Happy Thursday good people, or as I like to call it “Friday Jr” especially because this post is hitting your mailbox so late. Thursday is done!
Soooooooo, yesterday I watched my 3 year old daughter graduate from daycare to Pre-K and while I was elated to see her reach this milestone, I was in a state of flummox. I was overjoyed for my baby and her accomplishment but I kept on wondering what world are we preparing our children for and what are we preparing them to do?
The graduation ceremony and the messages imparted resonated with me. Of the five musical presentations, two were focused on really really black topics, which brought immense pride to my heart. Btw, five too damn many musical presentations for any daycare graduation.
One of the musical presentations was a song, “We love you Dr. King,” an ode to Dr. King and his legacy. The other song was about Black diasporic people from Africa, to the Caribbean and back to the Africans in America.
Though my baby is a rockstar and natural born vocalist at heart and I was moved by the messages in the songs, it was not because of anything stylistically. What really moved me was that three black women from the Caribbean (all of varying ages and years lived in the country) knew it was necessary to teach these 3 year olds lessons that centered their diasporic pride in such a meaningful way. They didn’t teach the old tired, King was peaceful man,who just wanted all the little black and white children to play together. As my colleague says “black kids ain’t have a problem playing with white kids, it was the other way around”. No, they spoke of King’s resilience and his fight for civil and human rights.
They was dropping some major keys y’all.
Sb: I know y’all thinking my overactive and unapologetically black mind projected this onto these little kids, but I promise you they was really holding it down.
Which leads me back to the fact that June is graduation month and the question heavy on my mind is what types of graduates are we turning out and sending forth into the world? Are we imparting the knowledge and skill sets that will embolden our children to go forth and fight for human rights and against injustice? Or are we simply preparing a generation of corporate drones prepared solely to be consumers in the global market, and producing little substance? Are we creating change agents or the next generation of fame and money seekers?
The cultural awareness of these small black babies brought me to the words from the book The Spirit of Intimacy:
and to these bars by Nas:
If the truth is told, the youth can grow
They learn to survive until they gain control
Nobody says you have to be gangstas, hoes
Read more, learn more, change the globe
Ghetto children, do your thing
Hold your head up, little man, you’re a king
Young Princess when you get your wedding ring
Your man is saying “She’s my Queen”
In The Spirit of Intimacy, the author challenges us to create deep community ties, wherein every person knows they belong and in which every person is affirmed that what they bring to the community is needed.
In the track “I Can,” Nas tells us that when we teach our black children who they are, where they come from, their history and rich cultural background, we will have a nation of children equipped with the skill sets to advocate, not only for themselves, but for the rights of everyone.
And just because I can, I’m going to throw in a third person. Clint Smith a young black, poet, writer, educator, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University centers his work in racism, inequality, and the criminal justice system. His thought provoking poetry offers us insight into the plights of Black men in America and he has garnered awards and acclaim for such poems as History Reconsidered where we are prompted to reconsider what we know vs. what we’ve been told to believe.
Smith’s sentiments align with the ideals put on display at the Decolonizing Ed (it’s an old link but look out for it in 2018) conference that took place earlier this Spring. Hosted in collaboration with the Expanded Success Initiative and the NYU Metro Center’s Center for Strategic Solutions, it was “…designed for teachers, by teachers. Speakers and presenters, all practitioners, will offer their approaches in operationalizing the tenets of critical pedagogy, fostering instructional and curricular designs that center the brilliance of racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse students.”
The conference highlighted the work that educators like you put into creating curriculum and learning experiences that challenge white supremacist beliefs, and promote best practices, and transformational policies that will allow for the proper education of Black youth; centering our culture, history, and lived experiences.
In “everydayraceblog,“ published by the NYU Metro CSS, they explain why we must de-center whiteness and expose racism and the racist structures created to destroy our children:
It will require White educators to interrogate how cultural forces infiltrate classrooms and explore steps they can take to challenge and transform the stubborn, central narrative that culturally and linguistically diverse students are regularly exposed to, and psychologically harmed by. It will require they actively seek out and employ pedagogy in their classrooms that counters biased and deficitizing narratives and replaces them with literacies that promote social justice and equity.
So how do we prepare kids to think critically and examine all of the miseducation that has been forced upon them?
We start by the De-colonization of our own minds, which we here at CREAD have begun to dig into with these posts: Decolonized ed, and Decolonizing minds. Secondly we must commit to de-centering Whiteness and the oppression that White privilege causes in all levels of society. In order to do that we have to learn about the history of Black people so that we teach our students from a framework that is African centered.
In order to positively affirm blackness and what it means to be Black in America, we must work constantly and diligently to shift the narratives that keep Whiteness central. As educators, we must first tackle our own biases, stereotypes, and miseducation so that we can impart knowledge in a way that doesn’t perpetuate and uphold the corrupt systems and institutions that surround us.
After #election16, we laid out our framework for healing and revolution: The CREAD “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 second tenet of that framework is for us to educate ourselves and to do so, we must read. So here are my book recommendations for your summer reading. These are the books I am either currently reading or plan on reading before September 2017.
If we are to teach our students to be conscious of the world in which they live, be critical thinkers, and to question authority so that they have a better understanding of the work that it takes to correct injustice, end racial oppression, and dismantle the criminalization of black bodies, WE MUST BE COURAGEOUS AND STEADFAST in our own pursuit of learning so that we can genuinely CAPTURE THE HEARTS AND MINDS of our youth.
Like Jesse Williams said at the BET awards in 2015:
“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
BLACK PEOPLE ARE MAGIC!
So, now that I have thoroughly inspired you, I want to leave you with one request: I know you’re tired and you’re ready for this school year to be over. I want you to enjoy your summer; rest and relax and craft your own summer reading list. Re-read classics like The Miseducation of the Negro, or read something more contemporary like Clint Smith’s Counting Descent. I ask that you commit to reading books on Blackness (written from an Anti Racist perspective) that you will use to inform your practice next year.