Mabel Jean Lockhart: a woman of quiet strength and dignity, now at rest

Mabel Jean Lockhart

Heaven gained an angel on Sunday, and our church family lost a dear friend and quiet leader.

I’ve known a lot of first ladies in my time, but Mabel Jean Lockhart was different. Sure she wore the beautiful church hats and suits that most first ladies are known for but what stood out about her was not her outer beauty or regal bearing.  This woman was a nurturer in every sense of the word. She possessed a quiet  strength that may have caused some people to underestimate her power. Sister Lockhart didn’t preach alongside her dynamic husband. In fact, it was rare to hear her speak in church.

But get her alone and she would give you an earful. A devoted, wife, mother and grandmother, we shared some special conversations over the years. In most of those chats, she was encouraging me in my journey as a wife and mother. I’m sure she did that for countless women, men and children in our church and beyond.

We became grandparents around the same time nearly 10 years ago, meeting the birth of our grandsons with great joy and pride. Whenever we talked, our conversations always turned to our children and grandchildren. She loved her family in a way only a mother can.  Her love for her husband, Pastor Benjamin Lockhart, and his love for her, was a great example for our church family. He often called her his peacock, but she was his partner in every way.  Her strength and passion for the word of Christ girded him for servant leadership.

From her pew on the center right side of the church, she watched everything that happened. Fiercely protective of her husband, particularly as he dealt with his own health challenges, she was always quietly directing. When he went a little too far, or did a little too much in worship, her expression told him it was time to calm down —  to take his seat and rest for a while. In those times, a smile would cross my face. Like me, she wasn’t good at hiding her true feelings. You always knew where she stood.

I will always remember our last conversation, which took place about a month ago when my husband Joe and I stopped by to visit her at her home. We talked about the return of her cancer and my father’s recent cancer diagnosis. She made it clear to us that she was doing just fine because her soul was anchored in the Lord. We looked at old photos, chatted and laughed. We prayed for peace and strength. That day, as always, confidence and assurance radiated from her being.

While Illness may have taken over earthly body, her soul was at rest. In times of trouble, our faith is what grounds us. Our dear first lady knew that well and spoke it boldly.  She is safe in the arms of her father now. No more pain, no more suffering.

Here’s why the “Black Lives Matter” movement matters

marlon
By MARLON A. WALKER, GUEST BLOGGER
     The explainer had become a debate rather quickly.
     I posted a note on Facebook about the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement, activism which has come under fire by those who feel wronged or left out of its purpose.
Immediately on my posting was grumbling by two white friends about thugs killing cops and a movement pushing black as the superior race.
     But that’s just it: the movement isn’t about uplifting or highlighting anybody specific. Its purpose it to ensure black people are seen as humans and equals in a time many feel black people are wrongly targeted for crimes at disproportionate rates.
     But how do you explain that to someone who isn’t in the head space to receive it?
     Since 2012, there’s been Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Jordan Davis and Eric Gardner. Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. The story plays out the same way: black person, dead at the hands of someone white, or of some authority, unsure if the force used was necessary. Even when it’s clear the use of force was excessive, charges rarely come.
How is that right?
      The reaction locally plays out of feelings left to fester from years of a relationship gone awry. In North St. Louis County, Mo., officers in municipal police forces go untrained, often because of a lack of funds or resources. The goal for many of them is to gain employment in the larger agency, either the St. Louis City or the St. Louis County police. People feel there’s little buy-in from the officers with the community. Bottom line is when you don’t care, you don’t care. 
     So when Michael Brown was shot to death on Aug. 9, 2013, activists began developing a plan to attack what they saw as a gross mistreatment of black people at the hands of authority figures. Others reacted from their own place of hatred for a police force they never felt was with them.
     Opponents of the movement group the marching and debating with the looting and vitriol about getting back at cops and white people. If it’s done in the name of (insert victim’s name here), surely it was for the same effect, no?
     And they hang onto that as a way of discrediting a movement meant to shine light on the disparities in how often a black person loses his or her life in an incident with law enforcement that, on the surface, never elevated to the level of force used.
     Sadly, some people will never understand the motivation behind a movement meant to remind others of our equal value. It’s as if they never saw the law on the books that only counts black Americans as three-fifths a person, or that our right to vote will some day have to be renewed again.
     Viola Davis said it best Sunday night, while accepting the Emmy for best leading actress in a drama: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win Emmys from roles that are simply not there.”

     Black Lives Matter seeks to open eyes to the fact that even in 2015, with a black president leading this country, disparities in opportunities and how we’re treated by others persist.

Marlon A. Walker is a K-12 education reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has covered communities, municipal government, crime and higher education for several newspapers and magazines during his 10-year career.

Serena and Venus vs. everybody: A win for sisterhood

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I love watching Venus and Serena Williams smack those tennis balls around. These beautiful women are fierce competitors, sisters and best friends who always have each other’s back.

Much was at stake when Venus, 35, and Serena, 33, hit center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the U.S. Open Tuesday night. This week Serena is playing for history. If she wins the U.S. Open this week, she will have achieved the first Grand Slam in 25 years.   The Grand Slam is to tennis what the Triple Crown is to horse racing.  It is made up of four major tournaments: The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It’s huge to win all four because they are played in different countries at different times of the year on different types of courts.

Last night, commentators wouldn’t let us forget that these sisters each wanted to win, like that was a surprise. Of course they wanted to win! They are and have been among the top women in tennis for nearly two decades. Not only is tennis their occupation, it’s their passion.

I was baffled to hear sportscasters talk about whether Serena was happy or sad to beat her older sister — who gave little sis a great match.  The two have played one another 27 times in tournaments and countless other times in life. They know better than anyone their strengths and weaknesses, and use that knowledge to develop their respective strategies in high stakes matches.

After her win, Serena was classy as always, calling her sister the best player and the best person she knows. The two are also doubles partners. 

Venus, ever the gracious and protective big sister, exited the court quickly to the cheers of the crowd.  Getting beat by her sister didn’t seem to faze her one bit.

What I love about these women is that for 20 plus years they have dominated in a sport that still remains largely white. They have endured the slights, the shade and the straight up racist remarks.   I remember when they rocked braids and beads. Other players sometimes complained that their beads were falling off and littering the courts.

Most recently, Serena has faced criticism about her muscular  physique, which my husband and many other men I know adore.

Through it all the Williams sisters from Compton, California are true to themselves and true to each other. They have worked incredibly hard all their lives and reached the highest levels of their sport. They’ve done so while expressing their individuality without apology. They don’t conform, they transform.   They are shining examples of sisterhood, friendship and excellence.

Please believe: The best is yet to come

God has a way of putting us where we need to be to receive the message we need to hear exactly when we need to hear it.

That’s what happened this morning when my husband and I decided to worship at Ebenezer Baptist Church instead of attending our own church.  Rev. Natosha Rice delivered a word from the Lord that encouraged us to keep pressing forward in the midst of what has been a Job-like season for our family and friends: lung cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer.

And just as one friend was recovering from surgery for prostate cancer, he was hit last weekend by a tow truck driver while riding his bicycle.

In the midst of it all, we know in our hearts that God is in control. Yet in those quiet times — often in the midnight hour — fear and profound sadness creep in.

Rev. Rice shared with us the beautiful story of the devotion and faithfulness of Ruth toward her mother-in- law Naomi. When Naomi’s husband died, this woman who was admired by many lost her identity and became mired in depression. Later, her two sons — who were married to Ruth and Orpah — died; leaving the three women alone. Naomi told the younger women to return to their homelands because she had been foresaken for God.

Orpah left but Ruth stayed with her mother-in-law. She reminded Naomi of the woman she used to be and encouraged her to work through her pain and get back to her old self.

Rev. Rice talked about the power of their relationship to make the point that we need to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper.  Yesterday I was blessed to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday. For the last five years this friend has been faced with a huge test.   In the midst of her husband’s health crisis, which has forever altered their life together, she has remained steadfast in her faith. God has allowed her to retire from her job, care for her husband and see her daughters marry the men of their dreams. She has watched her husband undergo a bone marrow transplant with cells donated by his eldest daughter.

My friend has been faithful in her Job season. She truly believes that the best is yet to come because of her relationship with God. Her children have risen up and called her blessed. Her friends and family marvel at her resilience. Her husband adores her.

Best of all, God is well pleased, as he was with Ruth — who was blessed with another husband, her Boaz.

Change comes to all of us. As I reflect on the valley my family finds itself in I am encouraged that my father is facing cancer with peace and clarity. I am thankful that he is free of pain. In our seasons of change we must hold fast to God’s unchanging hands and trust his will for our lives.

We must trust and believe that our best days are yet to come.

If you don’t want to be a parent, please tell someone

In case

LOVE MY PEOPLE

Emani Moss was 10 years old when she died. Emani Moss was 10 years old when she died.

Eman Moss appeared in a Gwinnett County courtroom a week ago to apologize to his “beautiful princess.” He left facing life without parole for starving Emani Moss to death at the tender age of 10. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2013 starvation death of his daughter.

Prosecutors gave Eman Moss a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Tiffany Moss, his wife and Emani’s stepmother. Authorities believe Tiffany Moss was responsible for the majority of the abuse and neglect Emani suffered. She could get the death penalty.

Authorities found Emani’s burned body in the garbage. She weighed 32 pounds.

My heart breaks just thinking about the pain and suffering that beautiful child endured throughout her life. What were her parents thinking, trying to hide her body by burning it? …

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If you don’t want to be a parent, please tell someone

Emani Moss was 10 years old when she died.

Emani Moss was 10 years old when she died.

Eman Moss appeared in a Gwinnett County courtroom a week ago to apologize to his “beautiful princess.” He left facing life without parole for starving Emani Moss to death at the tender age of 10. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2013 starvation death of his daughter.

Prosecutors gave Eman Moss a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Tiffany Moss, his wife and Emani’s stepmother. Authorities believe Tiffany Moss was responsible for the majority of the abuse and neglect Emani suffered. She could get the death penalty.

Authorities found Emani’s burned body in the garbage. She weighed 32 pounds.

My heart breaks just thinking about the pain and suffering that beautiful child endured throughout her life. What were her parents thinking, trying to hide her body by burning it?  Did they honestly think no one would wonder where she  was?

Any fool can have a baby. but it takes a caring and attentive adult to raise a child.

If you’re too drugged out, irresponsible or just plain uncaring to raise the child you brought into this world, please turn that child over to someone who will love and care for him or her.

Indeed, our foster care system is overburdened and in need of more adults to care for children. Those of us who can, should step in and take a child who needs a home.  Over the years I’ve thought seriously about becoming a foster parent. I’ve  considered my spouse’s views, as well as my age, work load and other factors.

Ideally, a child should be placed with a relative until their parents are willing and able to care for them. But sadly, that is not an always an option. Back in the day, extended families often stood in the gap for loved ones who didn’t quite have it together but had a desire to be in their child’s life. That still happens today, but with families scattered about it seems to happen less frequently.

Tiffany Moss had been arrested previously for abusing Emani.  Sadly, the child was allowed to return to her care.  Her grandmother, the mother of Eman Moss, tried to help the child on several occasions. The couple’s two younger children were placed in state custody after Emani was found murdered.

Emani’s murder should prompt serious soul-searching in all of us. When we see a family in crisis, let’s do something, even if it means reporting them to the authorities.

This is how we will begin to save our abused and neglected children.

Goodbye creamy crack; here’s to combing my hair with my fingers

I packed away my curling and flat irons recently.

I packed away my curling and flat irons recently.

My colleagues know better than anyone where I can be found every Friday morning without fail. I don’t get my nails done and rarely get the brows waxed but this girl loves to get her “hair did” in the words of Missy Elliott.

Many of us back women have a thing about our hair. It’s an essential part of our individual swag. We invest hundreds of dollars each month making sure that our hair is on point. If need be, we will sit in a salon for hours for the right cut, braids, twists or up do..

And let’s not even talk about that creamy crack. Chris Rock coined the term in his documentary, “Good Hair” about black women, our obsession with hair and the booming weave industry. It was an ode to his daughters and his message was clear: our hair is beautiful as it is. Creamy crack refers to the chemicals we apply to our hair to straighten it. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get a perm.

For those of us of a certain age, the quest for straight hair began when we were kids with that dreaded hot comb our mothers heated up on the stove. My sister and I would wince when our hair sizzled or the straightening comb clipped our ear. We we got a bit older, we’d head to Wigginton’s Beauty Shop off Georgetown Road in Lexington where Mrs. Betty Ann Williams and Mrs. Dora Sanford did their thing. We loved going to the shop and hearing the ladies gossip. We joked that when we left Ms. Betty Ann’s chair our hair was fried, died and laid to the side!

To this day, I will wear a pair of shoes until they fall apart but I will not neglect my hair. My stylist is one of my best friends. I’ve been in her chair once a week for 20 plus years.  I trust Janet Savage so much that I barely glance at the mirror she hands me at the end of each appointment.

When I leave her shop, my hair is tight. I throw on some earrings and a little bit of lipstick and I’m ready to take on the world. I love Fridays for that reason. Jan was one of the first people I called with the news that I’d cut the perm out of my hair. You did what?  She’s been trying to get me to cut my hair for years but I never had the courage to take my short cut down to less than an inch. I’ll still need Jan to keep my hair trimmed. And I wouldn’t trade my Friday fellowship with her and other ladies for anything.

My father and husband were the first to react. “Why did you do that?” asked my Dad. “Your hair always looked so nice.”  Their reaction likely has more to do with my hair being super short.  They are traditionalists. I’ve also heard from a few friends who’ve asked what product I’m using. I’m thinking those comments mean my hair may be too kinky or dry-looking for their taste.

But, hey,  I love the freedom this short, perm-free cut gives me.  I just wake up, wet it, apply some curl cream and run my fingers through it.   Now if that’s not liberating, I don’t know what is!

My daughter Imani has taught me a thing or two about rocking the natural look with confidence and flair.

My daughter Imani has taught me a thing or two about rocking the natural look with confidence and flair.