For some reason, I have a vivid memory of the classroom banner posted at the front of the room when I was a seventh grader. It read: “The more you know, the more you have to learn.” That couldn’t be more true than it is today. As we continue on this 70 day journey with you and prepare for the realities of a Trump administration, knowledge is key to our survival, our strategy and our ultimate path to liberation. So as this new week begins, we want to draw your attention back to our “We gon’ be alright” educator as activist stay woke plan for demolishing white supremacy, patriarchy, and institutional racism in the pursuit for freedom and liberation for Diasporic people.
The next step toward ensuring we are all good is that we, especially the CREAD community, are steeped in the knowledge and understanding of ourselves, our history, our contributions, and our brilliance.
Today we want to offer what you might call a starter kit of books and resources to begin your self-education or re-education. We will not be well-equipped to do this work with our students if we are not committed to doing it for ourselves first.
The classic, Miseducation of the Negro, is a text many of us may have read in college if we took any courses in our respective Africana or Black Studies departments. Whether you have read it before or not, it establishes a strong foundation for understanding the impact of racism and white supremacy on Blacks in America at a fairly early stage of our history; this volume was originally published in 1933. The core of Dr. Woodson’s argument is that the American system of schooling serves only to indoctrinate us and therefore we must become “autodidacts” or self-taught if we are to rise above the inferiority complex imposed upon us.
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” –Dr. Woodson
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr.Joy DeGruy is a foundational text when we desire to understand the generational effects of chattel slavery on the psyche of Black people in America. Not meant to be pathological or an argument for inferiority, instead it is an attempt at a way to approach our liberation and to connect us back to our African cultural beginnings. “P.T.S.S. is a theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African-American communities throughout the United States and the Diaspora. It is a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery. A form of slavery which was predicated on the belief that African- Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites.” Looking at our condition through the lens of vacant esteem, ever present anger and racist socialization, Dr. DeGruy provides us with a way forward that can return our communities to health.
Black Power 50 co-edited by stellar scholars Sylviane Diouf and Komozi Woodard, takes a closer look at the Black Power Movement and its ideology of the 1960s and 1970s. In this fiftieth commemorative year, the anthology serves to illuminate the countless cultural, political, social, and economic programs and initiatives created by the young activists of this most controversial period in our history. “Looking back fifty years later, we are supposed to be celebrating their accomplishments. Instead we’re bracing for the next uprising. What happened in Watts in 1965, another catalyst for the Black Power era, turns out not to be the past but rather the prologue to what happened in Baltimore in 2015”.–Khalil Gibran Muhammad As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Black Power decade , we strongly suggest we look backwards in order to have inspiration as to how we will move forward in such perilous times.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is said to have sold over six million copies between 1965 and 1977. This book continues to see strong sales among general readers and students for whom it is required reading. Banned from both prisons and schools at various times in our history, we ask, why would these two institutions consider this story of transformation and unapologetic love for self and people of the African Diaspora be considered contraband and too “radical” for prisoners and students to read? “And because I had been a hustler, I knew better than all whites knew, and better than nearly all of the black ‘leaders’ knew, that actually the most dangerous black man in America was the ghetto hustler. Why do I say this? The hustler, out there in the ghetto jungles, has less respect for the white power structure than any other Negro in North America. The ghetto hustler is internally restrained by nothing. He has no religion, no concept of morality, no civic responsibility, no fear–nothing. To survive, he is out there constantly preying upon others, probing for any human weakness like a ferret. The ghetto hustler is forever frustrated, restless, and anxious for some ‘action’. Whatever he undertakes, he commits himself to it fully, absolutely. What makes the ghetto hustler yet more dangerous is his ‘glamour’ image to the school-dropout youth in the ghetto.These ghetto teen-agers see the hell caught by their parents struggling to get somewhere, or see that they have given up struggling in the prejudiced, intolerant white man’s world. The ghetto teen-agers make up their own minds they would rather be like the hustlers whom they see dressed ‘sharp’ and flashing money and displaying no respect for anybody or anything. So the ghetto youth become attracted to the hustler worlds of dope, thievery, prostitution, and general crime and immorality.”–The Autobiography of Malcolm X
We recognize that we don’t only find edification in books but also from lectures, films and other intellectual activities. With that in mind, we urge our NYC based CREAD community to avail yourself of the many rich resources and learning opportunities available at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. No matter where you are in North America, there are cultural institutions that you can take advantage of for yourself and your students. BlackPast.org has a comprehensive list you may find useful.
You may have read each of these books already. We ask that you re-read them with this new socio-political context at the center of your psyche and practice. We ask, how do these books influence how we teach, what we teach and why we teach? We encourage you to build community and read these texts with other educators and parents and ideate around next steps or rather new steps moving forward.
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Peace and Love