UNapproachable Black Chicks

"The death no one cares about"

The death no one cares about

Christina Sankey as an adult.
Christina Sankey as an adult.
POSTED: April 11, 2014

IF CHRISTINA SANKEY had been an angel-faced toddler when she went missing, we might know by now how she wound up dead, half-naked and alone, between two parked cars in West Philly on a frigid winter morning.

The city would’ve been galvanized by her death. Government officials would’ve promised to find out how she met her tragic end. Someone would’ve created a sidewalk memorial, and others would’ve led prayer vigils to honor the life that was lost.

But Christina, 37, had the mentality of a 2-year-old, but not the physique. She was a 5-foot-tall, 160-pound severely autistic and intellectually disabled woman. She was well cared for by her family, but ungainly. And she would grunt in ways that are precious in babies but odd in adults.

She was also poor. Her mother, Patricia Sankey, with whom she lived, hasn’t the resources nor clout to make a big deal out of her daughter’s passing.

And that, I fear, is why the death of this terribly vulnerable woman-child has not even registered on the public’s radar. Christina just wasn’t adorable enough or from the right circumstances for her death to warrant the attention it deserves.

Christina was last seen alive on March 6 inside Macy’s, at 13th and Market, while under the care of her state-paid caretaker, Hussanatu “Ayesha” Wulu, 29.

Wulu lost track of her. Christina’s body was discovered the next morning on 57th Street near Master, 5 miles away. She couldn’t have gotten there by bus or train, Sankey says, since she was nonverbal and incapable of using public transit alone. Nor does Sankey believe Christina would’ve walked that far.

So how did Christina get there? And does anyone other than her mother think that’s an important question to ask?

"I have nothing to say to anyone," Wulu said when I visited her Southwest Philly home. As I drove away from the house, a man who identified himself as Alie Barrie, the home’s owner, cut me off with his van and angrily told me to leave his family alone.

Chetachi Dunkley-Ecton won’t talk, either. She is CEO of Casmir Care Services Inc., which employed Wulu and assigned her to provide Christina with seven hours a day of monitored supervision.

I wanted to ask Dunkley-Ecton why Wulu was shopping in a bustling Center City department store with Christina in the first place. Sankey insists that her daughter - whose favorite activity was rolling a ball - had no capability to learn shopping skills and no reason to be there.

I also wanted to speak with John F. White Jr., president of The Consortium Inc. That’s the agency that coordinated the services Christina received through Casmir Care. If he’d responded to messages I left for him, perhaps he would’ve expressed condolences for Christina’s death.

At least Philadelphia police are willing to acknowledge her demise, which a spokesman says “does not appear suspicious,” even though the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet issued an official cause of death. Off the record, a police source says Christina likely died of hypothermia - she froze to death - a condition that can scramble the brain’s ability to discern body temperature.

"People who die of cold exposure often feel hot and remove their clothes," the source said, and that’s why he suspects Christina was topless when she was found.

Except, says Patricia Sankey, her daughter hadn’t the ability to remove the pullover top she was wearing the day she disappeared. Sankey would’ve told detectives as much, but no one has spoken with her since she identified Christina at the city morgue.

It doesn’t appear that anyone from the District Attorney’s Office will speak with her, either.

"Unless her death is ruled suspicious, we wouldn’t be involved because a crime wasn’t committed," D.A. spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson says.

Call me prickly, but allow me to recall the scorching heat of July 24, 2010. On that day, a severely autistic young man named Bryan Nevins baked to death inside the van of his Bucks County caretaker, Stacey Strauss. Court records later showed that Strauss was texting and talking with her boyfriend while Nevins died. Strauss was convicted of and jailed for involuntary manslaughter.

Sankey would like to know what Wulu’s state of mind was the day Christina went missing. That morning, she says, while Wulu was in the Sankey home, the doorbell rang. It was Wulu’s husband, who summoned Wulu outside, where the two had a “loud disagreement.”

"Afterward, she acted very odd," Sankey says. "She said to Christina, ‘We’re leaving.’ That’s the last I saw of my baby."

Regardless of the cause of Christina’s death, doesn’t it at least warrant a look-see from the D.A.? Given that Wulu’s only job was to provide monitored supervision to Christina? Especially in public, unsecured places?

The one person in an official capacity who seems to grasp the horror of this mess is Arthur Evans, commissioner of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. (The department makes sure that local agencies like Casmir Care are qualified to provide state-mandated services in Philadelphia.)

"Like all Philadelphians, we were shocked and saddened to learn of Christina’s tragic and untimely passing," Evans said in a statement Tuesday - issued a full two weeks after I requested comment from his department. "At DBHIDS, that shock and sadness remains today as we wait to receive crucial reports from the Medical Examiner’s Office and other offices to complete our investigation. We will continue to support the commonwealth to provide them with the information they require to decide what next [steps] are appropriate."

His concern is too little, too late for Christina’s mother.

"No one cares about my daughter. She was poor, she was disabled. She was not going to set the world on fire. But she was myworld,” said Sankey, who lives with her younger daughter, Eliza - also mentally disabled - in Point Breeze. Sankey is by turns fiery and weepy, twisting tissues in her hands as she talks about the daughter she describes as “the most loving child. She would hug you all the time. When she was sick, she would let you know by laying on top of you.”

Christina enjoyed watching old Westerns like “How the West Was Won” and reruns of “Gunsmoke” … she loved their old-timey sound tracks. She knew it was lunchtime when the “Judge Mathis” TV show ended. She craved morning coffee and cheese curls. And she was a proud graduate of Furness High School’s special-ed program.

"My hope was that she would learn to print her own name, but she would forget the letters as soon as she wrote them," Sankey says.

She takes a breath and stares at the red-and-white urn that holds her daughter’s ashes. She says that she talks to the urn every night and apologizes for what happened.

She would talk to Christina’s photos, too, except she gave the best ones to people from Casmir Care when Christina went missing, so they could show them to Macy’s shoppers in hopes of finding her.

On Sankey’s behalf, I drove to Casmir Care, on Parkside Avenue near 49th Street, to retrieve the photos for her. A receptionist referred me, instead, to the agency’s lawyer.

Sankey deserves a more caring response than that. And so does her daughter.


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: ph.ly/RonnieBlog

I care. 

The Unapproachable Black Chick

(Source: articles.philly.com)

As Black people, we have not had the room to fully cope with our emotional and spiritual issues because we are too busy surviving. Accordingly, my friend’s partner was trying to teach his son one of the key principles of being Black—that pain and trauma are indigenous to our history as African-Americans. We have become accustomed to tolerating our pain.When faced with repeated injustices hurled upon us, we are quick to mutter, “that’s just the way it is.” Or, when faced with glass ceilings and institutional barriers, we tell our children, “that you must always be 120 percent better.” Instead of bull dozing through the pain, how can we teach ourselves, our families, and our friends to make room for their pain while not being swallowed by it?

In many ways, I am trying to learn how to embrace and engage my pain, rather than run from it. In my life, I continually find ways to affirm myself, speak positivity over my own life, and remember to love myself no matter what. This is what healing looks like for me. For others, it will be forgiving the pain folks have caused them. Forgiving themselves, strengthening relationships, or severing them. Regardless of the routes, what we need to remember is that pain is not a temporary thing. It lingers. For the Black community to thrive, I believe we in part, must not only talk about economic justice, but be truly radical by talking about collective healing. Yes, self-care is a hard discussion when one struggles to make ends meet, but whatever room we have to nourish our hearts and minds, we must take full hold of it.

Black Folks Must Talk About Healing

By Aaron
@Talley_Marked via Black Youth Project

"Founder of “For Brown Girls,” and Advocate for US, Karyn Washington Committed Suicide, and I Suck."

Founder of “For Brown Girls,” and Advocate for US, Karyn Washington Committed Suicide, and I Suck.

Today I’ve been whining about breaking the screen on my laptop computer and complaining about a radio show that went horribly, terribly wrong, and I missed some major news that should have been discussed and that I was remiss in reporting. Karyn Washington, founder of www.forbrowngirls.com and the “Dark Skin, Red Lips” project has died at the tender age of 22. And this was not a natural death. This was a suicide.

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Washington, who dedicated herself to the uplifting of dark-skinned black girls and women, and worked so that they would have a sense of well-being, was struggling with depression and mental illness, and was unable to extend the love she gave to others to herself.

This is often par for the course with black women, who often shoulder so much burden (one of the only things the community will give us kudos for, the quintessential ‘struggle’) and to admit any weakness of the mind and body is to be considered defective. Vulnerability is not allowed. Tears are discouraged. Victims are incessantly blamed. We are hard on our women, and suffer as a result.

When your community tells you that you’re better off praying than seeking the advice of medical professionals and medication, you feel shame when you feel your mind is breaking. There is no safe place. To admit to any mental frialty is to invite scorn and mockery, accusations of “acting white.”

Because only white people suffer from depression. Only white people commit suicide.

Black women are strong.

Black women are not human.

And this is a LIE.

I have suffered for bouts of depression and anxiety for the majority of my life. When I acted out, my mother told me I was possessed by the devil and once called our minister. I told her how I felt, she told me to pray. When I became an adult and went to college, I FINALLY was given an outlet to speak on my affliction. Medication and counseling changed my life. It’s not fun sleeping for 16 hours a day and crying for no reason, or feeling like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest. Thank God for Zoloft. And I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for allowing myself to be healed.

Ladies, stop allowing others to shame you out of seeking help if you need it. African Americans are the most undiagnosed group of mental illnesses, because we are so ashamed to admit we can not always hold it down. The struggle is literally killing us. Yes; blacks may be the least likely group to commit IMMEDIATE suicide, but look around you–you’ll see black women killing themselves slowly with food, which is a more socially acceptable way to kill yourself. Look at the streets, all the boys so eager to off themselves in front of bullets. We’re committing suicide alright, but we like to take the long way around.

As far as I’m concerned, Karyn Washington is a martyr. Let her be a martyr for change. If you don’t have insurance or are worried about the cost of care, thank Obama. FromMentalHealth.gov:

The Affordable Care Act will provide one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation, by requiring that health insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplaces cover mental health and substance use disorder services. These new protections will build on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity to expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for behavioral health to 62 million Americans.

Because of the law, health plans must now cover preventive services like depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost. And starting in 2014, most plans won’t be able to deny you coverage or charge you more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.

And if you don’t have insurance, sign up for Obamacare. Mental health services are covered.

Let’s honor Karyn’s memory and continue the work that she started, and take it a step farther. Let’s not just tell black girls and women they are beautiful and worthy. Let’s also tell them that it’s okay to fall back, seek help, and heal.

Christelyn Karazin via BeyondBlackandWhite.com 

My heart hurts … I’m praying for those affected by this loss and hope it saves countless of other Black women battling with mental challenges.

- The Unapproachable Black Chick

Oh yeah, this happened today … and I casually mentioned Unapproachable Black Chicks!! #ShamelessGroupie #BeJealous #JanetMock #RedefiningRealness #IWonHerBookToo #EarlyBDayGift

Towson University Debate Team becomes first black female pair to win championship

debater

Ameena Ruffing and Korey Johnson made history by becoming the first black female pair to take home the Cross Examination Debate Association national championship last week.

From TU News:

The Towson team beat Oklahoma in the final round to claim the national title. The competition featured teams from elite schools including Harvard, Trinity, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Wayne State, Cal State Fullerton, Florida, Bard College, Pepperdine, Sacramento State, Vanderbilt, NYU and others.

Ruffin and Johnson also earned a first-round bid to the 2014 National Debate Tournament, an invitation-only national championship for collegiate policy debate in the United States. The distinction designates them as one of the top 16 teams in the country.

Read more at TU News

Founded in 1971, CEDA is the primary national association promoting intercollegiate academic debate on topics related to policy. It formulates the annual intercollegiate policy debate topic used in tournament competition throughout the nation.

Congratulations Ameena and Korey!

High School student receives Gates Millennium Scholarship, graduates early

High School student receives Gates Millennium Scholarship, graduates early

dunlap

An Indianapolis teen has been awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Alex Dunlap, 16, who attends Broad Ripple High School, is one of only 1,000 students in the country to receive the honor. She’ll be graduating a year early in May. 

From ABC 6:

The scholarship — funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — covers a full ride to any college or university in the country, all the way through a doctoral degree if the recipient chooses.

“Oh, I was ecstatic,” she said. “I started crying, my mom started crying.”

Dunlap plans to pursue her passion for languages.

“I’m going to study Spanish, French and Chinese in college with a focus in Arabic, I’m going to pick that one up as well,” she said. “And after undergrad, I plan on attending law school.”

Read more at ABC 6

Dunlap’s more than an awesome student. Her passion for community service has led her to teach Spanish to inner-city youth, and she plans to keep volunteering.

She also hopes to fight for the rights of children in foreign countries.

Outstanding.

Congratulations Ms. Dunlap!

blueklectic:

Just leaving this here

Picking up what blueklectic sat down. 

(Source: setfabulazerstomaximumcaptain)

A recent study on black women in America delivered a mixed, even contradictory message. The report from the Black Women’s Roundtable found that while black women in the United States are making strides in education and business and affecting political trends with stellar voter turnout numbers, they remain more vulnerable to health problems and violence than any other group. Their strength at the polls is not reflected in elected positions. So, the situation is — at the same time — hopeful and frustrating, many steps forward with persistent, historical hurdles still blocking the way.
What is at first glance confusing makes perfect sense, though. Despite the reality show image of sassy, in control and intimidating black women taking charge and needing no help from anyone, the American story is consistent with the study. It is a tale of black women as invisible, misjudged and resilient through it all –integral and nurturing, yet set apart. They have survived, thrived and led, in spite of obstacles that have often kept them vulnerable, a term seldom used to describe black women.

Powerful yet vulnerable black women: A contradiction rooted in history

blackedouthistory:

On May 26, 1956, two female students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus in the city of Tallahassee. When they refused to move to the “colored” section at the rear of the bus, the driver pulled into a service station and called the police. Tallahassee police arrested Jakes and Patterson and charged them with “placing themselves in a position to incite a riot.” In the days immediately following these arrests, students at FAMU organized a campus-wide boycott of city buses. Their collective stand against segregation set an example that propelled like-minded Tallahassee citizens into action. 

search for: Willhelmina Jakes, Carrie Patterson, FAMU, Florida civil rights movement
 

Power Up.

blackedouthistory:

On May 26, 1956, two female students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus in the city of Tallahassee. When they refused to move to the “colored” section at the rear of the bus, the driver pulled into a service station and called the police. Tallahassee police arrested Jakes and Patterson and charged them with “placing themselves in a position to incite a riot.” In the days immediately following these arrests, students at FAMU organized a campus-wide boycott of city buses. Their collective stand against segregation set an example that propelled like-minded Tallahassee citizens into action.


search for: Willhelmina Jakes, Carrie Patterson, FAMU, Florida civil rights movement

 

Power Up.

Can I just take a second to tell y’all how much I appreciate you for supporting Unapproachable Chicks ? Or nah?

In my feelings,
XoXo “K”CB