Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Random Turn

1. I'm reading Rebecca Walker's new book compilation called "One Big Happy Family" knowing full well that I may not agree with some of the writers that are telling stories about their home lives and lifestyles. But I did not realize that the very first story (about a married couple's decision to become polyamorous - basically meaning they have an "open marriage") should have been skipped so quickly. To me, that is not the glorification of a healthy family nor is it the modernization of an old concept with a twist. It is, simply put, mutually agreed upon adultery. Not cool.

2. You never know who is looking at you...or who may have a crush on you. I'm a living witness. Stay tuned for more news later...if there will be more to tell.

3. I need a friggin' vacation. I wish I had more money so I could go where I really want to go.

4. Commuting to work 40 minutes each way kinda sucks. But getting a paycheck every two weeks doesn't. Go figure.

5. The Golden Oreos are the greatest cookies ever. The original ones are yucky. I am a believer in Oreo power again.

6. I'm starting a writer's group and the first meeting is this Saturday. Instead of complaining that there is nothing to do, starting fun activities with likeminded people can effectively kill BPH (Boredom in Port Huron).

7. Why do women always wear tight stretchy pants to the gym? Even if I was a size three (which I'm not) I don't think I would ever feel comfortable working out on an elliptical machine (which I don't) while old men with big bellies and young men with big egos stare at my be-hind. Maybe I'm secretly jealous. Or not.

8. I don't know why I did it but I watched a few minutes of the new College Hill South Beach last night and realized why kids nowadays are so "off". This show is absolutely STUPID and I am sick to death of all the weave, frivolousness, and cat-fighting being so entertaining. That is one television show which will further contribute to the destruction of the brain cells of our youth. WHOOOHOOO!!!! Good job BET.

9. I do like Harlem Heights (sorta) because it makes me wish I lived somewhere so up and coming. But this show is kinda goofy too - especially the relationships between some of the females on the show. I still don't know why some of them have attitudes with each other. But most of the guys are pretty cute.

10. I need some new clothes but I refuse to buy them because I am hoping to lose weight. Hmmm...maybe I should stop loving Golden Oreos so much? Otherwise I'll be wearing these same old rags forever...(Or I may have to let them out so I have more room for the BWS - Black Woman Spread).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Me and My Brother, Fighting Side by Side

The letter in the last two posts was my way of warring with words. I emailed it to the President of the Grand Rapids InterDenominational Ministerial Alliance and I snail-mailed it to my former youth pastor and senior pastor (both of whom know my brother, my mother, and me). I am planning to give it to my current pastoral staff at the church I am attending and then will send it to others that I know are in Christian Leadership.

But the point of this letter, as I look back at it and dissect my wordiness and try to figure out if my clarion call will make a difference, is my declaration to the enemy of our souls that has long tried to destroy my family and tried to divide my relationship with my brother. This letter is my weaponry, my ammunition, as I shoot back at the darkness that for many years has caused us to be at war with each other.

I guess it's like this: when it's all said and done, ain't no devil in hell gonna destroy my brother or his seed! (Please excuse the vernacular...) It's like when you are kids and somebody is picking on your brother (which happened more times than I can count) and even though you and him may fight like cats and dogs (which also happened more times than I could count), you will not just stand idly by and let it happen. You will fight for your own (I did it from the age of three and now that I am 31, I will still fight for him).

In the situation he is battling, I refuse to just let him be mistreated. I refuse to see him lose his daughter, even if she wants to stay out there. I decided to use what I know (the laws of the land) and what I have (my voice and my pen, my influence and my experience) and what I believe (that God will protect His own and He is more than the world against us) to fight.

When I started engaging in this battle, realizing more than ever that it is a spiritual one, I understood that I have to fight for this man. Sometimes women have to fight for the men in their lives and not let them be taken out by the enemy. That is my role. It hasn't been easy but it has been necessary.

Prayer and aggressive action and knowledge and wisdom have been the weapons God has given. But there has also been love - the greatest weapon of all. The love I have for this brother that I thought I would never have a decent relationship with has overcome the hatred the enemy truly does have for him. And for me that is a sure sign of the victory I know is ultimately ours in Christ.

It's amazing how battles like this turn arch-rivals into a dynamic, unstoppable team. Perhaps this too is the victory I have long been seeking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Letter for my Brother, Part Two

My name is Myama Myowne Boone, and I am choosing to fight for my brother’s right to be a father. I am fighting for the 14th Amendment to apply to him – in this country where he willingly pays his taxes, his child support, and now is being stuck with a $14,000 bill which is steadily increasing each day his daughter remains in care.

I am also most importantly a member of the Body of Christ, hoping to change the world one family at a time starting at home, and then in the communities where I grew up, in the lives of the families I work with and advocate for daily, and in the hearts of the children and teens that are desperately hungry for love, family, and acceptance. I am a member of Christ’s Body, and I am demanding change.

Communities begin with families. The brokenness we see everyday is the result of broken families. But some families like mine are splintered because of many factors that feed the fragmentation. The problem is when a ruling entity determines protocol, laws and standards of procedures, it fosters rebellion and anarchy form the top down when those statues are deemed negotiable on a case-by-case basis.

Why in some cases and not in others does the Michigan Absent Parent Protocol become changeable and flexible? Why, in my brother’s case, is it okay for the state of Michigan to ignore his rights and/or demand that he agree that foster care is in the best interest of his child when he is a ready and willing father? Is it because of his race or his socioeconomic class? Or is it because the foster family seems to be more likely able to give her an upper middle class lifestyle? Or is it because the system has a habit of giving men a bad rap when it comes to deciding custody for their children?

I am writing not simply to foster outrage at the way the law bends, changes shape, and metamorphoses into a different organism altogether when race, poverty, and classism intermingle and explode. I am not simply writing just to remind you of what you may already know. I am writing to remind the Body of Christ that we all have a greater responsibility to care expressly for the disenfranchised and marginalized, even if the disenfranchised and marginalized is my brother, your sister, my neighbor, your cousin, the man down the street, or the children sitting in our pews every Sunday.

We must not stand back and allow the fathers that are returning to or attempting to maintain their rightful places in their children’s lives to be trod upon in the name of mammon and enterprise. We must not allow children to be monopolized by a moneymaking infrastructure that is slowly becoming something not structured to help heal broken families and lives as it was meant to at its inception. We must not allow mothers who need help raising their children to be pawns in the destruction of their own offspring. And most importantly we must not allow our families to become even more fractured than they already are.

Are we helping heal the family unit? Is there a cause for our intervention? Can we demand of the government to change with the times? Should we stand up for righteousness in our society and call the lawmakers and policyholders to task on the areas where we see families and children headed on a downward spiral further into fragmentation and poverty when there are clearly other alternatives?

I say yes.

We, as the Body of Christ, see the grand finale of familial breakdown. We try our best to fix the broken places. We speak to families, proclaiming God’s healing and intervention. We develop programs and methods and ministries to minister to the whole person (and it is wonderful to the purpose of God for our individual houses of worship). But how can any of our plans be effective when our parishioners walk back into the worlds from whence they come, battling with the powers-that-be, which seem determined to undo the work of Christ in their lives?

My brother, like so many fathers out here, is not perfect. His anger and frustration at the rejection of his paternal attempts at reunifying with his daughter may be raw, fresh, and I fear, used against him. When he tells the caseworker that he wants his daughter and she comes up with some new idea to keep her in the system longer, he seems to be at the breaking point. His questions may be intrusive to a system that refuses to answer. His determination to hold fast to that indefinable other called “parental rights” may be maddeningly frustrating to that same caseworker, to the attorney assigned to his case, to the judge sitting on the bench in Family Circuit Court, and even to the biological mother, whom while she may not be any closer to receiving all her children back home, does not want any of the fathers to exercise their rights at all.

But the truth is, despite the appearances, he is a father. He is one of many.
For so long society has complained about the absence of fathers in the homes of our communities. I have been one of the loudest voices, having grown up without mine and watching the eventual destruction a parent’s continued absence causes in their children’s lives. In fact, my brother struggled with always being present in all his children’s lives but he has never been untouchable. They know their father; they love him though it has not always been easy, and no, he has not been the model parent. But as stated earlier that has no bearing on whether he should be allowed to parent his child when she is in trouble.

As I have witnessed the phenomenon of parental absence and neglect perpetuated sometimes by outside forces instead of being curtailed (as the Michigan Protocol was designed to do), I have wondered if there is indeed more to the story. I have wondered if we can make a blanket resolution that all non-custodial parents and specifically fathers do not care about their children. I have wondered what the church’s response should be.

I am writing to you, our leaders and pastors, because I believe the cries of our families and the fathers of those families (children) are demanding a response from us. I believe with my whole heart that God Himself is allowing some things to be uncovered so we will know how to pray and respond. I have sensed for a long time that God the Father is not simply unhappy that fathers are missing from the homes, but that He is unhappy that there are certain systems of thought and social policy that are feeding the spirit of absenteeism that seems so pervasive. I have prayed about how to encourage the fathers to return to their children and not to leave them struggling alone. But then the question was raised that what if some fathers want to return to caring for their children but are being prevented by various legal sources? What if they want to have a more permanent voice in their children’s lives but outside entities are stifling the power of their presence and the way has not been made?

I am not in any way defending single parenthood or the conception of children out of wedlock. I am in no way defending men that parent children and then just leave them. I will not condone any parent, male or female, birthing children into this generation haphazardly. But what I am bringing to your attention is that parental separation happens for a variety of reasons, but children should never be denied the opportunity to have their natural parents, who are willing to fulfill their role, in their lives and given the opportunity to do so.

I am writing this because my brother daily wrestles with giving up his parental rights, which is what some others have insinuated would be the best thing. I am writing because we have demanded that men in our communities “do everything right” but when the procedures are followed, when those who are willing put their independence on the shelf in support of the greater good of their children, and when they try to stand up instead of sitting back, there is still no guarantee that “everything” is “right” because whether those in authority want to admit it or not, the rules to the game do change halfway through the process.

I am writing because my brother has chosen to stand instead of bow to the pressure. His daughter, whom has stated many times that she wishes her father had been more present when she was younger, has even tried to dissuade him from his goal of caring for and protecting her. I am writing because if my brother does not hold unto his rights to his daughter, no one else will make sure his rights are protected. Or so it would seem.

My petition to you today is simply yet profoundly this:

Be the Body of Christ with me for my brother and those other non-custodial parents (primarily fathers) that are being denied their God-given and constitutional right not to give up their children to the foster care system unnecessarily and who truly love and want to care for them.

Be the Body of Christ with me to broken and splintered families both within the church walls and in the milieu of our world’s highways and byways.

Be the Body of Christ with me, agents of change and mission, demanding that the laws set in our world are fairly and uniformly honored and adhered to by our governmental officials and agencies.

Be the Body of Christ with me most importantly in the prayer and supplication needed on behalf of our children, on behalf of our families in our communities, and for men like my brother. Some are indeed standing up, and we need to help strengthen their legs and hold up their arms. That is what my family is attempting to do for my brother but we are finding that we cannot do it alone.

Please join us in prayer during these next two months. On May 14, we will return to court for yet another court hearing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My brother will be traveling from San Antonio, Texas to demand that his parental rights be finally honored and he be given custody of his daughter. That is the work only he alone can do.

Non-custodial parents, men or women separated from the other parent of their child(ren) have the right by state law and a duty to protect and care for their children themselves. Judicially no one has the right to forcibly seize or terminate a parent’s rights without due process. Once that parent has been cleared for possible placement of their children should the other parent lose custody for any reason (and specifically, in my brother’s case, to the foster care system) that parent has the right to petition the court for full and permanent custody.

I am requesting the spiritual assistance of the leaders of the Body of Christ at this time – not only for my brother but for the many men that are losing their children everyday unfairly. Please put this cause on your church’s or ministry’s intercession list. We so desperately need your prayers.

I will close this letter with a final thought.

When the prophet Malachi spoke of the coming of the spirit of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Malachi, I always wondered if the continued meaning of that passage was only exclusively referring to the coming of John the Baptist in the New Testament. I always wondered if there was another meaning equally as symbolic. Did the Word given by God elude to another clarion call?

In Malachi 4:5, I began questioning if God was simply referring to a spiritual return of the fathers to the children as witnessed in the coming of John paving the way for Christ. Or was He also signifying of another day? More literally, in our times, would there be a physical return of fathers to their children? And then, I began to wonder if there is something pivotal the Body of Christ can do to help influence this return by bringing a deeper awareness to our local government, with the intent that ultimately children are indeed returned to their fathers.

Clearly every story is different. There can be no across-the-board uniformity because these are personal situations, but in my study of the research and my reading of some recent treatises and reports, I have had to realize that what my brother is going through right now is not unique. Some of the things I have looked at and the stories I have heard first hand implies that time and again men like my brother can be railroaded into giving up their constitutional rights, threatened with false allegations, and forced to pay for many years for the care of their children when their children would have been better served with their fathers, despite the assumptions made.

My niece will be 18 next year, but by the time her father finishes paying for an unnecessary stay in a foster home, she will be an adult. The truth is it is highly unlikely that he would ever be able to simply pay $600/month for her to live in someone else’s home. That is an unfair request to ask of a father that wants his child in his own home.

Thank you for your prayerful attention in this matter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Case for Father's Rights, Beginning Right Here at Home

I have taken some time away from writing about my niece's foster care dilemma because more issues have presented themselves that have made me take a pause before speaking on it any further. But now that I have taken that time, I have decided to post Part One of a letter I am sending to some pastors I know and pastors in the city where my brother and I grew up, the city where my brother has not been treated as my niece's father but as simply a black man that has shaken up the seemingly racist and discriminatory intentions and practices of a case worker, a judge, and a system. I will post Part Two tomorrow. Please let me know what you think, feel, and believe about the situation my brother is facing, and most of all - please pray for him as he fights for custody of his daughter. Feel free to alert others to my letter and my brother's story. We need the prayers of as many Believers as we can get.

Dear Pastor, Clergy Member, or Church Leader:

Blessings, grace, and peace to you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! If I could have your attention, I would like to tell you a story. I know this may seem strange and even a bit lengthy, but if you bear with me, it will all make sense in a moment.

My brother is a father…from the inner city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My brother is an African-American father with a bi-racial child – a child who is now part of the foster care system in Kent County, Michigan.

My brother is a father, regardless of socioeconomic background, educational level, or race, with rights upheld by the Constitution of the United States. These rights were made fundamentally and legally sound concerning parents in his situation by the Supreme Court in a 1982 ruling which stated “…the fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child is protected by the 14th Amendment, and does not evaporate simply because they have not been model parents or have lost temporary custody of their child to the State.” This ruling was quoted in the January 31, 2008 Michigan Absent Parent Protocol manual, as the state sought to establish bylaws which local governmental entities were to abide by in regards to the rights of parents like my brother.

And yet, knowing this, what happens when the system that has jurisdiction over my brother’s child constantly overrides the United States Constitution, which gives him certain inalienable rights to live, breathe, and exist within this country’s borders with his family in tact?

Who will fight for my brother?

My brother, this 36-year-old African-American father of four children is fighting for the right to raise his child in his own house, but his court-appointed attorney told him that if he will be a good father, he must pay only $600 a month to keep his daughter in a currently unlicensed foster home, in the home of an unrelated family who falsely claimed to be her relatives, a family determined at any cost to adopt his child.

If he is truly a good father, he must comply by the rules of the local private foster care agency. The caseworker was supposed to contact him if Department of Human Services failed to locate him when the girl was removed from her mother’s home but she and DHS failed to do so (which is the first step mandated by the Michigan Protocol Handbook). Our family found out that she was in state care when she contacted me via email. In turn, I alerted him. He came forward and asked for his daughter.

But first, the caseworker wanted him to attend parenting classes and perform a drug screen and complete a psychological evaluation to prove that he is able to parent his own child, despite the fact that he lives in San Antonio, Texas (inevitably showing that any request she gives will be difficult or impossible to complete due to the distance and the lack of monitoring). He also has steady employment and a home to take his child to. Still my brother has to prove that he can care for the child he has paid child support for, been involved with for most of her life, and even made sure was taken care of when her mother was previously unable to. He has no history of drugs, domestic violence, alcoholism, or any prior Child Protective Services cases. But still, he must comply despite obvious protocol written and clearly spelled out that states the contrary.

My brother’s frustration at being charged $14,000-plus while his daughter lives in a foster home is causing him to wonder if being a “good” father is synonymous with being chewed up and ultimately spit out by case workers, agencies, foster parents, lawyers, and judges. The sad fact is I believe that the system is truly, with the best of intentions, meant to protect children and promote reunification and healing for America’s most broken families. But, even I, a proponent of the mission, wonder if we are closing out the absent parents (most likely, fathers) that are the key to that protection and healing. I do not know what to tell my brother; I do not know how to support the mission of the system I work for in conjunction with the reality he is living right now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Am I Remembered?

I just talked to one of my friends over the phone that I hadn't spoken to in a while. Her son Josiah's pics can be found on this blog, as I have a tendency to ooh and aww over how absolutely gorgeous he is.

She told me today that she is pregnant again. She and my other sister friend Toya are both expecting, and I am so excited for them both. I try to keep the game face on and say that I am okay with being single, but to be truthful, I wish it could be me calling them to say that I am going to be a wife and a mother. I want them to be excited for the positive changes that are taking place in my family instead of telling them that I am hoping for change in the lives of children that are not even mine.

That sounds silly, doesn't it?

Tashara is due in late August/early September and Toya is due in July. My goddaughters Terryl-Lynn and Journee will be two in July. I marvel at how much they are growing and the little milestones in their developments but sometimes I wonder if I will be a mother to my own children one day.

Currently, I am being licensed for foster care since I want to mother a child so bad. But it really isn't the same. I want to know what it feels like to love my husband and have a baby with him and take care of my child with him. I feel sad and happy all at once as the little families around me are growing and expanding. And I wonder as I silently look on and applaud the happiness my friends are experiencing if God is going to remember me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Such a Shame...

My mother began screaming over the phone. I began to cry after I told her. With all that has been going on in my family this was the last thing we wanted to hear. My niece, the young mother who has a beautiful 23-month-old son will be raising him alone. He will grow up without his father because of a foolish decision. By the time his father will be released from prison, the little boy will be 12 or 13-years-old and that's only if his father gets released at that point. If he does well in prison, as the judge told him, he will get out and still be a relatively young man.

But my nephew will not have his father.

My prayer is that my brother, his PaPa, will be the man he looks up to for guidance; his life is changing and he is becoming the kind of parent and grandfather I always knew he was capable of being. My prayer is that Little Squirmy's uncles Davon and Anthony, my own precious nephews, will be able to be great role models for him. By the time his dad is released, they will be adults that may make better father figures for him than his own biological father. I am even praying that my niece will be married by then, hopefully not waiting for her baby's father, and will have moved on. I hope she will meet the kind of man that will love her enough to help her raise her son.

It is a shame that my niece, my baby-girl, will have to deal with parenting alone until then. I cut and pasted part of the article that details what will happen to this absent parent, this young man. It has truly broken my heart that my family is battling against the demon of fractured families. One niece is in foster care, which has been a bigger battle getting her released back to her paternal family than anyone could ever know, and then the other has to be a single mother at least for the next ten years.

It is indeed a cryin' shame.

"18-year-old sentenced to 11 to 32 years in prison for party store robberies, shooting
by The Grand Rapids Press
Tuesday February 24, 2009, 5:30 PM

GRAND RAPIDS -- An 18-year-old who confessed to robbing two party stores, including one where the store owner was shot in the leg, will spend the next 11 to 32 years behind bars.

Jeremy Deanda was sentenced Tuesday for two April 17 holdups, at Gerk's Works Party Store, 1298 36th St. SW, where owner Hung Nguyen was shot, and Kay & Kay Party Store, 1273 Chicago Drive SW.

Victims of the robberies say there were two people committing the crime, but only Deanda has been charged and convicted of robbery and assault.

Deanda's lawyer, Damien Nunzio, negotiated a plea agreement that called for Circuit Court Judge Christopher Yates to make the minimum sentence no more than 9 years on the robberies and assault, plus 2 years for felony use of a firearm.

Yates told Deanda that his lawyer worked out a good deal for him.

'You're a very young man and if you do all the right things in prison, you could be a relatively young man when you get out,' Yates said."