Is Your Sitter Paying More Attention to Her Phone Than To Your Child?

Have you thought about how much time your babysitter spends with your child vs. her device? We all know how tempting it is to have your connection to the world at your fingertips, calling to you with its rings, dings and whooshes every few minutes. How can you be sure your babysitter isn’t heeding the calls of her device over the needs of your son or daughter? Common Sense Media addressed this question in a recent post, “How to Stop Your Babysitter from Sexting, Texting, and Tweeting on the Job“. Here are some tips from them and us on this topic:

Set the Rules, Clearly and Simply: Young people who have grown up with a device in their hands are not always aware that their regular use of it may bother you or could interfere with the performance of their job. Be clear about your expectations, and set the rules before you give them the job. Don’t want any tweeting or texting on the job? Be sure to tell them up front. GCP pet peeve: We’ve lost count of the number of sitters (and moms and dads) seen on the street who are preoccupied with their devices while pushing their toddlers along. Not only is it potentially quite dangerous, you’ll also miss golden opportunities to chat with the little one about interesting things along the way. And we all know (or should know) that toddlers benefit tremendously from talking and having conversations. They need to hear as many words as possible at this age, and chatting with them on a stroll is a great way to increase their vocabulary. So be sure to tell your sitter to reserve any non essential phone time for when your toddler is napping in that stroller.

Privacy and Social Media: We live in a world of shared digital experiences. Pictures of cute babies, puppies and kittens abound on all social media. Is it ok for your sitter to post pictures of your little one on her Facebook page or Instagram account, or upload an adorable video of him singing onto YouTube? Whether your answer is yes or no, have this conversation up front, so that there are no surprises. If the answer is yes, set limits for what can be shared. If instead you want to be the only one deciding what adorable views of your pumpkin the world can see, then make that clear from day one. Be compassionate about the instinct: you have an adorable child, and a loving caretaker could easily have the urge to post a great pic of him. But be very clear about this: if Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is off limits, let the sitter know before she is tempted to post.

Playtime with the Phone: Also discuss the degree to which you want the sitter to allow your toddler to play with devices, be they her phone or the baby’s own iPad. Giving a fussy little one an electronic plaything to distract and preoccupy him is tempting, we all know, but we also know it is not a good idea to use an electronic device as an ever present pacifier. Help her understand your thinking on this, and set clear limits.

Tech is Not All Bad: When you are having a crazy day at work, having a babysitter who is tech-savvy can save the day. She can send you a picture of your child to show you a special moment you’d otherwise miss, or perhaps to show you a rash that might need immediate attention. She can text you questions or clarifications quickly and efficiently. She may also have suggestions for cool apps that might serve useful for the both of you when managing daily tasks before you arrive home. So rather than make the device the enemy, talk about its productive uses.

It’s Never Too Late to Have This Chat: We live in a digital age where everyone is or is soon to be wired. So if you did not initially spell out these rules with a long time sitter, or your sitter is a relative newcomer to the digital world and you sense a shift towards device preoccupation, have the conversation now. Remember, you are the employer. As your employee, your babysitter should make every effort to adhere to your rules.

The bottom line is you want to do everything you can to ensure that your babysitter is actually spending quality time with your child! These are crucial years to foster positive reinforcement and development. She can’t do that if she is constantly updating her status.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Spring Break

March and April are Spring Break months, and since we at GCP are Spring Breaking as we write, today’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings are about vacations. In “Vacation”, Rita Dove, who in 1987 became the second African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1993–1995, reminds us how we eagerly anticipate the start of a vacation. And although Nikki Giovanni’s “Vacation Time” is included in a book of children’s poetry she published in 1981, her definition of vacation time will surely resonate strongly with adults. Enjoy.

Vacation

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Rita Dove

Vacation Time

What should I write
a poem about
I asked my eight year old son
“Something good” he said to me
“Something that would be fun”

I tried to think
what fun could mean
to me feeling old and wry
All the bills paid and a broken spade
in the middle of July
“All the bills paid and a broken spade
in the middle of July!”
Incredulously he looked at me
“Please tell me the reason why”

The reason why is the reason
because when I’m feeling old
and wry
with all the bills paid
and a broken spade
Vacation time is nigh

Nikki Giovanni

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Black Folks Are Missing From Children’s Books

Celebrated children’s and young adult book author Walter Dean Myers has a great essay asking “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” in this past Sunday’s New York Times. In his essay, found here, Myers responds to a recent report that only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about African Americans. He describes how important it is for children’s books to feature people of color, not only to inspire young boys and girls of color, but to help all readers understand and appreciate that moms and dads and doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers and neighbors can come in all colors.

Myers tells the story of working in a personnel office under a boss who tried to eliminate a black chemist applicant for a position because as he told Myers, “That black guy’s no chemist”, even as he looked at the candidate’s resume filled with chemist training and experience. Myers understood that this was a more complicated brand of racism. He explains, “I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?” If Black people, including Black professionals lived in more children’s books on a regular basis, all children would have a chance at having a more realistic (and less biased) perception of the real world.

We’ve got a long way to go, with our boys in hoodies getting profiled in stores, stopped and frisked and even shot and killed because the way they look is what people know from TV, hip hop and publicized perp walks to be the look of someone up to no good. We’ve got to do all we can to find books for our children, and for their friends of all colors, that show the world the way it multiculturally is, not the way it looks so often on TV, and as we now know, in children’s books as well.

How do we find these books? We can start with the Brown Sugar and Spice Book Service, found here, which features “True Stories about People of Color”. But we need as many resources as we can find. GCP readers, send us your favorite children’s books featuring people of color! We’ll keep looking for recommendations as well.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Phenomenal Women

An interesting hodgepodge of poetry for today’s Thoughtful Thursday. March being Women’s History Month, we at GCP want to pay tribute to women, in all of their facets and all of their glory. So we will start with Maya Angelou’s classic “Phenomenal Women”, and then move onto poems perhaps not so immediately recognizable, but that pack a punch: “For Strong Women” by the thoughtful and thought-provoking Marge Piercy, and “For My Mother”, by May Saxton, which reminds many of us from whence we came. We end with “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”, which William Ross Wallace wrote in 1865 in celebration of motherhood. Enjoy.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

For Strong Women

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears
in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why
aren’t you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

Marge Piercy

For My Mother

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Opening out
Into the world.

And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.

I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill-health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.

May Sarton

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

The Hand that rocks the Cradle
is the Hand that Rules The World
Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Infancy’s the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mother’s first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow–
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod!
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky–
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

William Ross Wallace

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Black Boys Lose Assumption of Innocence at an Early Age

Black boys as young as 10 years old are more likely than their White peers to be mistaken as older, less innocent, and more appropriate targets for police violence if accused of a crime, according to research conducted by UCLA psychologists. In their study, abstracted here, the researchers examined “whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers”, and tested three theories: 1) that Black boys are seen as less childlike than their White peers; 2) that characteristics associated with childhood are less frequently applied in thinking about Black boys relative to White boys; and 3) these trends would be more obvious among people who dehumanized Black males by associating them with apes. The researchers conducted studies of 4 different groups (including police officers and college students) which supported and confirmed their theories.

“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.” You can read a more detailed description of this study and the results here.

Most alarming were the results of the police officers study, as the researchers determined that those officers who dehumanized blacks in psychological questionnaires (associating them with apes) were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize Blacks. While the researchers noted that further study was necessary to clarify this finding, this study supports our gut instinct to instruct our sons, even our little boys, about how to behave during any encounter with the police.

As blogger Christopher “Flood The Drummer” Norris in The Good Men Project website notes here, the sad essence of these findings is that our young boys don’t get to be young and innocent for long. As Norris notes, “Black boys aren’t so different; they want what every other adolescent has: the ability to make mistakes.” If our boys are consciously or unconsciously being held to a higher standard by the adults they interact with, small wonder that they can have a hard time meeting it in school and in the world.

What can we parents do at home to counteract this? We can give our young sons time and space to be “boys”, guide them but try not to make them “little men” too soon. We can also focus on how negative media images of young Black men can distort public perception and make people more comfortable with their negative thinking. Check out “Media Portrayal of Black Youth Contributes to Racial Tension” here, and check out the Opportunity Agenda website here for lots of information about media images of Black males.

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The New SAT: What to Expect

By now many of you who are focused on high school education have heard that there will be changes in the SAT beginning with the May 2016 test. This will affect ninth graders and below, so those of us with middle schoolers and high school freshmen need to pay special attention. So here’s what the new SAT will look like:

Essay is Optional. The essay, now required, will become optional for all students. Students who choose to take it will get 50 minutes (versus the 25 all students get now) to analyze evidence and “explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience” (as explained by the College Board). Currently students are asked in their essays to make an argument which draws on their background and experience rather than any evidence presented.

More Practical Vocabulary. The vocabulary will be focused on words more widely used in college and careers, rather than the fairly obscure words currently used.

Back to 1600 Point Scoring. There will be a separate score for the essay. A bonus for parents who waited to have children–you’ll never have to adjust to that infernal 2400 scale scoring!

A “No Calculator Section” Added to Math. There will be a math section in which calculators will not be allowed. The College Board believes that this will allow a better assessment of students’ math understanding, fluency and technique. So get out those flashcards and make sure your young’un knows his arithmetic, as it will come in handy.

Expanded Academic Disciplines. The new SAT will expand the academic disciplines of source materials to include history and science. The current SAT doesn’t require knowledge of either of these subjects.

No Penalty for Guessing. In the current SAT students lose 1/4 point for the wrong answer and lose no points for not answering the question. The New SAT won’t deduct for the wrong answer. This new plan has the added benefit of reducing the chance that students lose their places on the answer sheet (which can happen when you start skipping questions).

Includes Passages from “Founding Documents or Great Global Conversations”. Each exam will include a passage from a “Founding Document” like the Declaration of Independence, or from the “Great Global Conversation” they inspire, like the Gettysburg Address or the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Paper and Digital Versions of the SAT will be Offered.

In addition to the changes in the test, The College Board has announced several initiatives designed to level the playing field of the college application process. Their “Access to Opportunity” (A2O) initiative includes an “All-In” Campaign, which aims to ensure that students of color take AP courses in high school (The College Board also administers the AP exams), “Apply to 4 or More”, which gives deserving students four college application fee waivers; and “Realize Your College Potential”, which provides customized college information packets and fee waivers to high achieving low-income seniors (in the top 10- 15% of their class based on PSAT/SAT scores and in the bottom 33% of the national income distribution based on census information). As we have noted in a previous GCP post, outreach to the high achieving low-income students has been demonstrated to greatly increase the chances that these talented students will be able to go to great schools. See “Expanding College Opportunities”, October 16, 2013.

In an effort to make high quality test preparation available to students who cannot afford the expensive private test prep services, The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy, the free online tutoring service, to provide free test prep programs and resources. Currently Khan Academy has hundreds of questions from unreleased SATs and 200+ videos with step-by-step solutions online. The College Board has pledged to work closely with Khan Academy in order to enable them to provide test preparation for the redesigned SAT. For more information about the test changes and these initiatives, see the articles in the Washington Post here and the New York Times here.

Why redesign now? The SAT has been losing ground to the ACT in recent years, as students have demonstrated a preference for the more subject matter based and less esoteric ACT. With these changes the SAT hopes to regain lost ground. (Notwithstanding all this talk about creating tests that more closely track the high school experience, this is, after all, a business trying to make money.) With that said, the initiatives to include lower income students are to be loudly applauded, and we should all make sure word gets out about what is being done now (through Khan Academy) and in the future to ensure more students can be college bound.

Are these changes good or bad? The changes seem to create a test that should be easier to study for, and one which should allow students to demonstrate more of what they have learned in school on the test. (My college aged children thought the elimination of the required essay was way overdue.) Time will tell as to whether students find the test easier or harder. Parents of high school freshmen and younger students will need to be aware of the changes in the test preparation for this new test. GCP will stay focused on this.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Maya Angelou

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday features Maya Angelou, the esteemed poet and author. Here are two of her poems which commemorate memorable occasions. The first, “On the Pulse of Morning”, was written for and delivered by Angelou at the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton. This is followed by the “The Million Man March” poem which she read to the throngs of men (and women) who marched on the National Mall in 1995. Enjoy.

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On The Pulse of Morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers–desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot …
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Million Man March

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,
I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,
You couldn’t even call out my name.
You were helpless and so was I,
But unfortunately throughout history
You’ve worn a badge of shame.

I say, the night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark
And the walls have been steep.

But today, voices of old spirit sound
Speak to us in words profound,
Across the years, across the centuries,
Across the oceans, and across the seas.
They say, draw near to one another,
Save your race.
You have been paid for in a distant place,
The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains
Have paid for our freedom again and again.

The night has been long,
The pit has been deep,
The night has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

The hells we have lived through and live through still,
Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.
The night has been long.
This morning I look through your anguish
Right down to your soul.
I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
I look through the posture and past your disguise,
And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.

Maya Angelou

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Thoughtful Thursday: Poems for Our Sons

In honor of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative launched today by President Barack Obama and these being the final days of Black History Month, today’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings are inspirational poems for and about our boys. The first, a Langston Hughes classic, “I, Too Sing America”, reminds them that we all deserve a seat at the table. “Black Boys Play the Classics” paints a vivid picture of talented young men and their fans, and “The Man Who Thinks He Can” is a great bedtime read–good food for thought to give him as he drifts off to dreamland. Enjoy!

I, Too, Sing America

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes

Black Boys Play the Classics

The most popular “act” in
Penn Station
is the three black kids in ratty
sneakers & T-shirts playing
two violins and a cello—Brahms.
White men in business suits
have already dug into their pockets
as they pass and they toss in
a dollar or two without stopping.
Brown men in work-soiled khakis
stand with their mouths open,
arms crossed on their bellies
as if they themselves have always
wanted to attempt those bars.
One white boy, three, sits
cross-legged in front of his
idols—in ecstasy—
their slick, dark faces,
their thin, wiry arms,
who must begin to look
like angels!
Why does this trembling
pull us?
A: Beneath the surface we are one.
B: Amazing! I did not think that they could speak this tongue.

Toi Derricotte

The Man Who Thinks He Can

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.

Walter Wintle

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Obama Launches “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative Today

This afternoon President Obama will announce the launch of an initiative to provide greater opportunities to African-American and Hispanic young men of color. His “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative has already received a $150 million commitment from a group of foundations and businesses who have pledged an additional $200 million towards this effort. The White House initiative seeks to intervene in the lives of boys at key points: by providing pre-kindergarten education, lifting third-grade reading proficiency, leading schools away from “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies that kick misbehaving students out of school, and convincing businesses to train and hire young men of color.

The President will also announce the creation of a new inter-agency “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” headed up by Broderick Johnson, the cabinet secretary and assistant to the president. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and other senior officials will also work with this task force. You can read more about this initiative here and here.

Kudos to the President and his staff for using the power of his office to bring attention, funding and opportunity to our young men in need. GCP looks forward to receiving and sharing more information about “My Brother’s Keeper” and its progress.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Beastly Boys

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday offerings are inspired by “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls”, a book of humorous poetry about naughty, ill-mannered, even cruel, boys and girls. (It is a great book; hard to find, but worth picking it up if you can locate one.) Most of the poems below are from Shel Silverstein (the author of “The Giving Tree”), who made many contributions to the “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls” collection. Nothing like some delightfully naughty poetry to spark a young boy’s imagination and feed a wicked sense of humor. Enjoy!

Nothing to Do?

Nothing to do?
Nothing to do?
Put some mustard in your shoe,
Fill your pockets full of soot,
Drive a nail into your foot,
Put some sugar in your hair,
Place your toys upon the stair,
Smear some jelly on the latch,
Eat some mud and strike a match,
Draw a picture on the wall,
Roll some marbles down the hall,
Pour some ink in daddy’s cap –
Now go upstairs and take a nap.

Shelley Silverstein

Early Bird

Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early early bird—
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.

Shel Silverstein

Little Willie

In the family drinking well
Willie pushed his sister Nell.
She’s there yet, because it kilt her -
Now we have to buy a filter.

Harry Graham

Jimmy Jet and His TV Set

I’ll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet—
And you know what I tell you is true.
He loved to watch his TV set
Almost as much as you.

He watched all day, he watched all night
Till he grew pale and lean,
From “The Early Show” to “The Late Late Show”
And all the shows between.

He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,
And his bottom grew into his chair.
And his chin turned into a tuning dial,
And antennae grew from his hair.

And his brains turned into TV tubes,
And his face to a TV screen.
And two knobs saying “VERT.” and “HORIZ.”
Grew where his ears had been.

And he grew a plug that looked like a tail
So we plugged in little Jim.
And now instead of him watching TV
We all sit around and watch him.

Shel Silverstein

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