|The National Institute for Restorative Justice
"Educating for Advocacy"
|1464 East 105 Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
|Mittie's Musings: A Message From The Chair
|"Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience,
and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
Harriett Ross Tubman
|Photograph by Jeff Ivey
|Renewing Inalienable Rights, Rebuilding Communal Confidence, Re-energizing Sustainable Economy, Reviving Unbridled Spirit
Aunt Artie would say, “Ay God!” I get it. (Folk, seriously though... Regardless of the tradition and language, in naming our
children, grasp for reason over rhythm and rhyme. I’ll save that for another day.)
There has been so much talk, talk, talk about Gabby Douglas since her remarkable rise to her place among Olympic champions.
Talk, talk, talk - much to do about nothing related to her athletic gifts, graces and drive. Rather, it has been talk about her hair (I
leave that defense to Syracuse’s brilliant Dr. Boyce Watkins), talk about her Daddy, and talk about the prospects of her
commercial earning potential beyond the arena - a speculative dollar amount that seems to diminish day by day.
Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia on New Year’s Eve, 1995, Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas entered the 2012 London Games
as an under-appreciated athlete, deemed an unlikely competitor even by the US National Women’s Team Coordinator, Marta
Karolyi. The New York Times reported that Karolyi and her husband Bela concluded that Douglas was not “mentally tough
enough” to compete. They went on to say that they “did not think she had what it took to be an Olympian. She lacked
confidence and focus, Karolyi said even as recently as a few weeks [before the game].” (NYT August 3, 2012) Boy is she
eating all her words! Oops! No she’s not, she’s too busy posing and grinning - all wrapped around Gabby – for photographs.
What the Karolyi’s did not count on was Gabrielle’s abiding, unshakable faith in God and in herself. Gabby is a believer. And so,
too, are the people who have loved, nurtured and provided for her – including her father – throughout her entire life.
Arielle Hawkins - her sister, first coach and primary advocate - recognized Gabrielle’s gifts as early as age three, as she
witnessed her perfect mastering of one-handed cartwheels. By the time Gabrielle was six, and showing obvious signs of a gifted
athlete, Arielle suggested that she should be enrolled in a gymnastics program. Her mother complied, having no real idea that she
was signing off on an amazing and demanding journey. It would later be Arielle again to champion Gabrielle’s plea to move over
1,200 miles away from her home in Virginia Beach to Des Moines, Iowa to train with Liang Chow, a request that never rest
easily for her mother.
The media has insistently portrayed Natalie Hawkins in the light of the “pathetic, single parent.” I’m a single parent, but like Ms.
Hawkins not by the definition implied by the mass media as a woman who – in their view - recklessly has children outside of
wedlock. We are, each - as are many others - single parents by different paths and life choices. I am a single parent by
adoption. Ms. Hawkins only became single in March of this year, when she filed for divorce from her “estranged” – in part by
way of active war duty - husband, Air National Guard Staff Sergeant, Timothy Douglass. But let it be perfectly clear, there is
nothing pathetic about Natalie Hawkins.
With a husband away at war, and – according to Gabby – too “short on money” to adequately contribute to her support, Natalie
Hawkins stepped up to, and over the plate to insure that her children’s needs and desires were met. By all accounts, she has
been the primary, and often sole financial provider for the overhead of her household and Gabrielle’s athletic training since 2005.
This is why it is difficult for some of us to swallow the notion of another family being chimed in on the heels of Gabrielle’s
victory as “her other parents.” Or, as Princeton’s Professor Tera Hunter so aptly points out in her narrative on the matter, how
is it that an Iowa host family suddenly becomes deemed “foster parents” to a child who is not a ward of the county or state.
(Link to article below)
Travis and Missy Parton provided room and board for Gabrielle Douglas for the past two years while she trained for the
Olympics with Liang Chow in Des Moines. They served as her “host family” and - eight years into young, Miss Douglas ten-
year career - were graced the reward of cashing in on the glory of an Olympic champion. They did not bear the burden of the
prior fifteen years of raising and nurturing an Olympian (the media pushes the fact that she was 14 when she left for Iowa, but
the whole truth – and nothing but – is that she arrived in October, only two months shy of her 15th birthday).
As host family, the Parton’s have benefited from fifteen years of loving, feeding, clothing, driving back and forth from here to
there, working over-time, juggling schedules, pinching pennies, and making tough, heart wrenching decisions to relinquish a
precious child into the unknown. And, they certainly did not bare the burden of nearly $80,000 of debt that eventually forced
Natalie Hawkins into bankruptcy. With all due respect, they were a “host family,” to be commended for opening their doors to
an obvious champion on the eve of her final climb into the world arena. Call them up and see if they’ll let little Sha’Nay-Nay who
just started gymnastics hang out at their house for a year. (Oh yeah, remember? Reason, not rhythm, rhyme.)
While speaking of folk who labored for years only to have the last minute surrogates cash in, we have to raise the name of Dena
Walker, Gabrielle’s primary coach who’s Excalibur Gymnastic clinic led Liang Chow to the “Flying Princess,” a nick-name Dr.
Boyce Watkins has coined in preference over Marta Karolyi’s “Flying Squirrel.” To Chow’s credit, the athlete pursued him, and
he spoke first with Ms. Walker before agreeing to sign on as her coach. Ms. Walker contends that Gabrielle could have made the
Olympics without him. We’ll never know. But we do know that it was through her program that Gabrielle was trained and
readied for an Olympic coach to take notice, and take her under wing.
|Named For Glory: The Gift of Gabby
moments after qualifying
for the Gold Medal
Photo by Thomas Coex
for The Associated Press
|Olympic Gold Medalist Gabrielle Douglas
"The Flying Princess"
Photo by Streeter Lecka for Getty Images
|We Got Programs, They Got Jobs!
|Syracuse Professor Boyce Watkins On Twitterers attack on Gabby's Hair
Princeton's Professor Tera Hunter On Diminishing of Douglas' family
|Link in to articles by Drs. Boyce
Watkins and Tera Hunter regarding
attacks on Gabby's hair and family.