The NEW Face of Amber Alert: Amber Cole is Me...and You

Time travelin’.

It’s about two in the morning and the air is electric with the after buzz of the club letting out. He’s a bit of an exhibitionist and I’m a Pisces. After a few chuckled “I don’t know”s, I walk with him behind the club. We are right off the alley–us and the brick wall. I don’t remember the name of the club—I think it’s closed now—but I remember how hard I was praying, “Please don’t let anybody I know walk back here.” Age:  early-20s

“Oh s**t!”  We’re scrambling like runny eggs. Scared fingers fumble with buttons and zippers, while headlights glare through the fogged up windows of a Chevrolet Celebrity sedan. Just be cool. Be cool.  When you’re in high school, there aren’t many places to go to be alone, so in the car with boys it is. What the heck are police doing rolling through here this time of night anyway? I mean, a randomly parked car in the lot of a junior high school after hours doesn’t look fishy to me… Age: mid-teens

And so goes my mind, ego-tripping through the memories of a young girl-woman, with all her bags of unwise choices, hurts, regrets and tricks. She’s got hundreds of these stories folded ever-so neatly, but the bags get lighter and lighter with each wise choice I make, lesson I learn and story I share. Looking back, I’m starting to think maybe my load wasn’t as heavy as it is for young women growing up in these digital times.

I thank the grace of God more than anything, and the fact that I came of age in an era where having my own phone line in my room, an Ameritech pager—the one with the turquoise button—and late night chats on “The Party Line” was about as social as my media got. It’s a whole new game today. Folks will just whip out their phone and take a picture or video of you on the train and have it posted online before you get off at your stop. I think I would just die if I was 14 and something I did with a boy was posted all over the Internet. This is why two days after hearing her name, my thoughts and prayers still time travel back to Amber Cole.

Double Standard

Amber Cole, a young girl whose character and life has been sound-bited down to simply the 14-year-old girl caught on tape giving oral sex to a male student outside on school property. Nearly everything about that sentence bothers me. Not the part about two teens engaging in sexual activity. Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of what’s going on. It was true back “in the day” and it’s still true now. To put it in perspective, my maternal grandmother had 14 children, I believe the first was at age 15 or 16. She loved and raised them all. I definitely don’t think of my grandmother in terms some people have used to vilify Amber Cole—dumb, hoe, slut, stupid, getting what she deserves, dirty girl, whore (and these are all putting it nicely; some of the full comments I’ve read are inhumane and heartbreaking).

I’m bothered that I know her full name and every reference to her co-star are as “a classmate”, “a student” or “her ex-boyfriend”. I haven’t seen the video, but I’ve seen one still photo and you can see his face. He’s identifiable. Why is the responsibility of this act solely on her name? It’s Janet and Justin at the Super Bowl all over again.

I’m bothered when people use words like “caught.” When I hear caught, I think of catching a criminal. I think we should be less concerned with Amber Cole being “caught” on tape, and a little more concerned about who was doing the catching…and the uploading. Another student filmed this, either with or without her consent. Then , it was uploaded to the Internet. Can we “catch” this person?!

I’m bothered that it happened at school and outside. I don’t say this to be hypocritical of my own “why’d I do that!” choices, but in wisdom found only in the hindsight of those choices. Here we have a situation with two young people that don’t care (or don’t care enough) about the potential of being discovered. What if other students walked by? A teacher? The principal? Whatever was the motivating factor for each of them was stronger than their sense of dignity and self-esteem at that time, or their understanding of possible repercussions. Maybe they just didn’t know it could all play out like this, which is also bothersome because by 14 students should be getting training in social media literacy.

Mixed Signals

Last month, I shared my concern about music oversexualizing and desensitizing our young girls. As much as I want to protect and defend them as victims of media brainwashing and underdeveloped/undernurtured self worth, I also know full well that young women are sometimes the big, bad wolf and not naïve Little Red Riding Hood. They want to show you they can work it better or pop it harder than anyone else. Sometimes, they’re doing it like they’re doing it for TV because that’s where they want to be, like in Beyonce’s song, “Video Phone.” This is another song that makes me cringe.   

You saying that you want me
So press record, I’ll let you film me

On your video phone, make a cameo
Tape me on your video phone, I can handle you
Watch me on your video phone, on your video, video
If you want me you can watch me on your video phone

When we, meaning adults, talk about videotaping like it’s something fun and desirable and ENCOURAGED, how should we expect youth to act? And when it’s coming from someone as influential as Beyonce, it makes sense that young men and women listen and act accordingly, especially if there aren’t louder voices in their ears (mentors, parents, teachers, etc.) telling them otherwise.

Amber Cole is not Beyonce. She is not Kim Kardashian. She is not Paris Hilton. I doubt this video will ripple effect 15 minutes of shame into a marketable brand with endorsements. Amber Cole is being cyberbullied, accused and attacked. The rules of the game aren’t the same for those without money and fame.

Game Changers

When I was discussing the Amber Cole situation with a friend of mine, she made a point that really hit home: “I feel like if you wanna play the game, know the game and your competitor.” Our young women are already playing this game, but they are losing. It’s not #Winning  to have your name casually tossed around as the school or neighborhood “go to” girl…wearing clothes that are much too tight because you want to be “thick” and not deal with the reality of your weight…doing sexual favors for clothes, hair and shoe money thinking it’s “tricking” when you’re really the one being tricked..doing what feels wrong (and not empowering) to get love and attention from a boy/man that will be on to the next one faster than your heart or knees can heal. It’s fourth quarter and we need to step in and give young women the knowledge, tools and resources to play the game and WIN. The most powerful weapon is self-love and as we learn it, we need to teach and instill it.

This is our wake up call.

The face of the Amber Alert in 2011 is not a cute dark-haired, freckled face girl and she is not missing. No, Amber is a beautiful, brown-skinned princess and I know exactly where she is. She’s in every city, walking the blocks, going to school, talking loud on the buses and trains, reading quietly in her bedroom, kissing boys, running from trouble. She’s the face I see in the mirror and the faces my eyes see when I look out into the world.

Instead of saying “I SUPPORT AMBER COLE”, I simply say “I AM Amber Cole.” She is me and I am her and every other girl/woman that’s journeyed too far off the path on her way home. How far am I willing to go to save myself?

#OperationBlackGirlsToday….details coming soon.


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  • This specific situation is so bugged out. This internet is something serious. However I cant help but think this will fade away like it never happened. we have so much work to do. Our culture and our children must be reclaimed. It is imperative. "Occupy the minds of our children"

  • In reply to Precise:

    I agree! It seems as if it has died down quite a bit since Monday. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I don't think it should be treated like a scandal, but at the same time I think it deserves attention because this is an opportunity to address the very thing you mentioned--reclaiming our children. Once the dust settles on this, I don't want things to go back to life as usual--young men and women still making unwise and unsafe choices and adults not doing all we can to let these young people know we see them, hear them and love them. We've become too accepting of a lot of things, but maybe this is where we draw the line and pull our sleeves up and go to work!

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    In reply to Sandria311:

    how old r uy n what website r uy connected to why uy commected to amber cole whats going on r uy the real amber cole cuxx if you are you put a lot of people dwn n hurt their feeling that is embarising idk but i like they way uy write n what shows uy star on?

  • Mykie, I am definitely not Amber Cole; I really am who I say I am on my About page. Thank you for checkin out the piece and liking the way I write (that's always a bonus).

  • Thank you for this piece Sandi. We are in a state of emergency. When will our people understand that when we invest in our children, we invest in our future. I'm going to share this with everyone I know. This is the reason we must mentor, guide and be there for our youth. I too am Amber Cole! Like you and many other women, I've made some foolish decisions in my teen and adolescent years that most definitely could have led me to a dead end but I'm thankful that God delivered me from those mishaps. I am down for whatever #OperationBlackGirlsToday will provide. Please keep me posted.

  • In reply to ineztamrell:

    Thank you Nez for reading and your feedback! I will have information to send out on Black Girls Today after Sunday.

  • The only thing i didnt like about this is the comparison. Amber Cole is NOT me and not you either. When you talked about your story at the beginning, you talked about going to places where you DIDNT want to be seen. You can no where compare that to Amber Cole. This little girl did this IN FRONT of two other boys literally got down on her knees and she KNEW she had a audience watching. Its not like the two other boys were hiding in the bushes.That's why she is being called the names she is being called. I mean who does sexual acts in front of a group of people. Poor little girl needs some direction in her life.

  • In reply to tina:

    I appreciate you reading the post, Tina. We agree on the bottom line: Amber (and all the other girls and women like Amber, or who can potentially be Amber with one choice) needs some direction. Hopefully there are women and men willing to step up and offer that guidance. I'm in. Who got next?

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    In reply to Sandria311:

    i agree evreyone is callineg her sluts and things but she was just lead in the wrong direction i saw the video on twitter it was embarding

  • Don't say you support or am Amber Cole, you don't even have the right to do that, she made a mistake and we all make a mistake no lie, but let the girl do her, if she wanted her ex back, then let her get her ex back, but a month or 2 ago when a man by the name of Tyler Clemente needed support or back up no one write a poem or did anything but teased him. He was a homosexual and his roommate posted a video of him sleeping with other man, he's gay, what do you want, him to sleep with his sister?? nooo so please do not put BS saying poor girl stuff like that when you don't have the balls to stick up for everyone, and this is not me making fun of anyone but no one have mention his name just because hes different to others but not to me, hes a human being and i'm 100% heterosexual, thank you for sticking up for this girl atleast though. *Peace*

  • In reply to Born4Freedom:

    Peace Born4Freedom,
    I can hear the passion in your voice about Tyler Clemente. I didn't follow this incident closely, so thank you for prompting me to get educated about it. Tyler deserves our support as well, no question. Thank your for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • I almost cried when I read this. I too am Amber Cole!! No one understands

  • In reply to BlaqueButterfly:

    Thank you for reading. And trust me, I'm not the only person that really understands what "I Am Amber Cole" means...

  • The Ameritech pager with the turquoise button was a spot of lightheartedness in an otherwise somber situation. I too am Amber Cole.

    Tina, she does indeed need direction in her life and possibly some stern judgement also. All mentorship and direction hinges to a certain measure of consent from the mentee based upon their feeling that the mentor identifies with the issue of concern to the mentee. From experience, I can tell you that you will speak for much longer talking AT youth and teens than having a conversation WITH them. So yes. There needs to be a comparison. We need to be able to clearly relate our own childhood experiences in ways that they can translate so that they will be better equipped to confront new and shifting land mass that is adolescence.

    Also, she is not being called those names on the basis of her sexual acts. If that were the children's only excuse, the language would not be such a widespread tool of condemnation for any female who had in some way or another violated the rules teen culture and these violations are not always sexual. You can be ostracized for snubbing someone, being awkward or hanging with the wrong person. In each instance, the most easily accessible taunt for a female is some combination of slut/hoe/bitch and for a male, gay/fag/punk. In either instance, none of these insults are the result of a sexual matter merely a desired effect. Give her direction, but reserve judgement until you know that she has that direction and can continue to see guidance through to the end.

    Born, I am not sure where why you chose to make your response such an accusatory barb. I know for certain the author to be a member of a collective of sisters who are stalwartly anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-chauvinist. I am going to issue you the same directive that I gave to another brother who felt there was another cause more befitting of our attention. The pain of adolescent bullying is not something that is mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to focus on a single point of acute pain at one time without diminishing the other area of pain a single iota.

    I know for a fact that Tyler Clementi received large pub from NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightline, Anderson Cooper, Democracy Now and NPR Tell Me More. These are all broadcasts I listen to daily. My heart falls low that he had to die to draw the necessary attention to his plight, but if you would like to talk about who is not being covered. Tyler's death happened a year ago and his name into use because of a more recent case. What about Jamey Rodemeyer who took his own life as well only 3 weeks ago because of bullying? There is indeed pain enough for each of us to take on a single case and make it our mantra and still not have enough hands at the wheel so don't criticize this space for taking up one such cause and don't qualify our statements with "I'm 100% heterosexual" for that serves only to further marginalize the voice of the very victim you are trying to defend.

    I am Amber Cole. I am Tyler Clementi. I am Jamey Rodemeyer. I am Troy Davis. I am a straight gay black white hispanic male female transgenderqueer drag queen who wears glasses and I deserve a safe space to grow into all of those qualities.

  • In reply to aomuse:

    *drops mic abruptly and exits like Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America* I have nothing left to say except thank you for reading and your insight. That last paragraph says it all...

  • Hey Sandi!
    I really loved this! I think we have all been Amber Cole in one way or another .. but the grace of God!

    Its such a sad reality we live in where videos are giving the direction to young ladies on how to act and behave. Something must be done ...


  • In reply to ldezell:

    "But the grace of God" indeed! One of my co-workers said something similar: Back in the day, being "fast" was a bad thing, but now it's glamorized in music, TV, even in the clothes in the junior's department. Then, we the girls consume and take on this hypersexuality they are crucified. Something will be done because too many women that are tired of this and want to do something. Deets on Black Girls Today forthcoming.

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    There's a group trying to kill the links, if you want to help. Search for #AmbersArmy on facebook.

  • In reply to AnnaBelle Pfau:

    Thank you AnnaBelle for sharing this information. I see you found me in your links search! I've joined the page and am consciously looking for links that can be flagged. Building the self-esteem of young girls and women (and boys/men) in order to prevent situations like this from even happening could very well be a lifelong job, but in the meantime stopping the video from being viewed is doable.

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    I personally feel like if Amber was old enough to perform oral, she was old enough to decide that's what she wanted to do. The fact that she's trying to have the boys take must of the blame for it isn't right. She should take fault for her part in it to, nobody forced her... It was her choice.

    The youth from PEMG (a youth mentoring program out of Staten Island) actually made a song speaking on their views of the Amber Cole situation. Views similar to my own... It's worth a listen.

    "Dear Amber" f/ Lyrics & Big Nay -

  • In reply to James Musa:

    I wasn't aware of Amber trying to have the young men take most of the blame. Whether that's the case or not, I think they were ALL in their right minds and should take responsiblity for the choices they made.

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