The Maryland Chapter (MOST), Mothers and Others Serving Together, is proud to share the highlights of our “Save the Children” event held on Sunday, December 16, 2012 in Clinton Maryland. Barbara Talley, current Mother of Year for Maryland offered a rousing keynote address touching on the recent tragedy killing twenty-six people in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut but also linking that to the former tragedies in Virginia Tech (2007), and Columbine (1997). She reminded the audience that a society that doesn’t learn from its mistakes is condemned to repeat them.
Mrs. Talley (a mother of six) pointed out why we can’t wait until our own children are affected to step forward. She passionately explained, “All children are our children.” While these tragedies are horrific, she reminded the audience about the 8000-9000 deaths annually of African-Americans (mothers, fathers, children) that go unnoticed, which is so much more than the 6400 U.S. service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the course of a decade-long war. She challenged the audience to care about all of our children and families through her version of Martin Niemoller’s poem about the apathy of the majority of the Germans while different groups were being targeted and exterminated.
First they came for drug addicts and their addicted babies and children, and I did not speak out because I was not a drug addict and my children are not on drugs.
Then they came for “criminals” and I did not speak out because I was not a criminal.
Then they came for the high school dropouts, and I did not speak out because I was not a high school dropout.
Then they came for teen moms, single moms, the run-aways, and the foster kids, I did not speak out because I was not a teen mom, single mom, a run away, or a foster kid.
Then they came for the poor, unemployed, the uninsured, and the homeless, and I did not speak out because I was not poor, unemployed, uninsured, and homeless.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me. (by Barbara Talley)
She directed the audience’s attention to the common thread running between all of the recent atrocities in the three schools mentioned, young perpetrators (barely children themselves) between the ages of 17-23 who were described as gifted, yet remote, awkward, bullied, depressed and disconnected from society. “How many children do we know that fit this bill?” she asked. She also offered some sobering statistics of the school dropout rates collected by americaspromise.org, citing “one student dropping out every 26 minutes totally more than 1 million a year.”
These dropouts have a higher rate of incarceration, poverty, joblessness, and little opportunities to secure the jobs of the future, which require post secondary education. America’s Promise offers five solutions to turn things around, 1) Caring Communities, 2) Safe Places, 3) A Healthy Start, 4) Opportunities to Help Others, and 5) Effective Education.
Next her fifteen-year old daughter Radiance Talley shared two poems on handling rejection, being ostracized, and “not fitting in” in school when one is trying to be virtuous, chaste, and drug-free in an environment insensitive to diversity. Her two poems ‘All Alone’ and ‘Keeping Myself from Sinking’ were met with thunderous applause from the audience.
After highlighting the issues brought to light by AAUW (American Association of University Women) on the prevalence of harassment in schools (56 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys reporting experiencing some of form of harassment), the distinguished panel of authors, educators and activists shared their experiences and solutions.
Mr. Clifton McKnight, Professor/Counselor at Montgomery College, and author of If You Can’t Calm the Waters, Learn to Ride the Waves offered this advice. “Be a part of an organized effort to make a difference. If you don’t want to join something, start something! Do what you can, when can, for who you can, while you can.”
Mr. Derrick Terry, former teacher, Special Education Advocate and Author of, I’m Not Complaining, I’m Just Sayin: Memoir of the Good and Bad in the Educational System. “In order to have common sense education reform, we can’t continue to allow the small few to make decisions for the greater good without little input from those responsible for executing these final decisions,” he offered.
Mr. Charles Cary, Author, Actor, and Singer shared an overview of his personal struggle from addiction to surviving cancer in his book, Courage Facing Mortality. “You have been created to do a work …it’s not your job, it is your purpose!“
Mrs. Virginia E. Hayes Williams Community Activist, former Mother of the Year for DC and Author of Living Under God’s Umbrella shared her wisdom of the importance of parental involvement in our children’s lives, saving our own, and the importance of teaching personal responsibility, virtues, and respect. She said we shouldn’t ask others to save our own until we’ve done all we can ourselves.
Terry Tabor,Educator/ Author of Helping Mom Fight the Bad Cancer Bubbles, co-written with D. Whalen-White talked about the work that the Greater Council of Schools is doing to support educators and schools and shared how a grandmother takes the delicate subject of cancer and puts it into words that a little child can understand and be of help to her mom who is dealing with cancer.
Many thanks go to the entire MOST committee, VP Sharon Parker (Membership), Cerise Hart (Secretary), Terry Tabor (Logistics), and Sheila Chambers who were present and supported the event. Photography was courtesy of Fred Reaves.
I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires. To find out more about me check out my promo sheet or visit my website.