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LipService: A Lips and Hips Newsletter
October 2014
The Collective Wombs of Black Mothers are Aching
Yodit Mesfin Johnson
It’s early August. The last days of summer are upon us. I’ve prepared for the change that’s coming. I tell myself this is a welcome rite of passage. Our little guy is heading to kindergarten in three weeks. He’s hit all the benchmarks—socially, emotionally, educationally, physically. We’re ready, right?! Right. Book bag, Check. Lunch box, Check. School clothes. Check.  Family vacation to bookend the summer. Check. Check. Check.

And then the news report catches my eye.

On August 11, 2014 in the middle of a warm end-of-summer day, Michael Brown, an eighteen year-old black boy, is shot dead by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. I admit, I was preoccupied and slow to notice the initial reports. The proliferation of violence in the media has made me a cautious viewer. But by the time I actually did pay attention, the city of Ferguson was erupting in protest. Social media had also erupted—my Twitter and Facebook feeds were flooded with anger, rage and pain. It was gut wrenching and I, like others, flew into a clicking and trolling frenzy. “What had he done to get himself killed,” I thought. Who were his parents? WHERE were his parents? Self-righteous indignation rose in me. I didn’t like it, but it was there. Someone was to blame and it had to be his mother. It’s always our fault.

The story and the pain associated with it was on repeat in mainstream media. My emotions were all over the place. Like others, I was looking for someone to blame. I felt powerless. Like I did when Trayvon died. My soon-to-be kindergartener was just two years old when Trayvon died.  â€œWhy can’t our boys get it together,” I’d wondered to myself. Why was he out that late in the rain? Surely, like Michael’s mom, his mother must’ve done something wrong, right?! Isn’t that how we deal with fear and shame, we project it on to other people? Isn’t it much easier to distance ourselves from these situations by imagining it “could never be our kid”? Is it just me or do you believe that something within your power (how you drive, where you live, your lifestyle, your class, and your race) insures your children’s safety? How naïve I was.

Black boys are prey in America.

(Source: Unknown)

The last three years in particular have been all about wrapping my head around this lesson – no matter what you do to prepare them, our boys are being hunted. When Trayvon died, we dressed our son in a hoodie as a show of solidarity, I signed petitions and rallied and watched, glued to the television, the ensuing trial (and acquittal) of his killer. We stood in solidarity because he didn’t have to die. But in my mind I was calculating how to get our boy out of the line of fire. He would NOT be prey. NOT OUR BOY. Not if I could help it. I was going to do whatever it took to prevent that. Sports programs, the best schools, black history lessons, and travel, behavioral training….whatever it would take so that he wouldn’t get killed. Whatever it takes so he doesn’t die. 

And then Michael Brown is gunned down and his lifeless body lay in the street for four hours. Four f’ing hours, people?!

How dare I think that every mother hadn’t had a similar dream for their babies? In the time between Trayvon and Michael’s deaths, countless young black boys and men have died. Good boys, nice boys, boys with a future. Kids that had challenges – bad kids. They still shouldn’t have died.  Damn.

By the end of the first week and after seeing Michael’s dead body broadcast on 24-hour cable day in and day out, my emotional state unraveled. I was a mess.

I remember tweeting, “the collective wombs of black mothers are aching today”, as I watched Michael Brown’s funeral.

Someone tweeted back that I was being dramatic. Perhaps. It was an emotional day and as I sat at my laptop, watching his mother stare at his casket, I wept. Would all our efforts with our son be in vain? The thought of burying my son overwhelmed me. No mother should have to go through this. Good or bad, parents aren’t supposed to bury their kids.

Don’t shoot! Please stop killing Black people, America. Especially our boys and men.

It was when we learned that Michael had his hands up when he was killed, and that Trayvon didn’t have a weapon; that I realized that these young men symbolized our collective appeal to NOT SHOOT. Please stop shooting. Stop killing our babies. Stop hunting them. Stop profiling our men. Stop beating us. Stop choking us. Stop shooting accusations at other mom’s (note to self) stop shooting blame and shame at those who raise their kids differently than we would. Her kids are mine. Our community is yours. This country belongs to the collective.

I no longer believe there’s something his Dad or I can DO that will protect him from a country that hates black people. Especially black men and boys. 

As long as any human life is undervalued all human lives are. These tragedies have humbled me and forced me to examine myself, my beliefs and the subtle narratives that would have any of us believe one life is more valuable than another or that Michael and Trayvon's mothers didn’t have the same dreams for their kindergartner as I do.

UPDATE: Three weeks into kindergarten, our son is threatened with a disciplinary action by his teacher for allegedly “purposely urinating on the floor of the bathroom”.

Lord, help us.

Stay engaged with our Facebook page as we bring awareness to current events happening all over the globe.  Like our page and join in the conversation!  Learn more about all of our campaign work online as well at  
News Briefs
Many Facets of Her presents new Teen Lip Gloss line!

This summer we launched our first lip gloss line, Many Facets of Her! We are preparing to launch new colors this fall, and are excited to launch a new lip gloss line for teems! The Teen Lip Gloss will benefit youth development programs at the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym in Detroit! We will launch this new gloss at the EMBRACE The Natural You event (more details below) on October 18!
Dream. Plan. Do. Xperience (#dpdx): December 13, 2014 - Save the Date!
We're back at it again!  Join the Lips & Hips team on December 13 for our 4th Dream. Plan. Do. Xperience at ZingTrain in Ann Arbor (3728 Plaza Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108)! We will engage in deep, thoughtful, and empowering conversations and movement around intercultural dynamics in women's lives. More details to follow!
Upcoming Events
Here's what's going on in the L&H community:
EMBRACE The Natural You - Natural Hair Brunch & Women's Panel 2014
Our founder, Yodit Mesfin-Johnson, will participate on the panel at the 2014 EMBRACE The Natural You event on Saturday, October 18. Tickets on sale here until October 3rd:

Center for the Education of Women - Leading from the Middle

Date:  October 22, 2014 - 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Location: CEW, 330 E. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Presenter:  Deborah Willis, Coordinator of the Women of Color in the Academy Project (WOCAP), CEW
The power of effective leadership is locked within you. Let's explore how to tap into it! 
The idea of "Leading from the Middle", as opposed to a top-down linear model, is becoming a more desirable approach to leadership.  This workshop will examine the qualities and skills necessary to successfully lead from where ever you are on the organizational chart.
Participants will learn tips on how to influence others to follow your lead - from your peers to those persons in higher positions of authority. We will also identify several examples of U-M employees who are successfully leading from the middle as well as those who started there but have advanced to prominent leadership positions. 
Why affirmations?  Intentionally choosing positive, self-affirming thoughts help train the mind into healthy habits and attract positivity into your life!

A Mother's Affirmation:
Love is my helmet, shield, and sword.  I use love to overcome hate, anger, fear, loss, and ignorance.  My armor of love shifts hearts and moves the world towards peace.

Biz Spotlight: Mothering Justice

Every month, we celebrate women-centric businesses that embody the L&H "Dream. Plan. Do." model.  This month, we are spotlighting Mothering Justice, founded by Danielle Atkinson. 
Mothering Justice is a statewide project dedicated to returning decision making power to the ones affected by these decisions the most. 

By empowering mothers to influence policy on behalf of themselves and their families, Mothering Justice hopes to change the future of families in Michigan for the better.  For too long, mothers have been  defined  by others but, as a group, they have been left out of the conversation. 

Whether they are soccer moms, security moms or Walmart moms, mothers act with a one focus - what is best for their families. But, so often, women with children have to rely on others'  judgement on issues of financial security. When women with children are not able to advocate for solutions to the problems they care about, a vital voice is missing from the discussion.

Through advocacy, leadership development, voter empowerment, and promoting family-friendly advocacy, Mothering Justice will  raise the voices of mothers  and help them become policy makers and shapers. 

The overall goal of this organization is to empower a well-organized group of mothers that can engage fellow mothers and law makers around a variety of issues that affect working families.

You can find out more and get involved by visiting: 


Want to learn how to make your voice heard and get involved advocating for racial and ethnic equality?  Check out Color of Change!

(Source: exists to strengthen Black America's political voice. Our goal is to empower our members - Black Americans and our allies - to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone.
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