Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

23Nov/150

Some States Are Trying to Find Better Ways of Ordering and Collecting Unpaid Child Support – The System is Still Broken

The child support system in this country is still broken. And for sure, that 'brokenness' is felt differently by the various parties involved.

Single parents - most often mothers - don't get the financial support they need to care for their child (or children). The other parent - typically fathers - have court-ordered (financial) child support obligations that they can't meet. Complicating matters more is that the little money the fathers do have they frequently prefer to use in ways they see as being in direct support of the child, including buying clothes, shoes, games and other toys, and even more generally doing activities with their children. In reality, however, for many men, the money they pay actually goes to the state, to recover the expenses they incur when the mother receives public assistance.

Furthermore, given the way many men are treated when they do get involved in the child support process, by each of the various parties involved (the public agency staff, the courts, etc.), we shouldn't be surprised so many of them stay away. Whether you or I would do the same, or perhaps handle things differently, isn't the point. The point is that the process for so many fathers is far more of a punitive and punishment-oriented process, with far less understanding and responsiveness to what so many fathers and mothers are dealing with every day in trying to meet the all around developmental needs of their children.

The bottom line, and one that more and more state and local governments and organizations are realizing, is that for many tens of thousands of people the current process doesn't work, and frequently undermines one parent's desire to have more consistent and substantive contact (not to mention relationship, something very much different from 'contact') with their children.

The brief NPR piece below gets at this dynamic a bit more, including some of the creative work being done between the child support administration in Maryland, the fatherhood programs at the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, and the federal government.

I should also note that I found the title of this NPR piece offensive, Some States Are Cutting Poor Dads A Deal On Unpaid Child Support. I wouldn't call these innovative and experimental efforts some states are trying out as cutting the fathers some slack. I would call it waking up and realizing they have, for way too long, had the idea of strengthening families and supporting both mothers and fathers all wrong. I call that catching up with stupid, and finally realizing they have to do something different. This tinkering is usually good for the relatively few fathers and mothers involved, but the system is still - in the whole, and across this country - operating much more like it always has.

To the credit of the child support administration folks working in Maryland, however, and certainly the folks doing the fatherhood work in Baltimore and other parts of the state, they have been working to get at this for many years now.

My issue with the title is certainly more of an example of why I'm not a huge fan of NPR. The tone and substantive of their story-telling format tends to dumb down so many issues, and the presenters of the information couldn't be more disinterested in the content. Perhaps that's also because the stories I'm most interested in tend to have more impact on Black and Brown people, and the storytellers most often don't fit that profile. But... at least in this actual piece they get at some of the substantive dynamics behind the scapegoating and blaming of fathers our society does way too often.

You can listen to the full 4 and 1/2 minute report below.

Here's a brief excerpt...

When the state of Maryland wanted to reach dads who were behind on their child support payments, it started in the boarded-up blocks of West Baltimore, in neighborhoods marked by drugs, violence and unemployment.

In just four zip code areas, the state identified 4,642 people who owed more than $30 million in back child support. Most of that was "state-owed," meaning that rather than going to the child through the custodial parent, it's supposed to reimburse taxpayers for welfare paid to the child's mother.

This is a source of great resentment for many men, who say they want their money to go to their children. But most who owe it can't pay anyway, as they earn less than $10,000 a year.

"So even if we use taxpayer dollars to chase 'em down, and we catch 'em, right, and we go into their pockets, there's nothing in there," says Joe Jones of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families.

[Read the full article at NPR.]

21Jul/150

Michelle Alexander: Beyond Black Spring – Understanding the Roots of a Growing Movement

A brief discussion with Michelle Alexander about the undergirding factors that have shaped community conditions across the country... factors more recently spotlighted during the uprisings in Baltimore, and that continue to inform and shape the national response to incidents like the killings of Sandra Bland (in Texas) and Kindra Chapman (in Alabama), among too many others.

Protests against police violence continue across the US, and this week's episode continues our exclusive reporting on the movement behind the protests. How are the legacies of the eras of slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow still with us today? Laura talks to civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar Michelle Alexander about citizenship and the prison industrial complex. Michelle Alexander is author of the best-selling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a book which has taken on even more urgency in the current protest moment. This episode also features an exclusive new report from Baltimore, with a look at the issues behind the recent uprising, from housing to education to jobs, and Laura connects the issue of lead paint in Baltimore homes to the death of Freddie Gray.   [Published on Jun 2, 2015]

17May/150

Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Structural Ghettos, Baltimore Included (via NPR)

We really have to stop blaming individuals for the aftermath of the extensive and violent structural policies of this nation... past and present. And we must be mindful enough to not confuse this with the increasingly popular discussion of implicit bias. Implicit bias is indeed real (not to mention a very old concept in the psychological literature) yet it does not negate (and can even distract us from understanding) the persistent and intentional racism that continues to shape public policy in this country. Moreover, our failure to understand the structural roots of violent and persistent inequities further confuses people and reinforces the implicit biases people form.

From NPR, May 14, 2015:

Fifty years after the repeal of Jim Crow, many African-Americans still live in segregated ghettos in the country's metropolitan areas. Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, has spent years studying the history of residential segregation in America.

"We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls 'de-facto' — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight," Rothstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"It was not the unintended effect of benign policies," he says. "It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that's the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies."

11May/150

Baltimore (Prince feat. Eryn Allen Kane)

Peace is more than the absence of war...

If there ain't no justice, then there ain't no peace!

7May/150

Cities In Crisis – From Ferguson to Baltimore: Howard University Television Special

Here is a comprehensive discussion of what's happening in cities throughout the country, from Ferguson to Baltimore and beyond, centered in an affirmation of the integrity and dignity of African American families and communities.

From May 2, 2015:

Join WHUT's Rock Newman and WHUR's Harold Fisher for a Howard University Special Presentation on the events that have garnered national attention in Baltimore.

5May/150

Howard University Professor Dr. Greg Carr Details The History Of Abuse & Resistance In Baltimore & America

As much as people say violence and civil unrest is counterproductive, the reality is that violence is the language that captures both the attention and the imagination of 'the state'. The media, national and local alike, tend not to pay attention to Black suffering, and certainly don't listen to the cries of Black people, unless there is some level of pressure and disruption to normal societal operations.

In the TV One segment below, Howard University professor Dr. Greg Carr discusses the historical context of the Baltimore uprising last week, and the role of violence in capturing the attention of the media and elected officials.

30Apr/150

Kweisi Mfume on Baltimore Uprising: A 40+ Year Indictment on Failed Leadership, Community Oppression & Political Exploitation

As many others have said, the conditions shaping the uprising in Baltimore are not new. They have developed and evolved since the April 1968 uprisings following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the short clip below, former U.S. Congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume talks about the consistency of the conditions during that period, and the conditions now. The tensions won't disappear anytime soon, and they are likely to stay extremely high with the new update from the Baltimore mayor that no public presentation of the early findings of the investigation into Freddie Gray's killing will be forthcoming.

A brutal and oppressive political and legal structure doesn't go away easily. And the growing organization and clarity among young people, and a reawakening of the consciousness and sense of responsibility among members of the older generations within the African American community, not to mention the increasing awareness and related experiences among other groups, suggests that the pressure and organizing for fundamental structural change will continue.

As it should and must.

29Apr/150

Refusing a Pathology Narrative re: Baltimore: Activist Deray McKesson Skillfully Shuts Down Wolf Blitzer

There are at least two major narratives coming out of the Baltimore Uprising. The major media narrative appears to be one that condemns everyone involved in violence, property destruction and confrontations with law enforcement. This narrative includes the frequent references to 'looters', 'vandals' and 'thugs'.

Another narrative is one that acknowledges the decades (centuries even in the greater scheme of time) of domestic terrorism inflicted on African American and other African diaspora communities. This narrative reflects a greater level of understanding and appreciation for the many lives lost to state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings of Black women, men and children, as well as the tremendous trauma endured by the millions of people who witness and endure these and many other forms of racial and structural violence, imposed or otherwise condoned by the government and its law enforcement arms.

With each passing day, however, I am more and more encouraged by the level of awareness and clarity with which we are collectively pushing back against the racist "thug" narrative, and affirming the right of Black folks in this country and beyond to be infuriated by this living condition, and expressing our determination to right these wrongs - to achieve justice and well-being for our families and community.

Below is one such example, featuring Deray McKesson pushing firmly against this pathology narrative, and affirming the dignity and humanity of our people in the face of such terrorizing conditions.

28Apr/150

Baltimore Uprising – Gang Members Speak For Themselves: Truce is About Justice for Freddie Gray, Not Hurting Cops

Please watch this from beginning to end, and share with others. This is not the narrative you'll get from the major television news networks. The gang truce in Baltimore is focused on achieving justice for Freddie Gray, and not harming the cops.

If you want to understand young people and their sensibilities, you first have to listen to young people and what they say about their sensibilities.

From Baltimore's WBAL-TV News...

Members of the Black Guerrilla Family, the Bloods and the Crips talk to 11 News, saying they did not make a truce to harm police officers.