Category: Social IssuesBlogs in Category: 67  


Published On 02-15-2014 , 5:28 PM

A dozen roses. A box of chocolates. A romantic candlelight dinner. A thoughtful present wrapped with fancy red ribbon and bow.

Oh, a card with clever wording that says you’re very special.

What about a Valentine's Day when the goodies don’t come your way?

Will it still be Valentine’s Day?

I sure hope teachers have gutted that awful practice of providing the youngsters they’re in charge of with a list of their classmates and then expecting each student to scribble classmates names on envelopes and insert  signed-by-them Valentine cards.

“Do I have to give one to Jaime, ‘cause he’s the one who always says I’m fat?”

“Now Melanie, you don’t want to leave any of the kids in your classroom out, do you?”

And Ms Convincing Mom will add to this unholy conversation saying something stupid like, “Melanie, you want everyone to give you a card, don’t you?”

As a society, we practice some very unforgiving annual rituals and as parents, without a thought behind our actions, we fall prey to something called Valentine’s Day that doesn’t, in any way, help our kids grasp the reality of life.

But maybe this business of getting or not getting a Valentine card, even without a discussion about rejection and acceptance, paves the way for life’s challenges as our little darlings grow older.

No red roses on February 14th, when you’re a girl and 18 years old, may be easier to swallow if you didn’t get very many cards in the 3rd-grade classroom.

Those silent tears of rejection, many years ago, can jubilantly be seen as the precursor to no candlelight dinner when you reach the age of 30.

But it’s a new age. The cards are probably no longer a classroom event but instead young kindergarten to 3rd-grade students are posting their child-like romantic notes on Facebook.

And maybe even the boxes of chocolates are being ordered online to be delivered to that special person by drone or maybe Fed-Ex  is still employing humans.

A night out? Well, that may still be in operation BUT the roles have probably been reversed and the women are taking the men to the candlelight affair.

But hold on, not quite so fast, Ms Shirlee. This blog is supposed to be about Valentine’s Day being a mean-spirited time for those who suffered through childhood not being special to any of their classmates.

I haven’t forgotten my point.

Every kid is special, and every parent - if you didn’t do it this year, do it next -ought to send their kids some roses or a box of chocolates. The kids can even be provided a candlelight dinner right there at home or, if the budget permits, at one of those places where the waiter gets a tip.

About that gift with the fancy red ribbon and bow?  Let’s hold off and  see if the younguns remember how special we are with their present for us !

Happy belated Valentine’s Day.

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Published On 01-31-2014 , 6:05 PM

There’s no longer any point in making comments on the nonsense of daily occurrences because after so many years of writing, I’ve said it all.

If I were to reread any one of my columns or a blog from last year or, for that matter, 20 years ago, (but blogs weren’t out way back then) my words would be the same.

There’s an expression about nothing new under the sun and these words keep circulating through my creative process - and this mantra is holding me back.

The other day a reader sent me an article about a father, a highly- respected professional in his field, who had been arrested for abusing his teenage step-daughter both mentally and physically.

“Will you comment on this?” she inquired.

Someone else emailed the latest information on the Beiber Kid’s criminal antics and said, “You’ll have a good time with this info.”

All of you readers know exactly what I would say about both of these stories; you just don’t know what words I would use to describe the crazy life pieces we’re all asked to absorb nowadays.

Which takes me to the glory of, ah, yesteryear.

I polished my saddle oxfords every school night before I went to bed. There was no decision as to what pair of shoes I would wear with my plaid skirt or any other skirt because saddle oxfords went with everything other than one’s Sunday go-to-church clothes.

Shoes to match my skirt or sweater? A pair of socks took care of the matching process.

And nowadays females have abandoned the $2 pair of socks (well they now cost $10) for an array of colored shoes.

Ah, yesteryear.

Late for the after-school high school student association meeting?   Nowadays a text to say someone was coming late.  Life was easy then - the group saw you when you got there.

Facebook? There was always somebody in high school that the majority of kids didn’t really like, but that person only faced scorn in something called a “slam-book.”   And if you weren’t in the circle of those passing the book around, hey, you didn’t have the opportunity to know what mean lyrics from a popular song got dedicated to the unpopular teenager.

Ah, yesteryear - and we didn’t even know the living was easy. Nor do those who can’t talk about way-back-then know that living today is a tough menu full of odds to beat, horror stories to accept as okay, kids running the households and issues seemingly with no solutions

My parents solved a lot of things quite easily. If Harold called on the telephone and they didn’t think he was an appropriate friend, they didn’t bother to give me his messages.

Parents answered the telephone.  Even when extensions were created, kids didn’t have the luxury of a conversation that the Masters of the house didn’t have authority over.

I’ve strayed from the central topic of nothing to write about but maybe not, because I’ve come to think there’s too much to write about and it is a hell of a job trying to make any kind of sense out of any of it.

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Published On 01-25-2014 , 4:47 PM

I heard, like most of you, that Justin Bieber got arrested. I didn’t much care and thought surely there was some real news going on that the giggling-in-the-field reporters and giggling-in-the-studio anchors should be laying on us.

Am I being anti-social and pretty much alone in not believing that  the antics of this teeny-bopper has any real meaning in my life or in the lives of those I’m surrounded by? It could be that I watch too much coverage of the news . Well, let me quickly correct that statement. Maybe I watch too much of what should be coverage of the important things occurring that impact our lives.

CNN reported interviews with parents and the impact his arrest would have on their kids and then their staff people went on to raise the issue of how parents should explain this to their kids.


Just in case you are smart enough to have avoided this story and are even extra-smart and don’t even know who Justin Bieber is, I’ll spend a quick few lines here, to spell him out.

He is the 19-year-old pop star idolized by millions, who Miami, Florida, police arrested Thursday on charges of drunken driving, resisting arrest and driving without a valid license after police saw him street racing early Thursday morning.

Back to the so-called intelligent and educated folks - TV personalities - asking what should parents tell their kids; who said there are no dumb questions?

Beiber’s arrest is not, in my opinion, anything like the kid’s grandfather having skipped town with the 30-something housekeeper or like the family dog having been run over by the trash truck while the kids were at school.

Those are sensitive family issues that do, indeed, require time to determine the best sensitive approach to deliver the news in a manner the family’s young people can digest and learn how best to live with.

How did we tell our kids that Michael Jackson was dead? It didn’t take pondering and wondering in my case - it was my kid who told me the King of Pop was no longer with us.

I was the bewildered one and thought for sure she was talking about Michael Jackson the radio talk show host.

But once I got over the initial shock and made it to the television screen where she had gotten the news, together we learned the first details being reported.

And so, there’s the answer for the dumbest question I’ve heard.  Parents don’t need to tell the kids anything about Bieber’s arrest; they can turn on the boob-tube and watch the gigglers, but I suspect their compadres will have instantly texted them the info and parents will be on the late train trying to introduce the topic.

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Published On 12-21-2013 , 8:01 PM


Ever wonder why you, your kids and your family are doing so well? Maybe you think this statement is somewhat intrusive since I don’t really know how you or the others around you are managing.

 Well, you’re right to question my making these assumptions. And you’re right if you’re thinking I’ve got a lot of nerve.
But don’t we all spend a bit of time making judgments about others?   And doing that takes a certain amount of nerve.
That said, I hope you get my drift that I’m pretty much on the same track as everyone else.
When the Holiday Season hits, sometimes, as members of this society of ours, while realizing there are definitely people less fortunate, we get so busy with our own “doing well” that we don’t take the time to reflect on the “others.”
Sure, just about every kid gets a wrapped present from a fat guy dressed in red at some holiday event thrown especially for the “less fortunate.”
And every year television news saturates us with shots of celebrities working side by side with regular volunteers dishing up Christmas dinner plates for the destitute and homeless who’ve shown up at some designated yearly spot.
But neither Christmas cheer nor holiday meals go very far when a lifestyle of doing without and of having no knowledge of how to climb the ladder out of drudgery exists for the other 364 days of the year.
Ah, knowledge. Forgive me for introducing such a sobering concept when right now it’s pretty much shopping, eating and, well, all about merriment.
My apologies, but I come upon too many parents with children who, while lost right now in the celebration we once remembered having Jesus being the reason for the season, are overwhelmed with life’s everyday challenges.
Ah, knowledge! Dare to give a different kind of holiday cheer. Dare to give a cheer for long-term knowledge. Dare to help families help themselves not for just one day and not just for all year but for generations to come.
If you don’t know someone, surely you know someone who knows someone who is a former foster youth or who is the child of an incarcerated parent.
There I go again, making more assumptions, huh?
Maybe you really don’t know anyone living such a lifestyle.   Oh, well.
 Maybe you can ask around. Maybe you will share this blog.   And perhaps even step out of the comfort zone and find some of these kids, because we’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime to offer them.
There are higher education scholarships just for them, and if they take the step on this higher education ladder they can break the cycle of not knowing how to change a lifestyle.
How do I know you're doing well?   Well, I don't, do I? But I suspect that you're neither in foster care nor that your mama or your pappa is behind bars.
                                                              You’re doing well!
Please follow these links to future Happy Holidays that last a lifetime - college scholarships for kids who never thought they could.
                               Find a kid or make a donation - Happy Holidays to all.

Visit our News and Announcements to learn more about these scholarships:

Associate Dean Debra Leathers at

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Published On 10-11-2013 , 9:52 PM

Amongst other complaints that I heard from a young teenager about his family life was the disgrace he felt having to wear “hand-me-down” clothes.

Oh, if he were just the older brother.  All of his clothes, I think he called them something else, but for the sake of old-timers reading this I simply use the universal description of that which we wear on our bodies and, as this kid sees it, get judged by.

This was his beginning-of-the-school-year whine and discontent.  Ah, yes, he answered, he did get some things that were new and were brand name complete with a well displayed logo.  But…..

With my old-time reasoning, I further inquired about the family’s washing machine.  Another yes from the ungrateful but typical kind of kid-attitude that currently plagues our nation.

Well, since there was a washer and a dryer in the house, why didn’t he simply wash the brand-name stuff and keep the hand-me-downs in the drawer or in the closet, I asked.

When I was told he couldn’t keep wearing the same thing all week, even if it was clean, I  came to know that school uniforms were the answer to stop this kind of wardrobe nonsense .

But then the kid balked at my suggestion that he attend a school where he was required to dress like everyone else.

While trying not to pay any more attention to his condemning his single parent for not caring enough about him to have him “keep up with the Joneses” I had a flashback to some fifty years ago when my oldest daughter went off to kindergarten.

We lived in Boyle Heights, a low-income community,  and she was enrolled at Malabar Street School.

Sometime during the first few weeks of school I went to meet her teacher.  The first words the woman spoke, after welcoming me to the classroom were, with an exclamation point, “Where does your little girl get those clothes!?!.”

I have no idea if I answered or, if I did, what I said, but I’m sure I didn’t tell the full story.
I would have said that my mother, the kid's grandmother , was a domestic and “The Lady of the House” had a spoiled child named Michelle, and this little girl was the same age as my kid.

Ms Mason, “The Lady of the House” - fancy house, I might add - did not allow her little Princess Michelle, (as my mother had to call her), to wear her dresses more than twice.

And so, my kid was dressed in hand-me-downs.  Children of domestic servants,  often wore that which the white folk sent home with the help.

I wore the clothes my older sister outgrew.  I wore the clothes that came to our house in big bags from my mother's and her friends' employers.  My older sister and I developed a system when we saw my mother arriving with a bag.

We yelled, “First Chooser,” and the one who said it first, of course, meant that she got the best of the lot.

We didn’t think any less of our parents because we weren’t out shopping for something new.  I wasn’t resentful because I had to wear my sister’s plaid jumper.  In fact, when she got it from the big bag, by having yelled “First Chooser,” I knew that in a year or two it would be mine.

Today’s kids have it entirely too good.  But I suspect a wake-up call is close at hand.

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Published On 10-06-2013 , 12:58 AM

Sidney Clifton, known for her television and film projects that reflect her commitment to telling the truth, empowering the voiceless and being of service, will read selected poems by her late mother, Lucille Clifton, from "The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010," at our non-profit's up coming benefit event,  Mothers Behind Bars: The Parent Puzzle.

 Sidney Clifton is president of Sanctuary Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based content development and production company and is currently a production executive with Bento Box Entertainment.  She says about parenting:  “We must give children the tools for navigating our sometimes challenging world, thereby teaching them to walk with honesty, courage, and grace.”
Clifton’s support and interest in sharing her family’s philosophy expressed though her mother's award winning poetry gives this event the same “each one teach one” point of view the Parent puzzle classes are built upon.
In 2010, California State Senator Carol Liu, suggested that our organization take our parenting classes to incarcerated moms. Working  with  former inmate Gloria Barrios we redesigned the classes we'd  been offering to the general public and adapted them to fit the needs of mothers behind bars.

Classes are in their third year at the California Institution for Women in Chino , and are completely filled. In fact, there are over 100 mothers on the wait list. 

Mothers Behind Bars: The Parent Puzzle, Sunday, October 27, 2013, 3-5 p.m. at Hillsides, 940 Avenue64, in Pasadena will raise funds to support the prison project.

 Other speakers for the event include: Gloria Barrios, mother and former inmate, State Senator, Carol Liu; Los Angeles County Supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich; and CIW Warden (A), Kimberly Hughes.
 Recipient of the Humanitarian  Award - Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Marguerite D. Downing. To attend the event, please rsvp:

Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 available at


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Published On 09-17-2013 , 5:04 AM

 Jaylene Moseley, known for tackling sensitive social issues and through the work of Flintridge Center's reintegration project , has been named Honorary Chairperson for Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith’s upcoming benefit event – Mothers Behind Bars: The Parent Puzzle.
In 2010, at the suggestion of California State Senator Carol Liu, Talk About Parenting worked to change their longtime parent workshops to be useful to incarcerated mothers. Smith worked with her formerly incarcerated friend, Gloria Barrios and the Parent Puzzle classes were born.

 Moseley, who is Flintridge Center's President, says: “Talk About Parenting is doing such critical work. When incarcerated mothers improve parenting practices, their children’s adjustment to both incarceration and reentry improves, and families are strengthened.” 
The classes are in their third year at the California Institution for Women in Chino and are completely filled. In fact, there are over 100 mothers on the wait list. 
Smith says: “Moseley’s unwavering support of the underserved and Flintridge Center’s work to reintegrate previously incarcerated individuals back into the community reduces recidivism and blends well with our organization’s mission of improving and strengthening the quality of family life, thereby benefiting the broader community.”

Mothers Behind Bars: The Parent Puzzle, Sunday, October 27, 2013, 3-5 p.m. at Hillsides, 940 Avenue 64, in Pasadena will raise funds to support Talk About Parenting’s ‘s Parent Puzzle program at CIW.

Music for the event to  be provided by the John Tribasso Youth Jazz Ensemble and Sidney Clifton,  Emmy nominated producer and daughter of renowned poet Lucille Bradford, will deliver selections from her mother;s award winning collection.  "The Spot" is catering the event..

Speakers include: Gloria Barrios, mother and former inmate, State Senator, Carol Liu; Los Angeles County Supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich; and CIW Deputy Chief Warden, Kimberly Hughes.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Marguerite D. Downing will receive the Humanitarian Award..
We hope YOU will join us. . RSVP on our homepage  -

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Published On 08-30-2013 , 3:53 PM

I didn’t join the marchers in Los Angeles earlier this week and neither did any of my children. Well, they’re not children - they are, now, adults.

When I asked the eldest if she’d followed the “happenings” on TV that day, she nonchalantly asked what was I talking about.

“The commemoration,” I responded in some sort of disbelief.

She then wanted to know what commemoration.

Patiently, as we’re required to handle things as parents, I answered matter-of-factly, The March on Washington - King’s "I Have A Dream"speech.”

“Oh, that,” she said with a distinct tone of annoyance.

Not much different than the gentleman at our monthly discussion group who said he hated the speech and was pretty much tired of all the media focus on That Speech when King had made so many other ones.

These marches, many people say, draw the necessary attention to the social injustices of our time. If people don’t demonstrate, which is often the question, how will their concerns be heard?

I can hear the wheels of the grocery shopping carts that the homeless, everywhere, are guiding through the streets.

I hear social injustice as the homeless make a lot of rattling noise with the recyclable bottles and cans they are picking out of trash cans and dumpsters.

The social injustice of our time can be seen in real time human form sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in alleys and on the street.

These throw-away people are too weak to march. They’re too disoriented to carry a placard. And those who were remembering 1963, when King performed in Washington DC on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, most likely would not be wanting to have the unbathed, unshaven and matted-hair homeless next to them.

Nary a current marcher who I heard interviewed by reporters, spoke of America's real shame.

Hey, but then, I wasn’t too different to my offspring; I forgot to turn on the television to catch the show, so since I missed the opening act I can’t complain, can I?

So what’s the matter with my household and the guy at the discussion group? Well, he later said he was pretty much disillusioned and knew darn well this country wasn’t much about taking care of the have-nots no matter what color they were.

My eldest said she was busy preparing for the first week of classes at the local community college and really didn’t have the interest or time to get worked up about “this stuff.”

But don’t we realize what King stood for? Don’t we understand the struggle for social justice?

We must be blind to the hands on the clock turning back. We must be forgetting to ponder the questions as to whether black folk are better off now than they were in 1963 when King said, “one day. . . “

Maybe members of my household realize their life didn’t change when Obama became President or when Oprah Winfrey was denied entrance to the high-end specialty store.

The Dream?

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Published On 06-23-2013 , 4:13 AM

Maybe I'm not getting the facts correct, but I've been known to misunderstand things, so this confusion I'm experiencing isn't exactly an anomaly.

Readers will no doubt set me straight, as they often do, even when I have a clear vision of what I'm writing about and the position I've taken on the issue.

Kendrec McDade, an unarmed black male teenager, was shot to death by two Pasadena police officers in northwest Pasadena, also known as the 'hood, on March 24, 2012.

The incident began when police dispatch received a 911 call of a suspected robbery with a weapon.
An investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. They found that the use of deadly force by officers Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin was justified.

Turns out the wrong-doer, the real bad guy, in this case is none other than Oscar Carrillo, the man who made the 911 call saying he'd been robbed by armed assailants.

According to police reports, Griffin shot McDade when he, with his hand in his waistband, ran toward the officer while he sat in a police cruiser.

There was no gun found on McDade's body, but a cellphone was reportedly found in the front pocket of his sweat pants.

Carrillo pleaded guilty to one count of falsely reporting a criminal offense and one count of reporting an emergency knowing the report was false.

Carrillo has now been placed on 36 months of probation with the following terms: 90 days in county jail; perform 90 days of community service in lieu of additional jail time; pay $3,078.69 as victim restitution to the Pasadena Police Department; pay court costs and fees; and obey all laws.

Of the terms, Pasadena City Attorney/City Prosecutor Michele Beal Bagneris said,
"We believe we reached an appropriate sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime committed."

It's pretty hard computing the math on this one. That's what keeps me thinking I'm missing something basic.

Two officers shoot to kill and are justified in using deadly force in taking the life of an unarmed suspect, but the foolish man who called 911 thinking he could get a quicker police response if he said "weapon" is now having to pay the police department and other related fees, clean up the freeway and serve some jail time.

We have a practice of discussing a range of current news items during dinner at my house. This Carrillo conviction is one I'll have to relegate to the conversation we have surrounding the commercial where the dad and daughter are reviewing their phone bill and every time the kid adds something, the dad has to correct her.

The final line in the scene is when the kid looks up and says, "Phone company math is hard."

Justice math is just as hard.

I respond to all comments!

Copyright © 2013, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 03-17-2013 , 7:55 AM

The strawberries, in the regular plastic box with a lid, were 99 cents for the one-pound container.

Ah, yes, they were fresh with bright green tops and they cost me half the price  I would have paid had I bought them down the street at the other store where people come from miles away to buy the great produce.

A politically incorrect Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opened where I live, on the west side of Altadena, in spite of much protest.

“And just why are you shopping here?” I inquired of a woman loading a few groceries into the back seat of her car.

Her answer explained quite well her view of knowing how to spend money wisely.  No, she’s not going to be a supporter of the new kid on the block because she knows, she said, that overall their prices really aren’t low  - “It depends on what you’re buying,” she proclaimed.

She’s been providing groceries for her household for more decades than she wanted to reveal and knows the should-be price for everything she buys.  Establish a price range, she said, and know what’s your limit, and you’ll come away leaving many an item on the shelf.  And that’s just what she did at Wal-Mart.

Me, I hit the check-out line spending three bucks for three pounds of strawberries and headed down the block to Super King, the market with the fabulous fresh produce, and did my shopping for the morning.
As usual, the place, unlike Wal-Mart,  was swarming with shoppers.

“You what?” shrieked a politically correct friend of mine whom I encountered in the leafy- green vegetable section.

“No way am I going in there,” but she said with price being a huge consideration for many people feeding a family, she understood them spending their money with a corporation that underpays workers and neglects to provide benefits.

“Don’t go back,” she said to  me with a fixed gaze.

I passed her admonishment on as I left the store. I smiled at a shopper, leaned in close and said,  “Remember not to go up the street to Wal-Mart.”

Shirlee with a double standard?  Say one thing and shop another?

I went to the grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony where a bunch of  so-called community leaders were swarming everywhere. Were they shopping?  Didn’t see nary a one with a basket.

The store manager handed out grants to a few non-profits, who, more than likely, supported the store coming here, against the protest.  The John Muir High School Drum Corp had a few neighborhood folks moving to the beat, a  local school board candidate was  handing out vote-for-me stuff, and the head of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce had words of welcome.

Me? I’m hanging with the folks who drive from afar to shop at Super King.  But I’m going to Wal-Mart for just one thing; the hook-you-in-the-store-item.  Shoppers who watch their money will be documenting the win-some lose-some prices at Wal-Mart.

You, make a comment and I'll talk back!!

Copyright © 2013, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 02-09-2013 , 5:19 PM

It’s not real smart for today’s black parents to rely on February as the month their children
get to find out who they are, and, most likely, the scant amount of information the kids get exposed to isn’t coming from their homes.

It doesn’t matter how many marching bands wearing colorful uniforms, high-stepping pom- pom girls with flowing store-bought hair or scantily decorated floats there are in the annual Black History Parade taking place in urban cities across the country, the majority of those who line the sidewalks to watch the show of colors historically speaking aren’t any the wiser.

I accept the accusation of raining on someone’s parade.  I’ve been accused of much worse over the span of my writing career which is close to forty years now.

I’m not one to defend my point of view.  I simply see my job as presenting it and graciously dodging the bullets fired in my direction.

This time, before the ammunition gets leveled against me, I’m here to set up a few reinforcements.  That really only means I’m going to support my claim that Black History Parades have very little to do with our history.

The Buffalo Soldiers take part in many of these February street shows.  Amen, they are history.  But aside from the parade announcer's brief remarks about the group's role in American history, parade viewers are left to stomp their feet, wave their arms and shake their butts to the intoxicating drum beat that tends to overshadow the contributions of the horseback riders from their integral part of American history.

Maybe the parent parade-goers actually take note and have their children research who these fierce calvary men were and what their service to our country entailed. Now, if you think this would happen, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you can purchase.

A tribute to Crispus Attucks by carrying a banner in any parade marching down Martin Luther King Blvd. in any city just isn’t Black History.

Crispus Attucks? While it is often asserted that he, a runaway black slave,  was the first to die in the American Revolution, research sometimes questions this.  But Attucks was one of the first killed by British troops in the Massachusetts Massacre in March of 1770.

Do our children, black and white, learn about this man in their history classes?  Maybe so, but as parents we need to seize the opportunity to take the lesson much further, and lining the parade route in the name of Black History unfortunately dilutes this kind of effort because Attucks is to be out-cheered by the crowd as local politicians and celebrities wave from their top-down convertibles.

Ain't much to be seen in a parade or heard by listening to the announcer's commentary that's gonna teach our kids what reading books and listening to the elders would do for learning some history.

Drum beats and shaking booties just ain't  my kid's history.

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Published On 02-02-2013 , 7:48 PM

Some years ago, during the late 1960s, my younger sister, who at the time was attending UCLA's law school, was part of a project that took her to one of California's state prisons for men.

She said she saw why she and other black women her age had trouble finding men to date: “They're all locked up,” she declared.

Far too many people will reflect on her off-the-top-of-her-head statement by answering back with the all-too-familiar viewpoint suggesting the high numbers of black men in the criminal justice system simply reflect their law-breaking lifestyle.

But I suppose my lawyer sister, like the rest of us, kept on doing whatever our individual agendas called for and neglected to keep a count as to what was actually going on.

Too many of us got professional degrees and forgot who we were. Too many of us moved away from the 'hood and thought we had arrived. And too many of us, who knew someone locked up, said, “He did the crime, so he's doing the time.”

While just about everyone I know, who looks like me, knows someone who belongs in some dismal way to the American criminal justice system, too many of us were unavailable when it was time to lend a helping hand.

Too many of us like to say, “those” families over there on Summit Street in Pasadena, Forest Avenue in Kansas City, Orleans Street in Baltimore or 103rd Street in Los Angeles, have folks in prison because that's where they need to be.

Then there are the many who aren't saying anything, maybe because of denial and fear that if they start questioning why so many black men are locked up, they'll be letting the pretend game out of the bag.

It was Kanye West  who said, “George Bush doesn't care about black people.” I can't remember that the young entertainer used any statistics or other facts to back up his assertion. In fact, I think he back-pedaled a bit in follow-up interviews.

Shirlee Smith says America doesn't care about black people, and I'm backing up my assertion by asking you to turn to the pages of attorney Michelle Alexander's book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

If my sister thought all the “fine” black men were behind bars in the 1960s, today's count makes a serious thinker have to wonder about the act of genocide.

Am I a rabble-rouser? Don't listen to me, read the book. Don't listen to me, join one of the New Jim Crow discussion groups  at All Saints Church in Pasadena at 132 N. Euclid Ave.  For meeting dates and times, visit

Cornell West, professor and theologian, spoke on the subject  at the church earlier today.  His sermon may still be available via streaming on the website.

Thanks, All Saints. But am I the only one who wonders why the churches in the 'hood aren't addressing this issue?

Copyright © 2013, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 12-07-2012 , 3:54 PM

Some years ago, I stopped driving past the high school in my neighborhood at dismissal time.

The outfits worn by female students were beyond disgraceful. Skirts were tighter and shorter than the dress code should have allowed.

Teenage boobs — accentuated by polyester stretch T-shirts that were four sizes too small — had the look of breast implants on a 40-year-old woman.

“What momma let her daughter out of the house dressed like that?” was my question.

The answer was simple: Knock on the door of the home where any of those girls lived and when momma answered, she’d be wearing an outfit equally as disgraceful as the daughter’s.

So now, out of the mouth of babes comes a call to stop this female trash on parade.

Along with a few friends, Saige Hatch, 15, a student at South Pasadena High School, has founded a Modesty Club. They hope to put a curb on short shorts, miniskirts and the showing of midriffs.

City of South Pasadena officials declared Dec. 3-7 Modesty Week.
Will this make a difference?

The city’s recognition most likely is not going to change what Jana, Maria or their counterparts decide to wear on any given day or week. But it certainly brings attention to this form of indecent exposure, which parents and even PTAs ought to focus on.

Will other American cities proclaim a Modesty Week? Probably not.

Will students throughout the nation establish an organization like Saige’s? More than likely, the response would be a loud and forceful “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Let’s get down to the origins of the problem. It isn’t just the homes and lifestyles these provocative young ladies hail from, but it is also our country’s social environment, which heavily influences how young girls see themselves.

No billboards, movies, videos or other marketing tools tell these young damsels that being a Plain Jane is a lifestyle worth emulating.

Too few parents understand the relationship between what their daughters want to wear and the role models and patterns of indecency that surround them.

Tramp-style dressing doesn’t begin in high school. A mother sitting across from me in the nail salon proclaimed that her 4-year-old daughter, who was getting a manicure with little jewels set in the pink polish, was mature before her time.

With great pride, mom went on to explain this little girl’s grown-up summer wardrobe. It included much of the stuff that South Pasadena High School’s Modesty Club now asks girl students to abandon.

If parents don’t object to their daughters’ style of dress, no number of campus clubs or city declarations will create a reason to become a Plain Jane.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun


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Published On 11-22-2012 , 10:02 PM

Giving thanks is quite different from giving gifts.

Giving thanks is a far cry from getting caught up in Black Friday madness that is just a pitch from merchants to keep people spending money by offering them a terrific chance for saving.

Teaching our children to understand the importance of being grateful for what they have tends to contradict the prevailing American concept of always wanting more.

Far worse is the sad but established pattern of parents accepting this as a way of life and raising their children to adhere to this give-me-more tradition.

Let us give thanks and teach our children to do likewise.

How fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads, one that wasn't blown off by an angry hurricane called Sandy.

How fortunate we are to have homes with heat to get through cool winter evenings and electricity that lights the path down the hallway at night.

How fortunate that our children are able every year to find boxes full of their favorite decorations to set the house in holiday fashion.

As adults, we know that we are blessed. We are grateful and we give thanks. But what about the children?

It isn't morbid to teach them that others are less fortunate. As parents, we have a responsibility to interpret life for our young. That includes helping them to understand the importance of the small things — the everyday conveniences — that they have come to take for granted.

With the emphasis on Black Friday, there's not much reason for parents to ponder the real needs their children have.

In today's troublesome economy, making sure the Christmas list gets checked twice could have real meaning if interpreted to mean the double-checked item is one that there's no need to buy.

Every child needs the same gift. That gift does not come wrapped in glossy paper, adorned with a bow, sprinkled with sparkle or placed under a tree.

We should give children a chance to see the holidays as more than providing a list of wishes.

Every child, infants included, will be given the experience of observing adults who bless the holiday meal.

Every child who can talk will follow the blessing with an “Amen.” All who can speak will use their voices to say thank you

Fulfilling a shopping list doesn't have to be a holiday tradition just because that's how it's always been. What's wrong with adding up our blessings rather than adding up our holiday credit card indebtedness?

Readers may not see things my way on this one. But I hope that while you are pronouncing me somewhat crazy, you'll ponder the true need for our children to become appreciative of the things they already have.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 10-26-2012 , 9:36 PM

A 50-something voter told me this presidential election is a crucial one, and she plans to follow every utterance the Democratic and Republican candidates make.

She confessed that she was a late-blooming politico, and that never as a young person did she feel she had a civic responsibility to place her mark on any ballot.

She shamefully revealed she didn’t even register to vote in her younger days and told herself, as many others do, that her one vote didn’t matter.

But changes some years ago in the Medicare coverage that she relies on for a condition she’s had since birth made her wake up and smell the roses. Or better put, it made her notice that presidential candidates have positions on issues that can affect her personal well-being.

Then there are the young adults who use their Facebook pages to remind online “friends” of the voter registration deadline.

Once upon a time the phrase “you can’t vote if you’re not registered” didn’t have much meaning to those who had — as they always seemed to say — too many important matters to take care of.

But the convenient voter registration tables that sprung up this year in neighborhoods throughout California and stayed open until midnight on Monday, Oct. 22, the last day to get into the pool of those eligible for Nov. 6, turned many a procrastinator into a responsible citizen.

“You can tell my story, but you cannot use my name, please,” I was told by a young person who, for several years, had continued to vote at the polling place assigned to him at his old address. He never bothered to update his registration when he moved, but this year said he could take no chance on being turned away at the polls when his identification didn’t match the registration.

Late Monday night, he went online to find a registration place in his neighborhood.

While the Harvard University Institute of Politics is predicting low turnout among those between 18 and 24, unscientific data that I’ve uncovered find the presidential and vice presidential debates have generated high interest. The possibility of President Obama being unseated by Gov. Romney has some folks on the move.

“Not if I have anything to do with it,” announced my 21-year-old daughter. She went on to add that her friends are getting their passports in order, just in case Romney’s people outnumber Obama’s people on election day.

My daughter doesn’t have a passport. Maybe a few of her friends do, but these comments tell me the debate parties she’s attended have had some meaning.

I’m not arguing against the Harvard Institute’s findings about the lack of enthusiasm they’ve detected among young voters. I’m just wondering if it means my daughter and her homies are out of sync with their peers.

I’m wondering if the 50-year-old and the procrastinator are simply anomalies.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun


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Published On 09-30-2012 , 1:41 PM

Before Facebook and Twitter, folks in my old neighborhood understood that the best means of getting the news out was neither telephone nor television, but was what we called Tellawoman.

The news that a home in the 1600 block of Glen Avenue in Northwest Pasadena was bombed last week spread quickly by the voice of a woman — although she did use a telephone. It was another woman via telephone who let it be known that gunshots were heard early Wednesday morning, coming from the same Northwest Pasadena area as the bombing. Joseph Jones, 23, an African American male, was shot near his home on Stanton Street and later died of his wounds at a local hospital.

The Jones shooting made television and the papers, but so far there has been no media coverage of the bombing.

“They ain't gonna let people know Pasadena's a powder keg of gang activity — and Glen Avenue is just too close to the Rose Bowl and a Saturday UCLA game,” said one old-timer.

There's always a “they” in conversations like this, and it doesn't pay to ask those making commentary who “they” are. That kind of interruption to the flow of words would simply designate the inquisitor as an outsider who shouldn't be confided in.

There's much value in people believing they can talk freely, and I'm not about to violate that trust. I know what it is folks are talking about.

“They” in this instance means Pasadena city officials. “They” are the people who control the ebb and flow of everything, in this case information, in the city.

Neighbors, I'm told, stood outside while firefighters extinguished the flames and police crime-taped the perimeter of the home on Glen Avenue.

Gang-related seemed to be the consensus of spectators who had long complained about what they deemed suspicious activities at the property.

“Oh, you live in Pasadena,” remarked a woman I sat next to many years ago in Los Angeles. She had an air of, “well, well, well, you're not from the 'hood.”

I've since changed my tune. When I'm engaged in casual conversation in Los Angeles, I now designate my place of residence as Inglewood so people can understand I know who I am.

There are those Pasadena stories covered by the media, the 1993 Halloween murders, for example, that help the general public understand this city isn't just the Rose Parade and football games played at the Rose Bowl.

But the kid who woke up around midnight Wednesday morning calling to his parents that he heard gunshots isn't fooled into believing his life is safe just because he lives walking distance from the famous football stadium.

While his parents assured him he should go back to sleep, as there was no trouble brewing because no helicopters were overhead, the kid well knew the sounds of his neighborhood.

Without any media coverage of the carnage in the 'hood, the bombed home with the crime tape stands as a reminder that Tellawoman is still a reliable tool for delivering the news.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 09-15-2012 , 10:54 AM

I've never been a member of the NAACP  but my father was. Mr. Pickett, as my children called their grandfather, was a real activist.

One of his early accomplishments was working with other young people in his Boyle Heights neighborhood to change the Evergreen Park swimming pool policy so it allowed people who looked like him to enter the water.

After attending an NAACP event in Pasadena on Thursday, I wonder: Do people cancel their membership in an organization if they believe the group has strayed from the path?

Would Dad, like a  Vietnam War protester with a draft card in the 1960s, have burned his NAACP membership card in front of the Hilton Hotel, where the Pasadena chapter of the organization held its annual Ruby McKnight Williams Awards event on Thursday night?

While Dad was an activist at heart, too many of the well-heeled, middle-class friends he acquired later in life would have occupied the hotel's crowded ballroom pretending it was quite OK that Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez was the event's emcee.

“Girl, you'll never guess, you just can't even imagine, who the NAACP has got for an emcee,” came the first phone call telling me about this blunder.

“Honey,” is how the woman at the bus stop started out once she was through commenting on my Obama T-shirt. She let each letter roll off her tongue so I would know she was indignant about something mighty special to her.

She remembered, as the rest of us in and around Northwest Pasadena do, the March 24 killing of Kendrec McDade, an unarmed young black man shot many times at close range by two Pasadena police officers.

“They just weren't thinking,” said a not-too-bright friend as she tried to make the case for the NAACP giving a prominent role at the event to the man in charge of the officers with blood on their hands.

I beg to differ. They were thinking quite clearly.

After joining those in front of the hotel protesting the chief's appearance Thursday night, I sat with the well-heeled supporters for the awards dinner. My suspicions were confirmed.

The awards were pretty much secondary to the prominent role the chief played, when you think about what the accolades heaped upon him would mean for his standing in the African American community and elsewhere.

In introducing Sanchez, NAACP Pasadena President Joe Brown said the man goes by many names. Sanchez was pleased with the names mentioned, though he indicated he was concerned as to what names could have been used.

That earned a few chuckles from the audience.

Not to worry, Chief. Pasadena folk aren't about to rock the boat as long as there's some back-room deals to be made.

My dad wouldn't be pleased with this column, nor will those friends of his who were among the 400 guests of the NAACP on Thursday night.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 08-18-2012 , 8:38 PM

Local city councils are going iPad. Well, some are, but a spokesman for another one prefers a wait-and-see approach to the real worth of this technological gadget.

I tried that wait-and-see method when one of my daughters suggested I abandon my IBM  Selectric typewriter. She never said it was cost-effective, which is what the cities are saying about reducing paper use and staff time preparing printed reports and agenda packets. She simply said computers were the wave of the future.

“I'm doing just fine,” I told my know-it-all UCLA graduate. Then I dramatically hit the key for the automatic carriage return. Ah, I was so updated from the old Remington Rand, where I had to slap the carriage-return bar.

Some people are quick to embrace technology, and she was one of them — expecting me to give up the erase key my typewriter featured, which was an improvement over the old-time correction method.

An iPad? No, I think it was an iPhone the Apple Store associate used to swipe my credit card when I was there for a purchase last week.

“Where's the cash register?” I wanted to ask, but I have learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to iPads, iPhones, iTunes,  iMac and other Apple iStuff.

I'm surprised that La Cañada Flintridge, the local city holding out on a switch to iPads, prefers to watch and wait for the results in other close-by city councils.

In this mad age of technological gadgets, it's either get on the bus or be lost in the dust.

As my daughter spelled it out way back when she told me, “Mom, do or die, because typewriters are a thing of the past.”

She was right. The typewriter died, and paper is slowly but surely following it to the grave.

San Marino and South Pasadena got smart, and their city councils are taking meeting information on iPads. Pasadena council members have computer screens installed on the dais where they can view information.

Even the doctors at Kaiser Permanente have patient records on a computer in the exam room. Well, maybe it is an iPhone like the Apple Store associate had, and the doctor can swipe my credit card to pay for the visit.


My daughter says it's soon to come. She's right about a lot of things, like my Selectric being outgunned by the Mac she bought for me.

I'm not suggesting she help La Cañada Flintridge see things her way. But I do wonder what exactly they are waiting to see.

I suspect these folks may be stuck in yesteryear owning their own IBM Selectric typewriter, and are still marveling at the automatic carriage return and smart-erase key.

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Published On 05-24-2012 , 5:23 PM

When we’re parents, the responsibility for providing enlightenment for those in our charge tends to lurk in just about every corner of our existence.

Sometime the preaching happens when the kids are young, and we can truly testify to watching the sermons lead to blossoms as they grow into teenage years and in some other instances it seems as though our years of oral drills fall on deaf ears.

 My grandmother, Lily Pickett, believed the children under her guidance should all become Republicans.  She believed strongly in the party because, as she told us from as far back as I can remember, they were the people who had freed the slaves.
But my grandmother also believed everything she read in the newspaper.  “That’s what the paper stated,” was one of her favorite lines that we still laughingly use decades after she coined that phrase.
I don’t believe what the newspaper states nor do I believe that Granny Pickett, as she was called, had a full picture of the free-the-slaves issue.  But I do believe, and very strongly, that as parents we have a responsibility to involve our children in an age-appropriate involvement with the political process.

When showing up at your polling place, why not take the toddler with you?  There’s a little bit of a conversation to be engaged in - a very simple one that repeatedly uses the word vote.

There’s a practice voting machine at the polling place that a kid can try out to see how things work.

When voting by mail, why not let the young one drop the ballot in the mailbox, proving that same easy-going conversation that includes the word vote?

When the young family members come of age, those political mailers that seem to arrive at our homes on a daily basis can be the topic of useful conversation as to what is being offered to the voter.

I suspect those seeking office aren’t so much concerned with how an individual voter perceives their message as they are with presenting a platform that will deliver votes.

This is exactly where Granny Pickett’s way of seeing the printed word raises serious concerns for me.  Admittedly,  in my childhood, I didn’t question her reasoning and may  well have believed what she preached.

But today’s young people are considerably smarter than I was. As my twenty-something daughter sat with me to review a recent stack, yes stack, of political mailings we had piled on our coffee table, she determined the message from the California State Assembly candidates, Chris Holden and Victoria Rusnak, meant she would either have to vote for a person with experience or for someone wanting experience.  Michael Cacciotti, running for the same office, caught her attention for being, what she called “fiscally responsible” for sending out (so far) only one mailing.

Will she pick her candidate based on campaign literature? Will she spend time reviewing the ballot measures?  Will she make her voice heard by mail or in person?

Will she vote on June 5? Will you?

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Published On 04-13-2012 , 5:03 AM

Long before cell phones were in everyone's hands or home telephones were called landlines, phone booths could be found on many a street corner.

Ah, yesteryear. Much has changed since the old days. But too much has remained the same.

The tall white guy with blond hair had a knife to my teenage daughter's neck as he pushed open the door of a phone booth at a gas station and demanded I follow him to a darkened area.

I quickly told the person on the other end of my call to get the police to the corner of Orange Grove Boulevard and Lake Avenue. Then I complied with the assailant's order. But on the walk I managed to pull my hysterical teenager free.

Mr. Blond disappeared into the night.

Pasadena police arrived and, with the description of the assailant, asked me to ride with them as they canvassed the area.

In an alley, their squad car came upon a crouched figure. The short Latino guy was ordered to stand with his hands in the air. I was asked to identify the suspect who wasn't tall, white or blond.

I said he wasn't the culprit, but the police handcuffed him anyway.

Recently Oscar Carrillo — who called in the false 911 report the night his car was allegedly burglarized by a 17-year-old aided by Kendrec McDade (killed later that night by police) — put himself in harm's way when he used his cell phone to make that report.

Carrillo's call, his subsequent arrest for lying about whether his assailants had guns, and his brush with immigration authorities regarding his status in this country, have wrongly placed him front and center in the tragedy that took place when Pasadena police officers Mathew Griffin and Jeff Newlen shot and killed the unarmed 19-year-old McDade.

Carrillo more than likely believed he would get a quicker police response if he reported weapons were used in the burglary. But exaggerating a problem is not an unfamiliar tactic when a person wants to shorten their wait time.

Nor is law enforcement's ability to select a scapegoat anything new.

On March 31 Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez held a meeting at New Revelation Missionary Baptist Church and provided attendees with his department's account of the killing, including a focus on the recording of Carrillo's 911 call.

Carrillo lied. But he did not shoot and kill, as the two officers did.

Like the Latino man in the alley who I watched get cuffed and shoved into a squad car while the blond-haired assailant was left afoot, if Chief Sanchez has his way in focusing on Carrillo's cell phone call, his officers will be left afoot to shoot down more unarmed young black men.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 02-02-2012 , 7:04 PM


Tavis Smiley, author and host of television and radio talk shows, spoke in Pasadena last week at an event sponsored by the Caltech Y and Black Students at Caltech Present. I forgot to attend the event held  at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium.

On second thought, I’m not quite so sure that it was forgetfulness that kept me from listening to the learned speaker lambaste President Obama for neglecting America’s poor.

Speakers at Beckman Auditorium generally entertain questions from the audience, and I suspect my staying away was pretty much a reflection of my mother’s way of raising me.

“If you can’t say anything good, Shirlee Annette, just keep your mouth shut,” she hammered at me throughout my growing years. If you’re a regular reader of this blog/column, you know I have strayed far from her teaching.

According to the Pasadena Sun’s coverage of the event, one student in attendance told Smiley she was pleased to have a speaker who wasn’t addressing physics or science, and asked if he thought unemployment has increased because Americans today are simply lazier than past generations were.

With an audience member that naive, I’m surprised Smiley didn’t seize the opportunity to provide clips from the recent Poverty Tour he and his sidekick, Princeton Professor Cornell West, conducted across the country.

Instead, he is reported to have answered, “I think it’s hogwash.” He went on to explain, “The reason we are in the mess that we are in, in a word: Greed.”

If we think that answer sounds like the Occupy movement, we may be on to something. What’s really going on when it comes to lambasting the president for ignoring the plight of hungry Americans? What’s really going on when Smiley comes to town to raise consciousness in regard to the 99%?

Back in the day, back in the 1960s, messages like Smiley’s were most often attributed to “poverty pimps” — people benefiting by putting themselves in the forefront as the representatives of, or spokespersons for, disadvantaged minorities in the inner cities.

You may say I’m spouting hogwash, as Smiley is well-heeled and very well-suited. What has he to gain by moving to the forefront to help America’s impoverished?

I say, in four words: Greed for the spotlight.

He brought his Poverty Tour mentality to Pasadena, but only a handful of people showed up — about 100 in a room that holds 1,155.

Maybe, instead of the southeast end of Pasadena, Smiley should have stopped by the northwest side of town, where poverty has been lurking for decades and where the residents don’t see their plight as something new or newsworthy.

But among those I asked in my neck of the woods, nobody knew Smiley was going to be here.

Had they known he was coming, would they have gone to hear him speak?

Gerry Lewis said, “ I would liked to have listened, so I could disagree.”

Thanks to my mom, I wasn’t there to speak from the floor.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 01-20-2012 , 12:47 AM

It is no simple matter for a mother to decide what to do with a newborn she doesn’t want.

Some folks must think it is, because over the years I’ve heard people say, “She shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place.”

That’s nonsense. Although not every woman is ready to admit her pregnancy or pregnancies weren’t planned, the truth of the matter is a whole bunch of women probably shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place.

Motherhood is supposed to be so sacred that many folks can’t come to terms with a mother not wanting her child. It happens!

For every woman who has an abortion, gives a child up for adoption, abandons a baby in a trash can or drops one off at a designated safe surrender location — as occurred at Huntington Memorial Hospital last week — I suspect there has to be some trauma involved. It isn’t for the public to point accusing fingers, since we haven’t walked in the woman’s shoes.

In Chicago this year, a 13-year-old wrapped her newborn in a pair of jeans and left the child in a dumpster. A bad young woman or a scared kid with no one to talk to?

In Queens, N.Y., last year, police arrested a 23-year-old mother a few hours after she’d given birth in the bathroom of a hospital and left her newborn to die in a trash can.

Another bad young woman? Or maybe just one who doesn’t know how to make good choices and has no clue when it comes to available resources?

Across America, programs allow a mother to take her newborn to designated locations, usually fire stations and hospitals, and leave the child anonymously.

California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law lets a mother give up an infant up to 72 hours old at any hospital emergency room in the state. In Los Angeles County, fire stations are also drop-off points.

Last week a newborn baby was taken to an Alhambra fire station, and firefighters brought the child to Huntington. A bad woman? An unmotherly act? Quite the contrary.

The question this surrender leaves unanswered is why she took the safe route and found the avenue that would provide her child a home. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services will place this baby for adoption.

What is a woman to do when she doesn’t want a baby? Abandonment most certainly isn’t the answer. Abortion depends on one’s faith and perhaps one’s belief in when life begins.

Is it for the rest of us to pass judgment or could we, instead, help by making sure our teenagers aren’t scared, that they have someone to talk with and that our twentysomethings learn about available resources?

Bad or unmotherly? Neither title helps us understand that not every woman who becomes pregnant wants a baby.  For detailed information on national safely surrender visit:
Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 01-05-2012 , 3:36 PM

“Just Imagine” was the theme of the 2012 Rose Parade, and it resonates in more ways than one.
Just imagine growing up on the low-income side of town but not allowing what other people call your neighborhood to crush your talents or your quest for excellence.

Just imagine that ethnicity doesn’t really hold one back, but that a person's own belief that ethnicity matters might.

Just imagine Raul Rodriguez, the awesome designer of Rose Parade floats, believing that just because he grew up with a Spanish surname in Boyle Heights did not mean he was destined for a life of gang-banging and serving time in the big house.

Funny how one’s neighborhood can become the defining element of who we are and who we’re expected to become.

Even more ironic is how our living spaces are so often defined by outsiders who simply dwell upon the negative and never seem to find the positive on the other side of the tracks — the low-income side of town.

The 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles and the aftermath spoke loudly as to how the public viewed Boyle Heights and the Mexican American residents who lived there.

Later, in the early 1950s, while a student in a leadership position at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, I, along with other students, was sent by the school administration to ride along with reporters and photographers from a national magazine who came to the neighborhood on assignment.

We didn’t see any young gangster-type Mexican American men roaming the streets. The journalists were unable to spot any pachucos. No White Fence gang members were evident, either.

Somehow these outsiders who came looking for a story, maybe a focus on one of the oldest gangs in Los Angeles, had no understanding of our community.

Growing up in Boyle Heights, I never saw a Mexican American criminal. I never saw White Fence gang members roaming my streets. Pachucos were evident because of their style of dress.

If the writers and photographers from the national publication found a story, I never saw it.

Cheers to Raul Rodriguez and to his family for bringing to light the positive aspects of a proud ethnic heritage, and that of community members grounded in values that help mold young men and women of extraordinary talent.

Rodriguez, profiled in the Jan. 1 Sunday Valley Sun, apparently is known throughout the world for his float designs. He began working at the age of 15 when he created his first float for the Rose Parade, and 2012 marked his 500th creation to roll down Colorado Boulevard. He has captured more awards for his work than any other float designer.

Just imagine the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade without the artistic mastery of Raul Rodriguez, who believed in himself while honing his talents on the low-income side of town.

Indeed, Boyle Heights is more than the community where U.S. sailors, in 1943, went on a rampage looking for Mexican American residents to terrorize.

Just imagine all the talent that could bloom if the issue of ethnicity didn’t get in the way.

Copyright © 2012, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 11-25-2011 , 10:43 PM

The stalking and grooming of children for the pleasure of deranged adults isn’t limited to the scandal at Pennsylvania State University, where it is alleged this kind of activity has been tolerated for more than a decade.

Predators lurk everywhere, and they have the benefit of fitting into the surroundings looking like the rest of us. My daughter learned that lesson — in a Laundromat.

It was a beautifully packaged, seemingly expensive and advanced set of art supplies. Just what any young person who had a mind set on someday working in the anime industry would want. For a kid living in the ‘hood, with limited money for purchasing artist gadgets, the gift was manna from heaven.

But the seemingly generous bearer of the package was no heavenly creature. He had no visible horns, nor was he dressed in a red satin outfit and carrying a pitchfork that morning. But he was most certainly the devil disguised as just some person from the neighborhood using the local Laundromat like the rest of us.

My kid knows that century-old rule about taking candy from strangers. I’m sure she knew something was amiss when, as we left the Laundromat, she showed me her newly acquired set of art supplies.

Who! What! When, and how did this passing of the package happen out of my sight?

I knew the gift was just the beginning. A kid from a low-income neighborhood who is gullible enough to accept a gift and not tell anyone is a prime target for being offered a ride at a nearby bus stop and taken for a predator’s dream spin in his satanic coach.

Most who have heard me tell this story have been as indignant as I was, and still am. But there have been a few, only a few, who think I’m overprotective and have a vivid imagination.

Why was Brandi given a gift for artists? She sat with me in the Laundromat with sketchpad and pencils. If she’d been playing with Barbie  dolls, the monster would have had a present in his car fitting that interest.

A vivid imagination? Some stranger who bypasses you and sneaks a gift to your kid has a well-worked strategy. Recognizing that doesn’t require any imagination.

Overprotective? Anyone who believes being alert and keeping children safe could cause more harm than good needs to understand child predators don’t just operate in the locker room, in the shower, on the Internet or at the local park.

Copyright © 2011, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 09-29-2011 , 11:32 PM

Increasing the cooperation and heightening the activities between  agencies that serve families has been, throughout the years, an on-going and useful l endeavor.

Recently, the Partnership for Children Youth and Families presented “State of the Kids,” a panel discussion at the Flintridge Foundation in Pasadena.. Participants included Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, Pasadena Unified Superintendent Jon Gundry, Dr. Eric Walsh, public health director for the city of Pasadena and Mercy Santoro, director of human services and recreation. Each emphasized the essential need for parental involvement if we expect children to succeed.

But as often happens, they were preaching to the choir. The parents who needed to hear this weren’t in attendance. The issue isn’t lack of programs for families, nor is the issue one of better coordination and cooperation among agencies, as is frequently suggested.

To the point: There needs to be a true understanding of why parents in need do not participate, and what can be done to change this.

What are some of those factors that contribute to this lack of family involvement?

Recently, I went out with an African American friend whose time in Pasadena dates back to her kindergarten days in 1960. During our dinner on South Lake Avenue, she told me we were out of place on that end of the city.

South Lake and Hamburger Hamlet, said my friend, was something our folks just didn’t do.

This story jibed with that of another friend, who tells of the treatment she and her mom received whenever they shopped at Helen Smith, Taffy or I. Magnin on that avenue.

Unwelcome signs don’t need to be hung in the window or placed on the counter. Families learn the skinny very early. And one thing parents definitely do is protect their young from hostile environments, whether it be on South Lake or in the social service program office.

As a latecomer to a city that is blessed with so many opportunities, I dragged my reluctant children to Beckman Auditorium, Norton Simon, the Pasadena Playhouse and everywhere else in town. But in the background was the constant complaint that there was no one else around who looked like us.

Gundry suggested to the Flintridge audience that we visit our schools and classrooms to see for ourselves what’s going on. One person in the audience, who identified herself as a parent, inquired about the insensitive behavior and the unwelcome format generally exhibited toward parents.

Gundry didn’t shy away from truth, speaking of of visiting a school and being left unattended in the office. He wasn’t treated, it seemed, too much better when he revealed who he was.

In this world-class city that is known for treating visitors so well, an unwelcoming attitude toward too many of our homegrown residents persists. This needs to be addressed and corrected. Asking Pasadena’s health, recreation, police and school district to heighten their collaborative efforts won’t do it alone.

Reprint from Los Angeles Times Pasadena Sun
Copyright © 2011, Pasadena Sun

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Published On 08-27-2011 , 10:56 AM

On one side of town an angry mom, angry because life just ain’t  what she hoped it would be, is yelling at her 7-year-old son, “ You just like yo’ no-good-daddy.  You ain’t never gonna be nothin’.  You gonna wind up just like him, no matter how hard I try.”

Yup, she’s just about right.  Not about how hard she tries but with pops serving a 3-strike life sentence in the state penn, odds are the offspring will follow suit.

As taxpayers, we support the criminal justice system.  We pay for the generational incarceration of families.  We support, and in the long run, pay for, the daily, monthly and yearly upkeep of those behind bars.

On the other side of town, 8-year-old Granville is off to spend the day with his dad at the medical complex the family has owned for many years.   Great Grand Dad was an orthopedic surgeon, Grand Dad was a pediatrician and Dad is a dermatologist.

Granville, like the kid whose pop is serving time, is most likely going to follow the family tradition. Granville’s mom doesn’t yell at him every day but in all her actions she helps him to realize what path has been laid for him to follow.

The frequent visits to the medical center where he’s known and is greeted with respect engrain in his psyche his rightful place in the world. Granville’s life of interacting with other children, young people and adults who share the concept of high expectations for themselves and for others have, for this young man, helped him secure his acceptance in any well-respected medical school.

Maybe, but I don’t think, we, the taxpayers, are going to feed and house Granville or his children or their children.  But his  medical family are, with the rest of us, going to keep on housing angry momma’s son, his daddy and the grandchildren in part because they don’t know how to break out of the lifestyle they’re accustomed to.

The orthopedist, pediatrician, dermatologist and young Granville have lived by a code and a pattern that’s been handed down through their family. They know the ropes and they know other people who are pretty much like they are.

Pardon me, but I forgot the 7-year-old’s name.  However  it doesn’t matter, anyway,  because he’ll soon be known best by the number he’s given in his state’s youth authority system.   And that number might even be the same he’s known by in the prison he’s ready for when he becomes 18.

He, like some of his Homies, won’t even get a chance to hit the streets after he’s  served time as a juvenile but, instead, will just get transferred over.  He might even get to meet the  “no-good-daddy’” he’s been compared to over the years, when he gets inside the walls where the adult men are housed.

Mom, from her side of town, while still angry,  wlll marvel at her ability to forecast the future with no thought of how she contributed to brining it about.

On the other side of town, Granville and his medical team of relatives, with his mom performing as the facilities receptionist in their life outside and far away from prison walls, will continue to lack understanding as to why that “other” population just won’t do what’s right.

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Published On 08-12-2011 , 9:32 PM

Are parents really to blame for the London riots as David Cameron, the country’s Prime Minister, has charged in his recent speech to the British Parliament?

The civil disturbance, as he refers to the riots, left at least 26 police officers injured and created over 55 arrests and was mainly carried out, according to news reports, by  youths - some younger than 10 years old - looting and burning buildings and cars.

But as happens all too frequently, after civil unrest occurs,  those in high position begin the task of shooting off their mouths and pointing fingers. Pretty much annoyed, in the first place, that this kind of nonsense should happen on their watch and in the case of Cameron, while he was vacationing - an attempt to rest from the exacting pressures bestowed upon a man of his high ranking position.

Upon his return to duty, it was at the emergency session of Parliament called to discuss the riots, that Cameron said family breakdown and poor parenting were significantly responsible for the civil unrest.

This guy's thinking takes parents to task for not having control of where their children were or what they were up to during those crazy days of street warfare.

Now, in the wake of  uncontrolled anti-social juvenile behavior, the  adult caretakers of  young people are suddenly expected to be so much more than society has ever helped them become.

Life in London for the disenfranchised, like life in Harlem, Los Angeles,  Chicago, Oakland or any of the urban centers in the good ol’ USA that I have visited, only becomes a focal point when trouble erupts.

The question of the poverty lifestyle that Cameron focuses on exists on a daily basis for families with single female heads of household, with children lacking access to quality education and people living in an environment spawning a culture that glorifies violence.

There’s no real help for troubled families whether here at home or abroad.  Right now  there’s lots of accusation, conversation and lots more  buzz being offered by the pundits, but the issue will quite soon be put to rest.

In Los Angeles, Watts went up in flames back in the summer of 1965. The Kerner Commission studied the causes and issued a report on that unrest.

I read it back then so when I visit Watts in 2011 it is clearly evident how much difference has not been made.

News coverage of that carnage produced a photo that appeared in one of our national magazines of a young mother inside a burning shoe store, not looting, but methodically trying to find shoes to fit her very young child that she had with her.

Poor parenting skills are abundant when you visit the homes of those on the margin of society.

Ask the parents who I work with, who our non-profit organization has been involved with on the streets and in homes for over 15 years, about where they see their children in the next 10 to 15 years and many, straight-up, will answer prison.

For those who dare to think differently and claim higher education, any further discussion lets you know they have no concept of which road will take them there.  There’s only one path on their horizon - the road to the big house.

Parents to blame? Unfortunately they only can do that which they know and Prime Minister David Cameron hasn’t helped them know any better.

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Published On 08-05-2011 , 9:29 PM

A heat wave, in very simple terms,  means the weather is very hot and has been so for a number of days.  Triple Digit, as the weather reporters refer to the temperatures when they get to be in the hundreds, generally translates for us common folk to mean - stay inside.

Football players, in hot helmets and hot body gear and pads are dropping dead again this summer because, it seems to me, neither their adult coaches or the parents of the players think like we common folk do.

In the midst of a summer heat wave, might parents say, “What about practice? Oh, no, you’re not gonna be out there on that field.”

Should any parent utter such fighting words, I can almost hear the teenager, the aspiring National Football League player, responding with,  “But my coach said . . .”

What’s with these coaches?  What’s with these men our young student athletes hand over their lives to in the chancy dream of being trained to make it to the promised land of football fame?

In Atlanta, GA, the local newspapers report that two high school football players, DJ Searcy and Forrest Jones, died last Tuesday following practice.  Officials, the paper says, are trying to determine the effects of hot weather on the players.

At the University of Georgia, researchers are in the final stages of a three-year study on heat risks associated with high school athletics.

Scientists at some notable institutes are reporting that overweight players turning out for first time seasonal practice, this time of year in the heat,  present a high risk factor.

In Texas this past week, even a high school coach collapsed and died after the day's practice.   His preliminary autopsy report lists heat exposure combined with a heart condition.

Gosh, one doesn’t have to be an official performing an autopsy, an academic researcher or  a scientist, to know heat isn't good for the body.

My mother said I couldn’t play jumprope or tetherball in my back yard on a hot summer day. My grandmother made me take her parasol to the corner store, even when it wasn’t  triple digit.

Maybe these folk in my family were the background of experience that led me to file a complaint with the State of California against the local sixth-grade teacher who continually ignored my notes to him stating my child who had asthma could not walk around the school field when the temperature was in the 100’s and fires were burning in the nearby  foothills.

Mother-wit can often trump those in power but I suspect the parents of athletes certainly put more stock in the star-maker coaches than in their own ability to know what's best.

Our aspirations for our children quite often mean the offspring are in the hands of others. May those others soon began to understand heat kills and it's okay for young football players and even coaches to stay off the field.

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Published On 07-08-2011 , 10:08 PM

It might serve the public well to stop obsessing over the not guilty verdict rendered in the Casey Anthony trial.

Was Anthony guilty of doing away with Caylee, her 3-year-old daughter? Did the jury allow a murdering mama to be set free? Did the prosecution prove their case?

Angry crowds are screaming "yes" to all of these questions. Protestors in front of the Florida courthouse where the verdict was handed down and bloggers and other writers online aren't accepting any of the words or reason explaining how our American justice system worked the way it should.

Gone from the counsel table is the sour-faced defendant who always dressed in drab-colored blouses with hair, like an old-time school marm, wrapped into a bun at the back of the neck.

With only a few days left before walking free, Anthony later appeared in court wearing a baby-blue sweater clinging well across her well-defined and curving breast.

The partying mom, as many called her, let her long hair flow down her back and drape attractively across one shoulder.

Tot Mom, as TV commentator Nancy Grace called her, was all smiles when back in court for the sentencing phase. The cameras even caught the most hated woman in America winking.

I suspect many of us wish this nightmarish event would go away. While the public is calling for giving Anthony some of what she gave Caylee and the talking heads on television suggest she just might want to relocate to another  country, there is a desperate need for a formula that will take us past all of this.

There are plenty of good people not having kept up with the trial and this aftermath who say they have a strategy. Entirely too busy, they say, to let an issue of this kind consume their time.

When my daughter Brandi announced that "Somebody is going to shoot that bad mother" as we watched the televised courtroom as the verdict was read, I had to try to have an understanding that this wasn't just any old trial.

The public feels a real connection to Caylee and the recent change to a baby-blue sweater, a fetching smile, long swirling hair and a winking eye by the accused has helped even those with a strategy to move away from this issue see a woman parading a smirk and swagger that says, "We fooled you once ..."

For any reality show offers or book deals that may be offered to Momma Baby Blue, I suspect they won't be money-makers. The public is not going to buy this mother's story.

May my Brandi be proven wrong in her belief that violence is yet to come. May the security that's being talked about for the entire Anthony family provide them a safer environment than that which they provided Caylee.

How do we get past this? At this point, what does justice for Caylee really mean?

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Published On 04-22-2011 , 11:01 PM

There's a lot to discover about kids by the way they treat their pets. And there are a lot of lessons about life that kids come to learn when they have one.

Dana the little dachshund got let out of the backyard by, as the teenage owner reported, a nuisance kind of kid who lived next door.

The nuisance kid and his mother went looking for the pet and even checked the local animal shelter but didn't find the dog.

The owner wasn't taking lost for an answer, and every day after school went knocking on doors in her neighborhood. One week later, she found Dana the dachshund under a woodpile at a house about a mile away from home.

Not such a courageous story is the one about the owner of the guinea pig who, like kids in many homes, never want to clean the cage or feed the little animal.

Mom eventually tired of reminders and kept her mouth closed until the day her pre-teen daughter had company over and was bragging about the pet and took the friend to the back porch to meet the creature.

What a sad ending, but what a lesson!

Daughter dear, who grew up to become a physician - her mother was a pediatrician - remembers the shock and embarrassment of finding a dead animal. Nor a not very fond memory, but certainly one remembered.

Just about every parent at some point considers bringing a pet into the family as an opportunity for love to be shared and responsibility to be learned.

All across the nation, today, shoppers are picking out cute and fuzzy little rabbits to give as gifts tomorrow, as calling them Easter bunnies.

There is no such thing as an Easter bunny that will hop down a bunny trail. After they've been lifted out of the decorated basket they've been presented in, every bunny will be just like any other pet.

While fuzzy, cuddly and cute on Easter Sunday morning, by evening there's going to be the task of cleaning up droppings that just about every kid will complain about.

The new pet is going to create the age-old routine of needing money for an adequate cage (the pretty basket is not an adequate home) and food.

Then there's the care that isn't a welcome chore, and by mid-week the kids have abandoned all responsibility. The animals get dumped onto the street.

Rabbit rescue organizations plead with the public to recognize that these cute animals aren't toys and shouldn't be given as an Easter goody.

Not only are there a lot of lessons to be learned by kids when it comes to pets. There is lots to be learned about adults from how they handle supervising their kids, helping them to understand the responsibility that comes with being in charge of another something's life.

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Published On 04-02-2011 , 8:02 AM

Abercrombie & Fitch recently decided not to market its push-up bikini tops to 7-year-old girls, who at this tender age, don't really have anything to push up.

Abercrombie & Fitch, according to my fashion-savvy daughter, is all about provocative clothing in the first place. So, if it decided not to market to the youngsters, this news, she remarked, must mean it was, indeed, pitching this junk to them.

Of course, that was the plan all along. But it seems the company has now bowed to pressure from a wide range of groups who complained about the sexualization of young girls. With the updated direction, only girls 12 and older will be targeted.

My friend Laurel Moss of Mendocino predicted the next thing we'll see hitting the kiddie fashion market would be little boy briefs with padding in the crotch.

Don't cross this off as being absurd just yet. If little girls can be made aware they should attempt to enhance what they don't yet have, why would boys be discriminated against?

With the kiddie fashion world always looking for a new hook and with parents who are gullible enough to buy and dress their kids according to someone else's dictate, I say anything is possible.

We have celebrities peddling their young daughters in adult make-up, fashion jewelry and 2-inch high heels - look out for what may be coming down the pike.

Suri Cruise, the 5-year-old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, not only masquerades in inappropriate attire but has also been seen with phallic-shaped gummy candy.

Is this little kid a trendsetter? Let's hope not.

I suspect the smart parents will outweigh the gullible ones - they with the grandparents will put their feet down and stomp out this nonsense.

For smart parents it will not matter much as to what the fashion industry has decided elementary school sex tantalizing students should adorn themselves in.

I'm looking for moms, even those with their own breast implants, to see farther than their own enhancements when it comes to purchasing push-uppers for their little daughters, putting them in high heels, adult make-up and allowing them to indulge in goodies that come in suggestive shapes.

At the pre-school age of little Suri, one would expect her to be enjoying the pleasures of childhood which certainly could include playing dress-up at home but wearing age-appropriate clothing for the outside world.

What difference does any of this make? Given the real-life concerns parents have to deal with on a daily basis, this stuff about what retailers are selling for kids, what age is appropriate for make-up and the question of little ones growing up too quickly is pretty much on the thought process back burner.

But maybe this kind of seemingly dumb stuff ought to be part of our real-life concerns. In a society that tends to embrace the concept of anything goes, if, as parents, we stop and ask ourselves what we want for our own sons and daughters we might determine we should at least give half a hoot about what other parents see as acceptable.

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Published On 01-14-2011 , 11:59 PM

The shooting death of Christina Green, the 9-year-old and youngest victim of the Tucson carnage one week ago, raises the question that we always hear when children are, what we call, cut short of the meaningful life they were meant to live.

Why Christina, we ask, who is reported to have been the kind of young lady every parent would be proud of?

Her parents, John and Roxanna, seem by news reports to be the kind of parents all kids would do well for themselves, if they were fortunate enough to have such guidance.

But too often our masterpiece creations, that as parents we dedicate so much time loving, molding and coaching, are cut short by a force lacking all that we believe in.

Jared Loughner, 22, the suspect who allegedly opened fire at the political gathering of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that Christina was attending, was that force.

Friends and classmates paint a troubled portrait of him that provided very clear signals that all was not well with his soul. But who was listening, seeing or guiding?

Nothing, thus far, has surfaced showing professional mental health intervention.

While I don't blame Loughner's parents for their son's alleged murderous rampage, and while I believe their statement expressing sorrow for the victims is sincere, I can't help but question their inability to see him as an unstable person that needed help.

While Christina's parents exposed her to opportunities that helped to establish her self-confidence and direction in life, in part, because they knew their child - no such practices, it seems, occurred in the Loughner household.

And how do I know this? I'm looking at the end result!

There were warning signs in this young man's life throughout the years and not just the ones reported by his classmates. At home, shouldn't his parents have recognized behavior, personality traits, and ability to cope and shouldn't they have known, in some way, how their kid viewed the world around him?

Political pundits on the left have seized on the Tucson shooting as an opportunity to discredit Sarah Palin and others on the right for their so-called inflammatory rhetoric, claiming it was the impetus for the massacre.

These folk need to spend some real effort learning more about the circumstances of the suspect's life and upbringing - that's the conversation that might lend some clarity and help heal our collective wounds.

Maybe Palin's mouth did have some influence. However, there are millions who've heard her and have heard others with caustic political rants. Since the rest of us neglected to buy a firearm, load it, take along extra ammunition and kill and injure people, there was something other than Palin moving the suspect down this dark path of destruction.

Like most people, and especially parents, I'm sure that Palin grieves for the loss of life and for those injured. I can't help but believe she knows, as I do, that but for the grace of God it could have been her child, mine or yours who was gunned down.

I heard Christina's parents say, in an interview, money sent to them would be donated to less fortunate children who lived on the other side of their city. What a noble commitment in their time of pain to remember those who have less.

Maybe on this weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday all of us might recognize the need to reach out, in some way, to the many troubled kids that nobody, including their parents, seem to know.

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Published On 11-05-2010 , 7:46 PM

FROM news reports, it seems that the youth didn't take Tuesday's election too seriously. If they had, the pundits have joked, the marijuana initiative (Prop. 19) would have passed with an overwhelming majority.

Not so fast Mr. and Mrs. Talking Heads. The member of the youth brigade who lives in my household took her civic responsibility quite seriously. She voted on the ballot measures and she voted "no" on legalizing pot.

Now, Brandi didn't just vote against it because she doesn't engage in the activity. She says she listened to Robbie Davis, member of the League of Women Voters, who appeared on my parenting show to discuss the pros and cons of the measure.

Brandi says she also listened to what Dr. Ho, a mental health specialist, had to say when he called into the program.

We look at our kids sometime and wonder to ourselves, "Geez, what have I got here?" Then, an election rolls around and I discover, like taking a bite out of the just baked cake, that the ingredients stirred into the cake really did produce something wonderful.

Along with having marked her sample ballot and being able to know something about those confusing measures, Brandi had a bit of advice for me.

Having missed the deadline to mail in our ballots, we sat down for lunch at Souplantation to talk about which of us knew what.

"Ah, I'm voting for my favorite, Portantino," she said with gusto and then asked me about her other favored local politician, Adam Schiff.

"Nope," I announced with the same amount of gusto she had for Portantino.

"What!" she exclaimed and went on to remind me that because of Schiff I received the Congressional Angel In Adoption Award.

"No matter," and I went on to remind her how I had thought Schiff was providing us tickets to the Obama Inauguration but upon arriving in D.C. and picking up the tickets discovering they were only for an area to stand and see the whole thing on a huge monitor.

And the next piece of our conversation is what brought me to the analogy of the ingredients we stir into oven delicacies.

With that typical eye roll teenagers have perfected and followed by a long sigh, Brandi politely asked was marking my ballot about small personal matters or about the bigger picture. She didn't actually use the bigger picture phrase - I think she asked something about the congressman's record.

There was no discussion between us when it came to California's new governor. Most certainly not the lady who for years didn't think she ought to vote.

We marked our ballots, stuck each in the little gray sleeve, put each in the pink envelope and sealed it up. We headed for the Senior Center to drop them off because you can drop your mail-in ballot at any polling place.

Before we could get out of the place, who should be coming in?

"Oh my God and she's not on TV," I shrieked and turned to Brandi saying, "And who is this?"

"Duh" was the message on my kid's puzzled face. After asking the second time, I realized something. I changed tactics and simply said, "Hey it's Meg Whitman. Get out your cell phone and snap a picture." Brandi later said she never watched the dumb TV ads and only heard them - she hadn't known who Meg Whitman was.

We got the picture; too bad we didn't have audio to record Meg claiming Souplantation was her favorite restaurant.

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Published On 10-30-2010 , 10:45 AM

AT my 19-year-old daughter's suggestion, we each tore off the back page, the request for vote by mail, from our Official Sample Ballot booklets and mailed them in to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk in Norwalk prior to the cut-off date of Oct. 26.

Why bother to write about this? Well, simply put, I think it's important to involve our kids, from the time they can blink an eye, in the voter process and we've been hauling Brandi to the polling place since she was a babe in arms.

That's not to say this early exposure made her determine it was time to spend 80 cents - 40 for the stamp on the request and another 40 cents for sending her choices in to be counted. But I do think her on-going involvement helped in knowing she'd have to follow instructions and make all designated deadlines.

She was eager. My kid, like so many other people, is simply weary of being saturated with Meg Whitman's promise to bring jobs back to California, Jerry Brown's alleged commitment to improve education, Carly vs. Barbara, Kamala Harris with too much baggage and, well you know the story because it plays continuously.

Now, will this voting early, now that our ballots have arrived, end the expensive and constant television overload? Absolutely not, but I'm not so sure Brandi realized this mail-in opportunity wasn't a Monopoly Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card that would spare her xyz more days of saturation agony.

Oh, she's reading over my shoulder and says she knows the ads will keep on running but she won't have to keep watching the measures or the candidates to figure out how to vote because she's made her decisions.

I'd like to believe there is not one sane soul out there in voter land who relies on the uninformative propaganda that is on the boob tube in order to determine where to mark the ballot.

But then, this TV strategy must be beneficial or the politicians and backers of those nine propositions wouldn't be sinking bundles of dollars into this plan.

If the TV ads are influencing the electorate, shame on my household for missing the beat of the general public by relying on the League of Women Voters studying and presenting the propositions and by watching KCET's Southern California Connected in-depth review of the propositions.

Back to Brandi. She's wonderful to watch. She complained to me about the mailman because he hadn't taken her request for the mail-in ballot off of our mailbox for three days. Well, she didn't have a stamp on it.

But her best line in this do-it-at-home choice of hers was: "Do we have to go in separate rooms and are we not allowed to talk to each other when we do it?"

This isn't Brandi's first time putting her mark on the ballot and she's had years at the polling place practicing on the demo machine that's available.

For women and for African Americans, it is absolutely unacceptable not to vote understanding both groups fought for your right to do so.

If you're black and female you have no excuse! If you're female of any race, you owe it to the suffragettes as well as to yourself.

Black men - again, no excuse. Ah, white men? Yes, you too. And all of you should consider taking your children to the polls with you.

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Published On 10-08-2010 , 8:21 PM

WHILE online social networks most certainly do pose a huge and unregulated threat to our youth who use them, I can't help but wonder why parents don't set up their own system of monitoring.

Step one is for parents and caregivers to learn - by asking - what sites their kids log onto. Inadequate answers to these kinds of inquiries come in a variety of lame avoidance techniques. In most cases, this approach will take a bit of time.

Step two is moving those computers out of the bedrooms and parking them in a heavy traffic area like the family room or the kitchen. With constant walk-past access to parents in the viewing of the screens, kids are going to be a little reluctant to pull up some of the stuff they perhaps shouldn't be viewing.

Also, whenever whatever is on the screen, take a seat (always have two chairs at the computer) and talk about what's going on. Now, there might be a fast click changing the screen, but keep at it. Success, here, is slow coming.

Step three is to create, with your kid, a limit and a schedule for computer time. They must be included in this - they're going to tell you how much they hate you. So be it, because raising kids is not democracy in action.

Is this going to solve the problem? Probably not, but it's a few good steps in the right direction.

Too many parents forget they're our kids and not our friends. As Dr. Jack Scott, former president of Pasadena City College, member of the state Legislature and now chancellor of the California Community Colleges told me when he was a guest on our parenting cable show: "You ask them and make sure you get their viewpoint and input, but as the parent you make the final decisions."

Some TV personality I was listening to talk about the troubles in cyberspace thought it wasn't a good idea for parents to snoop and spy on what kind of sites their kids are listed on and what kind of messages are being posted.

The pundit had to be kidding - I don't call my activities as a parent snooping or spying. I'm simply doing my job. If my level of monitoring, as I call it, is unacceptable, then my kids have to live in someone else's home where they can call the shots.

We're in charge of our own kids, so it's time to stop passing the buck. Society didn't create the behavior exhibited on social networks, and educators are not responsible for doing something about it.

As parents, we need to know what our children are up to. Bullies, like those being bullied, are fed and nurtured by those who raised them.

For far too long, we've put up with parents claiming, "I can't do a thing with him." Or, "That's just the way she is." No, that's just the way you are.

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Published On 10-02-2010 , 1:26 PM

NOWADAYS, too many parents just don't know our kids. It's because we simply haven't taken the time to learn all about our little bundles of joy that, at an early age, filled our lives with happiness.

Back then, in those early stages, we probably even made significant notes of when the first teeth popped through their gums, when the first word was uttered and most certainly when baby took that first step.

But somewhere along the way, we got caught up with the finer things in life that we thought would determine how well our kids would do.

The old-time stuff we'd been brought up with, the values and a parental philosophy that supported a cohesive relationship, gave way to long work hours that transformed into the money that's required to buy enough trinkets to keep our offspring on an equal playing field with their over-indulged peers.

Conversations with our kids lost out to their texting with their friends. The old "birds and the bees" discussion gave way to "Oh, they had that in their health class at school."

There are also the parents who avoid this issue, believing, they say, that the kids can learn more on the Internet than they could ever explain.

But with society raising our children, we can't possibly get to know them.

There are therapists on school campuses for the students who can't cope with a given emotional situation. The young people get to share their personal dilemma with a professional and may or may not later talk to their parents about the problem.

Of course parents have to be at work, but somewhere in the daily schedule there ought to be time for the children.

The dinner table used to hold a spot on the household calendar of idle but meaningful chitchat, but that old- time ritual has moved aside for the McDonald's drive-thru conversation that consists of "Do you want the cheeseburger with a chocolate shake?"

But sometimes, for a parent bent on getting the conversation going, even the drive-thru can prove beneficial. Take the father with the kid who claimed a certain ethnic group breeds like rabbits as he watched a family with lots of kids getting out of their parked car.

Young Mr. Derogatory Statement had a parent who sent him online to research the gestation period for rabbits and to learn how many bunnies could be born at one delivery.

Dad said his kid pouted and was annoyed with the research and the math component that said the nine months that it takes a human to produce a baby was way behind the 36 rabbits that would be delivered in the same time period.

But too often, the cruel and disparaging statements our kids think to be clever don't meet with parental views to the contrary. Too many of us have neglected this important interactive component that helps us to know who we're raising.

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Published On 09-17-2010 , 10:54 PM

Of course that was me on "Dr. Phil" the other day. There probably isn't another Shirlee Smith with curly gray hair and a belligerent attitude.

So why was I on the show and why was I rude to that comedian on the panel discussing bias, racism, favoritism and other American traditions?

Well, by my standards, I wasn't all that rude in asking Mr. Funny to shut up as he was hogging the entire show and I was there to give my opinion, having gotten up at 6 a.m. and driven to Paramount Studios for that purpose.

Here's this cute young black female, a show staff member, complaining in a YouTube video about racial profiling at the Burbank airport. Oh, yeah, I had an opinion!

She told how several men approached her as she went to remove her luggage from the turnstile, showed their badges and demanded to search her bags.

She was humiliated and frightened, and it had happened to her, she said, all because of her color.

Racism was showing its ugly head at the airport according to the mistreated young damsel.

Now, I'm not going to argue that America isn't a racist society, but I'm most certainly not going to jump on the bandwagon of calling every unpleasant situation between a black and a white person racist.

Hey, Ms. Staff Lady, this is the airport where everybody has an equal opportunity of conforming to what security demands.

On the show, Ms. Staff Lady didn't appreciate my saying she needed to grow up and shot back, in a disdainful manner, that she'd been taught to respect her elders but she sure didn't exhibit such by marching down the aisle to where I was seated in the audience.

Mr. Funny Man, a person of color, didn't like my point of view, either.

"Are We Just Too Sensitive?" was the title of Dr. Phil's show that day and my answer was yes, yes, yes.

As black folk, we're an interesting bunch when it comes to playing the race card and, as usual, I'm going to lay our individual perspectives on life in America at the feet of those who raise us.

If you are allowed to grow up with no one correcting your belief that the teacher gave you a low grade on the exam because he/she didn't like black people, then you're probably gonna be pretty sure the search at the airport was because of your color.

But for the parent who intercedes in this low-grade scenario and demands a look at the exam, thus discovering the lack of proficiency in the subject matter is the real cause for the D-, we've produced a young adult with a perspective on life broader than attributing all negative experiences with white people as racism.

The disappointment in the small part I played on the show was that my opinion got edited out regarding real bias raising its head. That's what happened when Ms. Staff Lady told airport security that she worked on "Dr. Phil," and they apologized, complimented her expensive luggage and sent her on her way.

Ah, America.

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Published On 08-07-2010 , 7:06 PM

The Staples Center was the place. Right there, located in the same breath, a person could take in the Nokia Theater and the Los Angeles Convention Center. There was, also, a huge configuration of restaurants and other glitter stuff.

But I wasn't able to eyeball the splendor as I was desperately looking to find accommodations for my not-so-brand-new Oldsmobile.

It was the night that Pasadena took over the Staples Center complete with a VIP reception on the rooftop. Our seats, in the famous structure, were on the floor.

After looping around several roadblocks and navigating past one-way streets that weren't pointing in the direction I needed, I finally came to a parking structure, pulled in and promptly had to head back out.

"Twenty-five bucks!" announced the attendant.

Next try was just across the street. But, alas, a uniformed attendant asked me with a snippety attitude for my pass.

"Huh?" But she did become extremely accommodating when it came to directing me from the entrance to the far end exit that would take me back to the streets.

Ah, the streets of Los Angeles. Out there on the golden pathways of the big city, there were indeed a few lots that fit my pocketbook but unfortunately they didn't fit my inability to hoof five blocks down Figueroa to the big night of watching the Los Angeles Sparks vs. Chicago Sky basketball game.

The flier for the event said Pasadena's new police chief, mayor, superintendent of our public schools along with other dignitaries would be in attendance.

The John Muir Drum Corps that gets feet to stomping and the Sue B. Dance Company that wows crowds with their every performance were part of what Brandi and I missed.

As we headed east on Olympic Boulevard, away from Stapes, Nokia and the rest of the elements of affluence I named Plush Town USA, within just a few blocks we crossed the border into another country.

My kid didn't miss the realization that money matters. The further east we drove the more I griped about redevelopment and big time investors. By the time we crossed the bridge over the trickle of water called the Los Angeles River and were stopped in front of the old Sears building by Soto Street, the sites we had witnessed coming through the garment and wholesale districts made Plush Town USA seem as far away as Century City or Beverly Hills.

But Pasadena taking over Staples Center was only about 10 minutes behind us.

After turning north on Soto Street, we cruised through my old Boyle Heights neighborhood while we headed toward the City of Roses and the comfort of knowing which streets were one-way and the place where I'm generally familiar with how to find parking.

Boyle Heights stands as a visual reminder of America's diversity missing the dollars of investors, redevelopment and political clout.

When it comes to reminders, that high cost of parking and the too far to walk was my entire fault - I know better. May this experience put me back on track because having a ticket to a VIP reception without asking the bigger question - "Where's parking?" - means you wind up in another country. That's just how things go.

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Published On 07-23-2010 , 10:35 PM

Taylor Momsen, the 16-year-old one-time actress and now sultry music maker, helps our girl-children - and they are still children at the age of 16 - sound like the sluts, hos and female dogs that rap artists who constantly hold their crotches preach about.

In a recent magazine interview and photo shoot, the teenybopper entertainer told the interviewer she was bored with men and that her vibrator was her best friend.

A 16-year-old doesn't even have a brain that's fully developed, according to the experts on child development who caution parents in terms of our expectations. So why should anyone add any credibility to this kind of spouting off?

The answer, I'm afraid is lots of people will take these words as a meaningful statement. And a bunch of those hanging on to this entertainer's every word of miscalculated muttering, simply because the girl's a teen icon, are other youngsters who will accept this stuff as thought-provoking. That is to say, youngsters will ponder (but not for long) and then decide they need to follow suit.

Bored with men? In my way of raising daughters she shouldn't be involved with "men" in the first place. Any who have driven her to sexual boredom belong locked up because men having sexual encounters with those under the age of consent are criminals.

But maybe I've taken this all wrong. Bored with men perhaps was meant to mean bored with boys. But does this mean for an ice cream date Momsen takes her vibrator?

Who are the people behind such outrageous commentary from a kid? Where's her mother and why has she given this daughter to the management folk who believed "bored with men but has a replacement" was a winning hook?

My daughter, who preferred to ride public transportation to her job in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, made a quick decision to change to the quiet comfort of her own automobile after a full week of having to hear teenagers on their way to middle school loudly discuss their evening sexual exploits with their mothers' boyfriends and all kinds of other tawdry tales unfit for most of our sensibilities.

But maybe my daughter is just old-timey, like her mother. Just maybe Momsen and the damsels riding down Crenshaw Boulevard are the essence of tomorrow's women.

But giving Momsen's vibrator friend some thought, here, I'm wondering if it isn't the better scenario than the one I recently heard regarding a 16-year-old who was soon to give birth to her third child.

I think I'll ask my old-timey daughter to get back on the bus when school starts in September just to hear if the Crenshaw juveniles have acquired a new friend they can always stash in their backpacks, hence providing their moms the opportunity of not having to share their boring men.

** Smith also has comments on this topic in a featured fox entertainment article ==> Taylor Momsen Too Young to Be Talking About Sex Toys, Critics Say.

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Published On 07-09-2010 , 11:45 PM

AS a parent, I was repulsed with the media circus surrounding the Lindsay Lohan 90-day jail sentence.

And as a low-income black parent, it was even more sickening because I also had the task of putting the issue into a context that would speak to the teenage member of my household.

"Diversion," said the somewhat militant young black teenager whose brother is doing time, hard time, for a crime the family says he didn't commit and has a lawyer working on the case.

"Drama; she's an actress, ain't she?" said the girl from the `hood who further said Lohan's sentence for continuous probation violations didn't hardly measure up to the punishments her "mama" used to hand down.

In my house Brandi and I talked about Rafael losing his job and we talked about Lohan. The first part of the conversation was pretty much focused on me learning who the heck this sometimes blonde young actress was.

The next part of the discussion centered on Rafael's wife having no more spending money and this took us back to the drama queen in the courtroom.

Did the actress lose her job? Will she lose contracts, now, with jail time on her record?

"Well, she's working on a film," Ms Knowledgeable Brandi was able to add but did agree with me that this wasn't the same kind of thing as no longer having a job working on jets at LAX.

On the same day Lohan was sentenced, Rafael (that's what I'll call him here so he won't be embarrassed) lost his well-paying job as a mechanic working on jets at LAX.

He'd held that spot for over two decades and was dependable, competent and hard working but layoffs are layoffs in these tough economic times.

His wife cleans houses but only, the two of them said, so she could have her own spending money. This, rest assured, has changed.

His wife's income will no longer be spending money but will, along with the unemployment check, be the household money.

Where were the network cameras and reporters when Rafael broke the news of his unemployment status to the lady of his house?

This kind of news tells us regular folk who we are and where we stand.

But it isn't only Rafael whose circumstances don't get brought to our attention. He has lots of company because no matter the encouraging economic statistics we're fed by those who control our information, deserted homes in neighborhoods keep us knowing that the media coverage of the weeping young actress in the courtroom, who must have never learned about consequences, isn't really our news.

It is, as the young sorta militant brother said, diversion.

Then, after this non-news event, we were fed follow-up information regarding the obscene message Lohan had painted on her fingernails with an emphasis on whether this message was meant for the judge or was it just happenstance?

The coverage of a young person's anti-social behavior in a country where media is a coveted experience doesn't help our youth focus on delivering the positive.

For minority parents, as well as low-income ones, this Lohan nonsense brings forth the need to interpret white America for our offspring and help them realize Lohan serving 90 days behind bars has no meaning in their lives when Rafael may never find another well-paying job and the young militant's brother may never see the outside of prison.

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Published On 04-03-2010 , 8:01 AM

IN January, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince hung herself in the stairwell of her family home. To compound the tragedy, she was discovered by her younger sister.

Phoebe was constantly made fun of by a group of nine other teenagers at the Massachusetts high school where she enrolled after coming to America from Ireland. The student bullies have now been arrested in connection with Phoebe's death.

How many times have we heard a parent claim, "I know my kid, and he (or she) wouldn't do something like that?"

How many times have we watched wretched little kids grow into monster big kids with the parents still covering for their misdeeds with some foolish statement such as "Boys will be boys" or "The other girls are just saying those things because my Beth is so popular."

Do we really believe parents don't know the truth about their offspring? Now, I'm the first to admit there will be some surprises along the way, but we still ought to know just what we're housing in the bedroom down the hallway.

I know kids are both clever and manipulative, so their true misdeeds are sometime hard to uncover, but as parents, our job description includes being inspector, detective, interrogator and captain of the precinct.

It is heartbreaking to think of Phoebe taking her life because of mental anguish inflicted upon her by kids and her seeing no way out. I can't imagine the mental anguish her parents have gone through in wondering how they could have prevented their child's death.

Are the families of the nine students blamed for the girl's death who are now facing serious criminal charges finally awake and realizing there is so much more to raising kids then claiming they do no wrong?

In California, there is a law against bullying, which, I suspect, most parents don't know is on the books until their kid is charged with the crime.

Massachusetts has no such legislation - but would it have mattered?

We need to get to know our kids and get our kids to know what we, as the parent, won't tolerate.

Come to think of it, some of our current-day bullies have the run of the house, and there are lots of reports of the kids bullying the parents, too.

Seems just about everyone is asking what could have prevented Phoebe from hanging herself. Some are answering that the school administration should have done something. They should have.

What can be done to prevent this wave of teen suicides across America?

Haul in the parents of the bullies, because they bear the responsibility for their children's deeds past and present.

The little kids who were never held accountable have grown into bigger kids and now, fortunately, aren't being allowed to get away with murder.


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Published On 03-13-2010 , 8:55 PM

WITH Easter Sunday only a few weeks away, many families are planning to bring Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail to their front door. Maybe they shouldn't.

There's a lot to learn about your offspring by the way they treat their pets. My daughter No. 3, no names to be mentioned, did a lot of screaming at her innocent little guinea pig when it was time to clean the cage. She blamed the animal for the mess and the time required to set things right.

"I hate you," she was always heard screaming on Saturdays at cage cleaning time. Did she really hate the creature or was what we heard an expression of what responsibility really meant to her?

The guinea pig was cute in the pet store and probably still pretty much okay for the first few weeks at our house when she'd take him out of the cage for play time.

My son had a German Shepherd that he spent many years bonding with. When we moved from a house to an apartment that didn't allow pets, a family friend kept the dog at her place.

Even with rain pouring, like it has in the last several weeks, Mr. Son weathered storms and rode his bicycle - daily - to feed his dog, Tip.

Then there was the daughter with the parakeets. Never a grumble but always some publication checked out from the library that she read to learn more about what it was she was in charge of and what was expected of the caretaker.

Pet stories and the lessons learned have a peculiar way of circulating amongst parents and they aren't expected to be retold in newspaper columns using real names.

One such story is about a young lady, who like my daughter, didn't believe her guinea pig really required care. The mom, who was my friend, got pretty darn tired of the constant reminders so she plain ol' stopped the nagging.

That meant the pet just didn't get any seeing to until Ms. Daughter had company one day and proceeded with a show and tell and finally went to the laundry room where the cage was kept.

But there wasn't anything to tell because, due to neglect, the guinea pig had passed away and what was there to be shown wasn't a very pleasant sight.

Easter Bunnies, formally known as rabbits, are reported to have a much more tragic life than the stories I'm telling. According to news reports, these creatures wind up in pounds and shelters and are abandoned in fields and on the street.

Maybe only some kids should have pets. But how would we know which ones? Or maybe pets are supposed to be one more thing parents are responsible for.

Yes, parents have a responsibility, here, but it starts long before the pet comes through the door. Kids have to be taught the responsibility they're getting into and if they can't handle it, they don't bring the creature home.

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Published On 03-06-2010 , 8:47 PM

IN upscale Brentwood, Harvard-Westlake Middle School student Julia Siegler, 13, died after being struck by two cars while in the street against the red light to catch her school bus.

In a split second, going against what we parents pound into our kids' heads from the time they are old enough to know their colors - red means stop, green means go - Julia was gone.

What a tragedy: Julia's full life never realized; Julia's classmates on the bus traumatized; Julia's mother, having walked her daughter to the bus, witnessing from the corner of that intersection what no parent is prepared to handle; the drivers of the two cars wondering if they could have prevented the young girl's death.

Early in the investigation the accident was thought to be a hit-and-run. But both drivers did stop and later that evening, when the news kept announcing hit-and-run, they went to police headquarters and were not held.

How many parents have been spared this pain, simply, I suppose, because our kid's number wasn't on the call-in sheet just yet?

A lot of us have watched our offspring dash from across the street to our own car when we're at the school or elsewhere to pick them up.

How many times, when driving down the street, have we made the brakes screech when some spry young body darts from out of nowhere right in front of our vehicle?

Yup, while stopped there in the middle of the street, I've put the window down and shouted gross obscenities at the errant youngster who had no regard for life, theirs or mine.

Not a pleasant thought to think of a body that wasn't quick enough or driver reaction that was possibly too slow.

The teenage driver of the car that actually ran over Julia was heard to say, according to a witness at the scene, "It's all my fault!"

Yes, some folks are blaming the drivers, claiming that pedestrians always have the right of way.

Others, while reluctant to say so in front of too many people, blame Julia for putting herself in harm's way. And still others raise the question of why the mother didn't stop Julia.

But neither blame or questions should be part of this scenario, because we all know that but for the grace of God it could have been our very own kid making a deadly decision.

When I discussed this tragedy with my own teenager while reminding her of my constant lectures about her own Jaywalking behavior, she confessed that she had mended her ways due to almost being struck by a car while dashing across Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena to catch an MTA bus.

Have you had the jaywalking discussion lately with your kids? I mean yesterday, or today, and don't forget about tomorrow? Don't be squeamish. Your kids need to know of Julia Siegler, and of all who are left behind to mourn.

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Published On 02-27-2010 , 7:07 PM

ANGELA who?" asked the high school kid at the library checkout counter. I guess he gets excused because of his age.

Angela Davis is a name just about everyone who was around in the '60s knows better than to equate with a question of "who?"

Love or hate her, support her positions or want to crucify her, we knew who Angela Davis was. If you didn't, once someone said "the militant woman professor with the foot high natural hairdo," it clicked.

I hadn't heard her name in years. And then my friend Barbara Chamberlain Lewis sent me a flier about how this woman, who had once been on the FBI's most-wanted list, was speaking in Watts. So I dug up the 20 bucks to pay for tickets for Brandi and me and then searched high and low for my tattered Angela Davis T-shirt.

What might Angela have to say these days? Brandi, I suspect, was expecting an historical perspective of the turbulent `60s, about how Davis made it onto the same list that John Dillinger, Al Capone and other notorious gunslingers and gangsters once occupied.

No such treat.

From the size of the crowd of at least 1,500 people, it was clear that many came to pay homage to a brilliant woman who fought the fight and campaigns for social justice. There were grandparents, parents, college students, former hippies now wearing business suits and former hippies who were still being hippies.

Brandi wasn't the only post-Angela Davis era person in Phoenix Hall - there were toddlers, babies in arms, and young teenagers.

There were no sags, too-short skirts or too-tight tops. There was no big media on site to report on this orderly assembly of folks who gave a standing ovation when Professor Davis, now teaching at the University of California, Santa Cruz was introduced and who received many more standing ovations during her 90-minute presentation.

What did Angela Davis talk about? Being an activist, educator and philosopher, she sought to educate her audience on the brutality of the American prison system, particularly in respect to women.

She discussed her travels throughout the world in a quest for prison reform. She had a lot to say about a capitalist society being a system that breeds inequality.

Angela Davis is a part of our history and was a perfect experience for my household to close out this month of celebration. While we talk about honoring our history all year long, funny how we generally can know we'll find speakers like Angela Davis on the circuit during February.

Brandi? Ecstatic that she got to witness some of what she's heard about all of her growing years.

My T-shirt? Well, I got to purchase a new one for only five bucks. And you probably can't buy an Angela T-shirt on the corner during July. Well, you can never buy one on the corner in Pasadena - maybe they have `em in Watts all the time.


This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

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Published On 02-21-2010 , 11:06 AM

Ah, if there were only ratings in this business of delivering one's opinion. With last week's opinion piece, "When white america picks `orphans,"' I'd have blasted Leno, Oprah and Letterman right off the charts.

I'm still answering some of the e-mails, and by now, close to the 50 mark, my response is pretty standard, because the comments fall pretty much into the same categories. There's nothing new rolling in.

Seldom do I even consider getting into the follow-up piece. It just isn't the thing to do. However, this time it's a must.

From the responses I've received regarding my opinion on the missionaries and the alleged Haitian orphans, I clearly hit a nerve.

One thing it shows is that the racial divide is alive, well and nowadays making itself known by the whistling of "Dixie" with a different beat.

There were those pieces of correspondence accusing me of making a racial issue out of a matter void of race: "Why not just stick to the facts, Ms. Smith?"

The missionaries who were attempting to take the Haitian children out of the country were white - fact. The children were "of darker hue" - fact.

There are war orphans in Afghanistan and Iran. Perhaps news teams have simply neglected to report on missionary misdeeds in those countries.

In 2003 an earthquake in Iran killed 30,000 people and left about 5,000 orphans. No missionary misdeeds reported that I have on file.

The pile of correspondence I've received labeled Bitter/Angry/Excess Baggage is all about my mother being a domestic: "Also, the hateful way you come down on the Whitneys. And let's not forget the expensive gifts they provided, and why didn't your mother just say no?"

Today's follow-up isn't about defending my position, but shedding a little more light on the categories is most certainly needed.

"Like One of the Family" by Alice Childress is a must read for a clear understanding of the relationship between domestic servants and their employers. The title says it all. These white folk, the Whitneys and others, tended to view those of us in their household employment as their possessions.

My mother, said one writer, was probably a lovely person. Bernice Smiley was indeed just that, and while living her last days at Scripps Home in Altadena, told me on the days my column ran in the newspaper that she would not go down for breakfast.

There are the e-mails from faithful readers I've been hearing from for years that say, "I've written you before and told you that I really liked your articles. You do make a lot of sense on most subjects. But I was really disappointed with the last one."

It's good to hang with me when I'm commenting on misbehaving children - just so long as I'm not hitting on white America.

Finally, there are the e-mails from a special group who can't understand why this hateful writer and her people aren't satisfied with life now that they've got Obama in the White House.

This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

Tune-in Thursdays 7:30 p.m. Talk Abut Parenting LIVE with Shirlee Smith.   Call-in at 626-794-2116 or 794-2551. Charter Arroyo Channel 32 in Pasadena.  Return to our home page and click the Arroyo Logo for streaming. See our calendar  listing for show guest and for further information.

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Published On 02-14-2010 , 12:41 AM

SHOULD we give our kids away because the life we're able to provide isn't good enough for them? Is this the answer for Haitian parents?

Who is so callous and self-centered they can say that what they offer exceeds all bonds that are created between parent and child - even if it's in the name of Jesus?

While we have never, thank God, Allah, Buddha or whomever we might worship, walked even a step in the shoes of Haiti's parents either before or after this disastrous and mind-boggling earthquake - who are we to judge?

The expression "quiet as it's kept" might apply here, but too many people are quick and loud in talking about, not the desperate parents, but the opportunistic 10 American Baptist missionaries from Idaho, led by Laura Silsby, all arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping after being nabbed at the Dominican Republic border sneaking 33 so-called orphans out of Haiti.

While some folks are still speculating as to the intent of those arrested, news reports from the island all substantiate the fact that not only were these missionaries without official paperwork for the children - they had been warned of the illegality of their actions.

One policeman says that prior to taking the 33 children who were placed on a bus and driven to the border, these do-gooders from the potato state had rounded up another bunch of kids, given them candy, stuffed toys and promises to the parents that their children would have a life void of poverty.

The policeman says he took those kids off the bus. When the children were herded from the bus, he says the Idaho folk took back the toys.

There's just something about some white people who think their lifestyle, Christian or otherwise, supercedes whatever we folk of darker hue have or don't have going for us.

My mother was a domestic for the Whitney family, who lived in the San Fernando Valley on Dixie Canyon Boulevard. She was always asked to come on Thanksgiving and Christmas to, with my grandmother, prepare and serve the family's dinner.

Extra pay, of course. Expensive Christmas presents were given to her children left behind to have Christmas alone until late in the evening when she returned home with the leftovers that we had for dinner.

The Whitneys never thought, even once, that we'd rather have our mother at home with us on Christmas and Thanksgiving instead. But when we got old enough and bold enough to voice our feelings and mom told the white folks "sorry," the Whitneys were extremely indignant.

These people weren't missionaries. They just had the same mindset as the group from Idaho, which is that whatever white America has to offer comes ahead of the child's birth condition - that which belongs to the family.

Would I give my child up for a better life without me? Again, that's not the question.

Instead, let's ask: Who should dare to offer me the choice?

This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

Tune-in Thursdays 7:30 p.m. Talk Abut Parenting LIVE with Shirlee Smith.   Call-in at 626-794-2116 or 794-2551. Charter Arroyo Channel 32 in Pasadena.  Return to our home page and click the Arroyo Logo for streaming. See our calendar  listing for show guest and for further information.

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Published On 02-06-2010 , 9:14 PM

IT'S here.

 Like just about everything else celebratory, it comes every year. But for African-American - or Black - History Month, this hasn't been the case for long. It has been with us since 1926, but back when Carter G. Woodson founded it, the time for acknowledgement and recognition was only a week.

 Should we count the expansion as progress?

Still, there are always the same questions: Shouldn't black history simply be part of American history? What's with giving us the shortest month of the year? This one-month recognition of African Americans' contributions to this country raises the old issue of the separate but equal legal doctrine that justified systems of segregation.

 Among those who think that a month is progress, many are willing to admit it's all still an after-thought. I also suspect they're ready to say, "OK, the history books neglected to include the real story, but as a people, black and white and others, we've got to accept the omission and move on."

 Easier said than done.

No number of parades, award dinners, oratorical contests or other alleged consciousness-raising festivities will bring meaningful light to what's been omitted. Steps in the right direction? That depends on which of the bands you're cheering for in the local parade.

I remember sitting in my 10th-grade U.S. history class and reading the two paragraphs about slaves picking cotton while happily singing hymns. Should I want to identify with this group of people when I was anything but happy when asked, not forced, to clean my own bedroom?

Did I wonder if there was more to the story? Of course not. I was too enthralled with the beauty of the antebellum Southern women, white women, with beautiful hair, beautiful clothes and foolish people, who looked like me, seeing to their needs.

Am I dwelling in the past? Is this recollection just what the progress group seemed to think should be left behind? I eventually learned that everything one reads ain't true. But I was way grown and a student at UCLA in a black studies course with John Hope Franklin's "From Slavery to Freedom" as one of the assigned textbooks.

 Ah - so slaves were not happy. Yes, they were singing hymns, but hymns whose words had a runaway message such as, "Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home ..."

 Do I celebrate my heritage during the month of February? I celebrate who my people are every day. I have worked to help my children understand the true American landscape. I've worked to overcome the words my mother spoke when I asked why she had never told her children of the Negro's struggles in this country.

My mother answered me by saying; "We moved here from the South and didn't want to burden our children with what we knew and had experienced. We came to a different place - we thought."

This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

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Published On 12-06-2009 , 8:34 AM

AT&T is not known for being on the side of parents or their children. By saying this, I'm not suggesting it does evil deeds directly aimed at the American nuclear clan.

But fast forward to the corporate conglomerate's current television commercial for AT&T U-Verse, a system that records up to four television shows at once, and I can't help but label the outfit as anti-parent.

As boob-tube viewers, AT&T has subjected us to a family scene in which dad is treated like a persona non grata when his plan to change the channel is thwarted, first by the mom's demand for her own viewing pleasure, then by the young son who points his remote at mom and dad. "Drop `em," he says. Finally the young daughter proclaims, while of course pointing her remote at all the family members: 'Happy Ponies' is coming on and I'm not going to miss Happy Ponies.

The icing on the cake is Gramma entering the scene planning to say something. She shakes her head, gives up and turns and walks away when she notices all family members are aiming their remotes at each other in a threatening manner as though they were weapons.

Kids rule in this commercial.

At a time when children are taking control and running households in communities all across America whether rich or poor, whether black or white, whether Asian or otherwise, why pump the young ones up with television scenes that encourage blatant disrespect for the elders?

"Well, it is just a commercial" you say. But please realize our young ones are not mature enough to determine this commercial or any other one is just a product pitch, and the behavior of child actors isn't the right thing to emulate.

Youth have difficulty distinguishing between right and wrong, reality and dreamland. Television, for them, pretty much represents both of these.

Kids repeat what they see on the tube. Many years ago, my teenager who lived in Boston came home for the holidays. While here she asked her sister to perform the latest dance popular in the West. Turned out they both were doing the same moves, having learned and practiced them watching "Soul Train" with Don Cornelius every day after school.

Grandmothers have an important role in families and for this commercial to relegate her to an exasperated individual who can't stand up to the nonsense she sees unfolding in the home helps our children determine grannies are irrelevant.

For the kids to have the last word before this 31-second piece moves to an announcer telling us what we need to buy perpetuates our current troublesome reality that it is OK for children to be in charge.

It's just TV? No, it is not and AT&T the corporate giant knows better. If you've been fortunate enough to miss this subtle but disgraceful attack on parenting, Google AT&T standoff and form your own opinion. 

This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

Tune-in Wednesdays Noon to 1:00  p.m. Talk Abut Parenting with Shirlee Smith LIVE Call-in at 626-794-2116 or 794-2551. PCAC Charter Channel 56 in Pasadena.  Return to our home page and click the channel 56 logo for streaming. See our calendar  listing for show guest and for further information.


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Published On 11-08-2009 , 7:50 AM

EYEWITNESSES claim they didn't see anything. Financial regulators pass over the obvious accounting irregularities.

Parents say Johnny will outgrow his troublesome behavior.
Teachers pass non-achieving students on to the next grade.

Those who saw the shooter draw his firearm and "off" the kid who was walking home from school don't want to become the next target.

Those in charge of keeping the money safe are either on the hand-out from the embezzler or are too lazy to follow up on the leads that stare them in the face.

Parents don't want to believe what they've created or just plain don't understand simple signals - torturing the pets, stealing, lying and other anti-social behaviors in youngsters, which follow them along to adolescence and into adulthood.

And teachers who pass the student who doesn't know grade-level work by giving passing marks on papers that don't cut the mustard, just plain ol' don't care or really don't know the long-range significance of their evil deeds.


Whatever happened to accountability, excellence and responsibility? How come people don't do the right thing?

The officials who, for 20 years, visited their child-molester parolee who had a captive in the yard of the very house they came to, never paid attention to anything peculiar or out of the ordinary - yet still collected paychecks.

Say what you will about Michael Moore's recent documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Affair" - he's got some answers to my dilemma regarding accountability, excellence and responsibility. While teachers aren't ripping off citizens when it comes to investments as we generally classify investments, they really are squandering our money by not providing adequate education but instead helping to fill our prisons with school dropouts.

Parents who don't do the job of observing their children, then correcting or seeking help for anti-social behavior, don't rank any better than the officials who pass over troublesome indicators or the teachers who help to fill the jail cells.

Surely I'm not alone in recognizing our society no longer perpetuates the concept of doing the right thing. We've changed from the lessons of old that made us believe if you witnessed the old lady being robbed it was your responsibility to tell law enforcement everything you knew. The only fear we used to have was our behavior standards not letting us do the wrong thing and our conscious not ever letting us have another peaceful night's sleep.

Is my quandary regarding doing the right thing tied to greed and money? I'm not so sure I want to take it that far, but chasing the paycheck kinda figures into parents who don't have time to spend with the kids because they work more than one job, and not just to make ends meet, but instead to acquire more trinkets.

It just may be easier for the teacher of an inner-city classroom filled with difficult students to simply pass them on rather than educate them - the paycheck is not tied to performance.

It's a tough job blowing the whistle, especially when it's a supposedly respectable guy like Bernie Madoff, so why risk the trouble of being fired for pointing out irregularities?

And then there's Jaycee Dugard, who could have had a very different life if the authorities on the case believed in doing the right thing: a good job.

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Published On 08-09-2009 , 12:11 PM

Unknown to many parents are state laws and community ordinances on the books that establish for minors, among other things, curfews, penalties for fighting, bullying and truancy.

What a change there might be in society if parents just thought to do a little bit of enforcement in their households.

But in defense of our American moms and pops, many have no idea what I'm talking about because where and when they grew up they never heard of these types of regulations. I'll bet good folk will respond indignantly by saying that they raise their kids not to steal, shoplift or engage in any other kind of petty theft activities.

So what's the problem, here?

There she goes complaining again, some readers are already muttering while asking, "What is it this time around?"

Are my columns really complaints, as one reader who sent me a long letter regarding my "attack" - as she called it - on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for their lack of governance in regards to the Department of Children and Family Service?

Raise you hand if you've been or know someone who has been hauled into court with a minor kid - Julio, John or Jamal - and a fine was levied against them for being out after curfew, being in a fight, bullying or being a truant.

Often times, the judge allows the fine to be worked out by community service but along with that penalty comes the high probability of the kid being placed on probation. And any violationof probation can land the kid smack into juvenile hall.

Yes, kids who are out after curfew, which is often set at 10 p.m., can be stopped by an officer and arrested.

"But he wasn't doing anything!" Tell that to the judge. Whether or not the handcuffs get clamped on the kid, is truly at the discretion of the officer. "It's summertime and kids are just out because it's hot," one might argue.

I received an e-mail from a long-time acquaintance who wondered: "I can never understand these individuals who allow their children to be outside after 9 or so at night, or even after dark in crime areas. This kid who was recently struck by a hit-and-run driver at 1 a.m.? What the heck was he doing out at that time? He should have been home in bed. And these people who stand out in front talking with friends - what fools. The police crime load would be substantially reduced if people would just stay inside at home at night."

TG, my e-mail correspondent, makes a good point as curfews are pretty much established for the safety of the community.

Then there's truancy which is defined by California Ed Code 48260 with a lot of conditions, details and possible penalties.

Fighting and bullying aren't taken lightly by the state, either, or by the long arm of enforcement agencies.

Learn all about the laws that regulate minor children as ignorance is not an acceptable plea. Order, for free, The California Bar Foundation publication, Kids & The Law, an A-Z guide for parents. E-mail or by regular mail at Kids and the Law, Office of Media and Information Services, The State Bar of California, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105-1639.

This blog can be found in our column section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone

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Published On 02-28-2009 , 10:39 PM

Ah, the young damsels, the ones who decided a day at Paseo Colorado trumped a day in their respective classrooms, weren't, in my opinion, lured anywhere. I knew this when the first news reports claimed it to be how the girls wound up with two adult men at an empty house on Idaho Street in Northwest Pasadena.

Lured? These 14-year-old African-American truants were hip enough to abandon the education their forefathers (and mothers) marched, petitioned and died for. So should the public believe they were so unsophisticated they didn't know what the males might be up to?

My daughter Pia isn't very happy with my approach to this issue. She thinks my depiction of the girls is letting the lecherous guys off the hook.

"Mom," she exclaimed, "these were old men in their 40s and the girls are just that: girls." Pia tried to hang me out to dry for not seeing the girls as just little kids who made a mistake.

Turns out my kid knew the old men from her high school days but she doesn't seem to know anything about how so many of our young girls have decided to live their lives.

Paseo Colorado, like malls across America, is known to be a hangout for pick-ups. Notice our damsels didn't cut class and visit one of our local museums.

Updated news reports now say the girls went willingly. Climbing into the car with some men they didn't know is not quite as innocent as my surprisingly naive daughter wants us to believe.

"Those girls are just little kids," Pia kept interjecting into our conversation that remained friendly but that got kind of heated at times.

Yeah, maybe this was the very first time the teenagers had missed school for the day. And, yeah, maybe the bunch of them decided to ditch school that day because they hadn't studied enough for their third-period history exam.

And just maybe they really were lured by the old men with a promise of Cliff Notes or a cheat sheet for their history test.

Now maybe these girls were wearing loose-fitting clothes that covered their bodies, some bobby socks and a pair of saddle oxfords.

Maybe they were wearing their hair in ponytails using rubber bands to hold them in place.

Ah, I can seem them now sitting outside at one of the nice eateries there at Paseo and sipping a soft drink and reaching into tattered backpacks to get out their history books. Wow, what a study session to behold.

"Well, what were they doing at the mall?" I asked my 40-something daughter.

"Do you realize these girls were drugged and raped?" Pia asked me in exasperation.

I don't have the best of memories but I do remember Tawana Brawley from back in the `80s. She's the young damsel who claimed to have been raped and tortured by NYC police officers over a four-day period. Her story was eventually proven to be a lie she concocted in an attempt to cover up not getting home when she was supposed to.

I could be dead wrong on this column. But I've seen too many teenage damsels who dress like ladies of the night and play the part like they've had years of dress rehearsals.

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Published On 01-18-2009 , 12:21 AM

Across America, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2009, we're all being asked to support the American spirit of volunteerism and community service by making a commitment to help in our communities, not just for the one day on Jan. 19, which is being called MLK Day of Service, but for the entire year.

But say the word volunteer to some folks and you might as well be speaking a foreign language.

Ask their children to help one of their neighbors and the first thing parent and kid alike want to know is, "How much they payin'?"

Then there's the people who know the goodness of helping others simply because they know it's the thing to do. These are the people who know that their deeds aren't being delivered for a reward that's beyond the feeling of doing for someone else.

These are the people who know the power of selflessness. These are the people we can call on over and over again and their response is always predictable. Time and time again they simply want to know what it is they are needed to do.

So this column is pretty much for the first batch of folks I described - the ones who don't believe they or their children should participate in a ritual of giving back, spreading kindness, spreading joy.

"That's teaching our kids wrong values," I've been told by too many parents when I suggest their unemployed teenagers get up off the couch and give of their time at some community program.

"Slavery is over,"I've been told by others who would rather see the kids playing video games than doing for others.

The classic comment is, "Nobody's done anything for me so what you're talking about doesn't fit into any kind of give back."

We all owe something back and we have all benefited from the volunteer work of others.

How much was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. paid for sitting in a Birmingham jail? How big was his paycheck for the Selma March?

Isn't the Red Cross on the scene when disaster strikes? What about the women, young and old, who can often be found wearing candy-stripe outfits and assisting patients in hospitals?

One of the values our children need to learn and adhere to should be that giving is far more important than receiving.

Earlier this week, while Brandi and I were sitting on the patio at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, a group of well-behaved and clean-scrubbed elementary students from Mayfield Junior School descended upon the grassy area and took their places at several tables filled with craft supplies.

They got busy making cards. Ah, cards to give the patients? The students were on a field trip. They were at the hospital to present a $4,000 check, which was the money they had raised from a walk-a-thon.

Ah, giving! And at a young age.

Too many children I encounter are always on the "getting" end of things because someone has determined they are at risk. I guess I'm to surmise that means they can't be taught the concept of giving.

Parents who join the volunteer ranks have children who follow suit. If you don't know where to start, visit the following links: or

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Published On 12-28-2008 , 2:27 PM

Whew! I sailed through the first of this year's holiday double whammies unscathed and with my head held high.

But it seems, perhaps, people my age just do this anyway and that would mean there was no cleverness on my part and instead I was just keeping up with my peers.

The sail-through non-involvement behavior started with my announcement there would be no Christmas tree again this year. That bit of news was a hang over from 2007 when Brandi asked the big "When are we putting up the tree?"

"We're going to be in the Mendocino Pygmy Forest for Christmas - decorate any tree close to the cabin," I shouted back to her with glee.

No such road trip this year just a suggestion that the medium-sized bushy potted plant sitting by the north window in our living room would look really quite cute with shiny balls and perhaps a few pretty bows.

The decked-out plant didn't get the same acceptance as the Pygmy Forest and on a regular basis, every time we drove home up Lincoln Avenue passing Wayne's T-shirt shop (where trees were being sold), my pitiful 17-year-old would say, "Look they're only 15 bucks."

The next tactic she employed, in an outburst of sincerity and in recognition of the economy, was to suggest paying for the tree herself with the money she'd earned for feeding the neighbor's dog.

Everyone's got to give a little - that's just the way life works. I bought the tree. But I wouldn't shop. I wouldn't cook. I wouldn't. And I didn't.

On the big day, I telephoned my two grandkids in Colorado, wished them the best of the season and heard their joyous tales of toys collected.

My grandson from Atlanta arrived at my home on Christmas Eve and thankfully had no gifts in hand but came with giant hugs, lots of kisses and good conversation from a 27-year-old perspective.

My kids? The eldest went to spend a few days with a friend in Rialto.

The 50-year-old daughter, who is an interpreter, wanted quiet time to put her house in order from a very busy year-end schedule. The 40-something daughter came by in the evening and said something that sounded pretty close to "Bah, humbug."

Brandi said about this Christmas, "I think I've died and gone to heaven!" No shopping. No presents. No special dinner. Nada!

Well not exactly. Ah, e-mail. Brandi was asked to check hers before breakfast so she could have something to talk about.

"Subject: forward - Ticket Confirmation. Congratulations! You have been selected to receive 2 tickets to the Swearing-in Ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C.!"

Thanks, Congressman Adam Schiff, for delivering history to the household that I'm sharing with my high school senior. This gift, unknown to the congressman, spared me the job of thinking up another scheme this year to move my child away from the pretentiousness of a holiday that once had a true spirit of giving and of meaning.

The second lap of the double- whammy holidays? Who would ask that question? All my energies will be directed toward learning how to keep warm in weather like we've never experienced, how to keep our sanity while in the company of more than a million people, how best to access public transportation in D.C., building up the body for miles of walking. And there's a lot more we've got to get done and not a lot of time to do it in.
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Published On 12-20-2008 , 9:39 PM

Stockings, I'm told, were never hung by the chimney with care in hopes that ol' St. Nick might be there.

The family had no stockings to spare and there wasn't a chimney anywhere. They didn't miss this ritual because it was something they, as children, never knew existed.

They weren't alone. Their next-door neighbors, who lived down the Mississippi back road about a two-hour hike, didn't know about this, either. Neither did the neighbor kids who lived just about as close, but up the road.

Christmas, I'm told, was all about Christ. Ol' Kris Kringle wasn't in the picture, anywhere.

But I'm also told the families weren't really that religious, they just hadn't heard about this new order of things.

They didn't have their own telephone. Back then it was one of those black contraptions mounted directly on the wall with a funny looking mouthpiece attached to the piece on the wall and there was a separate piece that the caller/talker put to the ear. These were the telephone lines that were shared by everyone in the neighborhood, by everyone within a mile or many miles away.

So no one called to tell them it was Christmas and how they were to celebrate.

If radios existed, the 17 children in the McClain household had not been so advised by their parents and their peers, who attended the same one-room school, had never talked of hearing strange voices at home coming from a wooden box, so there was no reason to wonder if, or believe  that, such an invention existed.

 No news, here.

Christmas, I'm told, was a day of church and the preacher reminding those in attendance, and everyone was there from miles around, that his sermon was going to be the same as the year before.

My friend tells me he kept to his word and began each Christmas morning by saying, "Jesus was born in a manger," and then he would walk to the side of the pulpit, standing for just a few seconds, wipe his forehead with a long white handkerchief and every year the church members, on cue, would say, "Amen."

There were no toys. There was no turkey or mistletoe to make the season bright. There was no ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Daddy made two trips to get the family to the church on Christmas and he did that in his old Ford truck that was usually used for hauling and bringing in supplies.

Mama made for dinner what she always did on Sundays. And there wasn't any kissing going on underneath any kind of leaves because the kids just didn't even want to take any extra time to be that close to each other.

They were always too close, not just in age but also in bedrooms and also in the bed.

"Joy to the world." One by one members of the McClain clan headed west.

Christmas trees with all the trimmings, shopping for presents and wrapping them, a huge feast for the birthday of Christ became standard fare when they began having kids of their own.

But nowadays their kids are grown, gone, and have kids of their own and the very-very old folks, the ones from Mississippi say they long for the old ways because there's strength in tradition and they see themselves as responsible for having bought into something that wasn't really theirs.

     This blog can be found in our columns section where you can print a copy or e-mail to someone
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Published On 11-09-2008 , 8:20 AM

ON Nov. 4, the Cobb family, all six of them - young, old and middle-aged - got to their Altadena polling place at 5:15 a.m.

Dressed for the rain, and also prepared for the almost two-hour wait with their waterproof folding chairs, most of the Cobb family members were wide awake and ready to be the first at that location to mark a ballot for Barack Obama.

The sleepy-eyed youngest family member, who huddled next to Grandma, wasn't old enough to vote, but the kid wasn't too young to miss out on grasping the historical significance of the early morning trek to the church on the corner of Glenrose Avenue and Altadena Drive.

I haven't seen the Cobbs since they beat me to the church by 15 minutes but I've heard their story everywhere I've been in the last few days.

I've also heard their story by telephone from folks across the country - in Harlem, Atlanta, Colorado Springs, Chandler, Ariz. and a few other places where folks couldn't hold in their joy and spent hours on the wire spreading the stories from their polling places.

Back in Altadena, once my underage Brandi finished looking over my shoulder and turning the pages as I marked the choices in our voting booth, I drove her to Pasadena High School and let her know I'd be at the curb to pick her up that afternoon.

She had been an unpleasant companion that morning and I let her know the day was being called "History." The day was being called "Obama Day," and if she couldn't have another attitude in the afternoon when I saw her, she'd be left at curb to catch the bus back home. She got my point!

While getting up when it was still dark and making our way to the polling place definitely had a taste of making history, it didn't all come together until the celebration at the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens in Little Tokyo where at 8 p.m. emotions exploded when the electoral count confirmed history had truly been made.

American citizens had just elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

The crowd went wild. Brandi, pumped up with history, joined the hundreds of revelers. The shouting, waving arms and chanting lasted for what seemed like hours.

"Obama, Obama, Obama," was the first 15 minutes. I think it changed to "Oh, My God." Then there was the "Yes, we did" chorus that could be heard blending in ever so often.

Brandi, like so many of us, turned a page in her life on Tuesday. The day after history was made, she didn't have to go to school because it was our New Year celebration.

Attitude? Gone!

Brandi says she can't figure things out. Neither can I or most of the people I talk with who can't stop crying. It's like a burden has been lifted that we never really knew we were carrying.

To have even thought there would a black president of the United States taking his young children and wife to live in the White House would have brought my mother to smile and remark as she often did: "You young people don't really understand."

On Wednesday, my sister said, "I watched Obama's acceptance speech and kept thinking this is fabulous, this is a fabulous movie on the screen and I don't want it to end."

It's real! And as the saying going around by e-mail says: Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could march so Obama could run.

And run he did.

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Published On 11-07-2008 , 1:00 AM

Where were you on History Night ’08?

Joyce, who lives in Duarte, California, watched history unfold November 4th on the television set in her family room. At what she thinks was 8:00 p.m., the phone calls began coming in to her viewing room from Barbados, the Virgin Islands and elsewhere.

“They couldn’t really say anything.”  Joyce said all of the callers yelled the same thing
“We did it; we did it.”

Other viewers who called our Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith LIVE show on Wednesday said pretty much the same thing – “We Did It!”

Eshe, who phoned from Chandler, Arizona, had worked at bi-lingual station at a polling place.  She told the story of a recent naturalized citizen from Guatemala whom she assisted.  It was the older woman’s first time voting and how extremely careful she was with her ballot taking about a half-hour to fill it out and then review it several times.

The call-in feature of our live show along with web streaming has truly broadened our information and viewing base, which is helps viewers understand the bigger picture.

Beverlee Bruce, Ph.D. past guest on our Tuesday/Friday half-hour show, dialed us up and  provided an update on election night happenings in Harlem where she lives.

While I’m known to complain about the gadgetry technology has to offer, Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith would be running flat without it.

Hank, the Republican businessman, (not to be confused with ‘Joe the Republican  plumber’) called us from the George Bush Airport in Houston Texas before he picked up his luggage.” I know my priorities,” he said and Hank has said to me, in the past, family always comes first.  I hope everyone remembers that Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith is all about supporting families and helping them become stronger.

Hank talked, among other things, about his forming the organization Black Republicans for Obama – BRO.

Wednesday’s show also included discussion of the California ballot propositions and on the passing of Proposition 8 –Same Sex Couple Legal Marriage.  La Quetta gave our viewers a personal perspective of the need for us to have defeated this measure.

Many callers - much discussion.  Tune in every Wednesday 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. PST. Charter channel 56 (PCAC) or see it streamed on the web by visiting our home page and clicking the PCAC logo during broadcast hours.

Check our calendar for our November guest and show information.

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Published On 11-03-2008 , 12:50 AM

MY daughter who lives in Inglewood got into a tiff with her neighbor over a Proposition 8 yard sign.

Another of my offspring dropped a guy she'd been dating once she found out who his choice was for replacing President George Bush.

My kid, who thought the West Hollywood house with a Halloween decoration of a Sarah Palin image hanging from a rope was something to laugh about, had to be set straight.

"But I thought you didn't like Palin," was the response from the younger kid, who got a long lecture from me.

"Let's get this straight," I warned, "Just because I don't support the Alaska governor's political views, campaign rhetoric or her ability to handle what she ought to know as a vice-presidential candidate, doesn't for one minute mean I don't like the woman.

"My viewpoint doesn't mean," I said to Brandi, "that I think the scene at the house in West Hollywood is acceptable."

"Well," stammered Brandi, as she knew what she was going to hear from me next. She knew what was coming because my lectures tend to follow the same format.

This one she knew had the makings of "Do Unto Others" because it's such a regular in our house getting played every time there's a student bully story turned deadly on the evening news.

"No," admitted Brandi, she wouldn't find it funny if an image of Obama, her choice for president, were to be found hanging from a rope.

But, alas, as life would have it a woman in Redondo Beach thought it clever to hang an Obama by his necktie. "That's messed up," said my kid, who initially thought it was OK for Palin to hang in West Hollywood.

The Inglewood daughter let the tenant in the front house know if he wanted to keep his "Yes on 8" sign on the front lawn, she would have to add a sign in opposition.

"What?" argued the tenant who proclaimed the entire lawn area was what he had rented and she was only entitled to lay claim to the back yard since that's where her living quarters were.

"He can be narrow-minded and think he can regulate the lifestyle of others, but not on my rent receipt," she declared.

After having the property owner tell the front house tenant who had what rights, Inglewood daughter marched herself to the No on Proposition 8 office, got a sign and lined it up right next to the "yes" one.

While the date was dropped for his views on who should be the next president, time has healed a few wounds, or as the daughter put it, time helped the guy see the light. Maybe since he's now for Obama she should have said he now sees the "dark."

Inglewood says she had no idea how passionate she was about tolerance until she arrived home that evening after work to see she was being portrayed as having someone else's viewpoint.

Brandi's looking at Palin a little differently now. She's even acknowledged - got it straight from me - that the governor does look much better in her designer duds then she did with the Sears and Kmart wardrobe. This commentary doesn't include our discussion on who should have paid for the governor's shopping spree.

There's been a heap of lessons learned from this 2008 political campaign. Those mentioned here barely scratch the surface of my family's continuous conversations on the state of the union.

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Published On 10-30-2008 , 5:50 PM

It’s legal.  You can do it.  You might have already done it and, then again, you might have never thought of it.
Radical? Probably not.
Life-changing?  Just might be.
Shake off the mystique.  Get rid of the Us and Them.  Grab them younguns and take ‘em to the polls with you on November 4th.
It’s legal.  You can do it.  If they’re under 18, the legal voting age, they get to take this historical trip with you to the booth.
If you’re in California , you’re covered under Election Code 1422.  If you’re in another state and want the election code, according to today’s Talk About Parenting Live –Call-In guest, Michael Browning, visit and get the skinny.
How did Michael discover this fabulous website and become our show guest?  Wondering how to share this historical election with the many young people in his family, he did the all-too-familiar Google search, and upon discovering many sites he sent us an email.
We know taking the kids with us on Tuesday just might bring about a change in the regular weekly schedule, but the experience just might outweigh the inconvenience.
Yes, there may be long lines, so be prepared with age-appropriate activities and some snacks. Not a bad idea to help the kids, depending on the age, to know what’s on the ballot days before you get to the polling place.
Thanks to Robyn Calder, Liberty Hill Foundation, Program Fellow,  for presenting our viewers a concise view, from the Foundation’s Liberty Vote non-partisan voter guide, of the pros and cons for California Ballot Measures  2, 5, 8, and 9.
If you watched our show on Wednesday. you not only got Robyn’s well-delivered presentation, but you also got my questionable analysis of each ballot measure --including chickens being crowded together in cages (Prop 2), somewhat like the family I met who moved over for five sets of relatives and who, because of economic circumstances, share the very small home causing the teenagers to now use the nearby Arco station for early-morning bathroom duties.
Here’s some of the information from Wednesday's  show (Items 1-3 are for California only): 
1)      As long as you are in line at the polling place by 8:00 p.m. YOU will be allowed to  vote.
2)    voters will need a form of identification. For others, it is not   required.     But, if asked, lessen the stress and present it.
3)      If you make a mistake on your ballot, you are entitled to receive up to two replacement ones – Code 14288.
4)      If you have been CONVICTED of a FELONY and sentence and parole requirements are completed – you can VOTE.
5)      The Election Protection Lawyer Hotline  toll-free number is:      1-866-OUR-VOTE
Need help with ballot measures?  Review the Liberty Vote Non-Partisan Voter Guide on-line at:
Click on our Home Page and access links to other voter-assistance websites. If you have information to add or want to start a conversation, please use our YouTalk Forum.  Of course, you can always add comments, here, on the blog.

Also, this blog appears in our column/articles section where you can print a copy and/or mail to friend or foe!

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Published On 09-20-2008 , 11:40 PM

THE 2008 presidential campaign provides families on both sides of the political aisle some of the best lessons life has to offer.

Hot off the grill we get a look at unsafe sex resulting in teenage pregnancy and how families face the issue.

Then there's the question of credibility that, as parents, we have an opportunity on a daily basis to discuss and evaluate with our youth while we sit together chowing down at dinnertime.

Put civic responsibility lessons at the top of the chart. In fact, voting is always a discussion we need to have with our offspring.

In the middle of all this, there are too many families, and the parents lead the way, believing the candidates, campaigns, issues propositions on the ballot, along with registering and voting, have nothing to do with them.

While Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican VP candidate, is on just about everyone's talk list, for some it's her shenanigans that keep the conversation from taking root at the dinner table.

"Don't be silly," a parent demanded of me as she proceeded to talk about her teenage daughter who had a baby during her senior year in high school.

"Just what was she supposed to talk about with her kid?" she went on to ask. Mom remembered the family had been devastated to learn they would not be attending the high school graduation ceremony relatives as far away as Belize were planning to experience. And then mom continued to talk about the shame her

family experienced upon becoming part of the demeaning statistics that plague the African-American community.

Teenage pregnancy in low-income and minority communities that is billed as shameful, now being billed as a blessing when it comes to Palin's daughter, isn't a conversation this mom knew how to conduct, she said.

But the double standard is the exact kind of issue that leads the way to civic responsibility.

Susan B. Anthony and the women who worked with her in the suffrage movement surely must have had more than a few discussions that resulted in women being given the right to vote.

These suffragettes weren't willing to live with a double standard of men having the right and women being denied.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protecting African Americans' historic fight to have their voices count on election day didn't come about because citizens shrugged their shoulders and said it was too hurtful of an issue for them to face head-on.

These civil-rights activist weren't willing to live with a double standard of whites having the right to vote and blacks being denied.

Then, this year, there's the lesson of duplicity. Our teenagers who often think they can fill out a job application by making themselves look like the person for the position can learn a lot by participating in a serious dissecting of the credentials Palin presents that are constantly being unraveled by up-close examination.

Whoa! These topics aren't worth discussing if the family isn't going to encourage all members who are, or will be, 18 years old by Nov. 4 to register to vote by Oct. 20.

For example, take teenage pregnancy, sex education and the right for a woman to choose and get the dinnertime round-table discussion members to put it into a 2008 election context and then talk about civic responsibility.

The time is long overdue to get everyone in our families involved in civic responsibility. Voting doesn't come about naturally. I suspect it's a family tradition.      

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Published On 09-13-2008 , 9:43 PM

WHAT started as a simple search for T-shirts ended in an understanding of what Sen. John McCain's Republican presidential campaign wanted the news media to afford their vice-presidential candidate in interviews.

Brandi and I headed for South Lake Avenue, where she said she'd seen the office for the Democratic Party's headquarters.

"Obama, Obama," she chanted, intertwining her voice with the tune on her iPod, as we cruised at low speed looking for the place

Hey, she was right. There it was a stone's throw from Ross - the low-cost store. Forget that image of this political party being elitist.

Following the kid's directions, I turned left, made another left onto Shopper's Lane, found a spot and parked the car.

We made our way to the front of the office from the back door entrance.

As we left the place, Brandi made a mockery of my use of the word "deference."

"I think you mean `difference,"' she said with a voice that only a know-it-all who has at last reached the magic age of knowing she knows more than almost everyone else when it comes to vocabulary.

There's nothing better than helping the younguns get back in their place.

Using the back door at Headquarters meant, once inside, we had to walk about a third of a city block to get to the front. The office appeared well staffed, with many folks behind desks as we walked the gauntlet.

Should the folks at headquarters have provided Brandi and I the same deference the Republicans had been demanding the media grant Senator John McCain’s running mate in this presidential campaign ?

What's with the Democrats on South Lake? How come my kid and me couldn't get polite respect - that is, putting our interest in a first-place category? Our interest, according to the meaning of deference, should have come before the paper pushing the folks at the desks continued to do as we walked past - both entering and exiting.

A simple smile and a quick word of welcome? No such courtesy.

"Difference," insisted Brandi.

Over on Lincoln Avenue, on the colored side of town, we stopped at a not-so-great looking shop that had a large picture of Obama painted on the south side of the building and a scrubby-looking sign propped on the sidewalk that said "Register to Vote" with an arrow pointing toward the door.

We left this place with four Obama T-shirts, an Obama hat and an order for the shirt the teenager in charge said he could get for us.

"Oh, you're talking about the shirt that has my man's picture on the front and the word `change' across the bottom with sequins," the teenager explained to me with utmost deference when I had trouble describing the shirt I wanted but he didn't have on the shelf.

Actually, the lady at the front who was in charge of shirt sales in the South Lake headquarters did acknowledge our presence and provided information on the shirts we didn't want because they weren't as flashy as those we'd seen people wearing.

"Difference versus sameness," said Brandi, who was still arguing as we pulled into our driveway claiming I had cut her off earlier and she didn't get to express her true feelings about the problem on South Lake.

The T-shirt lady was the same as we are - black. The other people in the office were different - white, seemed to be Brandi's reasoning.

How often the color issue enters the picture when it shouldn't be there. A white friend of mine tells me he visited the headquarters with his two blonde children. They took the same walk, passing all the people sitting at all the desks. No one spoke to them. They left without asking for the information they had gone there for.

Knowledgeable people have told me that volunteers staff the headquarters.

Oh, is that an excuse?

Both my friend and I spotted Jon Furman, the area Democrat honcho, sitting at one of those desks.

Deference is the word, Ms. Brandi.

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Published On 08-15-2008 , 11:03 PM

THE troublesome story of Caylee Anthony, the 3-year-old Florida girl who has been missing for over a month, follows a pattern the public has been introduced to before.          

In times past, we've been made to sympathize with the family members who reported the crime only to realize they were liars. Upon the facts of the case being made known, it turns out they committed the crime.

Casey - Caylee's mother - who now sits in an Orlando jail charged with neglect and with filing a false statement, says she can't talk about who has her daughter or where they are because she fears harm will come.

But Casey didn't bother to report her child missing until the grandmother made a frantic call to 9-1-1 saying Caylee hadn't been seen for weeks and she feared the worst, her first clue being there was an odor of a decomposed body in their car.

Casey promptly sent police on a wild goose chase looking for a baby sitter she claimed hadn't brought the little girl back home to their home.

But as fast as the police tracked down that story, mom concocted another and then another one. And then another one. But no stories produced Caylee, and the most recent word, as of this writing, is the whereabouts can't be divulged because the child might be harmed.

The child has already been done away with. The charade needs to stop.

While Granny once feared for the worse, she and grandpa are now wearing Caylee T-shirts, collecting   money and driving a decorated vehicle pulling a trailer with signage asking for help in finding the little girl.

This Grandma recalls to me the mother of Damian "Football" Williams, who was captured on news cameras during the 1992 riots in Watts beating truck driver Reginald Denny. She later claimed her son had done no wrong.

Is there a special kind of parental or family denial that, in the case of Williams, the mom couldn't see the camera images, and in the Caylee case, Grandma isn't willing to follow her initial gut feeling based on reasonable clues?

The public knows Casey is lying about what's happened to Caylee and I suspect others might join me in saying Grandma needs to get real!

We've been through this before. In 1994 there was Susan Smith, who had the world agonizing with her over the reported hijacking of her car that had her two young sons in the back seat.

Smith is currently serving a life sentence in the big house for murdering the boys by pushing the car into a nearby lake where they drowned.

The Casey lies also may be turned into a conviction and a life sentence in prison. I look forward to the shovel she borrowed from her neighbor, during an interesting timeline that's been developed surrounding the last time the child was seen alive, becoming a key piece of evidence in the burial of the missing body.

Conversation surrounding this story has some folk claiming the police in Florida aren't doing their job. I think they're working the case and the public just isn't privy to the details.

Conversation surrounding this story has some folk believing mom is whacked out on drugs and really doesn't know what's going on while others think she has a mental condition.

Not being savvy enough to know the behavior patterns of those whacked out, I'm going for the mental condition, which is, in part, supported by mom's reported living her life as a habitual liar.

What's going on here? Nothing really new. Kid dies; maybe it's not even murder. Mom tells lies, stupid ones, to cover up what happened. Relatives don't want to face reality. Old story.

In the end, police will get that all-important break that will put them in the driver's seat instead of the grandparents creating a spectacle cruising around in a vehicle asking for help in finding Caylee.

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Published On 08-07-2008 , 1:26 AM

     My friend Chile who was a guest on our Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith interview show some months ago talked about her early years in foster care, teenage years as a runaway and also about her felony conviction that happened exactly when she had her eighteenth birthday.

      A lot of things go against a convicted felon and one of those, so
chile thought, was losing the right to vote.  I thought the same thing and so did a bunch of other folk. including Cathy who called our Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith LIVE show today and talked about felons losing out.

     Thanks to Robbie Davis from the League of Women Voters, who was the guest, for setting the record straight.

     In California, said Davis, once a felon has served the time and is off parole, they can take part in the process by registering, showing up at their polling place or by mailing in that sample ballot.

     Makes a person wonder how so many of us didn't know the details, here.  And just imagine how many of those, like Chile, who haven't taken part in the election process because no one told them they could.

     Since these folk have been left out, it just may have been a civic responsibility they didn't encourage their kids to participate in.  Then again, being stripped, or thinking they'd been stripped, of their right may have played out in the opposite direction.

     Do we vote because it's a family tradition?

     Here's another piece of uncirculated information.

     Those who are without stable and reliable living quarters may still register to vote and simply describe on the form where they can generally be found.  Under the 4th Street Bridge is an acceptable description.  But an address where mail can be sent is required.  The homeless, said Davis, can make arrangements for this with a nearby shelter.   This, it seems to me, although it wasn't brought up in the discussion, would also serve as an address for determining a polling location.

     Can't help but wonder who has taken the time to let the homeless know about this and if voting is a family tradition, how many homeless families have the energy to help their kids understand this phase of American civic responsibility?

For voter information go to

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Published On 08-02-2008 , 7:40 AM



"Come on, now; you see them."

The descriptive comment was meant for the group of black teenage males strolling north on Lincoln Avenue in Northwest Pasadena. Some had basketballs in their hands.

They weren't loud and they weren't rowdy. They weren't dribbling the balls and they weren't doing Harlem Globetrotter tricks as they cut through the McDonald's parking lot.

"Don't you have some nephews?" I inquired of my companion. "Don't they look pretty much like `the thugs?"'

"Well," remarked my somewhat indignant and very foolish friend, "I do have nephews, but they're not that color. My nephews aren't dark brown."

And then I turned on the news that same night only to hear the political pundits - or was it John McCain, himself - claiming Obama was playing the race card.

Obama IS the race card, just like the young men who were headed north on Lincoln.

Trying to make sense out of being black in America is a wearisome task when it comes to living the experience - it only gets crazier when it comes to explaining it to the children.

The wise parent of color reminds their children they can be anything they want in this great land of milk and honey. But while we beat the drums for "being all you can be," we must, at the same time, lecture on the need to get up earlier, stay up later and work harder than others if life's goals are to be accomplished.

Parents have to make sure our African-American kids are bilingual - they have to speak standard English and they have to know the language of the `hood.

We have to remind our kids they're going to be called arrogant and elitist if they exude an air of accomplishment or display tenacity and self-worth.

The Obama campaign is the reflection of what my folks have known all along about life, for us, in America. The Obama campaign is giving us current examples to teach from.

I'm told my 12-year-old grandson put on one of his white shirts with a tie, smiled in the mirror and said, "I'm Obama and I'm running for president of this country!"

Trouble for the grandson is he plays basketball and it was school game day that had him posing in the mirror as our future candidate.

I think his mother gives him a ride to school every day. Otherwise, if he's hanging with a group of his homies - young black males, that is - and walking down the street in the town where he lives, he's a thug.

The old time lectures of harder-earlier-later may not be preached today because too many of us in this country think times have changed.

They haven't!

My companion who took us through the McDonald's drive-thru for his cup of iced coffee seemed to believe his fair-skinned African-American nephews wouldn't be seen as thugs because, as they used to say in my community, "they were light, bright and damn near white."

"Your nephews aren't what color?" I began my inquiry as he sipped his cold drink.

As he switched to gulping the contents of his cup, he remarked, "I've never really liked your take on life."


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Published On 05-31-2008 , 1:48 AM

      The long-running 2008 presidential campaign just keeps showing up in my house. It seems to have taken up a permanent residence.
    Thanks to my Brandi being plopped, by me, into an Advance Placement English class at her high school, she seems groomed for debate. So when Hillary categorized Obama as an elitist, Brandi said she wasn't sure the senator from New York even knew the meaning of the word.
    Truly, Brandi was a little full of herself on that one. Just because she has to define and use tons of words that I've never heard of, to relegate Hillary to the back seat in a slow learners' class wasn't kosher and it wasn't a discussion I was going to join.
     But no matter. For a few brief moments when her iPod earphones weren't turned to high, I heard her say, "And just who was it that loaned themselves millions of dollars!"
     It isn't that we've got rivalry going on in the household. I dislike Hillary as much as my kid does, but, geez, leave the woman alone sometimes.
     Isn't every politician somewhat of, what's that word, oh, yeah, elitist. How else are they going to fill their campaign coffers if they don't pander, in some way, to the fat cats?
     If it were up to me, I'd see to it that all these politicos who are looking for votes pandered to the plain folk; after all, our ballots, I think, get counted the same way the fat ones do.
     I hear that Hillary hit the streets of Pasadena a few weeks back to grab some Fat Cat cash. Did you know she was here?
     Aside from the costly fundraising event, was there a rally where the common folk had the opportunity to show up to cheer her on?
    Maybe Hillary was simply the pot calling the kettle black when she slammed her opponent with that title.
    Brandi's not listening to my comments about Obama's wife, Michelle, coming to Pasadena this past Wednesday and only being available to those who had $500 to hear her presentation and schmooze with others in the lush yard on Lombardy Road.
     Michelle wasn't scheduled for a rally at John Muir High School or the Jackie Robinson Center  any more than Hillary was scheduled for Blair or PCC, where the average person could show up.
    Brandi doesn't hear my view that both the pot and the kettle are black when it comes to where the candidates get scheduled to spend their time in Pasadena.
    I'd like to think Brandi's into politics and being a responsible citizen, but when I asked her if she voted in the recent election at her school she went into a deep discussion about limited polling places and very long lines.
    I reminded her that our ancestors stood in line overnight when they got the right to vote here in America, and I mentioned black folk walking for days to vote in South Africa. No comment.
     But Brandi was careful not to say any more on the school election for fear, I suspect, of incriminating herself.
    This young lady with the ongoing conversation will, in 2012, help put the president of the United States of America into office. But for now, I'm going to drag her with me to my polling place this coming Tuesday, June 3, so she can get the hang of voting, no matter whether lines are long or short.

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Published On 02-22-2008 , 12:00 AM

Parents with an ear and an eye trained on the mental health, academic success and general well being of their children are frequently labeled as both troublesome, meddlesome and, equally as uncomplimentary, they are often seen as the source of their child’s problem by the very professionals providing services for the family

This viewpoint may well be based upon cases in which irrational caregivers were not only alleged to be of this ilk, but were, in fact, proven to be the blockers of progress in their child’s life.

Whatever the origin, this is an egregious backdrop for the delivery of needed services.  While we would like to believe the professional criteria for determining which care giver is troublesome and which one knows what they’re doing is based upon sound judgment, my experience says not so.  

I have had the displeasure of in depth interaction with both mental health and academic professionals and their records, which we have had them produce for review reflect that I am troublesome, code word, concerned parent.  

Starting with mental health, parents, relatives and caregivers often observe unusual  behavior in their children but the professionals often dismiss these concerns based upon their own observation and training.

For minorities, adverse behavior in our children is often dismissed both by mental health professionals and those in the academic arena, as “that’s just the way they are.”  

For the parent who bypasses this “off the cuff” diagnosis and wants better, the patient file notes will reflect they are troublesome and out of touch with reality.

For the families who lack a Beverly Hills income and a Rodeo Drive private psychiatrist, no matter how diligent the pursuit for adequate care, neither Med-I-Cal nor private insurance will cover treatment the professional has deemed unnecessary.

At this point, as parents, our job is to get past the labeling professional.  Does this mean a hearing?  Does this mean a parent’s review of the records?  Does this mean requesting a review by superiors?

These days, mental stability for loved ones has become a much revered and sought after commodity.  While multitudes of parents have traditionally chosen to down play and ignore what they observed in their children’s behavior because they didn’t want the child labeled but, now, with the constant news of murder rampages carried out by young people with a history of instability, these parents should be rethinking what labeling does and doesn’t mean.

I recognize the stress families are under when it comes to working with therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist and everyone else in the health chain, but it is our job to demand they do their job and work past the concept of labeling both the child and the caregiver.

A request to review our files, which include all notes, or a request for a “fair hearing” quite often helps professionals understand not only are we troublesome because we want the best, we are also a nuisance because we know our rights.

What’s it going to take for this country to realize we’re in a crisis mode as evidenced by the violence acted out all around us in homes and alleyways, on high school and on college campuses, at shopping malls and at courthouses?

Is anyone ever going to take a good long look at our mental health institutions?  Or maybe the answer to this violence problem really is tighter gun control and better security cameras and patrols.


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Published On 01-29-2008 , 12:00 AM

    My kid will be with me at my polling place on Super Tuesday.  Why?  She’s got a job to do just like I do.  What’s that supposed to mean when she’s only sixteen, unregistered and unable to make her voice count?

    She can’t vote but she can make her voice heard.

    Her voice may not count this go ‘round, but she’s being prepped for her own big day that’s soon to come.  Brandi has accompanied me to the polls since she went in a baby buggy.   Then when she was old enough to understand the practice machine at the place, she did make-believe by punching the card and voting for her favorite candidate

    No Barbie oven in our house, no interest in watching the yeast make the dough rise or inhaling the great aroma that emits from the loaf as it browns in the oven.  

    I don’t mind being honest, here.  Brandi probably isn’t interested in baking bread because she isn’t around any people who indulge in such.  

    This weekend Brandi plans to work for the the Obama for America campaign by putting up yard signs and she'll  make telephone calls.

    What about Edwards?  What about Hillary?

    Clearly, my political choices have a profound influence on her like, I suspect, what happens in other households.  Non-voting families pretty much produce non-voting kids.  Republican families pretty much have young Republican kids and the same for Democrats.

     Brandi had to listen to me complain about Hillary back in August when I returned from the National Association of Black Journalist’s Convention where the candidate spoke and during the Q&A insulted one of the journalist who questioned her about matters she didn’t want to answer.  Sort of the same approach husband Bill took last week when he slammed a journalist whose question the former president didn’t like and so he, not so artfully, turned his response into a tirade against the media.

    But Brandi isn’t a Shirlee clone.  She watches the news and with some history of who she is, who her people are and the struggles we’ve had in this land of unequal opportunity, she watched the Clintons insult her very existence.

    Well, those weren’t her exact words.  She expressed herself in the language of the ‘hood,’ “Oh, no they didn’t.”   And the correct way of pronouncing didn’t is dragging the sound of the N and dropping the T and doing it with a lot of black teenage attitude.

    Well, yes, the Clintons did it.  But when’s the last time the mighty Democrats had to worry that the block of votes (the blacks), that they’ve always taken for granted was slipping away.

    My grandmother, Lily Pickett, was a staunch Republican because, as she frequently told us, it was the party of Abe Lincoln who freed Negroes from slavery.

    Brandi hasn’t heard this story but in my child’s railing against the “racist” Clintons, as she’s come to call them, and in her claiming neither the former President or former First Lady know that black people don’t belong to them, I just might bring Lily Pickett’s political affiliation into the conversation.

    Edwards?  Brandi can never remember his name.  But Romney and McCain both get mentioned occasionally but not with much seriousness.  However, if Hillary Clinton wins her party’s nomination this summer in Denver, Brandi and I will have to consider taking a step back in time.

                                  A deeply disappointing side to this story  

We live in Pasadena and called the local Obama for America campaign office because on Sunday morning we had invited over twenty people to a 10:00 brunch to pick up yard signs and get them displayed in the community – we live in a residential area.

The campaign office told me the signs would cost $10 each.  I was given a telephone number of a printer who, I was told, might be willing to print some at no cost and I was then told getting this done  “could be my job!”

I was further told we could have some window signs and when I reminded the volunteer that we live in an area where houses sit back from the street and a window sign would hardly be visible, she suggested I use them to make our yard signs.

As Brandi might say, " Oh, no they didn't."

I was also told Obama for America was grassroots campaign, hence the need to charge for yard signs.  Well, as a welfare recipient, can’t get more grassroots than that, I ran for the local school board and distributed both yard signs AND bumper stickers.

There were a bunch of disappointed folk who had all called even more folk to come to my house to pick up signs on Sunday morning.  Well, they weren’t just disappointed they were mad and by now the news has spread.  My father always said there were three ways to get the story out; telephone, television and tellawoman.

We don’t think our local office heard Obama when he said,  “Change Doesn’t Come Cheap.”

BUT… we may be saved, one disappointed Sunday morning invitee has taken on the task of finding an Obama Office somewhere that’s got FREE yard signs. 

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Published On 01-27-2008 , 12:00 AM

Stop for a few moments, well, okay we probably need more than moments which, actually, is no more than on overused figure of speech, anyway.  Since I want this to be an honest look at the behavior of children and parents in our society, I need to start by not claiming a need for moments but instead ask not just for the minutes required to read this blog but also for the time that’s necessary for us to come to grips with what’s happening to our families.

In Washington D.C., a mom murders her four daughters and lives in the apartment for three months with their decomposing bodies.

In San Bernardino, a teenager shoots and kills his abusive grandfather after receiving another vicious beating.

In Alabama, a 37 year-old father tosses his four young children to their deaths off an 80-foot-high bridge.

At Newport Harbor High, two ninth-grade girls get arrested in connection with the assault of a 13-year old girl that was video taped and shown on MySpace and on You Tube.

In Pasadena, a group of John Muir High students crowd onto the bus one day after school and when the driver asks them to line up they take offense and assault him.

In Brea, a teacher gets arrested and accused of threatening to kill a 12-year-old student.

Back in Pasadena, two John Muir Latina students are taken to and treated in a hospital emergency room because of injuries received when more than half a dozen African-American female students assault them.

How many of these stories are mental health issues?  How many of these stories are tragedies that could have been prevented?

The mother in Washington D.C. had been reported to social services regarding the kind of care she had been providing the children, but workers didn’t follow-up and as a result a number of child welfare folk are now losing their jobs. Should the people who complained, in the first place, have been more vigilant?

Did the distraught teenager who in final desperation pulled the trigger on the man who had raised him have an adult he could have gone to with his story?

Sorry to say, but the MySpace video footage is nothing new – we’ve heard it before with a different cast of characters.

Beating up the bus driver is another repeat and the African American bully girls aren’t that new, either.  These miscreants have been around watching and taking cues from their local counterparts who beat and rob the Latino men who come home from work late at night on their bicycles.

The ability to decipher right from wrong seems to have lost its way.  Vision, these days, seems terribly clouded.  I keep hearing that decent people have disappeared – moved to the countryside, to a beach resort or taken citizenship in Canada.  I don’t think that’s true.  

To me, the decent folk don’t really believe evil triumphs. To me, I still hear good folk all over the place talk about the days when we all took care of the neighbors on the block and around the corner who didn’t have the necessary understanding of everyday matters.  I hear folk who say they used to be that bridge over someone else’s troubled water.

In Alabama, authorities drug the intercontinental waterway flowing under the 80-foot bridge and recovered the bodies of the four children their fisherman father tossed over the rail.

It’s amazing how many people were on the side of the teacher who threatened the disruptive student by telling the kid if he showed up in his class the following year he’d be dead meat.  Well, not the exact words but pretty much like the threats a lot of us make in our own homes behind closed doors and inside silent walls.

Where I come from, the old phrase “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out” isn’t  called child abuse.

Something has gone very much wrong.  A cloud of evil permeates our families whether they are rich, poor, black or white.

Maybe there’s just too much trouble, maybe there’s just too much evil for good folk to believe they can reach out to help make life around us good again.

I KNOW you’ve got something to say or you wouldn’t have read to the end.

Talk Back.  Make a Comment!

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