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Teaching black children to be empowered

Educator and motivational speaker Melody Micere Van Putten with her son, Bruce Maboko. Mrs Van Putten shared her tips for how parents can help raise consciousness and empower their children. It’s an issue she touches on in her latest book Rightings Arousing Conscious Empowerment — RACE: Poetry in the BLACK released this week. (Photo supplied.)

It’s important for black parents to teach their children how to be fully empowered.

That’s the word from local author, educator and motivational speaker Melodye Micere Van Putten.

Her book of poetry, Rightings Arousing Conscious Empowerment — RACE: Poetry in the BLACK, touches on this very topic.

One of its goals is to “inspire consciousness and encourage deep thought and empowered action so that our parents and children may move past mere survival, but be on the path to thrive”.

Mrs Van Putten wrote the book after learning about the racial protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.

She grew up in the 1960s when that kind of turmoil was quite prevalent but was more impacted by the recent protests — she thought that chapter of history had been closed.

“My book takes readers on a journey from remembering all we are as African people and the kinds of contributions we made to dealing with the challenges of police brutality and miseducation and things like that,” she said.

“It also goes into what I call ‘beyond the knowing’; into healing and how we can heal ourselves.”

She said she had to work to inspire consciousness in her son, Bruce Maboko.

The family moved from a predominantly black neighbourhood where he was excelling in school to a predominantly white one.

He started struggling in his classes.

“There was a significant difference in the expectations for him in his new school than his previous one and it had a negative effect on him,” Mrs Van Putten said.

“He wasn’t expected to succeed or excel and I’m a firm believer that a teacher’s expectations are a serious ingredient to a child’s success.

“If a child isn’t challenged or if a teacher makes snide remarks, then a child won’t succeed but if they offer encouragement then the effects will be obvious as well.”

Mrs Van Putten said she had to take added steps to encourage her son and show him what he was capable of.

She provided him with examples from black history of people who excelled despite their obstacles.

Mr Maboko recently graduated from Phoenix University where he studied to be an electrician.

He’s also a certified Emergency Medical Technician.

“I believe it’s important to teach black children to be empowered because I want our community, and by extension the nation, to be healthy and living in a way that people can grow to their highest potential and be contributing citizens in our society,” she said.

“I also want them to be respected by everyone, whether it’s the police or people of other races.

“It’s important for one’s own sense of self-worth and dignity in the world. It’s just important period.”

Mrs Van Putten will also host a poetry reading tonight at the Bermuda National Library from 6pm until 8pm.

It’s a free event, with “light refreshments and heavy poetry”.

She’ll sign copies of her book at Brown & Co on Saturday, from 2pm until 4pm. The book is priced at $25.

<p>Planting the seeds of consciousness</p>

Educator, author and motivational speaker Melodye Micere Van Putten’s tips on how parents can help “plant the seeds of consciousness” within their children.

1. Ensure that you and your child are aware of academic standards and expectations ... and encourage your children to meet them.

Mrs Van Putten believes parents should ask their children about their school progress on a daily basis.

“When your children knows that you will ask ‘What did you learn today in school?’, they will make a point of learning something new to be able to answer that question,” she said. “In other words, they will be alert in their classes to take in new information.”

2. Create a home environment that places value on education.

Mrs Van Putten said conscious empowerment cannot grow without that. “I highly recommend that families institute ‘library day’ on a monthly basis where everyone goes to the library and chooses a book or two for reading during the month,” she said. “Weekly conversations will then include something about the books being read. This point is particularly important going into the summer months, providing balance to all of the summer activities of play and pleasure.”

3. Encourage your children to save for their future.

Mrs Van Putten said: “The seeds of conscious empowerment are also planted when we insist that our children save a portion of their allowance or grocery bagging money towards their future — whether it is a college fund or saving towards a larger goal. To be empowered requires understanding the value of money and the necessity to save.”

4. Build up knowledge about one’s history and culture in order to learn the lessons contained therein.

“These lessons provide examples, inspiration, motivation and cautionary tales that the wise person is able to utilise to one’s advantage,” she said. “Parents are a child’s first teacher and must be empowered themselves in this important area in order to share important lessons and inspiring knowledge.”