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UrbanMamas, I apologize (sorta) for calling you names.

January 24th, 2008

UrbanMamas, I’m sorry I called you a bunch of pussies and bitches. Also, since I posted that, we’ve decided not to move across town, so here I am, baby.

What I meant to say was the following: By transferring your kids hither and yon to go to school, you are being socially regressive. Also, you’re not expressing with your full capabilities. I heard from ProtestMama that you’re having a panel discussion about school choice options. Neither of us was invited to be on the panel, oddly enough. That’s fine, I get ya. I am working for Portland Public Schools now, doing community outreach, and I’ve heard you don’t really want to have PPS on the panel. ProtestMama does not work for PPS, she just knows her shit, but whatever. I’m sure you had your reasons. But you are saying that parents and others in the audience will be able to add their two cents.

I’ll probably add four cents, possibly nine cents, we’ll have to see. ProtestMama and I are planning to attend, if we can make it. Which brings me to my first question: Are we welcome at the table? Uh, no. Are we welcome in the room? I hope so. You have indicated that we are welcome, it is a public meeting and all.

Anyway. The discussion will be held at noon, next Wednesday, January 30th, 2008, in the U.S. Bank Meeting Room at Multnomah County Library’s Central branch, 801 SW Tenth Ave. My second question: We both do work outside of the home, as do many other mamas. Why noon? On a weekday? Ah, catering to the stripedy crowd, with their cunning hats and their stay-at-home UrbanMamas? Is that it? I would suggest holding another discussion, in the evening, and not downtown.

What would I like? I would like you all to please support your neighborhood schools, walk through the doors, tour them, give ’em a couple of years and a chance before deciding to transfer out (and I hope you do not transfer out, I hope you invest in your neighborhood schools). I want you to meet the teachers, administrators and staff. I want you to volunteer, so you get a true idea of what the school is about.

But most of all: I want you to please help us fight for equity for all of our students. If you want to know how you can help, go leave a note on my better half’s blog or e-mail one of us. A whole lot of us want equity for PPS students. You can start now, right this second, by e-mailing the school board, the superintendent, your neighborhood school’s principal. You can talk to your friends.

I thought it was telling that the little picture on the announcement for the panel discussion shows two suburban-looking ladies, gabbing at the back fence. Those “back fence deals,” (Should we fly? Should we stay?) those deals make and break our schools. Birds of a feather flock together and all that.

I started getting pretty involved in school politics the day I had two PTA moms, both white, in my home office. We were going over the books, figuring out fundraisers for the year. My daughter was entering kindergarten. They had older boys who were going into sixth grade, and both had decided to send them to a west side school, across town (loooooong train or bus ride) because they “couldn’t” go their neighborhood school.

“We’d be in the minority there!” one of them said.

“I know!” said the other.

My response: “I don’t give a shit about that — why do you?”

Blank stares. Blank. As blank and one-dimensional as those two women in the little picture on that post you ran.

“If we stayed, I mean, if we all stayed, we could make it better,” one of them ventured.

But they didn’t.

Did you know kids who transfer out of their neighborhood school are more likely to drop out? Feel like fishes out of water? Feel unwanted, and out of place, when the students who “belong” there let them know, You are not from our neighborhood?


I have the good fortune (or in her case, she might see it as bad luck. Ha.) to have a friend who is also a mom in the neighborhood. I’ve known her and her husband for more than twenty years. They’re not right in our neighborhood — they’re up the street a ways. But their kids dip in over here for a charter. The point is — we’ve been having some good discussions about what it will take, what PPS needs to commit to, what parents and community need to commit to, what changes need to be made in order to get people back to their neighborhood schools. To end the segregation in this town, the starving out of low-income children and children who are not white, to get as many of the goodies to as many people as possible. Complicating factors: The district’s radical open transfer policy. No Child Left Behind (will the Democrats rid us of this crippling legislation, if they get into office? I remain unconvinced). Classism. Racism.

She is going to start, in her own life, by volunteering at our neighborhood high school, Jefferson. Go, Demos!

I’ve finally started telling a Certain Group of Parents — let’s call them the, “We Are the World/We Are the Parents!” parents — that they are working against the greater common good by taking their little sweeties out of their own communities, where they live and (possibly? not often enough) play. The social fabric of our larger community is being damaged by all this me, me, me attitude. When you make sure your kid is getting a big enough hunk of whatever, and helping to ensure that other kids get a small hunk, or no hunk at all — you’re hurting kids.

I noticed this syndrome first at birthday parties, right around the time Wacky Girl turned nine months old. The chaos! The fancy cakes! The bounce houses, cotton candy machines, expensive, elaborate decorations and gifts. The kids, once they got a little older, weren’t as intent on playing and socializing as they were on something bigger: The Goody Bag. When would it come out? Where was it hidden? What did it contain? What if the parent forget to give them out???

If you are a parent who does not Give the Goody Bag, you feel shame. (I have been guilty, myself, of Goody Bag Overcompensation.)

Life, thank God, is not a birthday party. Education is not a birthday party, although it has become, as one of our local principals said, “A case of the haves and the have-nots.”

It’s about more than cake and goody bags. We’re talking about people’s futures, their healthcare, their livelihoods. Their self-esteem, the way they find (or don’t find) a place to fit in in the universe. It is important to me that we help our kids, our future, our collective national pride, that we help them however we can so they do not end up:

1) Shattered.
2) Addicted.
3) Abused.
4) Incarcerated.
5) Dead.

That’s important to me, for our children. They are our children, not just mine and hers and his and yours. Ours. I claim them. Do you? Because if you don’t, for real — and all you’re caring about is that goody bag and hunk of cake — you are a pussy.

Peace, yours in equity,



  1. Lakeitha says

    All that I can say is Thank You! So glad to have you working on behalf of my child and all children.

    January 24th, 2008 | #

  2. Steve says


    January 24th, 2008 | #

  3. Steve says

    Hey, I’ve got an idea… maybe the Jefferson community should challenge the Urban Mamas (is that a misnomer, or what?) to a little game of dodge ball or tackle football or something.

    January 24th, 2008 | #

  4. Cindy says

    Amen Sister Wacky! I’m glad your staying. The last time I voluteered at Jeff I was told that if I was white they didn’t care what I had to say. So… I’ve been in the tanning booth everyday I’ve learned a couple of Aretha songs so I’ll be ready to go. It’s funny ,none of the kids at Jeff ever had an issue with the color of my skin. Dodge Ball HELL NO! I just joined the roller derby!! We need a Jeff derby team. Rock on Dems

    January 24th, 2008 | #

  5. Lakeitha says

    I am with Cindy. No dodgeball. I am pretty sure those Urban Mamas have access to foundation funds so that they can pay for a professional coach.I could do tackle football though. A debate on the issues might be fun too, or how about we bring the students who spoke at the city council meeting to talk to the Urban Mamass maybe then they will see the issues a little more clearly.
    So sorry about your experience at Jeff Cindy. Unfortunately there are some dumb folks everywhere.

    January 25th, 2008 | #

  6. Mallory says

    I am all for investing in neighborhood schools, but I think the magnets have a place. If you are Artsy in your soul, you should be able to choose DaVinci or Jeff. If you are a math and science geek, Winterhaven may be the only place that you can bond with your soulmates. Do I think you should be able to transfer just because your neighborhood school is racial diverse? Hell no. But I am afraid of the baby getting thrown out with the bathwater. I would have killed to go to a school like DaVinci when I was a kid. My jock neighbor would have killed if he had to GO to DaVinci. Vive la difference, and all that.
    I totally agree with you that they need to hold these meetings at an accessible time and location. Childcare should be mandatory, too!

    January 25th, 2008 | #

  7. WackyMommy says

    You girls are funny. I say tackle basketball.

    Cindy, I have an idea for you, you e-mail me off list.

    Mallory, I didn’t make that entirely clear, I’m sorry. That post was insanely long as it was, without bringing the magnets into it. Magnets have their place, for sure. But not when they’re starving out the neighborhood schools they’re sometimes housed in (Spanish Immersion at Beach; Odyssey at Hayhurst; Access at Sabin). If it’s a self-contained magnet, I’m fine with that. But they don’t have room for everyone, which is why we need to build our neighborhood schools to be comprehensive and strong.

    January 25th, 2008 | #

  8. Recovering Straight Girl says

    Hi WM, I wondered over from LeLo’s.

    Excellent post, gave me a lot to think about. I unfortunately am in the opposite dilemma; I live in the scariest of all Portland suburbs (second only to LO, I believe.) I am living here because I am forced to, kind of like an indentured servant only different. I struggle every day that the only diversity my children are exposed to is in our own home (I’m a lesbian, my partner is a woman, duh.) I fear that my three daughters are going to grow up and leave home, thinking that this town is somehow representative of the big world, where everyone has money, everyone gets what they want and they only time they see charity is during the holiday’s when the whole town suddenly looks like they’re humanitarians.

    If I could leave this god-forsaken place and move TO North Portland, I would in a heart beat. Yes we have some of the best schools in the state (second to LO,) but ultimately, what are my children learning???

    Oh, and I swore off goodie bags at birthday parties when the goodie bags started costing more that the gift, and a couple of years ago I told my children they could only have parties on major birthdays, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18. The other years we would have a small family get together. So far, no therapy has been necessary!

    January 25th, 2008 | #

  9. Mary says

    I have never given a goody bag to any child at any of my three children’s parties. And when the little guests ask for one I tell them: “Your treat was coming to the party.” Nuff said.

    And about those magnets and the supposed awesomeness of Da Vinci, etc.: How about EVERY middle school has art and music?

    And I won’t be meeting up with the Urban Mamas since they are so wretched in their classism. I once had the mother of a stripedy child tell me she couldn’t send her kid to the neighborhood school because when she went to look at the kindergartners a lot of them were wearing “you know, character shirts, like Superman and Spiderman. They all just looked so poor.”

    January 25th, 2008 | #

  10. Qanzas says

    As RSG says, a lot to think about. Even beyond hustling children around town, “White Flight” is irresponsible, regressive, and, um, what’s that word no one’s using? Oh yeah. It’s f-ing racist. Pussies and bitches (and a-holes) indeed.

    January 26th, 2008 | #

  11. MamaToo says

    You are always a good source of info (thanks for including links – so many don’t!) and opinion. As I get closer to this whole school thing, I get more stressed. Blood pressure rising over here, for sure. Not that high school is close, but kindergarten all of a sudden feels like college admissions, the way people talk about it.
    Thanks for staying on in the ‘hood school (neighbor-hood, that is). Hope more do the same.

    January 28th, 2008 | #

  12. WackyMommy says

    MamaToo, thank you. Best wishes. I’ll tell you what I wish other mamas had told me: Preschool, kindergarten and first grade can be so intense, for the kids and the parents. After that, your kids start figuring out (and telling you, adamantly) what is and isn’t working, what sports and “extras” they like to do, which friends they want to invite over — it gets easier. Even when it’s getting rougher, it gets easier in many ways.

    January 28th, 2008 | #

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