I grew up in South Central Los Angeles and I remember what it was like to feel unsafe. Often times I would come home from school to an empty house. My mother was a single mom, a city bus driver, and worked late hours. Gang violence was a sad reality and drug deals were regularly made on the corner near the park I walked through to get home. I would run home as fast as I could without looking back, without making eye contact, in fear.
As I waited for my mom to come home, gun shots would ring through the air after dark. My mother established two rules: don’t answer the phone unless it was our designated secret phone ring and don’t answer the door. I felt safe once I was inside the house, but her arrival couldn’t come soon enough. My mother did her best and worked tirelessly to change our circumstances, which eventually she did. I will never forget the anxiety I felt being alone and unprotected during those hours when she was working hard to pay the bills and put food on the table.
As a mother, my primary concern is safety. Overcoming certain fears is a part of growing up, but a child should never fear for his or her life. When I look into the eyes of my youngest son, I can often sense his feelings without a single word being spoken. It is my mother’s instinct to encourage his happiness and gently guide him through his fears. I have the freedom to redirect his path at any given moment and provide a safe space for him to flourish. It has become painfully impossible to disconnect myself from the helpless children around the world who are void of life’s God-given rights.
Looking into the eyes of a child who has been robbed of the basic human right of safety breaks my heart. Safety is the beginning, the foundation of every child’s development and growth. Safety is the space where it is acceptable to be vulnerable; where children are invited to grow and learn in a safe environment. Safety is the space where curiosity is sparked and dreams are formed. Safety is the space where leaders are born and developed. Without safety a child feels stuck, insecure, afraid and more concerned about surviving than exploring the magic of laughter.
Since making her film debut in John Singleton’s Oscar nominated film, “Boyz In The Hood,” Nia Long continues to cultivate a versatile resume in both film and television. She is best known for her roles in the television series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Third Watch,” and the films “In Too Deep,” “Friday,” “Boiler Room,” “Soul Food,” “Love Jones,” “The Best Man,” “Big Momma’s House,” and the sequels to the latter two films. Long currently appears in Warner Bros. comedy “Keanu” opposite Key & Peele, and will next be seen starring in the ABC comedy “Uncle Buck" opposite Mike Epps, premiering on June 14th. A Brooklyn native, Long resides in Los Angeles with her two sons and fiancée Ime Udoka, assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
This post originally appeared on GlobalMomsRelay.org.
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