This school year, one of my goals was to see my students grow in empathy and awareness of life outside of their bubble. I teach in a predominately white middle-to-upper class school in a Chicago suburb. My students are far removed from the realities of kids a mere 30 miles down the expressway; my reality as a product of the south side of Chicago. Their lives, while far from perfect, are utopian compared to the lives of some of their neighboring peers.
Research supports the need to provide students of color with culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum. I wholeheartedly support and appreciate the pressing need for black and brown students to have instructional practices matching their learning styles and aptitudes as well as texts reflective of their interests and experiences. This is long overdue. I believe culturally responsive practices will help bridge the achievement gap offering marginalized students a voice and a means of championing who they are and from where they've come. But I ask, is this enough? Is this enough to disrupt the pervasive fear entangling and threatening to entrap our nation? I see the white elephant in the room. It is the curriculum of the white elite that only serves the status quo. It maintains white is right and to speak against its ideology is a cardinal sin.
How does education tackle this white elephant in the room? I believe as culturally responsive teaching builds awareness in the black and brown educational world; an awareness must also be taught in the educational world of the white elite. I have seen firsthand the pressing need for "Allies and Advocates" curriculum and pedagogy. As education reflects and responds to the needs of society, it is clear students need to be explicitly taught not to fear and exclude that which is other. In order for both sets of students ("majority" and "minority") to grow and evolve for the better, there must be an overhaul of teaching practices and curriculum for the white elite that does more than relegate the teaching of "minorities" and their heroes, causes and more to a month or one historical figure but engages students in ongoing discourse that humanizes all and offers a broad understanding of black and brown people along with the events and circumstances that impact their lives.
I realize what I am asking for is a total reformation of curricular ideology and development. I realize this will not be an easy task. I realize not everyone will agree there is a need for such change. I also realize teaching the "majority" to be allies and advocates through new approaches, texts and discourse geared toward the UN-whitewashing of curriculum is one of the only ways to bridge our divide and see real societal growth.
As an educator, I want to prepare my students to be productive citizens who contribute to the world. As an educator of color, I want the same and more, especially in the current American climate with its rampant and flourishing forms of -isms. It is increasingly imperative that students are able to move beyond their u-centric views, to see and interact with people and situations beyond the lens of their white privilege, to engage in honest and open conversations about the -isms refuting stereotypes and fighting prejudice, and to be allies of the world who advocate for people and causes that may not directly affect them but affect the greater good.
It's time to address that elephant in the classroom.
To say I am still pondering the myriad levels of Get Out is an understatement, I have probably consumed at least 10 articles and spent too much time dissecting the film's most minute details. My husband and I have knighted Jordan Peele and contemplated and revered the internal and external struggle inherent in creating this type of social art. Genius, we say--pure genius.
Last night, my daughter called me, on her own without prompting or to request money, to discuss the film as she saw I'd checked-in at the theater on Facebook (strategic on my part--folk need to know) the day prior. We talked for almost an hour about the film's hidden details and the brilliance of producing something so racially relevant and charged without totally alienating the majority, and yet intimately speaking to the minority--again I say, pure genius. And then we talked about Georgina, one of the two women of color in the film. The character who crept me out so much that I'd pushed her into the corner and far recesses of my mind until that point.
Unpacking Georgina and I
Why had I chosen to forget her? And upon remembering her, why has she now dominated my thoughts? How is Georgina really a representation of self? (Bear with me, I know I stand to lose my audience here, but hear me out.)
The very reason I pushed Georgina into the background is the very reason she is truly unforgettable: her presence and power evoke fear. Her character represents the house negro of past living among her masters (Is Walter ever in the Armitage home?) as a subservient matriarch (captive and grandmother), yet still somewhat conscious of who she really is (i.e. lone tear). Her character also represents the modern day black woman, similar in the aforementioned constructions, but also as more "woke" than her black male counterparts, less desirable in the eyes of the predominate culture (a black woman always fretting about her appearance) who was NOT vying for her (the black males were the prize bucks), and restless and apologetic (Georgina was always popping up out of nowhere moving fast and apologizing for her actions).
I see myself in Georgina--restlessly working to get it right and feeling the need to apologize for who I am. A recent encounter best illustrates this: I had a meeting where I felt pressed to apologize because I was not myself and I was not as vocal as expected and for something else totally out of my control. I have to run faster, spit farther, jump higher smiling all the while. I feel pressured to rein in my level of consciousness and advocacy based on what I believe is racially unjust as not to offend those who might perceive me as an angry black woman (some of you have thought just that).
I see you, Georgina! Sister, I understand how your power and presence evoked fear. Sister, I got the message that I have to get out of my own head and not be pushed to the background. Sister, I got that my beauty is not determined by outside forces and sources. Sister, I apologize no longer!
A product of my hood.
Black activism at its finest.
Chance the Rapper.
Why Chance is a real deal revolutionary:
Again and again, Chance proves he is a man of action, a man who believes in himself and his community, and a change agent empowering a broad base of young people through education. His activism is definitely planned, purposeful and certainly not by chance.
Revolutionaries act. What a challenge of greatness to us all!
I cautiously walk into this year looking both ways: looking back at the weight of 2016 and looking ahead at the expanse of 2017. I am leery to cross into hopeful, but just as leery to not--feathers of my soul aren't yet weightless as Dickinson reminds me 'Hope is a thing with feathers.'
I need something to ground me on this 2017 journey. Looking back, I had LOVE. My 2016 one little word never failed me. It wrapped me up, sang to me, talked to me and laid with me during my times of despair and continues to cling to me in memories and moments.
Looking ahead, my one little word needed to push me. It needed to be all things. Hard task, I know. Then it came to me on the lips of Yeezus, Kanye West, of all artists--yep, it had to be birthed from true craziness ... Don't let me get in my zone!
It was perfect to guide me through the expanse with purpose and passion. I need to get in the zone by staying laser focused, zoning in on the things that are important, and zoning out some things and people. Zone represents my space, my being and my direction. It represents my confidence and attitude. It is holistic and present and future. It is big and small enough to carry me through 2017.
I still have trepidations about this year considering my last, but hey "you need to crawl 'fore you ball" and I know one thing if I'm in the zone NOTHING CAN STOP ME!
Last year, I included a music video with my one little word, so here's to Kanye. Listen at YOUR OWN RISK but if you do, lean back, nod your head and enjoy!
She was remembered by who came right before her
(so close they almost touched the womb together)
and then after
(knitted together just the same)
sandwiched in between
her lullabies, a crecsendo of chaos,
coming so fast
there was little time to
or remember her tiny hands
or distinguish her from the others
in the solemn return to calm
coming so fast
But for her fair skin and heart shaped face
(Alpha & Omega)
Bouncing on her father's knee,
I wonder if she smiled.
Poise and intellect exuded from her. Gwen Ifill was one of my idols. She, among others, spurred my desire to be a journalist, and even though life had another path, I appreciate her representation. Her words, her voice will be missed. Authentic and relevant. Here is a sampling of reasons I adored her as a journalist. #RIPGWENIFILL
Hostility & rage
Hostility & rage
Hostility & rage
Today, Katie threw a tantrum. Complete with loud cries and a finale of flinging herself onto the floor. Her screams could surely be heard by every neighbor within a mile radius. I'd refused to give her what she wanted--agreeing to hair extensions or a weave for Homecoming. Nope, this was not the cry of a terrible two year old, but a terrible teen (16 to be exact), and one who has obviously been given a bit too much latitude lately.
Let me rewind a bit, Katie is the middle child--textbook middle child. She claims the world has wronged her and her vengance is to disrupt and agitate the lives of everyone else. No one understands her except her daddy, sometimes, when she bats her long lashes and lays on the charm. She has no emotions and every emotion. You get the picture, right. You surely know a Katie.
"You don't understand me! You never listen to me! I wish I could talk to Nina. She understood me," Katie bellowed before slamming my door, then her own (which because I'm in parent mode is technically still my door) and face planted into her bed. Nina is what my children and my nephews and niece called my mother who passed away on June 7th. Nina could relate to Katie even if she really couldn't relate to Katie. She had a way of helping Katie see her own absurdity and revealing too much of my own teenage rebellion to make Katie feel like whatever she'd done she still had not totally fallen too far off the side of the cliff (even if in my estimation she'd done a swan dive).
Until the Katie tornado blew through with that statement, I thought I'd experienced every aspect of loss related to my mother. I missed talking to her, laughing with her, getting advice from her, sharing with her, but Katie's hell storm of fury revealed another thing I will miss about my mother--her ability to calm the storm and be a confidant and influencer of my children.
Marcus, the other teenager in the house, came in my bedroom 10 minutes after the tantrum choking out these words through his tears, "I really miss Nina,too." Katie had struck a nerve with him as well. Who could he turn to when he wanted to talk? Who would tell him he was right and wrong in the same breath?
I thought I was at a point in the grieving process where I knew what to expect and knew all I'd lost. I am not. As Katie hurled herself onto her bed, I hurled myself onto mine and threw my own tantrum. And mine was justified.
t h u m p,
t h u m p.
The heart slows
And without skipping a beat
A backstory is invented
Ice cold and hard
The blood thirsty
Roar to attack
And then silence
The low groans of pain
from hearts still beating
With similar backstories
Constructed but not real
To fit a mold
But really untold
With no sheet or blanket or love
The underserved and never protected
combine to create
A bleeding red
Lately, people have been telling me constantly to "Be Strong." It has been so constant, in fact, I started to resent the statement. Truthfully, I'd been repeating it to myself for the past few months, so as others joined the fray it just got to be too much. I thought "Be Strong" is B.S.
What is strength?
What does it mean to "be strong"?
I really don't know. What I do know is that strength is relative. I am strong enough physically to fight with the best of them--believe that! I am strong enough to carry my mother when she is weak--know that! Physically, there is no doubt but that I am strong. I can feel my physical strength and measure it.
Emotional strength, well, that is a different story altogether. I can't feel this strength and, as a result, I am struggling to define and categorize it, and to really know what people are asking of me.
I keep questioning myself trying to grasp the concept:
Is just putting one foot in front of the other strength?
Is it moving when your body is so tired and you seem to be functioning on autopilot?
Is strength pretending to understand the incomprehensible?
Is it smiling when all you want to do is go curl up in ball and retreat, scream, cry and curse?
Is sitting watching being strong? Is trying to maintain a routine being strong?
Is it silence?
Somedays these simple things take all the strength I have.
I'm just not sure any of these things are being strong. I am not sure I am adhering to the advisement of my friends, family or myself because strength is so abstract for me in this life's moment.
So for right now, be strong is B.S. because I can't even conceive it!
Documenting my evolution by filling in space and matter one word at a time.