Non-fiction

Miss Sick of This Vs. Mama Cool
by Tamika Thompson | MUTHA Magazine

My four-year-old so often says, “Mommy, I need to tell you something,” that I almost missed what she had to share that day. I hurried her up the steps and out of her preschool, ensuring that we had enough time for her to eat a snack of cheese and pear, change into her leotard and tutu, and drive the four miles to her ballet class.

Even with my hand on her back in the sweaty space between her shoulder blades, gently nudging her faster, faster, “Let’s see who can make it to the car first,” faster up the stairs and out to the parking lot, I knew that her ongoing declaration was a parenting pop quiz. A way to make certain that her words mattered to me, that she could trust me. So, I accepted her test as I always do, no matter the pressing time constraints.

“Okay, Morgan. I’m listening.”

She was dawdling. To quicken her pace, I snatched up her paint-speckled hand, the yellow sparkling like gold on her brown skin.

“William spit on me, Mommy.” Her boisterous voice shrank to a pained near-whisper. “Not the William in my class. Not my friend William. The other William, in the other class. On my cheek, my hands, and right here.”

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Talking Race With a Toddler Who Wasn’t Talking About Race at All
by Tamika Thompson | “Motherlode,” The New York Times 

Recently, my 27-month-old daughter, Morgan, asked this: “Mommy, can you hand me the black one?”

Sitting with her on the living-room rug amid a mess of plastic building bricks, I realized that she was referring to one of her action figures.

Long before, and apropos of nothing, she had named two of her toys Sonkey and Donkey. And since the ponytail-wearing girl figures look alike, she has always treated them as if they were sisters. But this time, as she set up a colorful birthday party with imaginary cake and balloons for them to enjoy, instead of calling them by the names she had given them, she referred to one of them as “the black one.”

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Asleep on the Job
by Tamika Thompson | Primetime, ABC News

“That’s the reactor building,” my partner Dana Hughes said as we drove onto Pennsylvania State University’s campus. She looked down at the map. She looked up at the sign on the road. She looked down at the map again. She whispered, “This is it.”

It was about 11:15 a.m. and we had been driving for four hours. During the drive we went over our plan for the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor: Day One would be surveillance; Day Two would be a scheduled tour of the 1-megawatt reactor with low-enriched uranium.

“Let’s drive up there,” Dana said. I drove to the building.

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El Sistema: From Venezuela to the United States
by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org & Tavis Smiley Reports 

Imagine a group of 4th-grade students excited to remain after school for classical music instruction. They play instruments, study Mahler’s first symphony, train with their ensemble, and practice again at home.

Day after day, they are dedicated to learning and playing music. But most importantly, they think it’s fun. They are passionate about classical music. They can’t wait to pick up their instruments again; they dream of performing in an orchestra.

The students are not child prodigies, born into well-heeled families and studying at the top music academy in their region. They are poor. Their parents work several jobs, and struggle to keep food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet. Their families would likely not have the means to afford new instruments for their children, let alone classical music instruction, if it were not for a community vision that considers music education a right, not a privilege.

The vision, the network and the program make up what is known in Venezuela as El Sistema. It began in the South American nation in the 1970s and is slowly spreading around the world.

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Spoon-feeding and Obesity: Why the Future of Weaning is Spoon-less
by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org

Put down that spoon. Back away from the high chair. Your baby needs to feed herself.

That was the word out of U.K.-based Nottingham University in February, where researchers Ellen Townsend and Nicola J. Pitchford analyzed questionnaires completed by the parents of 155 children between the ages of 20 months and 6 1/2 years. They found that babies weaned from milk through the use of spoon-fed purees had higher rates of obesity.

The weaning approach that leads to babies regulating their own food intake is a rapidly growing trend called baby-led weaning, a practice in which parents put a variety of “adult” fare like pasta, broccoli or croissants in front of their six-month-olds and let them pick up the food and feed themselves. The babies determine what they eat, how much they eat, and parents get out of the way.

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Mardi Gras Indians: ‘Battling’ On St. Josephs Night
by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org & Tavis Smiley Reports

Picture it. March 19th in New Orleans–late in the evening. A gang of local men led by a Big Chief approach another gang of local men led by its own Big Chief. They are chanting, dancing, donning heavy, elaborate costumes of sequins, beads and feathers, and they mock-battle in the street before crowds of onlookers.

Neither Big Chief will bow down. Neither will be outdone by his opponent. One shouts, “I’m the prettiest big chief!” The response from the other big chief: “I’m the prettiest big chief!”

They are the Mardi Gras Indians…

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Nader/Gonzalez: ‘Open the Debates’
by Tamika Thompson | The Huffington Post

In their vice-presidential debate Thursday night, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden ended in a veritable draw, not unlike Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in their first presidential debate.

But what if there were a third (and fourth) candidate on the debate stage? What might he or she add to the discussion?

Former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and Ralph Nader running-mate Matt Gonzalez said third party candidates would offer Americans more of a “clash of ideas.”

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How To Get Cell Phone Reception in a Dead Zone (Without Roaming)
by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org

If you live in a dreaded mobile dead zone like I do, then you’ve probably given up hope of getting decent cell phone reception at home. I had given up too. Then, I discovered the secret to getting four bars without roaming – the femtocell.

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Green Party VP Candidate: ‘The Hip-Hop Community Has To Go Green’
by Tamika Thompson | The Huffington Post

In her acceptance speech as the Green Party vice presidential nominee in July, hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente said to applause “we can lead a nation with a microphone. Hip-hop has been that mic, but now the Green Party needs to be the power that can turn up the volume and blow the speakers out.”

Green Party Convention attendees likely knew a lot about Green Party presidential nominee and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, but unless they knew the difference between KRS-One and Ludacris, they probably hadn’t heard of Clemente.

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School Integration: Ruby Bridges in Context
by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org & Tavis Smiley Reports

During his time in New Orleans, Tavis caught up with New Orleans native Ruby Bridges, who, in 1960, was the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.

Bridges’ story—captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With“—is bigger than New Orleans and bigger than the South.

Hers is the story of school integration for Blacks. And, while the landmark case for school desegregation is the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Bridges’ story—and the story of all Black students seeking an education in all-white schools—begins in the 19th century, when Blacks weren’t yet free.

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Killing the ‘Enemy:’ What Happened to Nonviolence?

by Tamika Thompson | PBS.org & Tavis Smiley

At the demise of Osama bin Laden, I felt tremendous grief – for his victims and their families, for the United States and its loss on September 11th and for Osama bin Laden himself. He was a man after all. A man who went astray and used his life for evil purposes.

That last part might make many people uncomfortable or angry – that I felt grief for bin Laden.

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