Category: Education

There is a saying that mothers love their sons and raise their daughters. This perspective is evident in the way that girls grow into women. For all the ceremonial culture that we lost when we were ripped from the Motherland, women still maintained a strong foundation of social and even physical rites of passage to build on.

As girls, we learn hard life lessons. In our families and in society, whether good or bad, we have clear definitions of what it means to be a woman. We follow the Mother Figure in the home. Our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and the women in our community ALWAYS talk about what it means to be a woman. Keep your head up and your dress down. Books before boys. Cook a pot of rice and pick the peas properly. You got your period? Don’t be bringing no babies up in here. Keep a clean house and sweep the yard. Do well in school. Iron your clothes. Get a good job. Always have on a clean panty — you might get into an accident. Keep your weave tight and your nails fly. Get your own money. Get that man’s money. Whatever it is, every family has its own values but it’s always clear.

So, for girls, the opportunity is there to rebuild Rites of Passage, the more structured and ceremonial side of becoming a woman. And what about the boys? What ideas do you have around using a structured Rites of Passage system to teach our children how to be women and men? If you know of any resources, please also post them here.

In the News: Black is coming back! Share your ideas for the Black Woman and Child magazine relaunch at

BWAC is coming back!


CB106362Black Woman and Child is in the process of developing a pre-natal program for women who are 12 weeks or further along in their pregnancies. We need your input! Did YOU ever attend a pre-natal program? What did you think or feel about it? Did the program help to prepare you for childbirth and parenting? Did it have an impact on the kind of parent that you are today? After the program, did you have any additional contact, bonds, with the other parents who participated? Please post your comments here or send to Your feedback is greatly appreciated so thank you in advance!

  • Last night I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at The Scarborough Hospital (Grace Campus). The discussion was organized by the Family Advisory Council on Maternal and Infant Care. My role as a member of the Advisory Council was to speak on the valuable role that choice plays in improving outcomes in pregnancy and birth care.

    Overall, I think the presentation went very well! I was very pleased with the points that I chose to raise, as well as the audience response. The bad news is that my digital recorder failed on me (or maybe I failed on it) — so was not able to present My First Podcast (as I’d hoped). Well, maybe next time. Instead, I’ve listed some of my notes here of the main points that I put forward in my presentation. Your feedback and comments are always appreciated.

    • What solidified my interest in Family-Centered Care (FCC) is what I call my two-track prenatal experience
    • RELATIONSHIP WITH PHYSICIAN: My physician and I had a good relationship prior to my pregnancy
    • She was open and kept me informed on all matters, illnesses, checkups, etc.
    • Bonus: We also had a shared cultural background so she understood my issues and perspective, jokes i.e. “I’m wearing my Sunday baggie.”
    • My pregnancy changed the Code of Conduct, script, choreography of visits
    • I lacked an understanding of this new “prenatal culture” — i.e., concept of “trying to get pregnant” and question of “are you keeping it?”
    • Suddenly I was not qualified to participate in my own care
    • Even shared cultural background wasn’t enough to bridge the gap (the culture of prenatal care trumped our previous relationship)
    • Handouts were not culturally relevant
    • Ongoing issues around diet, midwifery, homebirth, birthplan, sick vs. healthy attitude, etc.
    • My husband and I would joke about what government secrets were lurking in my med file (information not shared, results of tests not forthcoming)
    • Increased tension; not enough information provided to make informed choices and doctor seemed offended by my questions
    • Issue of control of my care at a time when I was “losing” control of my bodily function — control of any kind was very important to me
    • Parted ways with physician over issue of HIV Test (physician made bad judgement call when I refused an HIV Test that I believed was optional)
    • MIDWIVES: I transitioned my care into that of midwives
    • I was treated with respect
    • I was allowed and encouraged to participate in my care
    • Weighed self, tested own urine and reported results to midwives — medical file always open on the desk, I could see and comment on the comments
    • Debated pros and cons of all tests, final choice always mine
    • Birth plan was encouraged, discussed and respected
    • I didn’t always get my own way but discussion helped me to understand why not
    • My culture was respected
    • BLACK WOMAN AND CHILD: At that time, I felt that mothers of any cultural difference or having any difference in perspective could not get fair treatment or choice in a physician-run hospital system
    • As a result, I began publishing a magazine to promote and validate the cultural perspectives of Black women around the world
    • I held fast to the ideology that “smart,” healthy, empowered women gave birth at home with midwives and only “sick,” scared women gave birth in hospitals with physicians
    • home birth = choice and hospital births = challenges
    • Working with the magazine, I had an opportunity to speak to many different kinds of women
    • Learned that some women were having healthy, safe, empowered and successful births in hospitals too — what made the difference was the level of involvement or choice
    • I learned that it doesn’t have to be polar opposites
    • Home birth is not for everyone but having choice can empower birth outcomes for families even in a hospital
    • NEW VIEWS: Hospitals like TSH are promoting that they are open to Family-Centered Care
    • Women and their families can benefit from having options, benefits also roll over to staff and overall view of hospital
    • Example: a birth plan helps to address issues and opens dialogue between pregnant mothers and caregivers
    • A birthplan also takes pressure off staff: the hospital is note solely responsible for successful birth outcomes
    • Example: Cultural ideals can be good ideas that staff can learn and pass on to other patients
    • Culture doesn’t happen in a vacuum
    • We all want to belong; not check our culture at the hospital door
    • In childbirth, we may be at our most vulnerable but mothers are not monsters — we can actually be reasonable
    • Example: I like to eat barley porridge right after giving birth. I don’t expect to get that in the hospital cafeteria BUT is the hospital open to having a family member bring some for me? Let’s work together.
    • When a mother is relaxed, happy and confident, we get better outcomes, better births, less snapping at nurses and bad attitudes
    • The input of relatives is validated, helps mother, speeds healing
    • The birth experience, whether hospital or home, set the tone for future attitudes about childbearing and child-raising
    • I am on Baby Number Four, so I know that there’s some truth to this

    Nicole Osbourne James

Greetings everyone: We would to inform those interested in learning Swahili (East African) language for children from JK – Grade 8. This program is facilitated through the Toronto District School Board along with the Keyan Ontario Association.  The program cost only $20 per student and runs from September to June, it includes instruction and materials. If you are interested, please email or call Paul or Nicole at 416-689-2922. The registration date is Saturday September 27th from 9:30am – 12 noon. We need at least 20 students to register so let us know your interest as soon as possible.

Swahili Lessons

Where: Dr. Marion Hilliard Sr Public School

Proposed Time: 9:30am – 12noon

Cost: $20 (covers full year of program from September to June)

Watching TV this afternoon, I really paid attention to that new commercial from Gardasil. “What would you do to protect yourself?” The main thing being to get a PAP test and get vaccinated against cervical cancer. Good advice I suppose. I have heard commercials being played ceaselessly on our local urban radio station (I haven’t heard so many on non-urban stations) encouraging young girls to get themselves vaccinated to protect against cervical cancer. I thought this might be a good place to discuss some of the other risk factors of cervical cancer that we can encourage our daughters and young women in our community to AVOID — instead of seeing vaccination as the be-all and end-all of our cervical health. We have more control than we think:

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • becoming sexually active at a young age
    Young women are more susceptible to HPV infection since the cells of the cervix are undergoing rapid change at puberty.
  • having many sexual partners
    Women who have many partners or who have sex with partners who have had many partners, have a greater chance of getting HPV.
  • HIV infection
    The immune system of a woman infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is less able to fight both the human papillomavirus and early cancers.
  • having a weakened immune system
    Immunocompromised women with chronic fatigue syndrome, women who have had organ transplants and women who are taking steroids are less able to fight HPV infection.
  • smoking
    Smoking appears to be a cofactor with HPV in causing dysplasia, which may progress to cervical cancer.

Let’s talk about these things too. Gardasil may not be talking about them (why discuss risk factors when you only have a few minutes to promote your product) but we can talk about them in our own families and communities. Any thoughts?

Project Butterfly Book by Niambi Jaha-Echols

Project Butterfly Book by Niambi Jaha-Echols

Now available from the Black Woman and Child Mama’s Market:

  • Project Butterfly: Supporting Young Women and Girls Through the Transitions of Life – a great book written by Niambi Jaha-Echols.
  • Also available – the corresponding write-in workbook.

Niambi made a great presentation at the recent Family, Culture and Lifestyle Show in Toronto on June 28. Exerts from her speech will be posted here on Blog Woman and Child. Stay tuned.

To get your own copies, visit the Black Woman and Child Mama’s Market at

CNN will premier a series, ‘Black in America with Soledad O’Brien’

Wednesday July 23 at 9pm – Black Women and Families

Thursday July 24 at 9pm – Plight of the Black Man in America.

I’ve heard it said that you should watch it with your children (or record it, if they have to be in bed!). It might make a good showing and discussion piece for a youth group. We may not all be American but there are sure to be commonalities that affect us all. I’ll be back on the blog to let you know my thoughts after the series. I hope you also do the same. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Visit the site too, it’s powerful.

In my humble opinion, it sucks to make minimum wage. Right now I don’t, but it wasn’t so long ago that I did, and a lot of parents still DO. Trying to make ends meet on minimum wage is a joke that isn’t even funny anymore. Where I live (Ontario, CANADA), minimum wage was $6.85 in 1995 and stayed that way until 2004 when it went up 30 cents to $7.15. Under tremendous pressure from activists and other starving people, minimum wage has been raised to a whopping $8.75 as of yesterday. Keep in mind that 2007 saw the movement pushing for a $10 minimum wage but instead we got 25 cents, taking us from $7.75 to $8.00 an hour. Thanks a million!

If I sound particularly disgruntled today, it could be because March 31, the day that minimum wage in Ontario was raised to $8.75, was the same day that the “Sunshine List” was released — all those lucky Canadians making over $100,000 per year. Count among them those Ontario MPPs who are getting their third pay raise in 16 months to $116,550 a year. That’s BASE pay, a lot of them actually make more than that. Now, minimum wage didn’t budge one red cent in eight years and has since grown less than two dollars in the last four years. But the base pay for MPPs has risen by almost $28,000 since December 2006. Something stinks.

So that’s my rant. Ain’t no sunshine making minimum wage, that’s for sure, and more than a million people in Canada do exactly that. I think that the wealth in this country could be better distributed. What do you think? It’s not enough for me to say “Stay in school, get your degree, YOU could be doing one of those top dollar jobs.” Most of us will do those things, stay in school, all that, and end up with crippling student loan debt and a middle-of-the-road salary if we’re very lucky.

We all need to do our part, even if you don’t make minimum wage. Better distribution of the wealth means stronger, healthier families and more stable communities. Safer and better for everyone I think.

Find out more at

Let me know your thoughts.

Racist police too? Who knew?!

Wow, African schools just can’t catch a break, can they? I was reading Pride newspaper this week and learned about an email sent by a senior police inspector to several staff, entitled “Afrocentric Math for Toronto’s new black only school.” One question asks: “Ramon has an AK-47 with a 30-round clip. He usually misses six out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramon attempt before he has to reload?”

Well, I also learned that the police inspector was suspended over this mess. That’s what I call results! Can we get somebody suspended at the Globe and Mail too? Let’s work on it.

Let’s keep the pressure on, people. Here are some good examples to give you ideas for your own letter — as well as responses to that rubberstamped apology. Remember:You can leave comments directly for the Globe and Mail at You can also email or fax to 416.585.5085. Click here to see the original post. Let’s take action!

Here is a Call to Action from Louis:

“Hello All,

I know that you will have all seen or heard about this cartoon that was published in the Globe and Mail newspaper. This is totally unacceptable and requires a quick and immediate response from our community. There is no way that the Globe and Mail would have published a similar cartoon attacking the Jewish, Chinese or Gay communities in Toronto. The questions now are…..what was their motivation and how will we respond?

Here is some timely advice from Kay:

“Silent protest will not accomplish anything in this glaring case of a
rascism. Please find attached additional comments and an avenue to make
your voice heard.

Please also send to the the following, we pay taxes:

The big cheeses: – Phillip Crawley, Publisher and CEO – Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-chief

Also make sure to CC the Chief, so that they can’t sweep it under the rug: or – Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon)
Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission