Friday, January 1, 2016

Woke in 2015...

Woke (Urban Dictionary)

Being Woke means being aware. 
Knowing what’s going on in the community.

(Relating to Racism and Social Injustice)

Person 1: Stop bringing racism into everything
Person 2: You're clearly not woke


2015 has come to an end.  It was a great year for the Aiden family.  No regrets, only humble gratefulness for our health, family, friends and amazing experiences that have helped prepare us for entering into 2016.  

This year was the year of getting "woke", being "woke", staying "woke" or being reawakened for our family.  As I have written about before, the world is changing right before our eyes.  What was our history has now become our present reality.  We are constantly watching injustice, prejudice, and racism be played out in the media and even in our neighborhoods.  There are constant conversations in our home about how we, as individuals and as a family can do our part to help get the world back on track towards equity, equality and justice for all.

This year, in addition to taking care of our individual selves and spirits, we also tried to do our part to spread some love and peace in the world, hoping that the ripple effect of our actions will reach many that are near and far in our hearts and minds.


Eric participated in the Million Man March in 1995.  This year he returned to Washington DC for the Justice or Else Million Man March 2015 20th Anniversary.

"Justice is the birthright of every human being.  Justice is a prerequisite to life. 
We cannot live without justice and where there is no justice there is no peace." 

Eric returned home from the #JusticeOrElse Million Man March renewed, recharged and with a mission.  His new mission, #BoycottChristmas.   

#BoycottChristmas was a major call to action coming out of the #JusticeOrElse march, uniting blacks in a mission to boycott the lucrative Christmas retail industry and gain the attention of those who have contributed to the oppression of minorities.  

Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers did it.  Both civil rights leaders used Christmas boycotts to press for Black justice.  Evers led a successful boycott of 150 downtown stores in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962.  On his last day on earth Dr. Martin Luther King asked us to practice “economic withdrawal” as a strategy to gain our rights.

So, the day after Thanksgiving, #BoycottChristmas went into effect in the Aiden house.  It was a house divided, as we all wanted to support Eric and the black community in this charge, but it was so very difficult for us to give up the Christmas celebration and tradition that we have had in our family for 21 years. We debated, we argued, we agreed to disagree.  We gave up some things, and held onto some things.  No Christmas tree, no decorations, purchases made from black merchants and a lot less money spent in the Aiden household.  In the end, we were all together on Christmas morning, healthy, happy, grateful and feeling somewhat empowered by our small contribution to the movement.


Gabrielle spent a lot of time during 2015 offering her humble heart to communities in need.  She became woke to the economic inequities and lack of health care of so people in different regions of the world.  She spent some time in Nicaragua with the SJSU Medical Brigade bringing medical and dental care to residents in underdeveloped small villages. Gabrielle was nominated to serve as the secretary of the SJSU Global Brigade Board for the 2015-2016 school year.  She will return to Nicaragua with the Brigade this summer to assist in the administering of more medical and dental care that is greatly needed in the villages that they will serve.

She then traveled to Tanzania to complete a medical volunteer internship in the Iringa hospital.  In Tanzania, Gabrielle had the opportunity to experience medical rotations in a variety of hospital units (pediatrics, labor & delivery and ER) and provide (shadow) medical care to patients in yet, another underdeveloped area in the world. It was in Tanzania that she was able to confirm her notion that a career in medicine was the path she would take in her future.  Gabby was also able to make connections with patients, doctors and other medical volunteers from around the world.

While back in California, Gabrielle participated in a variety of protests and marches in response to the many acts of violence, hatred and prejudice that were being inflicted upon blacks and other minorities around our country.  Though the SJSU BSU (Black Student Union) and other organizations, she too was able to proudly represent her black culture.



Sinobia.  What do we say about Sinobia.... This is our #Powertothepeople leader!  Sinobia has embraced her blackness this year.  She has become a proud black woman that works hard to protect the integrity, beauty, strength and culture of her black people.  

One way Sinobia has begun to bring awareness of black culture to her friends and community is through her "Black Friday" posts on her instagram and Facebook spaces.  Sinobia has been using her writing skills to address issues that many people don't want to talk about or avoid conversations about.  Many of these posts have sparked some great debates and dialogue.  The second week of school, Sinobia began searching for ways to enhance the Black History Month celebrations at ETHS.  Through her inquiry, she was given the duties of assisting in the coordinating many of the Black History Month celebrations that will happen at her school this year.  She participated in the Black Girls Summit at ETHS this fall and joined the #blacklivesmatter movement through her attendance at the #blacklivesmatter meetings in Evanston.  

Sinobia rounded out the 2015 year by doing the black girl "woke" big-chop.  She cut off all of her chemically treated hair and went natural (with some pink hair dye).  Towards the end of the year, she also found herself participating in a sit-in at an Evanston District 65 Board meeting.  Parents, students, teachers and community members gathered at the District65 building in response to the PARCC test results that were released in December.  The test results showed that the historical achievement gap between black, Hispanic and white students is still growing in our Evanston schools. At the end of the meetings community comment hour, Sinobia stood up to be the last speaker of the evening.  She gave a brave and honest speech about her positive experience in District 65, but also charged those on the Board to think about how they can assist in helping schools and teachers build relationships with parents and students so that they can feel as if they are welcomed, understood and valued in their schools and in their classrooms.


Tracy has spent the past year becoming unapologetic about her blackness, her boldness and her sassiness.  At work, in the community, and amongst her friends, she has decided that she is who she is...take it or leave it.  During this process of discovery and transformation, Tracy has taken on some difficult challenges, confrontations and conversations with her peers and colleagues.  It started with a Trayvon Martin t-shirt, a #nopeacenojustice t-shirt, a #blacklivesmatter t-shirt and then the posting of a #blacklivesmatter sign in her classroom.  Some Allies were made, some lost, but in the end everyone pretty much knows where she stands when it comes to being a black woman in America (and in Evanston & Wilmette).

For the past few years, Tracy has worked on developing a curriculum for her kindergarten classroom that teaches about peace, justice, equity and diversity.  This curriculum is based on teaching children about these concepts throughout the entire school year and not just for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Through honest conversations, the exploration of the Civil Rights Movement era, learning about peace makers and game changers in history and discovering past and present injustices in our world, the children in her classroom are empowered with knowledge that will allow them enter into the world as informed peacemakers of the future.  

This year, Tracy wrote a proposal to present her classroom work and curriculum at the 2015 POCC conference in Tampa, FL.  Her proposal was accepted and she successfully presented her work to a room filled with enthusiastic educators.  This was her first presentation experience in her teaching career and it proved to be a positive experience as she received much positive feedback from attendees of her presentation.

We appreciate all of our family and friends, allies and colleagues that have supported us through this magnificent year of discovery, empowerment, and cultural appreciation.  Next year we will continue to work towards educating not only ourselves but others who are willing to be WOKE....

Happy 2016 from The Aiden Family!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Yes, I cried today. 

My baby, Gabrielle Ollie Aiden, turned 21 today.  I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant with her.  Eric was both nervous and excited. My mom was ecstatic.  Eric's mom said, "I'll believe it when I see it."  21 years ago, Eric and I became parents.  

I would like to say that we did an amazing job raising a confident, independent, strong and humble young woman.  I would like to take all of the credit for all of the prideful moments and accomplishments.  The reality is, we did not do it alone.  Since the day Gabby was born, there has been a circle of family and friends that have helped us nurture and support her.  

Thank you to all of our family and friends who have contributed to the growth and loving nurturing of our baby girl.  Thank you for always supporting her, encouraging her and cheering her on.  Thank you for attending all the gymnastic meets, plays, circus shows and graduations.  Thank you for being amazing role models and mentors.  Thank you for taking this journey with us for the last 21 years.  Thank you for loving our Gabby just as much as we do.

Today I cried because I remember the little baby that would fall asleep on her dads chest every night.  I remember the baby that smiled at everyone she met.  I remember the baby that learned to walk at 8 months and wobbled her way through the house.  I remember the baby that grew up to go to kindergarten and was brave enough not to cry on the first day of school (although I did).  I remember the the baby that graduated from high school and left home to go to college (more tears from me).  I remember the baby that traveled to Africa and stayed away from home for a whole year.  

That baby I remember is now a grown woman, an adult, legal.

Happy 21st Birthday Gabby!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Million Man March 2015

It wasn't much...just an epic road trip with a few of the guys. 20 years ago, Eric traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first Million Man March.  This weekend he returned to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the March.  Not much huh?  It was enough to make us all envious and proud.

With our nation filled with racial tension and unrest and the majority of our conversations in our home are centered around race, white privilege, and racial injustices, this return journey for Eric was an important moment in all our lives.  Our girls are proud to say that their dad thought it was important to be there.  I am proud of Eric for taking the time to unite with other black men and stand for the many causes that have come to the forefront of our lives... #justiceorelse #blacklivesmatter #sayhername #icantbreathe #handsupdontshoot

We really wanted to join Eric on this trip, but understood that this was more than just a trip, it was about standing up and standing together as black men.  We wanted to experience the love, pride and unity of being amongst thousands of our people, but know that we would have been in the way.

It is important for all of us to pause, take a moment and remember that we as black people are not alone.  We did not get to where we are now in our lives alone.  Together we are strong, we are mighty and we are beautiful. We must remember to reflect on this often, especially in an America that does not show its love, appreciation and respect for black lives.  Eric, put life on pause this weekend to remember this and march for what is right. #justiceorelse.

Hopefully our girls will continue to be social advocates, educate those who are ignorant to racist comments and behaviors and set the record straight with those who believe our lives do not matter and are not worth fighting for.  Eric inspires them on a daily basis to be the a voice for themselves and others.  He challenges them to speak up and step up and make some noise and some changes around them.  His Million Man March trek has refueled us, inspired us and given us new energy to keep moving forward on our own journeys as proud, strong, smart, beautiful black women in America.

Justice or Else

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nicaragua "Thank You".

I'm not on Facebook, but many of you are. As promised, Gabby has posted a "thank you" to everyone who helped in her fundraising efforts for her Medical Brigade trip to Nicaragua.  She has also posted over 200 photos from her trip.

Since Gabby's has returned from Nicaragua,  Her dad paid her a visit on Father's Day and hung around to help her get settled into her new apartment.   Tomorrow he will drop her off at the airport as she leaves for another adventure on her GapMedics volunteer trip to Tanzania.

Stay tuned for Tanzania updates and photos and thank you again!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SJSU Nicaragua Medical Brigade

There was a text saying, "We made it." and then 10 days of silence.  Not a word from Gabby on her Nicaragua Medical Brigade trip.  She had already informed me that "No news, was good news." but I still wanted to hear from her.

Then a few days ago I got another text, "Made it back to San Jose."  She was home.  Safe and sound.

Thank you to everyone who made this Medical Brigade trip possible.  Thank you for all of your donations and words of encouragement.  We are so grateful for it all.

If you know Gabby, you know that she doesn't really get super excited about stuff (or at least she doesn't show it).  So, when I spoke with her after her return from the Medical Brigade and she told me that it was a "LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE!" I knew that it was an amazing trip.

I won't go into detail, because Gabby will want to do that herself on Facebook, to also thank everyone, but I will share with you that your donations allowed for this Medical Brigade to serve over 1,000 people during their visit.  Cement foundations were laid for houses, landscaping was done, medical and dental treatment were provided, new friends were formed and memories were made.

It has always been a wish of ours to have our children experience life in other countries, to give and to serve, and to return home even more grateful and humble than they were before they left.  I think this trip accomplished all of that and even more.  It's hard for me not to gush about it, but you'll be hearing all about it from Gabby soon.

Thank you!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

This is the day (I use the whole weekend) that I totally take advantage of my mom status.  I expect the royal treatment.  I expect to get out of all of my carpooling, house cleaning, dog walking duties.   I expect for my family to sing my praises and celebrate the fact they they are lucky to have me in their lives.  

What I didn't expect this year, was the fact that I would be spending a great deal of time thinking about my journey as a mother. I have always prided myself on raising strong, independent, smart and sassy black girls.  It has always been my goal to send my girls out into the world and know in my heart that they would be OK out there without me by their side.  I have taught them to be fierce, driven, kind, nurturing and to speak up for what they believe.  I have told them on many occasions that they are to strive to be black women that stand out in the crowd,  Black women that take people by surprise with their resiliency and knowledge, Black women that stand up and speak up for what they believe and what is right in the world.

Over the past year, I have been questioning if my teachings are the right ones for this world we are living in.  Is it safe for me to teach my black girls these things?  We have sat as a family and watched the world as we know it,  crumble in front of our eyes.  My girls have begun to witness events that feel familiar to them as things they have read about in their history books and that we have taught them about.  The idea of them as black women possessing civil rights is being questioned at our dinner table and the understanding of all the "stories" and "lectures" on racism that we have given them over the years is beginning to ring true.  They are watching history repeat itself on many channels on TV and in social media. They are taking part in the re-enactment of history as they protest, march, observe moments of silence, debate and write about the injustices being displayed in front of them.  Familiar names of those gunned down stay a constant in our family conversations.  Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray (and many more) are all names that frequent our conversations and drive my girls to speak out more, do more and make more of a difference amongst their classmates friends and in their communities.  

So, of course I should expect nothing less of them then to speak up, protest, question, debate and stand up for their rights and the rights of others.  This is what they have been taught right?  But at this time in our world, I am wondering if our teachings will keep them safe.  Yes, we also taught common sense, restraint and advocacy skills, but will these additional skills really matter in a world that is becoming so angry and divided?

I am torn.  I want my girls to continue to go out into the world and strong black women.  I want them to protest, shout and stand their ground.  I want them to feel pride in their actions and the black women they are becoming.  But, I also want them to be safe.  I want them to feel confident that all that I have been teaching them will lead them to the lives they wish for.  I want them to flourish and stay resilient. I want them to continue to be proud of being black women and not afraid of this beautiful gift.  

Most of all, I want them to know that I am always and forever proud of them and the women they have become.  Whether silent or loud protesters, compassionate or hard-core thinkers or advocates for the fallen and neglected people in the world,  I will always have their backs, support them and lift them up.  

Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hello There

Hello There!

So, what should I say?

“Merry Christmas!”
“Happy 20th Birthday Gabby!”
“Happy New Year!”

Yep, it’s been a while since my last post.  There are times I feel like we Aiden’s totally got it going on and then times I feel like there’s not much going on at all.  Someone asked me why I hadn’t posted anything in a while, I told them because our lives were not really all that exciting.  In some ways that’s a good thing.  I still feel busy and often times overwhelmed by “stuff” but most of the time these days, I feel settled.  I feel as if our lives are in a good rhythm.

The holidays were crazy busy as usual.  This was our first holiday season without grampa Aiden.  There was the lingering sense of loss and sadness but also the great sense of love, pride and family bonding that occurred that kept us all afloat. 

Gabby turned 20!  I can’t really wrap my brain around how I have raised a child to be 20 years old.  She has turned out to be an amazing young woman with a serious vision for the direction in which she wants her life to go and the Drummer-Aiden heart and drive to get her there.  She returned to school in 2015 ready to take on whatever the new year has in store for her and to plan a few adventures herself. 

Sinobia finished her freshman year swim season, enjoyed the holidays (and a few concerts) and is now in the beginning of water polo season at ETHS.  Everyday when I drop her off and pick her up from practice I chuckle at the memory of how I had never predicted that she would be the two-sport athlete in our family.  I always pictured her as a drama/theatre student.  Although she is full of drama, the theatre has not been lucky enough to have her yet.

Eric is working on his knee.  He has had a great recovery with no complications.  He is looking forward to getting back to his work-out routine and testing the limits of his healed knee.  The girls and I have decided that he should retire from basketball.  I think he agrees.  A big part of Eric’s daddy role these days is to worry.  He is so protective of his girls and is always worrying about them.  I guess this is a good balance in parenting, since I am more of the “let them go experience life” kind of mom.  As long as they are making good choices and being safe, I’m all for it most often.  Eric helps me look at the “other side of things” when it comes to parenting. 

I have been up to the usual…working, carpooling and nagging my family.  I took a trip by myself to surprise my mommy in February and allowed myself to sleep late, rest and relax for a few days.  I have also decided (once again) that I need to start taking care of myself.  So, I have started exercising a little bit.  I absolutely hate it!!!  I like to see instant results.  I want to see the six-pack the tight thighs in one week.  I really don’t want to work that hard for the body I dream of having.  I’m going slowly.  I’m trying. Spring is just 10 days away.  The big sweaters and coats will come off soon. Ugh!  After 46 years of not exercising, this may be the year for me (but, I think I say this every year).

I will try to post more often.  I often wake up in the middle of the night with cute and witty thoughts to write about, but soon forget when I fall back to sleep.  Maybe I’ll try keeping paper and a pencil by my bed.  Hmmm…maybe not.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What Makes You Strong.

The loss of a loved one is so profound.  There are a million ways in which one can cope with the loss and grief of this event.  Some people grieve silently, some out loud.  Some keep busy and others seek out comfort from their loved ones.  Grief can look like many different things and take over at any time.  I remember being in Potbellys when the wave of grief for my dad hit me.  The musician that was playing in the window started playing a Beetles song.  I remembered my dad playing that song on his record player.  I ran out of the restaurant sobbing as the tears flowed.

I have been raised to be the strong one, the get things done girl, the rock, the pull my big-girl pants up girl, the stand tall and be the last man standing girl.  That is my role, my ethic in all that I do, even how I grieve. This is also my curse. 

In my mind, I am the one that takes care of everyone.  I’m the mom.  I’m the wife.  I’m the fierce protector of my family that my parents raised me to be.  I am the strong face that lets everyone know that everything is going to be OK. The problem is, I neglect to take care of myself while taking care of others.  I have not allowed myself to grieve.  I have not taken care of myself.  I have to learn how to do this.  It’s hard to unlearn habits you have carried with you all of your life.

Today I surrendered.

After being sick for almost 3 weeks and having a headache for a whole week, today I took myself to the doctor.  Apparently, I have been walking around with a sinus infection and some nasty “school virus” for some time. 

Later in the morning, I cried about spilling my coffee.  The tears just spilled out of me.  The tears flowed down my face just as easily as the coffee flowed over the kitchen counter.  Both the coffee and myself were a big mess.

The truth is, those tears were not about the coffee.  That was my moment of vulnerability.  My moment to let the grief I have been feeling spill out.  I miss my dad and I miss Eric’s dad.  I grieve for the fact that I don’t have a dad with me anymore.  I grieve for Eric, because now he knows this feeling of loss.  I grieve for my girl’s loss as they believe that their grandfathers were the two of the most influential people in their lives and now they are gone.

I blamed my tears on the coffee mess and the fact that I was not feeling well. There was a moment of confusion on Eric’s face, as I sobbed in his arms.  The poor guy probably thought I had either over-dosed on antibiotics, was having a serious menopausal meltdown or I had not caffeinated myself early enough in the day.  As I tried to shake it off and compose myself, I knew that he knew what was really wrong.  He gave me space, let me cry and then allowed me to pull myself together again and emerge from the room composed and strong again.

The weird thing is, I felt so much better after I cried.  My headache went away.  My cough subsided a little bit.  I think I needed to cleanse myself of the feeling I was holding onto in order to protect the ones I love.  I think now I know I need to protect myself too. 

I will wake up tomorrow and probably go back to my same old habits, but I have learned a lesson in this day.  Being vulnerable makes you strong.  Being resilient makes you strong.  Being loved by those that go before you makes you strong.  Holding on to their precious memories makes you strong.  Having love in your life and giving love makes you strong.  Shedding tears makes you strong.  At the end of this day, I am stronger than I was when I woke up this morning.  I will stay strong.