Advocating for your child when the school district won’t

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”
-Ghandi

We recently learned that sometimes the very entity you hope is looking out for your child’s academic success can fail you in a big way. Last May, we received a letter in the mail telling us that our youngest daughter, L, was placed in the Common Core Math Pathway. These pathways, which are designated at the end of fifth grade, have been very controversial in our school district because they determine children’s math classes throughout high school.

The Common Core Pathway, or slowest path as it happens to be, does not give the students Pre-Calculus early enough to adequately prepare them for the SAT. We had heard of parents appealing their children’s placement, but my husband and I didn’t give it much thought because we assumed our daughter would place in the Accelerated or Exceptional Pathways. After all, she was just as good at math as her older brother, who placed in the Accelerated Pathway just one year prior, and she had a natural proclivity for STEM—math in particular. As such, you can imagine how shocked we were when we learned that she didn’t.

When we looked closely at her scores, we saw she had an above average score for the ITBS, but she received a zero for the CogAT. We learned that if a student did not score above a certain score on the CogAT, the student was given zero “domain points.” We assumed this must have been the case. Upon further inspection, we learned that L didn’t have a CogAT score at all! You see, she moved in with us from her bio-mom’s house in a different school district in January, and for whatever reason, her old school did not give her the CogAT.

As a result, we appealed the decision, noting it was not a proper placement for her because she did not have an opportunity to take the CogAT to prove her abilities. We told them that as her parents, we strongly believed the next pathway up, the Accelerated Pathway, would be more appropriate for her. A month later, we received a letter in the mail that our request was denied. L would remain in the Common Core Pathway.

That’s when I kicked it into high gear. I contacted the name and number at the bottom of the letter, who I learned was an analyst who served as a “gatekeeper” for the administration on this topic. She was armed with a calm voice and lots of pre-packaged compelling data points—she was the perfect person to walk overzealous parents insisting their child was gifted, off the ledge.

I explained L’s situation and how she didn’t belong in Common Core. Her father and I simply wanted to set her up for academic success, and we didn’t feel she would be appropriately challenged in the slowest pathway, I told her. I asked if L could have an opportunity to take the CogAT and prove she deserved to be in the Accelerated Pathway.

That’s when I was told that the CogAT was not a math test. The district simply used it for that purpose since it was already a State-required test, and they didn’t want to require the students to take another, more appropriate, one. 

It was a “test to identify students who were truly gifted.”

When I asked that L have an opportunity to take the CogAT, she told me only 50 out of 700 students in the entire district scored as high as she would need to score to be put in the Accelerated Pathway, and it was unlikely our daughter would score that high. She recommended L continue in Common Core, and if we still felt it wasn’t a good fit for her, we could appeal again in the spring of L’s sixth grade year. Our chances of approval were much higher then, she told me. If I wasn’t satisfied with this explanation and approach, I was welcome to take my concerns up the chain to district administrators.

That’s exactly what I did.

It took three emails, a phone call, and an escalation email to the Assistant Superintendent before I received a response from the administrator in charge of the Math Pathway Program. I then waited weeks for an in-person meeting, only to be called by her assistant the day before the scheduled meeting to tell me she needed to reschedule for the following month. I told her that was unacceptable. I planned childcare for my baby, and I had already waited weeks for this. She said she had time on her calendar that afternoon, if I could make it work, almost certainly a throw away offer because she knew I likely didn’t have childcare. I said I’d be there. I texted a friend who lived down the street to watch our baby, and I gathered my data and armed myself to fight for our daughter.

The administrator also came armed to the teeth with data. I learned before the meeting that she had a reputation for being stubborn and not changing her mind even in the face of surmounting evidence. As someone who used to brief U.S. policymakers in Washington D.C., some of whom were very difficult customers, I wasn’t intimidated. I diplomatically went back and forth with her for an hour, and I think she found I was a formidable opponent. It was clear she wasn’t expecting a well-educated, polished speaker who wasn’t going to back down when it came to her child’s education.

The administrator repeatedly told me that L “needed the gift of time.” She told me she didn’t come to my work and presume to be an expert, and similarly, I shouldn’t tell the experts who made L’s pathway decision how to do their job. I told her the “experts” who sat around the table did not know our daughter like we do. L had only been in the district for two months when this decision was made, and she was missing a test score that was instrumental in the placement decision. Why didn’t one of those experts speak up and say that L needed to be tested in order to make a proper decision? Why was she not given the same opportunity that every other student was given? There was no data that indicated L would struggle in a higher placement, so why not give her a chance?

After my insistence, the administrator agreed to let L take the CogAT. I worked through the analyst with whom I spoke initially to schedule a time for L to take the test. My husband and I crossed our fingers that L would do well enough on the test to be placed where we knew she deserved to be, but we were anxious knowing that the test wasn’t meant to measure math abilities at all.

L came home from taking the test feeling nervous, and we all anxiously awaited her test results. We received a call the following day, telling us L scored a 125, well above a 116, the score necessary to place her in the Accelerated Pathway.

She blew it out of the water!

Not only were we ecstatic, we were vindicated.

We know that if it weren’t for our advocacy and intervention, L would not have had the opportunity to prove her abilities and thus be put in the best pathway for her. It begs the question, how many other children are placed in an inappropriate pathway yet their parents have trusted that the district knows best? Or simply aren’t a stay at home parent like myself who has the time to ride the district until their child gets what he or she deserves?

The school district’s website says that they are “committed to preparing all students to meet their highest potential.” This, unfortunately, wasn’t our experience.

Telling us that the test was for children who were “truly gifted” and that L likely would not score as high as she needed to score was unacceptable. Do not tell me my child is not gifted. Do not tell me my child can’t do something. Give her a chance. She will show you what she can do.

We strongly believe we should never count a child out without giving her a chance to prove her abilities.

I sent this feedback to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. If they don’t know when and how they’ve failed, they can’t improve.

I also sent this feedback to the administrator who sat across the table from me earlier this summer and insisted my daughter was not ready. That she couldn’t do it. I thanked her for helping us drive home an important life lesson to our daughter—do not let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something.

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To the stepmom bringing home her first baby…

I see you holed up in the dark nursery with your tiny newborn and sore nipples, learning how to breastfeed. You don’t have the option to sit and let it all hang out on your comfy couch in front of the TV like other new moms because you have a teenage stepson and that’s just weird.

I see you biting your tongue and clenching your fists every time your step kids want to hold your tiny, fragile bundle of joy. Did they wash their hands? Why do they need to hold him at all? Don’t breathe in his face! Don’t touch his face! Only touch his feet!

I see you guzzling down the diet soda as you figure out dinner not just for you and your husband, but for your growing stepchildren too. You wonder what it would be like to only have the stress that comes with a new baby instead of also feeling the weight of managing a household of six—the meals, the basketball games, the laundry.

Postpartum hormones alone are enough to make a woman feel overwhelmed, but throw in the complicated feelings of a blended family, and that is MORE than enough to make a woman feel completely CRAZY.

I am here to tell you that you are not crazy. You are going to feel a lot of different emotions when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Some of these feelings may even come as a surprise to you because you have a positive relationship with your stepchildren. You may feel like you walked into the hospital to give birth feeling one way about them and walked out hours (or days!!) later feeling a completely different way toward them.

You may not feel like sharing your baby. That’s okay. You may also be mourning the life you thought you would have – you know, the one where you get married and experience parenthood for the first time with your partner. It’s okay to be sad that he’s already done this before.

But mama, it will get easier. Your hormones will gradually level out. Your baby will become sturdier, and when you’re ready, you’ll let others hold him so that you can do things like brush your teeth and wash your hair. Now that’s a benefit most new mamas don’t have! Oh, and remember how you were sad that your husband has done this before? Now you are thankful that you have a partner who already knows what to do and is comfortable with a teensy tiny baby.

Not only will you start to find a groove, but you’ll also find sweet moments of joy. When your stepson makes your baby giggle like no one else can. When you find your 11-year-old stepdaughter is more nurturing than you ever knew. When your 14-year-old stepdaughter steps up and shows leadership. When they fight over whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper or help with his bath. When you’re all on the floor, cheering him on as he takes his first steps. When they come home from their bio-mom’s house and can’t wait to see their baby brother.

I won’t lie to you. Blended families are no joke. It can be a lot to juggle, especially when bringing a tiny human into the mix. But I am finding that in between the moments of chaos, they can also be wonderful. The bond between siblings transcends DNA and in our case, a several year age gap, and it really is something special to witness.

So hang in there, Mama Bear. You’ve got this.

 

My farewell to breastfeeding… and the boobs that made it happen

Dear Double D’s,

You should win an award for best disappearance act. You left as quickly as you came—seemingly overnight.

We had a good run. Nearly two years, in fact. I remember the first time I saw you. I did a double take that morning in the bathroom mirror. Are my boobs bigger? I must be imagining things, I thought to myself. When I saw two pink lines on the pregnancy test, I knew I wasn’t.

Over the next nine months, I watched you enlarge several cup sizes. For the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to have Victoria’s Secret-sized breasts.

“Enjoy them now!” People said. “Some day they’ll shrivel up like mine did after kids!”

We went through an adjustment period after the baby arrived. You were sore as Baby A tried to figure out how to latch. It took several visits to the lactation consultants and an ample amount of nipple butter, but we finally figured it out.

That first month, it felt like all I did was breastfeed. Hours never went by so quickly and yet so slowly before in my life.

It took a while for you to regulate your flow. The first night Baby A slept 12 hours—the only night he slept that long until he was 10-months-old—I was awake pumping because you were hard as rocks and about to burst. It also seemed I was leaking everywhere. I found breast milk in random places all over our house. Crusty white spots on our leather sofa, even where I hadn’t sat but had apparently walked by naked at some point. Getting in and out of the shower was a feat in and of itself. I raced in after undressing while you sprayed milk all over the bathroom floor. With force like that, I could become a volunteer firefighter.

My goal was to make it one month nursing Baby A. That was the amount of time I had read was most beneficial for the baby.

“You may enjoy it,” people told me.

I faked a smile and said, “Yeah, maybe.” There was no scenario in which I could ever imagine enjoying breastfeeding. Just thinking about it made me uncomfortable.

When we reached one month, however, we were in a groove. You adjusted to just the right amount Baby A needed, and when he slept longer stretches, I didn’t need to pump anymore. I decided to keep going until six months.

Six months came and went. You were still coming through for us—producing the right amount for Baby A. You were a reliable companion and gladly came along with us wherever we went. I loved the convenience of not having to prepare or wash bottles. We were all happy with our arrangement so I decided to continue to the one-year mark.

But just after Baby A turned 9-months-old, our relationship hit an unexpected rough patch. I suffered a bout of food poisoning that was on par with childbirth pains, and due to severe dehydration, your milk production took a serious hit.

I hung on to Baby A’s nighttime feeding for a few more weeks, but I knew I was delaying the inevitable. There wasn’t enough in there for my growing boy. I broke into the freezer stash I had so diligently pumped while on maternity leave, and soon, I started adding in formula.

It’s been two weeks since Baby A has nursed, and today I looked in the mirror to see that you are gone too. In your place, are two freakishly small breasts—more like chicken nuggets—that I don’t even recognize. So much for my Victoria’s Secret modeling dream.

Although our end was abrupt, I want you to know that I’ll always cherish the time we spent together. Even more so, I’ll treasure the bond you created between Baby A and me.

Sincerely,

Mama Nuggets

 

4 Parenting Things I Swore I Would Never Do Before I Became a Mom

I’m only nine months into this whole parenting thing, and I’ve found myself doing things I said I would never do. Turns out, it’s a helluva lot easier to have opinions from the outside looking in, but when you’re here, in the trenches of motherhood, you do what you gotta do.

 1.  Co-sleep

“We should just put the crib in our room,” my husband said. “He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way,” I said firmly. “I will not be one of those moms who let her baby sleep in her bed.” My sister was one of “those moms,” and I vowed to be different. We would sleep train our baby as early as possible, and we wouldn’t give in and pick him up when he cried.

Fast forward to now. Baby A is almost nine months old and still sleeping in our bed.

And do you want to know something? I freaking love it. Sure, some nights are difficult, and sometimes I want to punch the moms that post a photo of their 6-week-old baby on Instagram with the hashtag “12hoursandstillsleeping.” But every morning when Baby A wakes up between RM and me, happily babbling and smiling, we soak it in. We stay in bed just the three of us for an extra 15-20 minutes and sometimes longer on the weekend. It’s our favorite time of day.

This is what works for us. Turns out there are some benefits to it as well. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable saying that without feeling anxious that I need to sleep train him soon or his sleep will be ruined forever or God forbid be pegged by moms in the Cry It Out Camp as being weaker. How about none of us judge each other and we accept that we all do what we need to do to get through these early years.

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Crazy hair after coming out from under the breastfeeding cover at Anthony’s restaurant

2.  Breastfeed in public

Early on in our relationship, RM and I were on a double date at Olive Garden (hey, I know it’s not real Italian food, but those breadsticks! Am I right?!) with a guy from work and his wife. Midway through dinner, she began nursing her newborn under a cover at the table.

“You guys don’t mind, right?” Our friend asked.

“Of course not,” RM quickly replied.

I bit my tongue. Afterward, I told RM how uncomfortable I was when she nursed her baby as she talked to me. Couldn’t she feed her in the privacy of her home before dinner so she wouldn’t be hungry when we were out?

RM simply said, “You’ll feel differently some day when we have a baby.”

Another point for RM. Again, I realize how judgy and naïve I was pre-baby.

First of all, I had no idea that newborns literally eat ALL THE FLIPPING TIME. I remember feeling like all I was doing those first several weeks was nursing Baby A. The only way to avoid having to nurse in public would be to never leave my house! And that obviously wasn’t an option if I wanted to keep my sanity.

The more I nursed Baby A the more my breasts felt utilitarian and functional—not sexual or inappropriate at all. I will never stop being amazed at the human body and what it can do—growing a baby and then providing nourishment and strength through breast milk. Incredible!

I’m happy to say Baby A enjoys nursing wherever we happen to be when he’s hungry while I enjoy a slice of humble pie.

3.  Make my own baby food

This sounded way too crunchy and hippy to me. I planned to buy the pouches. When would I find the time to make baby food anyway? Fast-forward a few months to when I became a Stay At Home Mom and realized A. those pouches are pricey and B. I actually have time to make baby food.

So I dusted off RM’s food processor and started pureeing away! It’s been fun to try various combinations and watch Baby A experience new foods. We still buy pouches to grab and go—and because sometimes I don’t feel like making food even when I’m home—but I try to occasionally make our own purees to save money and do our part to help the environment. As it turns out those pouches may be organic, but they’re not so eco-friendly, according to this Huffington Post article.

I learned that making your own food isn’t crunchy and hippy at all—it’s just sensible.

4.  Take my baby to a restaurant

How rude of people to take babies to restaurants. Can’t they get a sitter? So disruptive! Why are they even going out to eat? Stay at home with your baby.

Man, I was a B.

As it turns out, when you have a baby, you still like to eat at restaurants. When your baby is tiny and needs to eat every few hours, it makes the most sense to just bring the baby with you. He’ll probably sleep most of the time anyway!

When Baby A was only a few months old, we took him to several nice restaurants. I was always a bit nervous going because I was afraid of getting the stink eye from strangers if he disturbed them—you know, people like me who thought there was no place for babies in restaurants.

Then I decided to stop caring. I needed to get out. If for some reason he was extra fussy, I would take him out of the restaurant. Thankfully, he always quietly slept or nursed.

Now that he’s a bit older and louder, we probably won’t take him to quiet dinners at fancy restaurants as frequently, but you can bet your ass we’ll still be going out to dinner. Instead, you’ll find us enjoying a basket of bottomless fries at Red Robin.

Finding My Fit at Stroller Strides

 

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We are strong mamas, strong strong fit mamas! #fit4mom #strengthinmotherhood #strollerstrides

“I’m gonna be fit after I have the baby,” I said to my husband RM. “I’m going to work out every day.”

I only half-believed the words as they came out of my mouth. It was the 38th week of my pregnancy, and we were walking along the river near our house. I was willing to do anything to get this baby out, and walking was as close as I was going to get to exercise at this point in my pregnancy. Admittedly, I had a fairly easy go of it, apart from the tailbone pain I had during my final month. I was worried about how I would get the extra weight off postpartum though, and the nurse at my regular OB visits never failed to remind me that I had gained much more than the doctor had recommended.

“Say it into the camera,” RM teased, holding his cell phone camera up to my face.

“I’m going to work out every day. Well, maybe not every day… maybe three days a week… or a few times a week,” I back-peddled. “Delete this video!”

“It will be your motivation,” he said.

If you had told me then that eight months later, I would have all of my pregnancy weight (and then some) off and would be a fitness instructor, I would have laughed and said you’re joking. Let’s be honest, I’ve never been athletic or strong. I was the kid who feigned a headache to get out of kickball in grade school gym class. Sure, I played varsity basketball as a freshman in high school. The detail I usually left out when sharing this with people was that it was a tiny all-girls school, and there weren’t enough players. I also played junior varsity. We also lost every. single. game.

Yet here I am, a certified fitness instructor for Fit4Mom Stroller Strides.

How did I get here?

Well, let me start by saying, I was an amazing mom before I became a mom. I had a lot of opinions on how moms should and shouldn’t do things and especially on how I would parent our baby.

“We should just put his crib in our room,” my husband said early on in my pregnancy.

“He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way! I will not be one of those moms who co-sleeps. He is going to sleep in his crib in his room. That’s that.” I said firmly.

RM had this way of doing what he calls “letting things float,” which is exactly what he did at this moment. Having already been through the baby years with his three kids, he knew I would probably change my tune after Baby A was born.

And he was right—I did change my tune, but not for the reasons he or I would have expected. From the second we came home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety. I had a fair amount of it while driving during my pregnancy, but I chalked that up to having been rear-ended on the interstate twice during my first trimester. In hindsight, I realize that was likely a warning sign of what I may be dealing with postpartum.

I found myself overcome with an intense desire to protect Baby A, which translated into my not wanting anyone to hold him except Ryan or me. That’s difficult when you have three stepchildren who have been looking forward to meeting their baby brother for nine months—an eternity for kids! I felt like an extension of my body had just been cut off, and I couldn’t bear the thought of Baby A not being close to me.

I also obsessively checked Baby A’s breathing while he slept. I kept him nearby either in my arms or in the bassinet next to our bed. Even then, the only way I was able to rest was after purchasing a foot monitor that promised to alert me if he stopped breathing.

The first time Baby A slept 12 hours—and one of the only times, I might add—I was a nervous wreck. I checked the monitor app on my phone every few minutes to see his pulse rate and oxygen levels.

In addition to the anxiety, I remember just plain not feeling like myself. The exhaustion alone was worse than anything I had expected. I remember several nights in the first few weeks when I cried and told Ryan that I was just so tired; no one had told me it would be this difficult.

“You wouldn’t have believed them if they did tell you,” he said.

“True,” I relented.

During that first month when I was awake nursing most hours of the night, I found myself spending way too much time on Google and various form of social media. I stumbled across a Facebook page for Fit4Mom, which had an exercise class for moms with their strollers nearby. I vowed to go as soon as I hit six weeks postpartum.

It was difficult to get out of the house when Baby A was that small. Some days it felt like we didn’t even start sleeping until 9:00 AM, and we needed to leave by 9:20 AM to make it to class.

On my first day at Stroller Strides, I was immediately welcomed into this tribe of amazing, strong women. They didn’t care if I showed up late or had to step out to nurse my baby, both of which happened regularly. I felt a connection with these women, knowing that many had also experienced what I would consider the most difficult and amazing feat I will ever accomplish in my life—childbirth.

I looked at some of the other mamas with their red strength band in awe as I struggled to do bicep curls with the easier, green band. I could barely hold a plank on my elbows and knees. I worried that if I ran too fast I would wet my pants, which had already happened to me twice at home on the treadmill. I prayed it wouldn’t happen here.

Meanwhile, the instructor was cheering me on, telling me I could do it. Reminding me I had just pushed a HUMAN BEING out of my body. Telling me that we all start somewhere.

This was my workout. Listen to my body. Be kind to my body.

Soon, Baby A and I were in a routine of attending Stroller Strides nearly every day. We formed friendships with other moms, and I found that when I exercised, my anxiety decreased. I was beginning to feel more and more like myself again.

10 weeks later, it was time to return to work from maternity leave. Leaving Baby A at daycare prompted a new round of anxiety that I don’t think I would have ever been able to prepare for, and my demanding career left little time for me to be with Baby A, let alone exercise.

While pumping in the mother’s room three times a day at work, I scrolled through the Fit4Mom posts on Instagram and Facebook, seeing what my new mom friends were doing at that day’s class. I missed Baby A. I missed my life as a Stay at Home Mom. I missed my tribe.

Two months later, I gave my notice at work. I became certified as a Fit4Mom Stroller Strides and Fit4Baby instructor.

And here I am. Happier and stronger than I’ve ever been before.

Using a red band and planking like a BOSS.

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Baby is Coming.

We’re all aware that winter is coming… but did you know that BABY is coming?!

In honor of the upcoming season premiere of Game of Thrones… I present you… our GoT-inspired pregnancy announcement.

We are SO excited to announce the upcoming arrival of our first baby together–a baby boy!

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In Defense of Taylor Swift…

If you’ve read my blog before or know me personally, you know that one of my biggest passions is Africa. In fact, my interest in the continent shaped the trajectory of my adult life. I studied Africa and African languages at university, and following graduation, I went onto have a fulfilling career analyzing African politics. Earlier this year, I moved on to a different line of work, and I would be lying if I said a day had gone by when I didn’t miss my previous job. I often find myself daydreaming of my past travels to East Africa, wondering when—not if—I’ll make it there again.

If you are a reader of my blog, you probably also know that I am a HUGE Taylor Swift fan. I’ve seen her in concert on her last three tours. I blogged about taking my stepdaughters to see her Red Tour. My stepkids even wrote her letters asking her to sing at our wedding. (They were bummed when she didn’t respond, but we forgive you, Tay Tay.) Imagine my surprise when I learned that Taylor Swift’s latest music video for her song Wildest Dreams was set in Africa! Two of my favorite things in one place—fantastic!

Unfortunately, that wasn’t my initial reaction. I first learned of the video when a friend of mine posted this NPR article on Facebook. Admittedly, I sighed and thought, Oh no, Taylor. I hope this isn’t as atrocious as it sounds. I like you so much. How could you have offended something I hold so near and dear to my heart?

I watched the video, and I didn’t have a problem with it. I actually (dare I say?) enjoyed it. The video, shot in a very “Old Hollywood,” style, portrays two 1950s actors having a relationship while filming a movie in Africa. The video has been criticized for romanticizing colonial Africa and not representing a full picture of the continent. While I certainly want to be sensitive to the authors’ backgrounds and perspectives, I think they are taking away from the good intentions Swift had and making the video into something it’s not. Swift happens to be white, and she is portraying an actress in a love story with a white man on the set of a period film. Sure, it would have been nice to see some scenes with Africans, but considering the era in which it is set, they probably wouldn’t have been portrayed in the best light, if they wanted to be historically accurate.

In their NPR article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe criticize Swift for focusing on the waterfalls, mountains, and majestic animals rather than the technological and leadership renaissance currently taking place in Africa. Somehow I think a song whose lyrics are about a love story doesn’t really lend itself to a music video depicting the technology boom in Africa, but what do I know? Swift’s use of Africa’s beautiful landscape and wildlife for her background does not take away from all of the other wonderful, positive developments occurring in Africa today.

When topics like this start trending, I start to think that we as a society are so busy looking for ways to be offended that we fail to appreciate, or even recognize, the good when it happens. Swift’s video brings attention to the continent and may even attract more tourism—or it could have at least, before it was twisted into something ugly and racist. According to the World Bank, the number of tourists arriving in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown over 300 percent since 1990, and tourism remains one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the world economy. That tourism often includes safaris as well as various cultural events.

During a time when issues like Cecil the Lion are trending (whether you deem this an issue worth trending or not), a video that shows some of Africa’s beauty with proceeds going to African parks should be welcomed. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other causes that you may feel are more important. This was Swift’s call, and she chose a cause in which she believes. She didn’t need to choose one at all.

I also realize that animals represent only SOME of the beauty on the continent. However, it’s the amazing, diverse, and loving people with whom I’ve connected that kept me going back to Africa. I hope that Swift was able to meet some of those amazing people while she was there filming.

Toward the end of their article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe say Swift “packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanized and traumatized millions of Africans. That is beyond problematic.”

Yes, because every white person who went to Africa in the 1950s—especially movie stars that were shooting a film—killed, dehumanized, and traumatized millions of Africans. Way to generalize.

The purpose of Swift’s video was not to give a present day look at the most important issues on the continent nor was it to glamorize the brutal treatment of Africans during colonial rule. It is a period piece about a love story with a beautiful backdrop. Plain and simple.