Culture & Communications

The Birds, The Bees, & Being A Brown Boy in America

In the recent days since the senseless shooting of Trayvon Martin, I sit here perplexed while writing this post, how the mother of this young man is doing. What thoughts may be going through her mind as well as the state of his father and the same. Seeing my two year old walking down the flight of stairs, after recently gliding down them on her belly is amazing to see and yet my mind races forward to her walking down the aisle as she looks at me with such confidence as I imagine her saying to me, “Mommy I got this!”. I do not have a son as of yet, but my heart aches for every brown boy in America that is being raised up in a society where the mis-education of the Negro is rampant and the ever distorted attack on history, heritage, and identity spreads across society like wildflowers.

In my mind, I wonder what the conversation would be a parent would have with their son, especially, if he is brown in color. I wonder what the words of strength, clarity, instruction, and comfort would be to ensure their success in this world we live. In the days following the tragedy of this young man’s life, I reverted back to the time when I would see my father usher my brother to the backyard outside our house. Most times, they would retreat to the back of the house to have their proverbial “man talks”. Man, how I wish that I could be a part of the conversation of how my father shared with my brother his hopes and past; his encouragement for my brother, and the powerful transfer of identity. There is nothing more powerful than to know who you are and where you originated from.

Excuse me for a moment, I must get this off of my chest and onto the paper: My brown brothers who are saggin, please stop. Although culture called us NIGGAS (SAGGIN spelled backwards), you don’t have to carry yourself as one nor adopt the prison origination of that fashion statement. Wearing a belt never halted progress; rather, it secured it.

Seeing how my father and brother would talk out in the backyard caused me to wonder for boys, in particular, brown boys, what is the conversation that is had when fathers and mothers must discuss the developmental issues that only boys face, like puberty, acne, confidence, attitude and positive speaking, and the infamous “the birds and the bees”. Turning on CNN and NBC to ABC, watching the multitude of young brown boys wearing a hoodie toting skittles and a can in hand brings me to chill while I pray and wonder what is the message parents are communicating to their sons about being a Brown Boy in America and all over the world.

While attending a non HBCU (Hist, I had the experience to see the issue of profiling firsthand while walking on the block from class evening after evening and seeing young brown men being stopped by campus security and flashing lights beckoning them their cars to a grand halt. Not sure of what the circumstances where surrounding the issue of probable cause, but I remember praying for their safety even then, because situations of non-sense can cause a serious irritation on the mind especially when all you are attempting to do is get back to your room. I remember asking God to keep the young men calm so that there would be no issues on the back end and for them to be healed from the profiling so their spirit would not be dampened and they’d be focused on why they came to the university in the first place- to get educated and no profiled in the process.

How do you acknowledge a senseless death and the subconscious racism that follows our brown boys in America and throughout? From the projects to the gated communities, wearing hoodies or business suits, what is the language you say to prepare your sons for living day to day? My prayers go out to the Martin family and for parents all over the world. In many ways, this incident has left an indelible scar on our young brown boys and I am consistently asking God that they not be drenched in fear of walking to and fro in the days to come. I am hoping that the laws will be amended and the Stand Your Ground Law will properly reflect the life-saving not perception of danger and granted to use deadly force. We all know that paranoia leads to pop-pop (sound of the cold steel) and another mother watching her son’s hopes and dreams turn to tragedy and shared with the world on the cold tel-e-vision.

Identity is contagious…….pass it on….

Utmost love & respect,

Danita Ogandaga

Copyrighted 2012

Culture & Communications

The Birds, The Bees, & Being A Brown Boy in America


The Front Porch: The Waiting Room by Danita Ogandaga

Front porches are so quaint and serve as a beautiful introduction to a home. I like to think of front porches as a waiting room of sort. Some overflowing with rocking chairs and plants and some bear with a single chair. I am sure that many people have had an awesome experience in life while sitting on the porch. For those friends of mine that may be from various sections of the world, the porch is defined as a structure attached to the exterior of a building often forming a covered entrance. The definition is solid but does no justice for the cultural symbolism that a porch holds for the American and their front porch. The porch fosters an amazing connection between nature and land, safety and security, the level of control one has between the world and the domain of his or her home.

Formation of Community- Growing up on Desmond Street in Kinston, North Carolina was an amazing experience. To the left of my street would be the Koonce, Dillahunt, and Platt families and to the right of me would be the Rhem, King, and Smith families. Whether the weather was cold or hot, you could be sure that at some point of the day, you would have a member of those family members sitting on that porch. Before I could even walk, my mother and my father would always encourage me to greet my neighbors when coming out of the house and getting into the car. The idea of offering a greeting was a sign of respect and reverence for the neighbors who assisted in creating community on my street.

Porches have been creating venues for socialization for many years which has lead to the formation of community. I remember the farmers coming into town stopping on my street and watching my mom go to the porch to purchase her vegetables and fruits. There were times when my father would give the payment for our life insurance policy to the agent….on the porch. We would venture off of our porch and walk to the porch of our new neighbors who moved into the community. The porch was the holding space that fostered much opportunity to building lasting friendships; building familiarity beyond the sidewalk and not yet achieving the intimacy of entering the house. It was overall, a healthy balance of a new beginning.

Nurturing the Psychiatric Core- My parents were ministers, so I was a PK (Preacher’s Kid) two times over. Still, I witnessed several occasions where my parents would counsel married couples, engaged couples, and family issues on the porch. The furniture on the porch got a lot of wear and tear from our family as we would use the porch as a common ground to air the issues were facing as a family in addition to celebrating the positive moments like birthdays, holidays, and other events.

Families use the porch as a common ground to resolve issues about which kid knocked the hose over and how it would be resolved. The porch was a civil arena where people could come with no reservations to establish a non-threatening environment for creative resolutions to making everything better. Bringing the neighborhood and the community together and provoking opportunities to invoke awareness and prompt care, the porches of the world, whether public or private, are a waiting room for change.

This weekend, my family and I were engaged in our weekend activities which included the following, to name a few:

Visiting family members for Tally to play with her cousins
Taking a trip to our International Farmer’s Market
Business meetings with clients
Courting at our local cafe
Walking a trail at our local park
Checking out or returning books at our local library

In the midst of doing all of this traveling and back and forth, while out visiting our Aunt and Uncle in the northern part of Georgia, we realized that while attempting to get to their home early, we were locked out and did not want to wait in the car. So instead of complaining, we just took the time to take the funny pictures, get in sneezing matches due to the pollen affects, sing our favorite songs, and just look into each other’s eyes and just be……one, with each other. It was such an awesome experience to be able to take the time to star gaze into each other’s eyes…..that was until we realized that the door was open and our Aunt and Uncle had entered the house from the rear and had been waiting for us to come in for about twenty minutes! It was hilarious, but the time we spent on that pollen- filled porch was priceless!

Enjoy your family; enjoy your porch!