Archive for category Families

Marriage: Not for the Weak Hearted

Today, almost every woman in America is asking this question: How could Huma Abedin stand by her husband, New York City Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner, also now known as “Carlos Danger”, and defend her marriage after learning he lied about the timeline of his scandalous cybersex activity?

My guess is that two extremely strong feelings—love and pride—motivated her to speak on his behalf at yesterday’s press conference.

It’s probably safe to say Abedin’s level of embarrassment about her husband’s illicit activities is beyond measure. Her marriage to the one-time U.S. Congressman was supposed to be different. She and Weiner were supposed to be the next prominent Washington power couple. But that’s all gone now, and a curious public wonders why she stays.

I know how she feels.

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary, yet it’s not a day of celebration. A marriage expected to bring about exciting artistic creativity, enduring love and a positive, strong picture of the black family, has been breathing on life support for the past five years. The roller coaster ride of my husband’s mental illness and the emotional abuse associated with it almost made me pull the plug on more than one occasion, but I made the decision to stay. Why? Because of love and pride.

Family and friends thought I was out of my mind. Many witnessed my misery, very much like we watched Abedin face reporters yesterday, and wondered aloud why I was willing to sacrifice a budding career to stay in my marriage after years of horrible mistreatment.

I denied there was a problem for a while, thinking my husband just needed to mature a bit since we married in our early 20s. But reality set in after a few years. My creative, fun and talented husband had sunk into the abyss of a psychosis that he was unable to battle on his own. I was afraid for him, knowing that if I left he would fall into the kind of life he desperately wanted to avoid.

We spent years battling the mental illness in secret, because of embarrassment. I was unwilling to admit the marriage had failed. I almost drowned under the pressure. The pain of multiple miscarriages and an unexpected career transition made me break the vow of secrecy. These issues also made my husband step out from behind the shadows of his psychosis and begin working to rebuild our marriage.

After years of pain, I’m still working to forgive.

Abedin said she has already forgiven her husband for the betrayal. I hope so. But unless some larger political calculations are in play, it seems to me that Abedin may already be headed down the same dark, difficult path of denial and pain I’m still recovering from.


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Black boys denied the right to be young

I am not Trayvon


By Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

(Originally published July 15, 2013)

Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid. Read more 


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Response to Juan Williams’ Wall Street Journal op-ed on race and guns

Dear Editor:

I respect Mr. Williams for bringing attention to the issue of guns and race (Race and the Gun Debate op-ed, 3/26), but he’s misguided. It’s wrong to point to the rise in single-parent households as the main reason behind gun violence affecting inner cities.

The glorification of violence associated with the underbelly of the hip hop culture, the absence of popular after-school activities, and the under-involvement of engaged and upstanding adults–especially men–in the community are the principal causes. If the overwhelming majority of messages young people receive are negative, and there are no positive counter-messages, how can we expect them to make good decisions?

President Obama has had an extraordinarily positive effect on many young people in the black and Latin communities. But they’ve never not dreamed of becoming successful.  Many, like my 12 year-old biracial nephew, say the mere presence of the president and Mrs. Obama has made their dreams seem more achievable.  But unlike my nephew and other young people who are surrounded with positive support and engaged in a plethora of extracurricular activities, many are being lost under the weight of economic pressures still facing their families.

These pressures have diverted the attention of many parents. Many, struggling just to stay afloat and provide basic needs, have even put pressure on their children to contribute to the household finances. With this added pressure from home, no real jobs to speak of close by and darned little else to keep them focused on laying the groundwork to build successful futures, it’s a safe bet to say the true impact of the president’s influence on young people of color won’t be felt until they all feel the benefits of the economic recovery.

Tawana Jacobs

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Fathers lost to gun violence create family leadership holes

Newtown and Aurora notwithstanding, gun violence is nothing new to communities of color in major cities around the country. News reports are typically the same: a young person dies and their family feels extraordinary grief about a life lost long before its time. But my family’s story is different. We lost two men who were grandfathers, and none of the talk about new gun laws will bring them back.

Ron Fennel, 53, was shot to death one block from his Detroit home in June 2011. He was a father of two, as well as a patriarch and chef to an extended family void of male leadership after our last uncle died in 2006. My cousin was busy on the streets back in the 1970s and 80s and had made a lot of mistakes in his life, but he was working hard to overcome them at the time of his passing.

We were working together to launch a family fruit and vegetable garden in the city. It was to be our contribution to our hometown’s rebuilding efforts. Ron had other ambitious plans too. He was anxious to end the family dysfunction created by his absence and inactivity as a father. His first step was to build and sustain a relationship with his newly discovered eight year old granddaughter.

With her father, Ron’s son, in prison and mother working long hours, Ron had become an almost daily fixture in his granddaughter’s life and was determined to be a positive male role model. Her poem of sadness at Ron’s funeral about their new relationship lost had everyone in tears.

Despite Detroit police department sources fingering a suspect, the prosecutor remains reluctant to bring charges. Ron’s old police record is cited as a reason for the hesitation.

Prince Chapman, 64, was shot by a 12 year old boy outside his Fort Wayne, Indiana auto repair shop in 1998. He was a father of five successful adult children and a grandfather of 10. My uncle was also a long-time youth football coach, mentor and community activist in a town without many heroes. His commitment to the city was so noteworthy that mourners waited for hours in a line at least a half mile long to pay their respects.

Unlike my cousin’s case in Detroit, this case was solved quickly. The boy responsible for my uncle’s death was angry about his dismissal from the football team because of disruptive behavior. The boy already had a criminal history. My uncle was aware of it; however, he thought his positive influence could help another troubled young man.

In spite of their overwhelming grief, my uncle’s widow and children adhered to that same positivity and allowed prosecutors to offer a plea bargain to the young murderer. Released from prison in August 2012 and now in his late 20s, the young man was given a chance to start over with the family’s blessing.

As noted author Dream Hampton said today on Twitter, “Violent deaths of loved ones feel unfair for a lifetime, whether they were famous or not.”

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