I used to think that fighting was a waste. Beneath me. Over time life would reveal that not only are some fights necessary, but the majority of great victories for mankind were a result of courageous, committed fighters who remained loyal to the cause; a loyalty that would cost many their freedom and others’ their lives.
I was raised in a house that celebrated the fighters: Martin and Malcolm, JFK, Angela Davis, and Mandela. The celebration would continue in the classroom by teaching my students about Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal, Cesar Chavez, and countless others. My message has always been the same: Stand for what is right… stand up for others.
I never thought of myself as a fighter. There are those who go looking for a fight and there are fights that come looking for you. Until the last few years, the classroom has served as my space to inspire change and justice in the world. It would be January of this year that dropped the first hint of change in the air. I felt it… something wasn’t right. The events in Wuhan, China were captivating. I watched. Listened. Questioned. By the end of the month, I would order one box of ten N95 masks.
The next month and half was like watching an inevitable train crash in slow motion. I waited for the engineer to switch rails… seek a better route. He didn’t. No one did. I grew impatient. Anxious. It felt personal.
On March 24th, at 11:00 pm, my brother, Kious Kelly, a faithful and beloved nurse in New York City died after contracting COVID 19 at work.
As I said, I’ve never been much of a physical fighter. The temporary fulfillment I imagine experiencing after hauling off and taking someone down is quickly contained by the immediate guilt and disappointment I would feel for failing to remain composed.
“Kious was murdered,” were the words posted by a fellow-nurse on social media that halted time. Her words numbed my pain. “The hospital failed to protect him,” his co-worker posted. Kious was murdered; the words lingered and performed a well-coordinated dance before my eyes. That was my invitation into the ring… and my acceptance was promptly returned.
In the days ahead, images of fellow nurses in trash bags plastered local and national headlines, emails from nurses begging for PPE (personal protective equipment) flooded my inbox, and screenshots of hospital horrors backed up my incoming text messages. Reports of masks being used as long as 10 days that were intended for single use, disposable-single-use gowns offered only once a day to healthcare workers, and sick healthcare workers required to return to work continued to pour in for weeks. Perhaps the most cowardly of acts: termination threats from hospital administrators for those who spoke to the media regarding their lack of PPE.
No, this was not a fight I chose. It chose me. Not because I am a healthcare worker. Not because it would bring my brother back. Not because I had anything to personally gain. Rather, precisely because I have nothing to gain. The historical greats sacrificed and fought for others. So often I think about the Reverend Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign; King was not poor… but others were. King’s words have molded my very existence, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
We all knew the Corona Virus was coming and had ample time to plan. Every citizen. Every Governor. Every hospital Administrator. Every Politician. And most assuredly, our President had a window of time to lead America in pro-active preparation efforts. Ill-preparedness and greed killed my brother and close to 80,000 Americans and counting.
#PPENOW was my response on March 26th and the focus of a handful of subsequent interviews. My plea for PPE was loud and clear. Two months… two months later PPE remains an issue as it is left to the whims of privatized hospital leadership. Little media coverage is offered regarding the on-going lack of sufficient PPE as the White House and various states prepare to reopen. The desire of many to return to some semblance of normalcy quietly suggests that we move forward and simply forget our grave mistakes.
Kious Kelly Protection for Healthcare Workers Act was presented to the public in late March. The goal is simple: mandate all hospitals (public and private) to provide the appropriate CDC approved Personal Protective Equipment to all healthcare workers and abide by the intended usage. Never again should hospitals be permitted to hoard or ration PPE. Management must provide the equipment required or the hospital is to be deemed a hazard to the public and not viable to serve.
While some of my fellow Michiganders (a small number) stormed the capitol toting guns, Confederate Flags, and nooses (shockingly, in the name of God), I choose to fight for the protection of my brothers and sisters who serve in the hospitals and nursing homes. I will protest the failure in leadership by calling for responsible change. I will advocate for their rights and the honor of those who serve our country in our hour of need. I will fight for the voiceless who demonstrate their loyalty by showing-up to work, day after day regardless of unimaginable circumstances.
At this moment in time, we are each writing our own history. We get to choose what story we will tell our children and grandchildren. What is your COVID-19 story?
Many have used this time to motivate, heal, encourage, and literally cheer for others. We have daily reminders of the mysterious beauty and love in the human soul to offer hope. Signs have been made, songs have been sung, and masks have been created. Art and creativity is at its peak as the human spirit responds to the cry for good.
As I said, some fights are chosen and some seek you out. I’m all in and prepared to fight to the final round. My journey may lead me all the way to Washington planted on the White House lawn. So be it. Know this: I won’t need a mic. I won’t need a crowd. And I most certainly won’t need a gun.
I will fight for the Kious Kelly Protection for Healthcare Workers Act… and I intend to win.
My brother was a dedicated nurse working on the front lines in New York City. After seeing his first COVID-19 patient, James-Kious would test positive and die 6 days later. Alone.
March 27th, 2020
Let me be absolutely clear…
I’ve wrapped up a 2nd day of video interviews, phone conferences, and written statements. My focus and calling were clear: FIGHT. My words and actions are only futile if we as a nation agree to allow others to very literally die around us at such a rate that some will be stored in cooling trailers. When this is over, there will be photos, brave souls will break their silence regardless of the cost, and champions that walked a rugged path from the start will be made clear. I solute the champions.
Let me be absolutely clear…
Kious was not a victim. He served with love. If you needed care…you would get it. He ran toward the on-coming enemy determined to bring survivors back with him. That’s who he was. In time, the truth regarding the lack of PPE in his unit and hospital will come to light. Nevertheless, Kious served.
Let me be absolutely clear…
I am a believer and follower in the one true God and Jesus Christ is my savior. I am not angry…and I do seek understanding. It’s quite clear. Kious will save more lives in his death than he would in his life. Germany, France, Australia…they know his name. Australia is where we were two weeks ago (regarding the spread of COVID 19) and asked me what had to be done to better prepare them? No, Kious was not a victim.
Let me be perfectly clear…
To all of my past Indy students: I have preached about our Lord’s faithfulness. And, O, Faithful He is. The sudden and potentially preventable death of my brother does not change that. Nothing does. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us to pray and believe…not having doubt. Rather to believe when we pray (see James 1:6). Some think that we are to believe in the prayer. That’s not it. We are to believe in our Lord. That means knowing He is who He says He is AND trusting his perfect will. Yes, even when the outcome is not what you wanted.
Let me be absolutely clear…
To my past Madison and Chicago students: I have given lectures, initiated discussions, and taken you through some crazy exercises (If One Fails, We All Fail) with one focus…we are to fight for one another! It would have been very easy to crawl into my comfortable isolation and mourn. That was not an option. Why? Because you matter! Your neighbor matters! And yes, my James-Kious mattered.
Let me be absolutely clear…
“It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” Emiliano Zapata
Kious died on his feet…as will I.
January 20th, 2020
I love this picture. It reminds me that Martin Luther King Jr. was a man with a wife and children. A man with hope and a future…
As the eve of our Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaches, I wonder how my oldest son spent the day now that he’s away at school in Phoenix. While Arizona was one of the last states to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday in 1992, they were pressured to do so after losing the 1993 Super Bowl site and a potential $250 million in revenue. The fight for Martin Luther King holiday spanned two decades.
During our home school years, both my husband and I took the time to make Martin Luther King Day special, relevant, and a teaching opportunity rather than just a day off. As Dr. King would have turned 91 on January 15th, I find an increasing number of our youth have no idea who he was, what he stood for, and why or how Martin Luther King Day came to be. This saddens me. I decided to write 10 of the most compelling things in my studies about the man, message, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
History of Martin Luther King Day
- While former President Ronald Reagan would sign the bill in November of 1983, Martin Luther King Day was initially proposed in 1968 four days after his assassination. 1986 would be the first year Martin Luther King Day is recognized and celebrated.
- It would take a petition led by his wife, Coretta Scott King, and the support of Stevie Wonder and U2 (among others) to gather momentum and a national collective voice in support of Martin Luther King Day. Over 6 million Americans would sign the petition.
- Stevie Wonder’s, “Happy Birthday,” released in 1981 was a pivotal political move. Stevie risk popularity, criticism, and sales. He did it nonetheless; there was a greater good at stake.
- In 2000, South Carolina would be one of the last states to embrace Martin Luther Luther Day and pay their employees. This was 17 years after the bill was passed.
- To understand the Reverend is to embrace a philosophy of love. Listen to his speeches and study his quotes. Dr. King was driven by you and me, we were all his brothers and sisters. He longed to see us thrive. King was not afraid to join us in our suffering and fight for a better day.
- While “I Have a Dream,” remains the speech Dr. King is remembered for as it captures his hopes for our nation, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” gives us a glimpse of his heart. Dr. King delivered his Mountaintop speech on April 3rd, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee the night before his assassination. Not only was this his final speech but Martin’s heart for the Lord and commitment to doing His will were delivered with intense clarity.
- Dr. King had premonitions of his death.
- Before Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, he was there supporting the Sanitation Worker’s Strike; workers were seeking safer working conditions, payment for overtime, and basic humane treatment.
- We must never forget that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of the cloth. Dr. King was a man of God. Every quote, every speech, King’s dreams, his hopes, and his will to fight were all in full and complete alignment with the Holy Scriptures.
- Lastly, Dr. King fought for me and my children. He fought for you and your children. He fought for those that could not fight for themselves. He fought for what was right. He fought for love.
Dr. King was not perfect. None of us are. He made mistakes. We all do. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that his heart’s desire was to live and walk with his neighbors in such a way that was pleasing to our Lord.
I choose to strive to live similarly … not only on the 3rd Monday in January of each year, but every day I am given. I will never be able to thank Dr. King personally, but I can and will express my gratitude by speaking against injustice, involving myself in matters even when they do not effect me directly, and fight for the rights of the oppressed.
I pray for our country, leaders, families, neighbors, and youth – may we all love hard, dream big, and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
“Life begins to end the day we are silent about the things that matter.” MLK
Happy Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
- This is the absolute best documentary done on the man, Martin Luther King, and the days prior to his assassination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGGAmysR0AE
- This is a good resource for rich MLK quotes: https://parade.com/252644/viannguyen/15-of-martin-luther-king-jr-s-most-inspiring-motivational-quotes/
- This article does a fantastic job outlining the history of Martin Luther Day: https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/how-martin-luther-king-jr-s-birthday-became-a-holiday-3
I giggled and snorted (my involuntary response to extreme laughter) down the entire frozen vegetable aisle at our neighborhood market when I read my husband’s text message accompanied by this unfortunate picture. You’re wondering why he was wearing my sports bra. Well I’m wondering how he got it on.
Here’s the story. Years ago after attending a marriage conference, I was looking for a better way to express my frustrations rather than opening my mouth (which can get me in a pickle if I’m not careful). Keeping my frustration at an even simmer is manageable until anger jumps in the pot. All too often, my tongue insists on joining the party and that’s when things tend to boil over. My outbursts almost always took David by surprise as he had no idea anything was bothering me.
That’s my fault. I tend to overlook things on the surface but deep down, I’m irritated. I like to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. I do not like to argue so I try not to sweat the small stuff. The problem is…I sweat the small stuff. Usually, by the time I know it is necessary to address an issue the possibility for a reasonable discussion has come and gone. What typically follows is a heated exchange of words, confusion, and hurt feelings. Rarely a resolution. This is what led me to actively seek a better way to communicate.
So, I decided to wear one of David’s t-shirts whenever I was upset with him. When I shared this with David he stood blank-faced and oddly still for a few awkward seconds then gave me his classic I’m-beginning-to-worry-about-you nod. I’ve seen it a few times before. In hindsight, I probably should have told him why I was doing this. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever have.
Here’s the back-story. David travels for work. A lot. It’s not uncommon for him to be gone the entire week. His absence has always been hard for me but falling asleep at night without him was my biggest challenge.
One evening, as I was finishing up the laundry and hanging up a few of his shirts, the light, sweet smell of David’s cologne softly swirled and soothed my senses. I was overtaken with both his presence and absence all at once. Without thinking, I grabbed one of David’s t-shirts and put it on, slept in it (I slept like a baby that night), and kept it on half of the following day. That was the start of my routine. To this day, whenever David is out of town I still sleep in one of his shirts.
Sleeping in David’s t-shirts always makes me feel closer to him. Protected. It also makes me more appreciative. I will often drift to sleep reflecting on what a good man he is…oddities and all (take another look at the picture).
My mentor once challenged me to look at things from David’s perspective when we were wading through a rough patch. This was a beautifully difficult assignment. In the end, it was precisely the way I needed to be stretched. It occurred to me that perhaps his t-shirts could have a similar effect when I was angry. Could I feel closer and more appreciative? I decided to find out.
So what happened when I put on his t-shirts out of frustration? My heart softened and my negative emotions subsided. Aside from walking around with a shirt on two sizes too big, our boys repeatedly asking, “Isn’t that Dad’s shirt?”, and feeling quite silly…I always end up laughing. We all do. Even our boys. My favorite part is the precise moment David notices me wearing his shirt, realizes I am upset, and watching his mind rummaging through the possible reasons. This moment alone melts my frustration away.
Our t-shirt-thing is not used to dismiss or deny legitimate matters that need to be dealt with. What it does do is allow for laughter and joy in the midst of challenges. It alters the way we handle conflict and reminds us that we are on the same team. We have learned to fight well…and laugh while doing it.
So what about David’s picture? This time while he was putting the laundry away, I suppose the sweet smell of his wife enveloped him, reminded him of how much he missed me the whole ten minutes I had been gone to make groceries, and he suddenly felt the urge to be as close as possible to his bride. As he stood with my sports bra in one hand and my sweat shirt in the other, he opted for the bra.
Or, he was just poking fun at my ways.
You and I both know it was the latter. When I got home, we laughed. We laughed hard. That’s it. That’s the lesson…our marriage super-food is laughter. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your spouse. Laugh together. Life is certain to bring occasions to mourn, seasons of loss, and difficult times, but laughter is a choice.
Choose to laugh often.
My friend cried throughout our conversation apologizing after each much needed eruption. Her 6th grade son was diagnosed with autism years ago which carried with it fear, unanswered questions, rude comments, ill-equipped teachers, and all too often, no direction. It was recalling the multiple times her son’s school officials called the police who then decided that handcuffing a child with autism in the midst of a stress-induced panic attack was a good idea, when mom would fall apart.
My stomach churned and cheeks flushed with rage as I listened. A sixth-grader in handcuffs was too much for my mind and heart to process. This was outrageous. Inhumane at best. He was left with bruising on his wrists…treated like a criminal. I insisted that the schools actions were not acceptable, perhaps a civil rights violation. Even worse, let us imagine how this repeated experience effects a child. If we treat him like a criminal, how likely is he to become one?
A handcuffed 6th-grader with an autism diagnosis is sadly not the worst thing I have heard regarding the manner in which schools (both public and private) deal with children and anxiety-induced aggression. The challenge here is that our schools at large do not have a plan in place. Little to no training is provided and our educators are left without direction regarding the appropriate methods and deescalating techniques to use when faced with a student in a fight or flight behavior. Our school administrators and teachers need training, support, and resources.
Seven years ago our youngest son was diagnosed with Autism after his pediatrician noticed a few behavioral patterns. Dylan is his name. Our journey has been difficult. Our foundation was forever-changed. We are still evolving and adjusting but our new path has made us closer, required us to communicate better, cry more, console often, laugh regularly, and exude neighborly compassion as a way of life.
Note the texture of our path: there have been sharp, rugged patches and amusement-park-joy-filled triumphs. We have hurt, healed, and grown as a family. Dylan was precisely the gift the Sherron family needed.
Not all marriages thrive under the pressure and realities that parents of children with special and unique needs face. In fact, some marriages dissolve entirely due to the stress, anger, and fear that often accompany the lack of societal, cultural, and familial support.
We have yet to develop structures of support at large for families. We have yet to train our teachers, administrators, or support staff on a national scale. We have yet to train law enforcement on a national scale. We have yet to educate ourselves and our children.
To be fair, progress is happening. In 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles owner built a sensory room for fans on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities. Newsweek reported that the Eagles were joined by the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in creating a space away from the roar of the game. Without this, some could never attend a football game as the noise can be over-whelming.
Other notable progress includes the growing number of colleges that offer degrees in Applied Behavior Analysis; the increase in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) centers; and, the expansion of children’s ministries within churches to include children with special and unique needs. These are all encouraging and hopeful feats.
Yet, there is still much to be done.
Three things you can do to help:
- Be supportive of anyone you know who has a child or family member with special and unique needs. Call and check on them. Ask them if they need to talk…and if they say yes, just listen.
- Smile when you see a parent or family with a child who displays behavior you don’t understand or acting out in public. Trust me, they get plenty of dirty looks, rude comments, and they undoubtedly feel isolated enough. A kind smile or understanding gesture is the ultimate act of compassion.
- Educate yourself. Take 20 minutes and read about Autism Spectrum Disorder. By doing this you are elevating yourself to a position that can, at the very least, offer a level of understanding in a poorly-informed society.
Three things parents with children who have an autism diagnosis or other special and unique needs must do:
- Be kind to yourself. Take breaks and ask for help. Being kind to yourself requires you to recognize that you don’t have all of the answers. No one does. Know that you are doing your best. You are enough.
- Tell your story. In order for our society to develop the support structures we need, our neighbors need to understand that we find ourselves stranded on an island. Alone. Simple tasks are now difficult. Many would love to help you but have no idea you are struggling.
- Advocate for your child. It’s an uphill climb, I know. But I also know that You were chosen to be their parent because You can do this! If you think your child is being mistreated or harmed, contact ADA.GOV to better understand the Americans with Disabilities Act and Federally Protected Civil Rights.
I’ll close with telling you that despite the elementary school principal who sat-in on our son’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) 1st Grade Case Conference to tell my husband and I that, “Dylan was just, ‘Bad’ … not autistic,” we emphatically say, “No!”
No, our son will not be labeled, mistreated, sent to the office everyday, or handcuffed. Our son is Dylan Anthony Sherron. He loves action figures, storytelling, drawing, cooking, and singing. Dylan is often overwhelmed in crowds and loud places. He is quick to give you a bandaid if you are hurt (even if it’s a heart-hurt). Dylan loves to wear ties and nice shoes. Dylan even does cross-fit three days a week and is thinking about trying out for Junior Ninja Warrior. Dylan wants to be on Survivor when he is older…but he thinks I should go first.
No, Dylan is not bad; Dylan is Superman.
Angela Kelso was my friend. At least in Middle School. She had a way of making me laugh on long, dreary Michigan school days. But what I remember the most was that Angela was always nice to me. In February of 1991, Angela’s body was found in a field not far from our small Lansing, Michigan community. Angela was murdered.
Angela was 17.
As I sit surrounded by family this New Years Eve’s, I am thinking about Angela and her family. It’s been almost 30 years. How are they? Are Angela’s mother and father still alive? What are the holidays like in her home… or the home of any family who has had a loved one taken?
I can still see Angela. Fresh wet-set curls on picture day, new outfits at the start of school, and a big, genuine smile. As soon as my memory calls up the clearest memory of Angela, my picture is over-taken by an image her laying in a field. Cold and alone. To this day, the truth of her story remains unknown. What happened to Angela? Who snatched her dreams? Would she be a mother now… have a son in college as I do? Would Angela have a garden or be an advocate for Autism Awareness and Education?
Our world will never know what greatness Angela could have brought. Instead, she is but a name on a list of Cold Cases.
Angela Kelso, 17. Body found in rural Delhi Township. Last seen alive a week earlier leaving Lansing City Hall.
Angela’s family and loved ones are not alone in having to move forward in life with no answers. In 2014, the Black and Missing Foundation published 64,000 missing black girls and women nationwide. It is reported that 35% of our nations missing children are black and 20% are LatinX. Let me be clear, all of our missing children are a problem. However, the disproportionate rate and recent increase among girls of color is alarming.
I am left with one question: Where Are Our Daughters?
Have our girls been kidnapped, drugged, and forced into modern day slavery or sex trafficking? Are they in an underground secret factory made to work, or have they been abducted and drugged for a modern day syphilis experiment of sorts? Are our missing daughters alive or do their bodies lay across the fields of America waiting to be found?
These are hard questions that must be asked and it is time to demand answers. We must demand answers for each and every missing child in America.
Tonight, I will close out 2019 thinking of Angela and her family. I will pray for them. I will be thinking of all the families in America with a loved one missing; those dear families who are living with what I imagine to be a cruel sort of hope and an ache for closure.
It’s time to find our daughters.
The head shot isn’t flattering, I still need to write content, I still don’t have an email list, and after completing a Design Thinking course at Grand Canyon University, my son didn’t appear to be impressed with my website. So why hit the button? Why hit publish?
I hit publish because I have waited long enough. I hit publish because I wonder how much longer our Lord will wait on me when there are others ready, willing, and eager to serve. I hit publish because the perfect time, the perfect head shot, the perfect idea, the perfect plan, the perfect book, the perfect audience, the perfect nothing exists. What does exist is the here and now.
Here’s the thing about this journey…I’m taking as many along with me as I can. What are you waiting to do?
David & Marya Sherron have been married for 12 years and have two sons. Their oldest, Trive’ is a freshman at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix studying digital animation. Their youngest, Dylan, is 9 and enjoys drawing. They also have two dogs, Apostle & Cannan. David & Marya live on the northeast side of Indianapolis.
Marya holds degrees and certification in Black American Studies (BA, University of Michigan), MA/MFA in Black Literature & Creative Writing (MFA, Columbia College). Marya is a certified Racial ConciliationⓇ presenter and Cultural DiversityⓇ trainer.