“The greatest achievement I’ve experienced in life is raising my sons and seeing their successes!” Tonya Winters Buford
This post features Atlanta Educator and super mom, Tonya Winter’s Buford, who shares some of the successes and struggles of raising Black sons as a single mother. It’s not easy raising boys to be men as a single mother, but at the end of the day the most rewarding thing is seeing that those boys take their crown and stand as Kings.
Like other little Black princesses growing up, Tonya Winters Buford believed her life would end in a fairy tale; happy marriage, family and career. However, life happened! A divorce quickly diverted her path and after 10 years of marriage, left her raising three sons. A fairy tale changed into what appeared to be a nightmare, yet, Tonya fearlessly walked the journey of raising three Black boys in America as a single parent. She swiftly saw mainstream America making her sons out to be “public enemy #1” and immediately thought of ways to change this. Naturally, at first she panicked. Then she got busy making her “Suns” her personal business night and day. She reclaimed and reshaped the narrative that a divided nation, by race, class and socioeconomic labels, had created for her children. She read everything she could about the needs of boys: their psyche, their gifts and their needs. She had no brothers so of course this presented a different type of challenge and need for mentoring and co parenting support. After being home-schooled and privately schooled, her boys attended public school and she went with them. Tonya became the classroom mom, the team mom, the spend at the night house mom, the chaperone extraordinaire and at times the coaches worst nightmare. Tonya has said to many parents that her success was not met without struggle, sacrifice and stressful situations.
I met Tonya as one of my team members in Atlanta doing Family Engagement. We connected instantly and began the work around engaging more men in family and community engagement initiatives. Selfishly, I was tired of being the only guy always in the workshops, meetings, events, etc. so I was excited about having more men to help influence our children in a positive way and motivate them to create their own success story. During our conversation about this blog, I asked Tonya three important questions about raising Black boys and what other single parents and families can take away from her journey.
Q: Why is male engagement a critical piece to family engagement?
- A: Male engagement uplifts the culture of any school. It makes our students feel safe, secure and empowered in a different way. As a single mom, I made sure I knew all teachers, coaches, camp counselors, and friend’s parents. I enlisted the help of my parents and close friends to be a part of our village. Boys need to connects to their village, the family, neighbors and community around them. My Suns are the reason I became so passionate about Family and Community Engagement. I got more deeply involved in the advocacy of Black Male Engagement, because I saw first hand how important it was to have MEN in the lives of BOYS. K. Michelle said it best, “you can’t raise a man”, but I believe that you can rear boys to become strong, empowered, educated and wonderful men who take care of themselves, their families and communities. My boys have always been engaged in supporting their community, advocating for social justice causes and doing the right thing for others because they saw me doing it. I exposed them to male family members, community leaders and friends who also are the example of this. Male engagement is a critical piece to family engagement because it links our Black boys to their kingdom rite as care takers, role models and protectors.
Q: In what ways is community beneficial to young Black boys?
- A: I often say my boys have taught me more than I could ever teach them. It is with that vulnerability and experience that I have used my voice to empower other single mothers. In the African American community we raise our sons with confidence and the world mistakes it for arrogance. However, it is perfectly acceptable for their counterparts to exhibit said behavior without question. You see, we have worked this thing wrong. We let go as they get older; and it is at this time that they need us most to guide them through adolescence and young adulthood. We cannot forget our history, the stigma that this country has on our culture and community. It takes a village to raise a child! As a single mother, I still had my mom, my family and influential persons to help ensure my boys reached their full potential. We made it through the middle and high school years and my Suns are now a Senior in college, Sophomore in college and a Freshman in college. I am humbled, grateful and amazed.
What worked for me!
- In this present educational climate it is imperative that families learn to advocate for their children, and dual accountability is key! As a single mother, Tonya’s children often attended three different schools, in different areas; while this was NOT easy, it was necessary. I was intentional about ensuring that each of my Suns found success based off their learning styles and personalities. The boys possessed different learning styles that required me to facilitate what was best for who. Children are not clones, and as parents we have the responsibility of placing them in the best learning environment.
Final Thoughts from our Guest:
- My message to single mothers and fathers who are doing the job along to simply remember this! There are family, loved ones, fellow parents and decent human beings that are in various parts of the world, living similar stories, falling yet picking themselves back up in order for their sons to be the Kings they were chosen to be. Take every day one step at a time and remember the power of the village. You’re not alone!
LEADright , Senior Associate, Tonya Winters Buford
678 – 266 – 2852, [email protected]
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