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steffanie rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Atlanta School Scandal A Black on Black Crime

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

My mother was my first teacher.

Every trip to the grocery store was a math lesson in how to count money. Every conversation was likely to become an exercise in grammar and enunciation. She regularly called my teachers to check on my behavior in class.

One year when I was assigned to a teacher who didn’t meet her standards, my mother had me transferred to another class. She checked my homework everyday, and if I had no homework she created some. If the term “involved single parent” was listed in Webster’s, there would have been a picture of my mother next to it. She had high expectations of me and those responsible for my education. As a child I hated it! As an adult I’m thankful.

So when I heard about the colossal failures of those now convicted Atlanta Public School educators who cared more about the appearance of achievement than the potential damage their actions might create for a generation of children, I can’t decide who’s more at fault: the educators themselves or the parents of the students.

Teachers – at the direction of administrators – conspired to correct wrong answers on standardized tests, because salary bonuses and government funding for schools where connected to test results. This wasn’t a one time lapse of ethics. Investigators said cheating had been going on for years before the scandal was uncovered. Apparently their temporary monetary gain was more important than the long-term disadvantage created by illiteracy that often leads to under-employment, negative stereotypes and missed opportunities. The miseducation of (mostly) black children by black adults adds insult to injury.

Clearly their actions show teachers cared more about the money and staying employed in a defunct system – some say they were threatened with termination if they refused to go along with cheating – than equipping their students with the skills to succeed.

But what excuse did parents give? If Johnny can’t read, write or count money at the grocery store checkout his parents should have realized it and questioned his teachers about his deficiencies. Most parents claim to want more for their children than they have achieved. There’s more to good parenting than just providing food, clothes and shelter.

In this world of instant gratification where people want the rewards of success without doing the work that comes before it, it’s easy to forget life’s greatest achievements start by mastering the fundamentals. Teachers and parents who offer less than the best chance at success for the children in their care probably don’t need to be teachers or parents.

Behind every successful adult is a long line of teachers, coaches and parents who gave their time, talents and resources to insure children in their care received the best they had to offer. On behalf of all of us, you are appreciated.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to share comments, questions and speaking inquiries.

Steffanie Rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*When I was four years old my pre-school teacher called my mother to a meeting, because I had said a curse word!

Apparently the class was playing a game: Each student was asked to think of a word that begins with the first letter of your first name, spell it aloud then pronounce it. My answer: S-H-I-T, Shit! That’s the trouble with children: They repeat what they hear and see. My mother owned up to her role in that incident. The parents of Levi Pettit should do the same.

Even though Pettit was caught on video leading a bus full of white people in a chant calling black people “niggers” who “can hang from a tree, but will never “ be allowed to pledge his fraternity (, his parents insist he’s not a racist. Newsflash, Brody and Susan Pettit: If those aren’t the words of a racist I don’t know what is.

While apologies are good to hear – Petitt and Parker Rice, the other now expelled University of Oklahoma student who blamed it on alcohol – I’m sick of people apologizing for behavior they lacked the foresight to see should never have taken place to begin with. Still, the more important issue is how do 19-year old boys feels it’s acceptable in any setting to say out loud the things that were said without fear of reprisal. I’ll tell you why: Because they’ve heard it and said it before. Racism is a learned behavior (mom and dad)!

In an era where the tanning of America means more white teens purchase rap music than any other group in their generation, emulate hip hop fashion and culture and where the majority of Americans will be of Hispanic decent by the year 2044, Pettit and Rice’s future bosses are more likely to be brown and black. They should practice acceptance instead of prejudice. And for those who want to blame rap lyrics for their brazen behavior, reciting a rap song is way different than the video we saw. If these boys don’t know that they ain’t ready for college, let alone real life.

I commend University of Oklahoma’s president for his swift action again those students identified as ringleaders on the bus and the closing of their on-campus Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Had it not been dealt with, OU could have been charged with violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance. Even if the administration saved itself from a Dept. of Justice lawsuit, OU might have to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the expelled students who say their freedom of speech was violated. Never-mind they already admitted wrong doing and apologized. Apparently it’s a last-ditch effort to save face. Too late.

When issues such as these are ignored boys with bad behavior graduate to become racist police officers who will take the life of a black man without cause or pause then rely on their good ‘ole boys back at the station, who pass racist emails around the office, to protect them. And just in case citizen protests become too much to ignore, there’s always that judge in their back pocket. You know, the one who is found by the U.S. Justice Department to be more concerned with raising the price of court fines and fees to balance the city’s budget than he is with upholding blind justice.

According to the SAE website, alumni notables of the fraternity include Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, NBA coaches, military leaders and politicians in all levels of government. Because of their affiliation, these are the people who Pettit, Rice and those other cheerleaders on the bus plan to seek out for jobs, million dollar government contracts and financial support for their political campaigns not necessarily because they are better suited for the favor but because of the brotherhood or “common goals (wink, wink).”

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the courage it took for the (apparently) white person on the bus who recorded the video and took it to the group of students who posted it on YouTube. Instead of going along with the crowd, that person had the guts to shed light on an obvious wrong. In the words of Tavis Smiley, ‘everybody that is your skin folk is not your kin folk.’ Still, just like the one or two roaches you see when you shine a light in the dark, it’s only a sign of a bigger problem. There’s more where they came from.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for questions, comments and speaking inquiries.

steffanie rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Open Letter About the Post Office

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

I never have openly campaigned for the demise of an organization. But my experience as of late has me hoping the U.S. Postal Service goes the way of the Twinkie.

Even though its viability has been in question for almost a decade, the post office’s strategy of reduced hours, layoffs and price hikes have kept it on life support.

But with more than 240 years in business somebody in charge should have figured out raising the price of stamps every six months won’t create a profitable business. Figuring out how to deliver good customer service – or just deliver my package – might be the key to success. I’m not talking about one package and one bad experience. My complaints are too numerous to recount.

This is not about the long line of customers waiting to ship packages and purchase stamps from that lone postal worker at the only counter that’s open because everybody else is on break at the same time. I learned long ago there’s no such thing as a quick trip to the post office. What I have a problem with are people who waste my time or my money. The people at the post office have managed to do both.

Eversince I had that experience with a stalker 25 years ago I’m particular about who knows where I lay my head at night. Privacy is the primary reason I started renting a post office box. Add to it the fact that, as a flight attendant, I travel frequently. I live in a condo community. And as is the nature of many transient communities new people come and go. Some of them (probably) steal and some of them don’t. Having my packages delivered to my post office box is supposed to be convenient and secure.

So why is it that packages delivered to the post office get lost on the way to my box? The tracking numbers indicate they were shipped and received at the post office, but when I take time out of my busy schedule to retrieve them nobody knows where they are. I have to call the company that shipped it and tell them the unbelievable story of the disappearing package from my p.o. box. No, I’m not trying to get free merchandise. I just want what I already paid for.

So I negotiate another delivery, except this time lets have it shipped to my transient condo community where the package could sit for days at my front door until I’m able to get it. But God forbid there’s snow in Dallas like there was last week. Despite the USPS slogan about delivering in rain, sleet or snow, my mail man doesn’t deliver mail in the snow. Really?! So the priority package for which I paid extra money to have delivered to my door within a certain time sat in package limbo until I called to inquire. And that’s putting it nicely!

That’s when I was told it was too snowy for the mail main to drive two miles up the street to bring my package that I paid to have delivered. Okay. I’ll pick it up. When I got there I was told the mail man had it on the truck to be delivered. I’m paying for a p.o box and for priority delivery to my front door. And I still don’t have my package. Is this a joke? No, this is the post office.

Steffanie is a freelance writer living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. For questions, comments and speaking inquiries email her at [email protected].

steffanie rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Do As I Say – Not As I Do

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*Ten-year-old top-secret files that became unclassified confirm the CIA tortured suspected terrorists in their custody.

These interrogation techniques were supposed to force prisoners to spill secret plots against the United States.

The trouble is it’s against CIA policy to torture prisoners. And what’s worse, no worthwhile information was obtained through the torture tactics. Maybe the suspects weren’t terrorists after all.

Now the United States’ principal intelligence agency will be seen as bullies in the eyes of the world. It’s that image – before it was imagined, now it’s confirmed – that has contributed to America being the target of said terrorist plots.

From Afghanistan to Ukraine, U.S. troops have a history of staging interventions at the slightest sign of international discontent. When opposing Islamic extremists fought each other and threatened the democratic efforts in Iraq, U.S. troops jumped in that conflict. And when Russia sent its military into bordering Ukraine, U.S. troops got involved there too. How did either of those issues directly affect America? They didn’t. Political busy-bodies, the United States government is. The American slogan should be “Do as I say, not as I do.”

From the CIA down to local law enforcement, people in authority create protocol de jure, but operate under de facto rules of engagement. Why else would CIA agents abuse prisoners under their authority in direct opposition to their own policies? Why else would a gang of police officers videotaped jumping an unarmed man, choking him and restricting his breathing until he dies be allowed to walk away without being held criminally liable for his death? Because they explain away their actions as being for the good of the cause. These last two weeks of protests won’t do much – if anything – to improve interaction between the police and the black and brown citizens they are sworn to protect. You can change unfair laws, but you can’t legislate hearts.

No, white people don’t care what we think. White people only care what other white people think. When other world leaders start to question the civil unrest they see going on in America and hold the United States accountable, Only then will American leaders see the need to make a change.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or speaking inquiries.

bill cosby

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: In Support of Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

*If the women who have come out of the woodwork with claims of rape against entertainment icon Bill Cosby were trying to derail his comeback, they are gaining momentum. Cosby’s Netflix comedy special has been postponed indefinitely. And NBC’s plans to create a sit-com with Cosby have been canceled for now. I guess the network, which depends on advertisers, decided to bow out before they were forced to. But subscriber income is how Netflix pays its bills: The streaming video service gets paid regardless, which makes it hard for me to understand why these two power house production companies would allow unsubstantiated claims against someone with a proven track record to determine how they operate.

The line of women in this campaign against Cosby is getting longer. Most people are thinking ‘If so many women are claiming it, it must be true.’ I don’t agree. As a woman, it is not my intention to dismiss another woman’s feelings of mistreatment or abuse. But my most pressing questions about these allegations are: Why didn’t these women – all of them of age when they claim their assaults occurred – file charges at the time? Why wait thirty years later, when there’s no evidence to support your claims?

Some of these allegations never were made public until now. A few were made public then, but never have been proven and Cosby never was charged. Still, that hasn’t stopped his accusers from giving TV interviews and writing newspaper editorials. I’m not sure why the powers-that-be feel it’s news-worthy to turn old news into headlines, especially since there’s no new evidence or new charges. It’s next to impossible to get mainstream media to give two minutes worth of coverage to women and children of a certain economic status who go missing everyday. But somehow these women – who essentially are guilty of slander right now – have convinced somebody with power that their stories are worthy of our attention.

Cosby has refused to comment about any possible rape investigation, except through his attorney who said Cosby is not guilty of the allegations. But in light of so many women who feel it’s their duty to tell the world about their alleged bad experience, I feel obligated to tell you about my good experience with Bill Cosby. Maybe if I start it off others who have had good encounters and those whom he has helped in the entertainment industry will line up in his defense.

I met Mr. Cosby in early 2014. I’m a flight attendant and he was a passenger on my flight from Hartford, Connecticut to Dallas. As many celebrities do, Cosby asked to board the flight ahead of other passengers so he could have extra time to get settled in his seat. My flight crew agreed he could. A TSA agent escorted Cosby to the plane, because he was traveling alone. He didn’t even have a body-guard with him. Most celebrities of his caliber never travel by themselves. But there he was, no assistant in sight.

From the moment he stepped on board, Mr. Cosby was full of personality. He offered to take pictures with the pilots and us flight attendants, even before we asked him. And when I asked Cosby if his wife was traveling with him (because I was so amazed that he was traveling alone) he said “Yes, she’s in my carry-on luggage in the overhead bin!” The jokes flowed off his tongue like water from a faucet. I’ve had other celebrities to board early on other flights before, and most of them are pleasant. But none of them took the time to laugh and talk with me as Mr. Cosby did.

I asked him where he was headed. He said he was on his way to Lubbock, Texas by way of Dallas to speak to a group of teens about the importance of a good education, goal-setting and having a life plan. He and I were alone and engaged in conversation for at least twenty minutes. But as soon as other passengers started to board I had to turn my attention to them and my other duties.

At some point during the boarding process Mr. Cosby started to fall asleep in his seat. Most first-class passengers didn’t know the man sitting among them was the entertainment icon, because he wasn’t trying to hog the spotlight or be noticed. At that point he wanted to sleep. It wasn’t until I asked if he wanted me to wake him for his meal did any of the other passengers seem to take notice of who he was. He didn’t drink or eat anything. He slept the entire flight. He didn’t try to hem me up in the galley for a private conversation or close contact. Some passengers do that. But not Bill Cosby. And after he woke up towards the end of the flight he told me “this was the best first class service I’ve ever had,” even though he slept through it all. But it put a smile on my face, nonetheless.

In between my flight duties I took time to hand-write Mr. Cosby a letter. In it I thanked him for the pictures, for his work to promote family values and his efforts to inspire the next generation. Also, I invited him to be a paid participant in upcoming events my private company produces for aspiring comedians and entertainers. Yes, I gave Bill Cosby my personal contact information for business purposes.

I wrote you a letter, Mr. Cosby,” I told him, and I passed it to him as he left the flight.

A week or so later I received an email from someone on behalf of Cosby. In essence, the email said Cosby had read my letter and wanted to respond to my request for his participation in our events. Although he was unavailable to participate at the time, the email stated he would keep my request on file.

I felt honored that The Bill Cosby would take time out of his schedule to read a hand written letter from a stranger and then have his people respond to me. He didn’t use my personal contact information for anything other than what I had intended. It was proof for me that he is the genuine, trustworthy person I always thought him to be.

I’m sure there are others – women and men – who have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences with Bill Cosby. Maybe some of the young actors he mentored in their careers should speak up on his behalf. Surely mainstream media outlets will do for us what they have done for the unsubstantiated accusers: Let the world know we stand up in support of Bill Cosby.

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or speaking inquiries.

Steffanie Rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The Value of A Woman (Kim Kardashian)

kim kardashian frontal nudity1a

*At a time when entertainers and A-list actresses are trying to retrieve their nude photos from the internet, Kim Kardashian has allowed her full frontal nude and booty shots to be posted for all to see. Does she realize that means baby Nori one day will be looking at her momma’s naked ass all over the internet too. Or is it that Kim K just doesn’t care?

Most parents have done things they don’t want their children to know about. But they don’t have pictorial evidence of their bad behavior. That makes it easier to speak with parental authority when their children ask them why they shouldn’t engage in the same. But if there’s video of your mother starring in a homemade porn movie with a man who’s not your father, a music video of your mother simulating sex on a motorcycle and pictures of your mother’s naked body on every social media site as proof of how she actively tried to break the internet, it will be hard to picture her in an authoritative capacity when it counts most.

What sound objection will Kim and Kanye West give to their daughter that’s going to keep her off the stripper pole or keep her from experimenting with drugs or prostitution or from being America’s next top porn star? Ask actor Lawrence Fishburne what he’s going through right now. Obviously they haven’t thought that far ahead. I did, and I don’t even have children.

I’m not sure when it happened for me, if my mother instilled it in me or if I came to the realization myself; but at some point early in my cognitive development I decided – regardless of how much attention I get because of my physical assets – my breasts and my behind are not my best attributes and I never will treat them as if they are. In the words of Tavis Smiley: You might know some of me, but that’s not the sum of me.

I guess Kris Jenner is too busy with her new man that’s young enough to be her oldest son to be dispensing motherly advice. Or maybe her mom is the person who told Kim a fat ass is the best she has to offer to the world.

Regardless of how it happened, Kim K’s self-worth and body image are one in the same. The happy couple wedding photos, the family pictures and those candid shots of her with baby Nori on her hip are plentiful. But the image of Kim Kardashian, the wife and mother, isn’t her thing. Kim K, the sexy vixen: That’s her sweet spot! That’s her brand. As long as her breasts and booty hold up, as long as her Instagram likes are plentiful and Twitter followers and Facebook friends keep growing her relevance is validated.

Let’s tell Kim K what her mother obviously failed to convey: Women are worth more than the sum of their parts. And let’s require more from her than 140 characters and a booty shot. Parents are supposed to act in the best interest of their children. So we’ll be helping ourselves in the process. When looking at Kim K’s pictures our boys will learn the wrong way to value a woman. And our girls will learn that self-exploitation is the norm. Since children are going to look at the pictures anyway, parents might as well look at them with their children and have a meaningful conversation about them. This is our collective chance to keep our daughters and little Nori off the pole. Kim and Kanye can thank us later.

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or speaking inquiries.