The Bow Campaign

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Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood:

People gathered at Mercy Church in Englewood on April 13 at the 17th Annual Blue Bow event for National Child Abuse Awareness Month. In 1989, the Blue Bow Campaign was started when a grandmother named Bonnie Finney was seen wearing a blue ribbon on her car antenna in memory of her grandson. Finney’s grandson was abused and killed by his own parents. Finney’s act was meant to make people wonder and ignite their concern. It was her personal way of showing love and memory for her grandson. The blue ribbon caught on as a symbol of child abuse awareness and prevention. Since then, the group Children’s Home and Aid has promoted the blue ribbon campaign annually, spreading hope and the message that together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

Women’s groups, youth groups, student councils, parenting groups and other local groups were all at the event at Mercy Church. There was poetry and face-painting along with discussion about child abuse and neglect. There was an interfaith prayer for the ones who lost their lives to child abuse and the ones who tried to prevent children from being abused and neglected by their families. After the prayer, we discussed recent tragedies. One was about LaShandra Armstrong, a single mother who drove her car into the Hudson River and killed three of her children. Everyone was speechless when they heard about this.

Mother Pat Robinson was really shocked and said, “It touched my heart when I heard about the baby being killed by his parents. It’s good to know that someone is acknowledging this problem and we can put an end to this. I learned that abuse can be passed from generation to generation because it is learned behavior. It all started with slavery.”

At the event, we also talked about parenting skills and the fact that some parents abuse, torture and harass their own children. That lowers their kids’ self-esteem and makes them feel bad about themselves. Bad parents also beat or “whup” their children. Some are beaten so badly that they can’t be recognized. Other parents starve their kids until they become weak or unconscious. The modern and correct way of parenting is to hear the child’s side of the story. Parents should bond with their children until they both become comfortable discussing what happened.

Imagine Englewood If member Cara Butler said, “The parenting skills today are different than when I was coming up. My mother gave my siblings and I strikes, and after the third strike, she brought out the rod to whup them with. I never had anything against disciplining, but there are positive options to handle your child.”

Cornelius Jordan, a 12-year-old Parker Elementary School student, said the event “encouraged me to not beat and harass my children as a future father. I learned that when you abuse and neglect them on so many levels, the kids think that it is OK for their parents to beat them and it’s OK to do that when they become parents.”

The Blue Bow Campaign is a very helpful resource and groups have helped get the message out by leaving information in grocery stores, fast food restaurants, retailers and other places. Police and sheriffs have tied blue ribbons on their cars’ antennas, and mayors have signed proclamations supporting April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

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