mother's day Archives - The Jose Vilson

mother’s day

Recently, I was watching the movie 2Pac Resurrection, the posthumously narrated biographical film about the rapper Tupac Shakur. In one of the segments, 2Pac discusses his prison stint and the people who sent him letters and visited him during his time behind bars. One of those people, of course, was his mother, Afeni Shakur. Their relationship strained over the years, but his prison sentence forced the two back together. The irony, of course, is that they were once together in jail while Ms. Shakur was pregnant with 2Pac during her time as a Black Panther.

When I first heard the song, I couldn’t fully grasp their situation. I knew as much about 2Pac’s life as MTV would reveal. To the general media, he was a chart-topping, record-selling, reckless, Black thug with way too much money on his hands and too much celebrity. I didn’t know much about Dionne Warwick nor C. Dolores Tucker. I also didn’t know he was literally getting followed by the FBI and every law enforcement official within a 5-mile radius of his entourage.

But if there’s one thing I knew about 2Pac, and it’s the same thing every poor kid knew when they ran the “Dear Mama” tape, it’s that this man knew how to make a song. My friends and I would sit there not saying much while the record played, or the video came on, and tried to hold the emotions in. We’d weep while no one was looking, and tried to act tough in front of each other. Usually. 2Pac’s songs still pull people in because it doesn’t let people off the hook. Either you ride with him or you turn the tape off.

So it was with “Dear Mama.”

For a good portion of my life, the only people that my mom and I had were each other. When my stepfather came into our world, and eventually my younger brother, I still remember how much she struggled just to keep a hot plate on our table. She took odd jobs around town, including the factory job that eventually left her incapable of maintaining a full-time job. When that didn’t work out anymore, she took on parenting heroically, piecing together monies she saved up with income from my stepfather and other sources. We rarely if ever missed meals, and our clothes stayed clean. Out of circumstance, I only saw my father once a year on average, but my mother wouldn’t let me feel any sort of way about that.

The more I found out about my mom and the struggles she went through just to ensure I became the man I am today, the more I knew I had to become that, at whatever cost. I blamed myself often for my own shortcomings, and became frustrated with her. That’s what most sons in that situation, my friends included, felt in my predicament. We didn’t have our fathers there, and we kept trying to run away from our fathers’ images until we became lots like them. It’s our ultimate shortcoming, and often, the only way to reverse the anguish of not living up to a certain image is to reflect without the external influences, without the confusion, without the noise.

That’s what Tupac did for a lot of us, so we didn’t have to.

Last year, this song was added to the National Recording Registry. Wikipedia states that “The Library of Congress has called ‘Dear Mama’ ‘a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper’s own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and societal indifference.’” For those of us who felt like Pac did, we couldn’t agree more.

Jose, whose plan was to show you that I understand …


Afeni and 2Pac

A few notes:

1. I’m back to health mostly. It feels good, especially after taking the day off on Friday to handle that. I needed a little breather to finish out the year strong, and I wasn’t coming into work to spread my cold on anyone. Thankfully I think I’m ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

2. A pretty heated discussion popped off in that last post about the Holocaust and the Maafa. In turn, that post alone received 600+ hits. I know, I’m surprised. Before that, I’ve never gotten over 300 hits in a day.

3. I went to one of (2) regular barbershops, and there was this new guy there. Of course, everyone’s nervous about the new guy, but I said, “F*k it, what’s the worst that could happen?” Why did this man take 45 minutes to hook me up (where it should only take me 20, 30 tops)? 3 people at a different barber finished before I did. After a while, I said, “Alright, let me go!” I mean, I was literally there teaching him how to cut. And he kept making mistakes, so he kept trying to fix them. I’m surprised my hairline isn’t behind my ears after that experience.

4. To all the past and present mothers, soon-to-be-mothers, and future hot moms, Happy Mother’s Day. To everyone else, wish your mothers wherever they may be a happy and joyous one (unless you and her don’t really get along like that, then my bad). They’re the center of our universe, and there’s no way we can pay them back, but the plan is to show ‘em that we understand … you are appreciated.

I’m keeping it short today. I gotta prepare my mom a little something. In the meantime, enjoy these tidbits:

- Pandagon reports on a teacher who lost his job in Florida because he’s a wizard. No, really.

- The Free Slave puts down some interesting points of view about our current system.

- Did Edward Carson really bring up Public Enemy in a classroom effectively? Why I believe he did.

- Eva at Sassy Women Online discusses the latest You-Tube phenomena of bullying online and why it’s not cool to almost kill a girl on camera.

- NYC Educator writes another informative posts on another think tank telling teachers how terrible they are.

jose, who’s concurrently excited about glowing in the dark with Kanye, NERD, Lupe, and Rihanna on Tuesday :-) …

p.s. – Yes, I have “Dear Mama” as a ringtone whenever my mom calls.


Sons and Daughters

May 13, 2007

On Wednesday, during the afternoon homeroom period, a couple of my boys were walking with girls’ shoes in their hands. I didn’t understand why until I saw one of my girls walking into my classroom with her socks on. I put on my teacher face and pulled the three boys out of the classroom who I suspected. Little did I know that there was a fourth boy involved with this ordeal, and he placed them under a desk. Then, when I asked what was going on, they pointed to the desk and she immediately got her shoes. Another boy, not involved with the situation, said in his glorious candor, “Watch! If she keeps messing around with them, she’s gonna get raped!” I didn’t hear this, but the girl’s best friend told me this.

After letting go of the kids, I realized how, in some ways, there’s truth to that statement. The kid, who’s the rancorous and candid type, struck a chord with me. I didn’t know what to say at first. Rather, I did, but I didn’t know how to say it in a way that the girl could understand. After all, how does one go about telling a little girl that her own classmates’ assessment of the situation with her and the boys was squarely accurate?

After some serious thinking, I sat her own when I gave the rest of the class free time. I asked her, “What was going on there on Tuesday, when you walked in barefoot?” In her hyper-with-a-dash-of-Dominican accent, she tells me, “What had happened was, one boy told me something I didn’t like, and I told him to stop, and then he kept talking shit, so I hit him, and he didn’t stop, so I hit him again. Then he said, ‘Let’s take her shoes’ and so they grabbed me and took my shoes, and ran with them, and yeah, that’s what happened.”

I said, “So wait, what you’re saying is that after you told him to stop, he still didn’t?”
“Well, the reason I’m asking this is because I’m concerned. I really am,” I said as I took a small pause to gather my thoughts. “It concerns me because, you remember those workshops that we had upstairs about relationship abuse? Well, it might be your shoes now, but, if they don’t stop, it could lead to something you don’t want to have happen to you. Understand?”

“But Mr. V*****! What can I do if they won’t stop?!”
“Sop hanging out with them. When you grow up, you’ll see how important it is to be a strong woman. You can’t have that happen, you understand?”
“Thank you …”

Later on, another guy made an unrelated but joking remark about her, and she smacked him. He then said, “What just happened?” She smacked him in the arm again. I looked at her with the teacher face, and asked, “NOW why are you hitting him?”

“Because it’s fun, and I know he won’t hit me back! He doesn’t hit girls, ha ha ha.”
“OK, but remember what we were talking about earlier?”
“Yes, Mr. V. Sorry, dude.”

These situations often remind me of my role not just as teacher, but parent and counselor. The process of abuse is often cyclical, where the guy touches the girl in an inappropriate way, and she learns to treat other men the way she was abused. Then she comes across a much nicer guy, but abuses him because that’s what she knows. He learns that the only way to attract girls is through abuse, because she hangs out with abusive guys and the only way he got to talk to this girl is if she abused him.
Obviously, human nature convolutes these situations more often than not, but it’s important to recognize, on Mother’s Day, the importance of strong women capable of teaching their children about true strength and character. While these young girls’ only role models include the likes of Paris Hilton, the Cosmo models, the Flavor of Love girls, and the the plethora of starving girls in the music vids and album covers we’re bombarded with, the true mother stands as figure we hold the highest expectations for.

Here’s hoping, if she becomes a mother, her child will learn the lessons she has …

jose, saluting the past, present, and future moms out there …