I know. It's been a really long time.
Two things this week prompted me to write this...
On Tuesday night we attended the ETHS African-American Achievement Awards where Sinobia received an award. This Award has come full-circle. Gabby, the first Aiden grandchild to attend ETHS received this award her freshman year. Sinobia, the last Aiden grandchild to attend ETHS received the award her senior year.
Tuesday night, at the awards ceremony, I saw the girl's old Middle School Principal (shout out to Mr. Mac!). He asked why he hadn't seen any recent post. I didn't really have a good excuse for him. I didn't want to tell him the truth... I've been lazy (and posting on instagram).
On Wednesday morning I attended the ETHS Black Caucus Recognition ceremony where Sinobia was recognized again. I kept looking at my watch, checking the time. I was anxious about getting to work later than I was expected.
At some point during the morning I stopped worrying about getting to work on time and realized that I was having the privilege to witness Black Excellence. This privilege should not be interrupted by the worry of a late arrival to work. This was a rare moment in the lives of our Black children as often they are not recognized for their excellence, but for their shortcomings.
So, this post is to catch you up on the Black excellence that is happening in our Aiden home. I guess it can be called our 2018 Black Excellence Update!
Here it is:
Eric started a new job. He loves commuting downtown Chicago on the train, looking at the Chicago architecture and people watching. There are no children in this work place. He is out of the school setting and feeling blessed and challenged in this new position.
Tracy (that's me) is still teaching Kindergarten. Teaching young children is what I love. This year I have traveled quite a bit for work. I love traveling, but haven't really done a lot of it without my family. The work travel has been a nice glimpse into what our empty-nester lives will be like next year. Eric and I have been talking a lot about what our live will look like when the girls are gone. It will be a bitter-sweet moment when we have no children in the house. I am looking forward to not having to pack school lunches and not worrying about feeding my kids enough fruits and vegetables every day.
Gabrielle graduated from SJSU (San Jose State University) in May with a degree in Health Sciences and Biology. She is not one to mess around with her precious time, so after traveling to Ghana to serve on her last SJSU Medical Brigade, she took a little bit of Summer time off before jumping right back into school. In December she earned her CNA certificate and went right to work using her newly acquired skills. While doing all of this, she was also preparing for the biggest adventure of her life... on Monday she leaves to serve in the Peace Corp. She will be serving for 27 months in Madagascar! We are so proud and happy for her. She gets to serve in the new community that she will be living in while also having the opportunity to travel.
Sinobia. My baby is all grown up. After spending some time this summer in Guatemala on a Service & Leadership trip, Sinobia is now a Senior! This year is flying right before my eyes as Sinobia breezed right through her college process with great poise and humility. She will be attending ASU (Arizona State University) in the Fall and is trying to get through the "senior-itis" she has had since freshman year. She finished up her swim career in the fall and will play her last season of water polo this spring. No college sports for her banged up shoulder and knee. She is so excited about college life and how she can continue to do her activist work on a larger campus. We can't wait to witness her college greatness.
The cat and dog are still with us. Both are getting old, slow and grumpy.
It's weird to think about our life as a family changing. The house will be quiet. Our grocery bills will be less. Who will we make take the dog out? We are so used to taking our children with us every where we go. We have been a crew for so long....
There it is. Short and sweet. Our Aiden Family in all of our Abundance.
Thanks for hanging in there with us.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
We have a social activist on our hands. This is what we have taught our girls. This is how we have challenged them to live their lives...to stand up and speak out about injustices against all in this crazy world of ours.
For both Gabrielle and Sinobia it started with Eric and I urging them to speak up for themselves, some times with teachers, sometimes with friends and occasionally with us. It then moved to speaking up against things they may have witnessed that were wrong. Helping a friend stand up to a bully or a teacher. Calling someone out if they are being racist, biased or unjust. Now the time has come where it is too late for us to back away from our early teachings. Now it the time when their voices matter and we must be there to support them.
Sinobia, being the little sister, has watched big sister Gabrielle stand tall, be her own person, never follow the crowd and always do the right thing. She has donated her time and energy to caused that matter deeply to her and has joined the #blacklivesmatter movement on her campus.
So, when Sinobia revealed her plans to organize a #blacklivesmatter protest we said, "Ok". When she told us the plan was to shut down one of the major streets in Evanston, we got a little nervous, but still agreed to support her efforts.
Sinobia's first protest organizing experience was a success. She had an amazing mentor, Cicely, who guided her and helped her organize and then stepped back and let her do her thing. People showed up, it was a peaceful protest, they were successful at shutting down the street! ( #blmetown ) I believe it was beyond what she thought she was capable of. We are proud.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
This week, we lost another significant loved one in our lives. We are loosing all of our elders, our wise ones, our history keepers, the glue that has kept our families together for so many years.
Am I sad? No. I cannot be sad for those who have moved on after suffering from pain and illness. It would be selfish of me to want them to stay with us. I grieve everyday for the loss of my dad, my father in-law, my aunts and uncles and those who were close enough to us to be called our family. I am pissed that time was cut short. I am angry that my children will not have more time with these amazing people. I am annoyed with myself for the things I should have said, had I known my time was running out.
My heart feels empty on Father’s day. I miss the Zydeco dancing on Christmas and the cornbread dressing on Thanksgiving. Our vacations seem shorter with fewer aunts and uncles to visit when we are in town. Now we make one trip to the cemetery to briefly chat with our loved ones and tell them how much we miss them.
Most of all I am afraid. It scares me to live a life without such significant influences surrounding me. These larger than life people were our safety nets, our voices of reason, our cheerleaders throughout our lives. It scares me that such big shoes were left to fill. Can we do this? Are we ready? Did we listen to all of the wisdom they bestowed upon us? Did we remember all of the life lessons they taught us? Will we be able to hold our families together with the same strength, kindness, generosity and command for respect?
The fear has taken over. Are we now ready to step up and be the elders in our family? Growing up, I never played this scenario through my mind. I saw myself with a family and children, a career, a future, but I never saw this coming…truly growing up, truly being an adult, stepping into a family role that was held by those I respected so much they almost seemed immortal to me.
I know we were raised right. I know we were given the tools we now need to move forward and continue the family legacy. I know we may stumble at first, but we will all come together for the sake of our families, to keep us strong and to carry on. Our histories will have to be remembered, stories will have to be retold, new memories will have to be made and family names will have to be handed down to another generation. I don't want to disappoint. I am so very afraid.
We didn’t know it when we were growing up, but we were being groomed for this moment. We were bred for this life’s work. All of the lectures, sighs, eye rolls and harsh life lessons were all for this moment…. the moment when we look at ourselves and wonder, “Can we go on?” “Can we pick up the pieces?” “Can we continue to build our family up and support each other?” It doesn’t seem like we have much choice. This is the job that has been handed to us, from those who came before us, just like it was handed to them. This is our future, our destiny, our calling. We will keep going, we will keep living, we will keep loving and we will keep the spirit of our loved ones forever alive in our hearts.
"If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them or not?...
But here's another question
Which requires a different view
If you could meet your ancestors
Would they be proud of you?
~Nellie Winslow Simmons Randall
Friday, January 1, 2016
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.
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.
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
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
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!