Saturday, October 10, 2015

Interview With Shatona Kilgore-Groves

As an African teaching in a predominantly white liberal arts college located in a predominantly white town in Minnesota, U.S.A., I saw the need, quite early, to enrich my understanding of American society through connecting with other kinds of Americans, starting with African Americans. I joined Pan African organizations in the Minneapolis area. Among the African Americans I got to know was Shatona Kilgore-Groves, seen in the photo, and her family.

Shatona struck me as a person who was genuinely interested in connecting people for the common good. I remember, for example, how she facilitated a gathering of African American authors, which I participated in. I reviewed her first book, in the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder. Naturally, I asked her to share her experiences and ideas with readers of my blog. She graciously agreed, and here is the interview:


JOSEPH:  I wanted to interview you because I have known for years how involved you are in social causes and issues. Can you tell us about your background and how you started in this direction?

SHATONA: I started advocating for parents because of my personal experience with my son who has ADHD. I believe it is important to define ADHD. Especially for people of color who tend to not believe in the diagnosis which doesn’t discriminate based on race or socioeconomic status. Some African Americans feel that black boys are being labeled with ADHD or misdiagnosed because of cultural differences. However, my husband and I were psychology majors in college and knew by the time our son was 3 years old that his behavior was consistent with the symptoms.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a diagnosis can only be made when there is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Our son’s behavior could not be controlled with typical discipline methods that worked with our daughter. He just couldn’t be still, no matter how hard we tried, and we could tell he was really trying.  It was like his inside motor told him to move and he couldn’t shut it off.

At times, we felt like failures, especially around family, a black family that believes in spanking or giving “ the look” and the child should sit still. This didn’t work for us or our son. With children with ADHD the frontal lobe that controls inappropriate actions and thoughts, focus, attention, remembering things from moment to moment, and controlling movement are often disturbed in people with ADHD. So medically our son is different, but ADHD also has positives, most ADHD children are proven to be highly intelligent which our son is. He is highly motivated and normally receives high grades and takes accelerated classes. It took advocating for our child to have a conducive classroom environment to express his gifts.

Advocating for our son led us to requesting an Individualized Education Program (IEP). His program allowed for movement breaks, fidgets, testing accommodations, curb to curb busing, etc. I didn't care as much about the label as much as I cared about his success. However, the IEP meetings were intimidating with an all-white staff and me and my husband the African-Americans. It was about 7-8 school staff and us.

I didn't feel the emotional support from the school which really wasn't their job, but it would of been nice, instead I felt blamed, labeled and that I fit a stereotype that I didn't want to fit into. I knew I wanted to help other parents through the process. I knew I wanted to educate parents on the resources available to them. I knew I wanted black boys to be successful. This doesn't mean I didn't want all kids to be successful. It is ridiculous when people say that, by the way, but some people have a purpose, and it may be exercise and health for diabetes patients, or food for people in Haiti.

My purpose at the time was to help black boys. I then started gathering knowledge on how to successfully do that from parents that had successfully raised a black son because I was afraid for my son. This turned into a book A Black Parent's Memoir: 30 Parents that have Raised an African American Son Tell their Story. However, knowing I couldn't reach every one through the book, I turned it into a weekly support group called The Black Parent Group.

The Black Parent Group is no longer weekly, but we have branched out to workshops, marches, author fairs, women expos, job fairs, and a socializing group. I now offer 1:1 coaching for parents of troubled children. I started on this journey with a bachelor's in Psychology, but because I want to be the most qualified, I obtained my master's degree, school social worker license, and substitute teacher license. I work in schools all over the metro including the Juvenile detention center's to have the most impact on kids.

JOSEPH: Can you tell us more about your current programs?
SHATONA: I view individuals holistically, so I offer programs that can meet not just one need but several.
A Parent Group - a support group for parents of all races raising an African American child.
Women's Expo and Job Fair – An event to promote entrepreneurship and connect qualified woman to careers to increase financial stability.
Networking Group - A monthly networking group that meets to support other entrepreneurs and hold one another accountable to achieve our business goals, this networking group has a free advice FB page and a page to promote our businesses.
Socializing Group - The socializing group is designed for women to take a break from all the stressors of the world and relax. We also focus on building friendships which is harder to do once you become an adult.

JOSEPH: I know you are also a writer. What inspired you to write and are there challenges you face as a writer?

SHATONA: I started writing books to help parents, then my second book was to help people heal emotionally and spiritually, my last book demonstrates to all children suffering from ADHD that they could be successful. 

I enjoy writing and I don't do it for the money, I do it because it is what I was called to do by the God I serve. It connects me to several awesome people like you Mr. Mbele. I enjoy the author fairs I attend and hearing how my books are so well received in every community. I am blessed to be able to write. I now have a blog so I can write about my many interests. I enjoy being a part of the blogging community. They are my virtual family. You can find my blog at - there is so much negativity in the world I decided to celebrate positive news. 

JOSEPH: I have known for years about your  involvement in efforts to bring together Africans and African Americans. What lessons or advice would you like to share from your experience?

SHATONA: I have to say that I am selfish in my attempts to bring Africans and African Americans together. African Americans were robbed of their heritage and were separated from our true families which were from Africa. So bringing these 2 groups together is necessary. My advice is for both groups to stop the nonsense and love one another. Build off each other’s strengths, support one another where the other is weak. Let's come together to create harmony and financial stability. There are differences because of the cultures and the cultural differences should be celebrated, not ignored but this doesn't mean one group is superior to the other. 

JOSEPH: What are your plans for the days ahead, in terms of social programs, writing, and whatever else?

SHATONA: This is a great time for me because my daughter just went off to a great college and this was a personal accomplishment met. My son that has ADHD is 13 and he is managing his life better than ever. We still have our challenges with his organization skills and other health challenges but he is growing up so I am finding more time for myself and  my goals. My husband  is supportive and helps me with my dreams. Thus, in the near future, I am planning for a Black Parent Group meeting with the topic of "What does black mean to you?" to  discuss unconscious biases. I am also planning the 2016 Expo and Job Fair. As always, I am writing and plan to start on another book on a topic I've never written about before. Life is exciting, everyday a new endeavor, and I don't plan on stopping any of my personal pursuits at this time. I will lead programs, teach, counsel, organize events,  coach parents, write, and be everything I was created to be.

To purchase Shatona’s books:

No comments: