If I get cussed out one more time over the Common Core…Smh. Black parents, you might want to know the truth behind Common Core.


Check this out! Ever hear the loose argument that American students don’t perform as well as kids in “other” countries—like the blanket term “other” is enough to cast a net of shame over all American education, for it be weak and pathetic to be outperformed by any “other” nation. But does any one ever give any facts, or reference any statistic when setting up this argument???


One source to blame would be the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses half a million 15 year olds from 72 countries (members of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). About two-third’s of the exam is multiple choice, and one-third consists of open ended questions. They administer this test once every three years, and all OECD participating members size themselves up and make big decisions about their nation’s education policy and practices over the results. Check out the data for 2015 here: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf


It’s true. The USA doesn’t come out on top. More like on top of the middle third, which still means, optimistically speaking, above average. I am not arguing that average is good enough for the world superpower. We can always do better by our children. But here’s what they don’t tell you, and this ignorance keeps adding fury to an already frenzied educational system.


All of our students attend school. ALL OF THEM. The special needs kid, the kid who is new to English and isn’t legal yet and never attended school before in his 15 year old life, and the kid who doesn’t want to be in school alike are equally opportune to take this test. Many developed nations have tracked educational pathways which segregate academic students from vocation bound students. And usually, this happens upon exit of middle school, if not sooner. By the time their kids are 15 years old, they’ve been removed from the testing pool. And that’s only if they were ever in attendance in the first place. No! I’m not the most patriotic American in the world, especially these shameful days, but the USA does a hell of a job upholding the philosophy that every child within our borders deserves a fair shot at academic education. We don’t steer kids into vocations any more. Now, whether or not that academic education upon delivery is “fair” is a very different matter. However, just know that a lot of the fury that reshuffles the way we teach and what we use is based on sensationalized data reporting. Also, check out more data on the International Study Center website for yourself, in case you’re better at reading charts than me (which is totally possible) and want to read the data for yourself.

For the folks who want to reminisce about how wonderful vocational training was, let me just remind you that our great nation has a history of pigeonholing brown and black children, and “tracking” them specifically for vocational training because “them just ain’t smart.” Vocational training programs were dismantled when it became clear that we couldn’t take the racist out of the system, but we could remove the escape plan, making it difficult for educators to deprive children of the academic instruction they deserve no matter their presumed level of smarts. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 initiated lots of talk about education, but the 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act raised the bar of expectation on schools to provide “services” for ALL students to receive a meaningful education. Even though, this law mostly spoke to discriminatory practices against students who spoke languages other than English, the idea was clear: You can’t just throw kids away because they aren’t easy to teach. The vocational classes were an easy way to throw away non-white kids.


The Common Core, also referred to as the Common Core State Standards, reflect what a bunch of expert folks agree are the skills kids need in order to be “academically successful”. The bones are fundamentally the same as they were in the old days folks. Relax!


The problem most of you are having, as far as I can gather from your frustrated tirades, has mostly to do with your poor lost and confused teacher.


Picture this: You go to school to learn to teach. They give you tools, knowledge and material, and pat you on your back as you march to your classroom, with your head up and your shield ready for combat in the name of the greater good; idealism pulsing behind your eyes. And on your way past the classroom threshold, they snatch away everything, belittle you, and say “juggle, you fool.” Teachers are not prepared to execute the new instructional demands of the Common Core standards, and no matter how you yell at them, juggling the pressure between delivering quality instruction and learning the material themselves doesn’t get any easier.

Many of us, even those who went to school in the hood like I did, had teachers that had been teaching the same subject(s) for 20 years. Today, if you’re child is lucky, her teacher may have outlasted her peer teacher cohort past their second year. What does this tell you about our system? In which profession does one become “good” after only two years? I personally don’t feel like I taught at all until my third year, and I certainly never felt like I had command over the craft of teaching until my fifth. But imagine that all the resources you were prepared to use vanished. Many teachers are expected to teach without any resources beyond the internet. Heaven forbid they are caught with a textbook. And instead of recognizing these teaching materials as simple resources to be incorporated from time to time, we inevitably demonize the whole practice of employing text books as “old school” and ineffective and passive and WRONG. Instead, your child’s teacher has not been equipped with the skills or resources to fairly prepare and provide classes with the skills Common Core exalt. Just know that you only feel one-twentififth (25 being the best reported average number of students per class) of the frustration your child’s teacher feels. I promise. The teacher is not the enemy. Neither is Common Core. But I’ll give you a million high fives if you get together with other parents and demand that your child’s school provides adequate training in the educational practices that align with Common Core. Get them to use tax-payer money to bring in the professionals who know Common Core, and who know how to teach actual people (for teachers are people too), and get your teachers the support that they need to teach without a text book. Heck! You go to the trainings too.


I dare any parent reading this: Challenge yourself to have an open mind about the Common Core, and read between the blurred lines that perpetuate the blame game in education. If it’s not called the Common Core, it will be called something else equally as reflective of a movement that alienates black parents from having a hand in helping their kids in school. And teaching your kid to do it the old way, may seem like the best course of action until your child reaches the age where he or she can’t compete with high performing peers that learned the “new ways” (the Common Core ways) to problem solve. Jump on the band-wagon, black parents! Learn about it or, if you can’t, find your child the tutoring service he or she needs to do well in school. Our people have the tendency to opt-out when we need to opt-in, especially if we know we have to work twice as hard to get half of what “they” have. Also see my list of online resources that provide instructional support.


Am I fan of the Common Core? Absolutely not. I’m indifferent to be quite honest. They can brand whatever they want, as goes the game of capitalism permeating all facets of life including education. And, for those of us who have been in the education game for a full life cycle or more, I know that in about seven years, they’ll be a new brand that’ll bring everyone to their knees all over again. Ack! Whatever…good teaching is good teaching. Later for the hype.





This is for all the ghetto girls who spent afternoons gazing out barred windows and who dreamed to be somewhere anywhere else. This is for all the kids who took sanctuary in their closet to escape the dysfunction of their habitat. This is for all the big foot, thick thigh mama’s who were made to feel ashamed of their bodies, to cover up, to wear oversized t-shirts, and who grieved their differences from the girls on t.v. This is for all the Cosby Kid Wanna-Be’s. (Aren’t we angry at the man but so grateful for his art, for it helped save our lives from the cycle of poverty.) For the latchkey kids who wanted their mom home instead of at work… until they discovered call waiting and three way. This is for every free spirited wild woman who wants to live without borders, except the ones she chooses. This is for every girl who refuses to say ‘yes’ because it’s cool for everybody else, and who says ‘no’ because someone has to ‘Goddamn it!’ This is for the “Too Much” women, the “Rainbow Is Enuf” women, and every woman who is part wolf as much as she is wind and water. This if for every black woman who has lost a brother to gun violence and continues to lose others to the prison industrial complex and other social injustices. This is for every woman who has ever loved another woman so much she learned to see the world contrary to her own self and with newer more compassionate eyes. This is for every woman who knows she deserves a furious love, and couldn’t find it, so she stopped looking and then ooops… found it. This is for every human who has reached the end of her limits and discovered a whole new self that was pretty fucking super hero-fantastic. 

Note 1

Don’t expect to find normal. Being different means realizing your true self. What makes your cells come alive and your toes curl specifically belongs to you. Let go of the expectation that other people SHOULD relate, and be grateful when someone does.

Note 2

Hold fast to old friends. Maintaining old relationships helps us honor our past, our commitments, our most sincerest selves. Old friends remember who you were, what trials you’ve lived through, and can help keep you grounded when we become too aloof. Our new friends aren’t equipped with the tools to rescue us from ourselves. 

Note 3

Let every step we take be to maximize opportunity. Since most of us can’t figure out what we want, we ought to make consistent choices that allow more room for opportunity.

Note 4

The older generations don’t get us! They are caught somewhere between envy and disgust with the whole lot of us. So stop telling them things. Just show them. 

Note 5

Rituals (Not to be confused with routine) bring inner stability. No need to be faux-Buddhist. My chant: “No toilet. 12. Toe!” (I’ll explain later.) Just make it something that empowers you to feel good, to help you find your happy place, to make you laugh. It’s okay. You can keep it a secret. Rituals = structure. And the brain loves structure.

Note 6

Practice makes perfect. When learning something new, everybody thinks they suck. And if you’re the unfortunate person who has to practice in front of others who are amazing at what you’re trying to do, just tell yourself that they are too absorbed with criticizing they’re own image; they can’t possibly notice how much you suck. Sucking is a rite of passage. (Keep it clean fokes.) Learn to love sucking. Smile at it. Laugh at it! And schedule a point in the not so near future to stop and reflect on how far you will have come.

Note 7

Challenging the self is its own reward. Try something new. Pick something. Anything. And challenge yourself to do it every day, just to nurture the spirit of success in the self. Success is an excellent addiction.

Note 8

Consume less! Make it a mantra. Make it sport you enjoy. Ask: Can I have one less…or, a little less…? For, if I’m not prepared to carry it on my back for a few hours or between travel destinations, I’m not buying it. Furthermore, a mentality committed to consuming less not only help save money, it can help you lose weight. I lost 15 pounds (slowly) just by fixating on consuming (with my mouth) less than what I would have before in my splurge by urge days.

Note 9

Consume positive media! Oh god! Music, pictures, videos, and tv. series alike have the power to influence your mood. If you choose the happier stuff, you’ll feel happier. Same goes for blood wrenching, corrupt, and violent stuff. Alls I’m saying is that Game of Thrones has certainly taken something away from my spirit that took dozens of TED Talks for me to get back.

Note 10

Free time should be free from self judgment. Doing whatever you want to do sometimes mean doing nothing at all, walking in circles, imagining, coloring, etc. Free time lets your own voice surface, unbridling your true desires and interests. It’s no surprise we in the US make no priority of vacation time. Heaven forbid we figure out that we don’t want to go shopping to make us feel better, and instead actually want to do something to BE better.

Note 11

No one else can define the experience of love in your body. That cliche romantic experience of a passionate love that renders you helpless, captivated by…–yeah that shit leads to self abuse for many of us. This is not reality, the norm, natural, nor necessary in order to have a fulfilling loving relationship. Your body and your mind determines the love experience for you. So don’t hold yourself or anyone else to the standards of French romantic propaganda.

Photo Credit : Vhdragoon Photography


If you’re planning to go on a lengthy excursion about the earth somewhere, do yourself a favor by packing these items in your backpack.

1. Q-tips (for your make-up removal and hygiene needs).When you buy these overseas, not only do you get shafted for buying them in the smaller quantity size, but the quality usually doesn’t meet a q-tip junkie’s standards. I’m just saying…pack some in sandwich bag, and you’ll be most grateful you did.

2. Sunblock.

SPF 30 is sufficient for all shades. Don’t ignore the truth. We need protection too. Some of my hippie dippie homegirls use coconut oil for it’s natural sunblocking properties. A little protection makes all difference on your skin 10 years from now.

3. Good smelling shower gel or soap.

My recommendation is for peppermint or citrus scented soaps. Trust me! There’s nothing like fresh feeling skin when you’ve spent a whole day in transit, between national borders, on public buses or a safari truck.

4. Needle and thread.

If your intention is to not weigh yourself down with more luggage, you probably want to maintain the clothing you have. A single needle and a spool of white and black thread comes in handy in case your hemlines come undone on your trip. And some of us don’t want to waste precious travel time locating a seamstress to mend our clothes for us even though in most developing countries it’s dirt cheap.

5. Sarong that works as a head wrap and scarf.

I’ve lived in sarongs. You can use it to wrap your body, your head, lay it out and take a nap on it at the beach, or throw it over your shoulders or legs in case the AC is suddenly too strong on that border run bus ride.

6. Tupperware of small sizes.

Two firmly sealable containers come in handy, and sometimes in the strangest circumstances. I’ve brought tupperware with me while I was frolicking around street market stalls and to restaurants. Not everywhere does take-away. If you tote around your own container, you can get spring rolls to go, and not worry about grease stains in your purse. Other times, I’ve used my tupperware to store my toiletries in a hostel bathroom, or to store cooked food in a shared kitchen.

7. Ziplock bags (also for storage of food and things).

If lugging a container on an excursion to the markets doesn’t suit you, some good ol’ ziplock bags (go with quality ones) will do the trick. You also want ziplock bags to store your packed away liquids and/or dirty clothes. I usually bring 5 one gallon size. 3 quart and 3 sandwich size.

8. Quick drying microfiber towel .

These towels not only dry quick but they usually come in small totable sizes. Nuf said.

9. Nail clipper. 

10. 1 hair care product.

YOUR 1 ESSENTIAL hair care product that absolutely cannot be found in other places outside of your home country AND that has a very specific purpose. Don’t judge me. I use Ampro Pro Style gel to twist my locs. I bottle this stuff up in smaller tubes (3.4 oz bottles. Thanks TSA!) and bring it with me in proportions that I KNOW will be SUFFICIENT. Too much more, and it weighs my bag down. But hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, aloe vera plants, etc. exist all over the world, and I know that I can find any of it when necessary. Keep your bag light by limiting your hair care products. I know it’s hard black girls. Embrace the adventure and be as basic as you can.

11. A snack size bag of condiments and seasonings.

Look! You may not want to eat out every day you’re traveling. Having a few packs of salt/pepper and ketchup/mayo/hot sauce goes a long long long way on the days you just want to cook for once and don’t want to run out and buy seasoning to flavor your “good enough” meal. If you keep a spork on you, you’re waaaay ahead of the game.

12. Minimal make-up (cuz sometimes you want to live above grundge backpacker status).

I bring an eyeliner, my favorite 2 lipsticks(to support my day and night lip looks), mascara, a small eye shadow panel(something with shimmer), and a Mac Studio Tec compac (maybe). Truth be told, when traveling I rarely put on make-up at all. The beauty of travel is in the freedom to find and be exactly who you are. But just in case you want to glam up your look for an evening out, it’s nice to not have to shop around for your old reliables. Sidebar, quality cosmetics in much of the world is waaaaay more expensive than in the USA.

13. Inspirational electronic books.

Everyone has their own reading preference. But I strongly recommend reading books that give you hope, courage, emotional support, and all that on the happy side of feelings wheel. Consuming positive media keeps me motivated to try new things and to be brave when in a new environment. To know surprise, many of the folks you encounter along your travels may have something to say about these inspirational titles. Use it in friendly conversation with strangers. Some of my favorites are: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Alchemist by Paulo Cuehlo, The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived by Og Mandino, 5 Love Language by Gary Chapman. See my list of favorite travel books here:

14. Headlamp.

If you’re traveling to a developing country, it is always good to bring a headlamp with you. I’ve used a headlamp when going for an evening hike, or walking through dim lit (but very safe) street. Using your phone light may not be comfortable if you’re needing to hold on to bike handle bars, for example. Also, in case you’re a back packing G, for real, having a headlamp easily accessible is a peaceful way to not disturb your hostel roommates at night while you read or search through your luggage.

15. Box o’ matches.

Sometimes, a girl needs a light.

16. Medi-Kit.

No matter where I go, I’m sure to have the following:

Alcohol pads (3)

Painkillers of choice (travel size)

Anti diarrheals (travel size)

Dramamine (travel size)

Bandaids (3)

Theraflu (1 packet)

Alkaseltzer (3 packets)–If I’m drinking enough to need one of these, my drinking buddy probably needs one too. And last packet is a back up. =D