#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry

A Royal Surprise Pt.3: A Painful Beginning

To understand why supporters are so protective of Harry and Meghan, we have to go back to 2016.

Deesa Roberts, the Atlanta lawyer, knew nothing about Meghan Markle until October 2016.  However, she and her two daughters had been royal supporters for decades.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Diana and sons
Credit: Kensington Palace

“When Princess Diana died, we bawled our eyes out. We felt so sad for her children, and especially for Prince Harry, who was so young to experience such a loss. I always had a soft spot for him.”

She kept track of Harry as he grew up.

“Then, in October 2016, news broke about his relationship with Meghan Markle and was confirmed in November.”

November 8, to be specific. That day, in a strongly worded statement, Kensington Palace asked British media and “trolls” to stop harassing Harry’s girlfriend.

“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”

The “wave of abuse” didn’t stop.

Following the coverage from Atlanta, Deesa was shaken by the anti-Meghan “racism and misogyny” in the UK tabloids.  

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There are few (known) persons of colour in the British royal family. Though Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, is said to have been part-African, she’s been dead for centuries.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Queen Charlotte - Credit National Portrait Gallery
Credit National Portrait Gallery

Meghan Markle was an anomaly.

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The attacks on Meghan Markle weren’t isolated to Britain.  Comment sections of several UK newspapers had as many American anti-Meghan remarks as British.

Deesa, meanwhile, read everything she could about Meghan.  “I sensed that she was the one for him. I felt she could handle the pressure.  She was older than his previous girlfriends and more mature; she had faced difficult issues and overcome them.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Markle CU
Courtesy: The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust

“I decided I had to support her. I was born in Georgia and my grandfather was born in slavery.  So I’m thoroughly familiar with racism.  I recognized the attacks by some royal reporters early on. I tried to engage them and other royal watchers in respectful conversation, but it didn’t go anywhere. For my efforts, I was dubbed a ‘race warrior’.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Deesa CU
Deesa Roberts

Deesa’s concerns were echoed by others whom I interviewed for this series.

Mimi, also American, admired Princess Diana and felt protective of her sons after Diana’s death.

“Prince Harry was my favorite. I always rooted for him and supported his causes. I became a Meghan fan when she was with Suits. I followed her blog The Tig and admired the speech she made at UN Women. Having loved them both separately, it was a no-brainer that I’d support them as a couple.”

Blog Photo - Chris and Sparky and David
Chris, Sparky & Chris’ son David

Chris, from the US south, loved Princess Diana.  “When she died, my heart ached for Harry. Sometimes the press was so hard on him, but he truly has such a caring and loving heart. 

“When I heard he and Meghan were dating, I was thrilled.  I truly thought it was a match made in Heaven. 

Blog Photo - Baby shower - royal engagement H and M
Photos Courtesy: Kensington Palace

“From their engagement interview, to their wedding, and everything they’ve done so far, they’ve really impacted me. Their passion to help others and change the world is inspirational. I’m old enough to be their Mom (lol) but they’ve really impacted my life.”  

Blog Photo - baby shower - Melbour Australia skyline
Melbourne, Australia skyline. Credit: Wikipedia

From Melbourne, Australia, David says:  “I really believe in them as a couple and think they will achieve great things together and individually. They seem to both be driven people and that really resonates with me. Also very impressed with Meghan’s background before meeting Harry.”

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Many Sussex supporters  around the world felt they had to speak up against the “lies and vitriol” being directed at the couple on social media “and sometimes the press.”

Portia, an education assessment officer in the UK, says: “What was distressing, and still is, is the press giving a platform to trolls by using their quotes and giving press coverage to them. That I find sad. There is a need for a re-balancing of issues in the press.”

 On Twitter, Sussex fans fact-checked and rebutted reporters’ stories. Some reporters saw them as trolls who were brutally insulting, a few even “threatening”. (Author Note: I’ve seen no threats myself, but have seen many angry, and some insulting, tweets.)

As the battle waged, Sussex fans became familiar with each other through their tweets and Twitter profiles. After Harry and Meghan married and became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Deesa says, she suggested fans call themselves The Sussex Squad.

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As organizers of the global baby shower, Sussex Squad members turned their focus to helping vulnerable people and pets through charities associated with the royal couple.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower

When people hurl online insults at the Sussexes or the baby shower,  most Sussex Squad members try to rise above it, often replying with these slogans:

“Don’t Hate. Donate”.

“Leading with Love”.

It’s a strategy of positivity and kindness. 

But they’re also strongly committed to defending the duke and duchess against the media and ‘haters’. 

Can the Sussex Squad do both things?

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Next: Moving Forward

 

 

 

 

#GlobalSussexBabyShower, Prince Harry and Meghan markle, Royal Family

A Royal Surprise, Part 2

Across the world, more than 50 countries are represented in The Sussex Squad. They include the USA, UK, Brazil, France, Sierra Leone, India, Hong Kong, Canada, Germany, the Phillipines, Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, South Africa, Jamaica, Curacao, Estonia, Italy, Portugal and many other countries.

Most members of The Sussex Squad seem to be under 40, but Deesa, an Atlanta lawyer in her 60’s, is not unique: there are retired teachers, nurses and other older individuals in the group.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower - Deesa Roberts
Deesa Roberts

Some members are businesspeople. Many are professionals – lawyers, scientists, educators, university professors, community workers, healthcare workers, political scientists, economists, etc. Some are students, some are Ph. D candidates.

In other words: educated, empowered, articulate. And devoted fans of Harry and Meghan.

Even among each other, they use their Twitter names. Names like BrenBrenchie, Mimi, Deesa, Freepeeper, Sussex Squad Podcast, Tonya, Mel, Beng, Neri, Emmy, The Tudor Chick, Magali. There are also subgroups, such as the Sussex Prayer Chain, which prays every day for the couple and their baby.

Blog Photo - MM and PH smiling

They had never done anything like the shower before.

‘Neri’, a 40 year old escrow officer from Arkansas, jumped at the chance to be part of the Global Sussex Baby Shower, “because everything about it is positive and endearing.”

Deesa, in Atlanta, thought the baby shower was “an absolutely awesome idea. Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan don’t need gifts. What better way to galvanize their supporters to do good things for their charities who in turn do good things for real people?”

Indeed, the donations were coming in so fast, staff at the named charities were inundated.

Blog Photo - CamFed First Tweet

Camfed joyfully tweeted: “We are still blown away by the response to the #GlobalSussexBabyShower! We can’t thank everyone enough for their generosity.” Within days, Camfed had raised enough money to send 94 African girls to school.

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Mayhew CatBlog Photo - Baby Shower -Mayhew Dog

Animal charity Mayhew tweeted: “We have been thrilled and delighted by the fundraising activity that’s taken place over the weekend and can’t thank everybody who has shared the #GlobalSussexBabyShower campaign and donated to Mayhew enough.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Harry and Child

WellChild said: “We have been surprised and delighted by the donations from supporters of #GlobalSussexBabyShower. It’s great that an online outpouring of goodwill can lead to practical help for children with serious illness and their families.”

Blog Photo - Baby Shower - Wellchild tweet

It was the charities who notified Kensington Palace, not the organizers. They were too busy donating, tweeting, promoting the charities and managing their own emotions. The campaign runs till May 12; no-one expected this overwhelming result so early.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower - Wellchild Baby

When Mel logged back onto Twitter, she was astonished. “I saw the support and was overwhelmed with gratitude for the wonderful women who took the idea and ran with it.  I decided to dedicate as much time as I could to promoting the campaign, encouraging people participating, and helping to raise the profiles of the selected charities.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Donation receipt

 

Sussex Squad members recruited friends and relatives too.

Deesa tweeted: “My 90-year old mother is awake now and we just made her donation to Camfed!”

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Other charities also benefited.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower - charities who were helped in first week

‘The Tudor Chick’ tweeted: “Just made another donation. So proud of my #SussexSquad for building something beautiful with the bricks thrown at Harry and Meghan.”

Some shifted their priorities.

‘Eliana’ planned to buy a new cell phone. Instead, “I had the screen repaired.”

‘Just Juliette’, from France, stopped shopping.  ‘Fleur’, also French, says “I simply didn’t buy new clothes. I have enough, and I think educating children is more important.” 

Brenda didn’t buy that ‘beautiful pair of sandals”.  ‘LRSykes’ gave up “a new handbag and spring jacket”.

In Canada, Stephanie loves buying kitchen stuff, so had to overcome temptation. Her sister “bee-lined it for the kitchen section” of a store.  “I literally stop and say… ‘I can’t BE in here!’ She was understandably shocked, lol.”

‘Beth’ planned to buy herself a diamond ring to symbolize a new beginning after leaving a bad marriage, but decided, “I can always buy that later. This is a much more important cause.”

Blog Photo - Camfed donations from baby shower

And ‘Missy’, whose mother died last year, donated the money she would have spent on “spoiling” her mother on Mothering Sunday.  She chose to help families “on what was my first Mothering Sunday without her.”

Neri’s remark reflects the mood in The Sussex Squad.  “Being grateful for my own blessings, I couldn’t think of a better way of showing gratitude than to pay it forward. And doing this in Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s honour makes me very happy.”

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Tomorrow: Part 3 – Painful Beginnings

 

#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home

A Royal Surprise

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan) were caught by surprise last week when an online baby shower was mysteriously launched in their honour.

They hadn’t seen it coming, and no-one knew the identity of the people behind it.

Blog Photo - baby Shower - Sussexes

What the Duke and Duchess of Sussex knew was that money and good wishes were pouring in from across the world to support some of their favourite charities, as part of something called #GlobalSussexBabyShower. 

They sent their thanks via Instagram:

Blog Photo - Baby Shower thanks from DDoS

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Starting today, I’m sharing the story of the people behind the charitable drive, why they did it, and how I became involved.

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If The Sussex Squad were an organization, it would be a multi-national, spread across dozens of countries.

But there is no organizational flow-chart, no official leaders, no official address, and no official membership. Instead, there are thousands of devoted fans who share a common affection for Harry and Meghan, and a desire to protect them from media and online abuse.

Blog Photo - MM and PH in Morocco - Credit Kensington Palace

The #GlobalSussexBabyShower is the first project they’ve undertaken together, and the planning of it was sudden and … unusual.

Four women – 3 from the US, 1 from the Caribbean — found themselves thinking along similar lines in the last week of March.  All wanted to “do something” to show their admiration for the couple’s compassion and empathy, and to combat  “online bullying” of the couple.

“Mel” saw a tweet “from someone who said they hoped the Duke and Duchess know they are supported”.  She responded with an idea: Why not hold an online baby shower, and invite Sussex fans worldwide to donate to orphanages and children’s charities?

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Florida seniors - Credit - Sun-Sentinel
Credit: Lisa Sileo, Acts Retirement

“Mimi”, also American, saw an article about a group of Florida senior citizens who hosted a baby shower for Meghan and donated baby supplies. She thought: “ ‘What a pure and sweet idea’.”

“Luckily, my fellow Sussex Squad members had the same idea. I saw that Mel had tweeted about having an online baby shower and I added that we could also raise money for the charities that Harry and Meghan support. Freepeeper and I started DM-ing ideas.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Harry and Child
Credit: WellChild

The minute “Brenda”, a university lecturer from the Caribbean, read the idea on Twitter, she became enthusiastic about it, “not knowing it would be such a huge hit”.

That was Thursday, March 28.

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I, meanwhile, was also ‘Dm-ing’ with someone that night.

When the online shower idea first came up on Twitter, someone tweeted that perhaps I’d be interested in doing a story about it.

“Send me a news release,” I tweeted back.  I got no reply.

I contacted Tina, one of two women who run the “Sussex Squad Podcast” heard by followers from 71 countries. We’d communicated when I was researching an earlier story.

Blog Photo - Credit WellChild Awards

I soon discovered that no-one in the small group of planners knew how to write a news release. (Highly accomplished in their business and professional fields, yes, but not in dealing with the media.)

My husband and I drafted the release, telling the Sussex Squad members to fill in the gaps and send it out. It was a bit strange: I had never drafted a news release that would be sent back to myself!

My husband, a former newsroom editor and TV news anchor, said, “This idea could be really successful if done right. Why don’t you help them?”

Tina (of Sussex Squad Podcast) would later say that I lit a fire under them that Thursday night. An emergency conference call was held.

Before the night was out, I helped the group to draw up an initial media list, assign roles, choose the charities that would benefit, and create an overall strategy using Twitter and traditional media to get the larger group involved.

 The plan was made and set in motion.

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Freepeeper worked swiftly to design a video and text for Twitter. It was attractive and skillfully worded.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower

Known to be eloquent and level-headed, she agreed to be the group’s spokesperson.

“When Freepeeper actually ran with the idea,” Brenda says, “I felt a rush of satisfaction because we could finally do something for this beleaguered couple that would make us happy and shine a light on their work and positive contribution.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower Announcement

The Twitter announcement was launched the next day, Friday, March 29 and quickly retweeted by members of The Sussex Squad.  It announced the kick-off for that Sunday, which happened to be Mothering Sunday in Britain.

But excited fans couldn’t wait.  Charities started receiving donations from around the world almost right away.

Despite my husband’s prediction, I was shocked at how fast the campaign grew. I wasn’t the only one.

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Tomorrow: Part 2 – The Charities are inundated.