating from the baseline of life’s soundtrack;
There has always been the struggle for escape
From the ghetto’s pressures, persuasions, and personal attacks…

But in the middle of the raucous rush,
Between the lines at the welfare office on Franklin Street,
Somewhere beyond the gentrified canvases
Of rebuilt mansions in Heritage Hill’s buppie beat…

A little girl, like I was, is beckoned by God now -
Out of the shadows of a city that swallows lives whole,
Out of the cold racial divide, out of the mentality –
Becoming separate from those satisfied with playing a role…

Hip-Hop, Double-Dutch, Food Stamps, Domestic Violence:
Words and names so customarily a part of life –
What she hears and plays and needs and hates
Become words of dual force that can cut like a knife…

For each reminds her that she is ever a product
Of a generation that can hide within itself,
Of a nation that can cover self-inflicted abuses,
As people, like crabs in a barrel, war for wealth…

But she is called to be different, a rare grace,
And the voice of God urges her to live beyond the institution –
Because no matter where she was born or brought up,
Satan and his ghetto enslavement owes her restitution…

The clarion call God has on her life is absolute
For the city in which her foundation is laid;
The brick and mortar of the same ‘hood I lived in is
Where every generation deals with mistakes made…

Madison and Union, Bates and Dunham Streets –
The pavement weary feet have trod down;
The skyline of an untouchable commerce seen from dirty windows
Separating the haves and the have-nots in this town…

She will overcome – run through troops and leap over walls –
Her faith in the God of her grandparents established in truth…
For she knows that there is more to her future
Than what was denied and refused by her parents in their youth…

Little girls with visions grow into dynamic women;
Little boys with dreams become world-changing men…
The circle of life in the ‘hood has the unseen power
To either draw them into success or into sin…

Little girls in the ‘hood can walk righteous;
Little boys in the ‘hood can reject any generational curse…
The story of God’s grace can change lives
Once predestined for a trip in back of a police car or a hearse…

For that little girl so like the girl I used to be
Is one among many today that will transform the ghetto…
God will use her, use them all as torches in the dark,
Declaring that the enemy of their souls has to let go –

He has to let go of the lives crushed by addiction;
He has to let go of the neighborhoods reduced by crime…
He has to release the grip of poverty chaining generations
Because freedom is past due; it has long been time…

For the place where I became the woman I am,
The city that could have devoured my dreams
Is destined to grandly and rapidly
Be touched and transformed by a God Who redeems…

Through It All

I have been asked a lot lately why I decided to stay in Michigan and endure the financial struggles during this season of my life when I could have gone pretty much anywhere and done better. I thought it was a silly question at first when I consider the reason I am staying.

But still...
Why would I rent a house in a place I do not necessarily want to be?

Why would I put the brakes on my dreams of relocation and having a fab single life?

Why in the world would I embrace struggle when my gifts and my talents would make room for me in the presence of great men and women (in the undefined "out there somewhere")?

Why? Why? Why?

Am I stupid? Slow? Self-punishing?

The simple answer is no. No, I'm not a fool. I know how to make sound decisions, even when it seems like I would be better served in a different environment. I consider myself to be very intelligent (or at least, I have some mother-wit). And I have learned that when I trust God in my decision-making, I end up more blessed than I could have ever been if I only trust in my own wisdom.

I decided to stay in Michigan, even in light of all the circumstances I have to face right now because of a little girl:

A little girl whose big hazel eyes and curly ringlets won me the first time I laid eyes on her...

A little girl whose vivacious personality and immeasurable talents and gifts have caused many people to be drawn to her...

A little girl who has suffered through much more than I am going through right now...

A little girl that needs someone to care...

A little girl that is crying out for help...

A little girl that calls me in tears when her heart has been broken (like last Thursday, when her foster mother called her a selfish f**king b**ch because she was told the little girl wants to live independent of the foster care system, on her own)...

A little girl that doesn't understand why her life is collapsing around her and needs her Auntie Mya right now...

She is why I am staying.

If you can only do one thing in life, if you only get the chance to accomplish one feat, make sure you let that one thing be an unselfish act. Let it be something that impacts and changes the life of another person. And let it be God-inspired because when He calls you to do a certain thing, He will give you the resources to see that thing through.

I had to stay in Michigan in order to get licensed for foster care and to provide an immediate home for that little girl. I could not leave and then try to help her. So when the question was raised if I would leave for Nashville or Chicago or Timbuktu, I had to say "No." I had to lay my desires down on the altar, the place of sacrifice, so my little girl could live a life where she could smile again. And you know what, I haven't really wanted for or needed anything that hasn't been provided thus far.

Remember, ultimately your "real" life is not about you.