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Lessons from D.C. Mothers’ Alleged Murder of Her Four Girls

Ladies. Mothers. Black women!! This is one of those times when I wish my keyboard could shout from the rooftops. When I wish my words could appear in neon lights across the sky in Batman signal fashion. For the past few days, I just can’t stop thinking about the recent news story where a black mother from Washington D.C. allegedly killed her four daughters, later claiming they were "possessed." If you haven’t heard about this tragedy, please click here. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22623296. When I look into those faces as a mother, I see four beautiful girls full of promise, life and hope. When I look at those faces as a black woman I see four future leaders, mentors, entrepreneurs, or corporate executives lost! Either way, we have lost and failed each other as black women and mothers.
One of my biggest concerns is that we as a people don’t take mental illness seriously. We may call it a "funk," the blues, or she has "issues." But today I’m imploring all of you to be your sister’s keeper when it comes to her mental health. Motherhood is tough. Recently, the mother in question in D.C., Banita Jacks, has lost her partner to cancer. She was isolating herself from family members. The school psychologist made repeated calls because one of the daughters was not attending school. These are all signs.

As a result, investigators say the bodies of the girls were there decomposing for months, only discovered when the authorities showed up to evict Jacks. This is a community tragedy. When you have a friend who tells you they are fine but you know they aren’t, please don’t leave them to it. When you have a fellow mom who seems to be struggling (you know the signs!) or becoming reclusive please don’t say its none of your business. And when your child tells you about another child at school, at church or in dance class that has discussed problems at home, do not turn a blind ear. You may not have to ring the doorbell yourself, but perhaps you can tell a school official or a church leader. Make an anonymous call to social services. Send an email.

On New Year’s Eve, I was at the Chris Rock show at Madison Square Garden (Jill Scott opened. Fab-u-lous show!!!) but he cracked jokes about how quickly they take white folks kids. He used Britney Spears as an example, saying she had a bad night at work (the MTV performance) and they took her kids. In comparison, black children are often left with even the most unfit of caretakers. Unfortunately, the reality is not so funny. Too many times, the lives of our black children are not as valued. In the DC case, 8 people were fired for not doing their jobs properly. Only that one dedicated school staff member kept tabs on those children. Only one person persisted in trying to get them help. Everyone else had put them on the back files.

Ladies, we have to be responsible for each other and our babies. We cannot depend on understaffed, underfunded government agencies staffed by people with their own biases to take care of our children. If you know someone who is struggling, overly stressed out, showing signs of depression, or even acting differently–do not shrug it off. Do not do nothing. Please say something. Please do something. You may save a life. Or four.

In motherhood,

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