A lot of educators in the room. Both the first and second gathering was filled mostly by educators. I’m curious to know what draws us to these events. I’ve also been unsuccessful drawing and maintaining the attention of non education centered folks. What work can I do to better engage this audience?
I’ve realized that this is difficult to do. I was explaining to a friend that I’m entering a new phase in my skillset, in my work. I’m leaving a phase of education and learning via graduate school and learning a new industry and field of education. I’m not in a creation phase. Trying to create an educational vestige in my own image. Its hard. Its overwhelming. It’s humbling. It makes taking constructive criticism so much more difficult to hear and implement. I’m in a space where I’m re-nervous. Re-insecure of my moves and actions.
People wonder why I’m doing this. What’s the mission? What’s the point? I haven’t developed a clear concise answer for them yet. But I know that the space is necessary and so I’m still trying to carve it out and save it while we figure out what language to prop it up and ground it in.
There have been a variety of men who have attended for a variety of purposes. Coming from many different stages of life and hoping to reap various benefits from such a gathering. My mind is focusing on usefulness. Making the space useful and beneficial for the participants. I think we’re getting there. Again I probably need to expose myself to language from other organizers as they worked to define the specs of their work.
Some more positive reflections is that we stuck to our 2-hour agenda window. That felt good considering some of the feedback of our last one was the difficult position we put attendees in when we went over time. Ending on time actually allowed for natural networking to take place at the end between the men in attendance.
Teacher moves are still on point and applicable. I had forgotten a chord to hook my mac up to the University smart board. Luckily there was a computer already in the room, but I didn’t know the password. With about 20 minutes to go I started frantically making flipchart of all the slides. I was just about done with the flipchart and rearranging a few pieces on the agenda when with 2 minutes to spare we got the password for the classroom computer. I made all of the materials available on Google Drive so it was just a matter of signing in an cueing the materials up from there. I felt good knowing that in the time of a crisis I didn’t panic, came up with an alternative plan and rocked with it whole heartedly in the spur of the moment. That’s absolutely what’s needed.
I must say that I was a bit shocked that it was time to have the second gathering. I was overwhelmed with work. Trying to have a somewhat full personal life. Still readjusting from traveling overseas, and… just drained. I had very little time to properly publicize the event. Luckily, I opened a MeetUp group with supported the engagement of interested community members.
I’m excited to work on the publicity in the future as I know it’s not my strongest area. Which is a perfect segue into two of the most pressing pieces of the work to date. Finding a Name for the group, Determining a mission, and Figuring out the proper Branding. This part is the biggest headache. Probably because I have my undergraduate Public Relations training pushing against my Education training. I absolutely know the importance of a strong image and marketing portfolio. However, I feel like that can easily be developed once I have a strong foundation and understanding of my curriculum and community services. It’s the battle of which one do I focus on first.
Empathy:the confrontation that takes place when we realize we have all been reared in a universe where racism is real, depends on unconscious biases, and can only be arbitrated when beseiged by direct and transparent restoration methods.
As I’ve reflected on this traumutizingly edifying portfolio process, I thought, for a second, that perhaps my observations were a fabricated manifestation, built from the mental anguish experienced through teaching and learning for two years with only an iota of a break. Luckily, I’ve been filling the long pauses between writing with episodes of the 2013 documentary series – The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The documentary takes us through 500 years of African and African American cultural contributions and developments that impact and dissolve into the very soul that nourishes (present tense) our country. Sectors of the soul-baring culture have without a doubt spawned programs, such as this one, in which we seek to be privileged with the distinction as being teachers, masters, doctors, and professors of urban education practice. Validity in us as a distinguished practicing class has yet to be established in lieu of the great academic and critical thinking gains absent in the audiences we wish to teach.
I’m supposed to begin this piece, by defining Empathy as I’ve come to understand it, followed with multiple examples of how I’ve demonstrated this skill with my students. The latter is fairly simple, and a natural sentiment that I extend to all people. In many ways, my own personhood is founded on extending conscious courtesy as often as possible. Call it my midwestern upbringing; call it my compassion for my fellow human beings; I’m almost tempted to call it my minority privilege, in that I’m biologically gifted with the foresight that connects me with and causes me to pause in authentic reception and service to my fellow marginalized man. This process has been incredibly rich for me. I now, thanks to LIU, know so much more about the way things work here on Earth. However, another equally invested part of me is disappointed in myself because I feel I’m anguishing over this far more than my peers. I love them and have been built by them as well, but I assume they’re knocking this project out, while I’m sitting here fumbling through my bookshelf finding resources to highlight my authentic journey through this process. But, at the end of the day, none of that even matters – we’re all leaving here with the same shit attached to our names…
The passing of Elder Maya Angelou was heartbreaking for me. She spoke with so much poise and wisdom. Luckily, her fossilized words will continue to highlight for people the true strength we wield as a humanity. One of the more popular quotes people shared from Elder Angelou after her transition was “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.”
When I think about my own Empathy practice, I envision it embodies Angelou’s words. My students, like my young brothers and sisters in this world, are my responsibility to protect in the broad sense of the word. Fundamentally and minimalistically, I require my students to enter my classroom space in a place where they contribute to the safety and patrol of our close knit community. In other words, Paladin’s classrooms at the bare minimum require students to 1) respect their fellow brothers and sisters in the class, and 2) restrain from creating environments that threaten or tarnish the safety of that space. I believe it is a privilege for students to have me as their classroom leader in this regard, and don’t hesitate to communicate that to them. The rest, such as effective instructional and behavior management techniques are mine to push.
However, boxing out peer-to-peer/adult-to-peer negativity to help my students feel comfortable is only a small part of my empathetic role as an instructional leader. My main role, is to make my students feel/see their intelligence. I’m effective [edit: I’m developing] at this, but am eager to still drastically grow in this regard. I try to push my students to truly learn themselves. I do this by pushing them, as family does, to not settle for what they know or have been told; to reach. To reach deeper behind the veil to find even more of themselves than they knew existed. My ultimate role as a classroom leader is to plant the seeds of trust, security, belief, and esteem deep within my babies. It’s not that important to me that the seeds germinate in my presence. I’m more interested in my students realizing later, when confronted with adulthood, that they know who they are, and are able to stand firm in that foundation rooted in the seeds of empowerment and freedom planted so long ago.
My mentees, as I see them, will be amazing leaders in the future. I see it in their eyes every time I challenge them to push their leadership to the front. These kings and queens are nowhere close to being perfect, but hopefully in me they see a model of love, nurturing, and support that worked to push them toward their successes so long ago in life.
Initially, this post was far more angry. It still may take a sharp left down Embittered Ave. But, I know the most immediate thoughts would be, what is this Black boy talking about? He must have graduated from troubled and finally reached his full Black-brute state. Thanks to some self reflection, I’ve come to better understand that I do in fact have the right to be upset and downright irate and here’s why:
I’m angry because I’ve realized that all of us, like fools, have continued to participate in systems that ensure our oppression. And when I say our oppression, I mean the oppression of everyone who believes they act out of free will in this country. Most importantly, we people of color, minorities, and people labeled as having an ability difference – we are marginalized sectors of the population. Additionally, and maybe more invisibly, each member of institutional employment participates as well. [Teachers, Police officers, etc…]
Allow me for a second, to give an unauthorized history lesson. I don’t quite remember where our education began as teaching fellows, somewhere along the lines of the 1800’s up through the creation and implementation of IDEA and other forms of the law. This was all somewhat helpful in becoming a empathetic Special Education practitioner. However, let’s also think of perspective and the history of humanity in general. Education practice and law has been around for centuries, long before America had even been thought of as a new world. Did not the Native Americans teach the first settlers how to tow the land to reap the best harvest from the soil they knew so intimately? Reaching back even further, must not someone have taught the Egyptians and their servants/slaves how to build pyramids aligned to track the cosmos? Education as a practice has been here since day one. How did the gift of fire or the dissemination of the plans for the wheel get to us now, if others had not sought to show their peers what they were doing? How much care, appreciation, and authenticity are we showing for this education process if we haphazardly choose to only recount the last few seconds of what has been a truly epic tale?
Take a second and contemplate this question – As an industry entrusted to educate the urban masses, where are we headed? What is our/your end goal? Most probably don’t have a clear answer to these very basic questions. Do you? Who is setting our educational agendas from pre-school to the Ph.D? And what are their motives in the standards they choose to push? Do we know? Do we care? Perhaps that is all part of the design.
“The leadership of the Negro of to-day must be able to locate the race, and not only for to-day but for all times. It is in the desire to locate the Negro in a position of prosperity and happiness in the future that the Universal Negro Improvement Association is making this great fight for the race’s emancipation everywhere and the founding of a great African government…” (Garvey, 1967, p. 49)
The above map (Abagond, 2014), highlights an estimation of the major civilizations as of 2014. I would draw attention the sections highlighting the African, Latin American, and Western civilizations as those three regions represent the bulk of the stakeholders in my school setting. Garvey states it clear and he states it well. Let us take stock of what is going on, not just with the negro people, but with humanity in general. Once we know where we are, we can plot an effective plan for our futures. One detrimental fact of our scholarship at LIU is that it never, successfully, approaches the true role of state-funded education (preschool through the PhD.) or our roles as facilitators to these various levels of education and training. Our industry, public education, and ourselves as educators play the most critical role in creating a future society in our own image. We, almost solely are responsible for showing our youth pieces of a culture deemed acceptable to perpetuate and habits that are not. This social programming, aka education, is helpful because it develops us from reactionary persons to a more proactive, thoughtful people. We think about what we do before we do it. We plan. We wish for certain outcomes and work to make them happen.
Something I’ve stumbled upon through my scatter plot research this year was the recognition that the era of civilization(s) didn’t stop with the fall of the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian empires. One would imagine that this would be open and useable knowledge to draw upon as we develop the people of our future. Yet somehow, even in what we care to call this advanced state of civilization, we still struggle to identify and codify what it means to be a living, breathing, modern day humanity. Struggling to come to grips with that explains, partially, why we as Americans don’t often talk about the leading civilizations of our time, and how precariously and maniacally we retain our seat at the top, for the moment.
Perhaps it’s because the powers that be are scared that if people understood the world from its global perspective, they would wake up and begin making the small independent changes that would lead to revolution and dare I say it – spontaneity.
What is empathy?
The surface answer would be attempting to understand the emotions, feelings, and situations of someone that is experiencing a dimension of life that I, myself, am not experiencing. Empathy is not simplistic in its practice. Considering the cultural fabric we’re all crafted from, I claim that most people, in fact, do not empathize with their students. Especially if those students are of color and lack the radiant entitlements ascertained by those in privileged groups in the American/Western caste system.
“Anthropology is the study of the colored peoples of the world. They don’t study anybody else. Social Studies itself was founded and funded by the Mellons and the Carnegies, and those people who were interested in the deviates who were not like them. It got its first money from those people and they never studied themselves. Urban studies is the study of black people. And the approach vigorously held to in these studies – Blacks as wards of the state, never as its pioneers. It does take two to hold a chain – the chained and the chainer. And its takes two to make anthropology, the student and the studied. And although no group in the world has had more money spent on it, to have it genetics examined, its fecundity stopped, its intelligence measured. Cross acculturation is consistently neglected. And I would like to know who are these people who know our sperm count, but they don’t know our names? That being the case. It is time, it is way past time for the study to examine the student, and to evaluate its own self. And the fruits should be immense value to us, to all of us.” (Morrison, 1975)
Thusly, sympathy as opposed to empathy, is often employed when dealing with individuals that society has deemed as worthless and forgettable. I regretfully claim that my peers sympathize with my students. My professors, sympathize with our students. Our teacher education programs, sympathize with our students. I, however, live, breathe, and bleed empathy for my students. Sympathy views people as weak, dependent on support, and as victims. Sympathy takes the power away from the individual affected, and puts it in the hands of the privileged assessor. Empathy, recognizes value in all experiences, places equal value in all points of view, and actively makes space so those experiences can sit side-by-side in an effort to build a new product from their interaction. Empathy seeks justice. Empathy is sleepless when it senses perpetrators on the loose raping the world of its most glorious future.
>>>>One can not be empathetic to an urban school population if one is not willing to proactively verse themselves in that culture by seeking authentic learning opportunities and progressive solutions to alleviate the symptoms of a plagued urban education industry.<<<< [re-read] My peers, my elders, my neighbors, for the most part know naught of African/African-American culture and history. Why does this matter? To feign care for me, yet ignore and actively disconnect me from my parents and my lineage is malpractice. Marginalized communities have long fought to be recognized as valuable contributions to society. Unfortunately, our (their) self-hood is continuously cast aside as nonessential specks to the racist White-savior slant time and time again. As Elder Angelou teaches, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” (Angelou, “OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them”, 2014)>>>> I therefore have been forced to deduce that you, my esteemed professor(s), have no interest in supporting the development of individuals that represent the Afrikan, Latin, and Disabled-American diaspora.<<<< [re-read]For if you did, surely you would work more diligently to shine light on the African, African American, Latino American, and Disabled American contributions and points of view in educational and sociological research.
To begin with, our prospective teachers are exposed to descriptions of failure rather than models of success. We expose student teachers to an education that relies upon name calling and labeling (“disadvantaged,” “at-risk,” “learning disabled,” “the underclass,” [“urban,”]) to explain its failures, and calls upon research study after research study to inform teachers that school achievement is intimately and inevitably linked with socioeconomic status. Teacher candidates are told that “culturally different” children are mismatched to the school setting and therefore cannot be expected to achieve as well as white, middle-class children. They are told that children of poverty are developmentally slower than other children… In other words, we teach rationales for failure, not visions of success. (Delpit, 2006, p. 178)
One of the first things I remember hearing as I entered the fellowship program was “Teaching is a very difficult job, and you shouldn’t expect to change the world.” To be fair, said person was just trying to frame our feeble idealism within the boxed-in a context commonly referred to as “realism”.
The strong idealistic force within allowed me to shake the bulk of this declaration off, as evidenced in my work ethic. >>>>However, as we can deduce, teachers of urban/disabled students, from day one, are never expected, or rather pushed, to make lasting/large scale impact on their communities!<<<< [re-read] How then, is one (teachers/teacher education program leadership) empathetic to the urban community if they implicitly condone the continued failure of the community in their watch?
The Danger of Realism and How it Codes Marginalized Despair –
The long reaching power of a community built on the pillars of empathy and support can be seen in my own peer group. As a Chicago native, born and raised, I had the pleasure to attend Crete-Monee High School with 2015 Chicago Mayoral hopeful Dr. Amara Enyia. Having graduated high school in 2003, it’s sobering to see Dr. Enyia now, roll out her powerful and confident Mayoral campaign. Especially considering she graduated high school a mere two years ahead of me in 2001. The cavalier holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy, and a Law degree from the esteemed University of Illinois. On the campaign trail, Enyia was asked how she could realistically win against a politically popular nuisance such as the current Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Dr. Enyia’s answer sheds light on her spirit and her own Opportunity Paradox I spoke to in my Knowledge Domain:
“[Lyderson] – Realistically, do you think you have any chance to win the mayoral race?
[Dr. Enyia] – No one in history who has changed things did it by being realistic. My dad always said revolutions never come from people in the status quo; they come from those on the outside. You can’t be “realistic” when it comes to these things that are truly transforming. There’s a certain “delusional” quality that you have to have, because you see something that other people don’t see. For me, being realistic is being mediocre. It’s telling the guy on the street in Lawndale that this is it—this is as good as it’s going to get. I’ve seen otherwise. By running for office I want to reveal to him what I see, with the hope that he sees it too.” (Lyderson, 2014)
Speaking of Chicago, the violence there holds an immaculately grim mirror to our faces as we work to decode for ourselves how to create and innovate (see maintain status quo) every aspect of the institution of education from the teacher education programs to the scholarly work used to inform our practice. Thinking of the atrocities taking place everyday in my homeland, no one in their right mind can justify how or why a city of officials charged with protecting their public has continuously allowed vagrant violence to overtake the terrain. However, the media and propaganda machines work not-stop to ensure that the blame for the chaotic city is placed on one public, and one public alone.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve learned to redefine what constitutes an American tragedy. American tragedies occur where middle America frequents every day: airplanes, business offices, marathons. Where there persists a tangible fear that this could happen to any of us. And rightfully so. Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don’t occur. American tragedies don’t occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don’t occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old’s birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own. (Dennis, 2013)
Are we to believe that the violence occurring in Chicago is innate to individuals in which it is consistently occurring? In being realistic, do we shrug our shoulders and hope they see the light on their own? Are we to believe that the current abysmal education curriculum, statistics, and theories utilized by education “professionals,” from Pre-K to Ivory Tower, are all we have to offer?
Would we, the educators entrusted to bring equality to this land, stoop to codifying urban and disabled student failure as merely the way life works? Somehow, we see that the urban classroom, its teachers, and their urban teacher education programs have distanced themselves from ensuring the proper and effectual fertilization for all of our young marginalized citizens. To be an urban educator, and to only care about your students from 8am-3pm is the microaggressive posture that prepares our students to be overlooked, and further castigated, in this American culture. To keep status quo infuriates the empathetic citizen.
As a tactful and fully capable core, we must show true empathy for our students young and old. To do this, we must start by revamping how we educate the future teaching force about the long and compelling history of the marginalized people that represent our student communities. A truly empathetic and knowledged professional would find a way to make innovation happen as they seek to continue to create the history that makes our country and our lived experiences so rich.
It’s time for America, the country where every dream is possible, and where everyone is born into this world an equal, to show us who they are, and this time we can feel at peace in believing in them.
I get scared, overwhelmed, shaken, and defeated when I think about how far we have to go. There’s just so much that hasn’t been accounted for. It’s devastating to understand the complexity of life, but I just can’t pull myself away from what I know I can do to make a change. My most esteemed elder, Malcolm X, eloquently describes how I felt/feel upon discovering the educational injustice smothering my people out of future existence.
“…if there is a rattle snake in the field who has been biting your brothers and your sisters, and you go and tell them that that’s a rattle snake and all of the harm that has ever come to them has come to them from that particular source. Well then that rattler will think that the warner is teaching hate. He’ll go back and tell the other snakes this man is teaching hate, this man is teaching hate. But its not hate, it’s just that when you study people who have been harmed and discover the source of their injury, the source of all of their defects, and you begin to point out that source. its not that you hate the source, but your love for your people is so intense, so great, that you must let them know what is wrong with them. What is the cause of their ills. This is one of the basic factors. I believe involved when people think or when the propaganda is put out that Mr. Mohammed teaches hate. He teaches black people to love each other, and our love for each other is so strong we don’t have any room left in our heart.” (The Hate That Hate Produced, 1959)
Angelou, M. (Performer). (1997). OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them USA: Harpo Studios.
Morrison, T., St. John, P., Callahan, J., Callahan, J., Baker, L. (1975, May 30). A Humanistic View. Black Studies Center public dialogue. Pt. 2. Lecture conducted from Portland State University, Portland, OR. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/portlandstatelibrary/ portlandstateblackstudies1
The Hate That Hate Produced. Perf. Malcolm X, Mike Wallace, Louis Farrakhan, Louis Lomaxis L omas and Elijah Muhammad. PBS, 1959. Television Documentary.
Capstone: Knowledge 2 – Demonstrating the capacity to improve urban communities
Program Outcome: Students use knowledge of self, theory, practice, and/or child development within sociocultural/linguistic contexts to create appropriate learning environments and to teach in urban settings.
Translation – My practice demonstrates a combination of my personal values, educational theory, and child development practices infusing African, African American, and Spanish American scholarly contributions for the development of urban communities.
Part of me feels the purpose of the claims is to give the students’ power to create their own strand of knowledge development, in addendum to the broad foundation provided by the university approved curriculum. On its surface, I feel the LIU program immersed me in a training program tasked with teaching me culturally dominant basics of education history, practice and development. This track of coursework was successful in teaching me the official language solidifying its institutionhood. Through my interpretation of the claim, I believe that I’ve been able to extend the depths of my training to include a palette of information contributed by people that I felt more closely represented my student body, and my own personal interests. As I journeyed through the program, I wanted to make sure that I developed a toolkit, and a reflective center that leaned toward the inclusion and exploration of more scholars of color.
“In like manner, the teaching of history in Negro area has had its political significance. Starting out after the Civil War, the opponents of freedom and social justice decided to work out a program which would enslave the Negroes’ mind inasmuch as the freedom of body had to be conceded. It was well understood that if by the teaching history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure and that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary the freedman, then, would still be a slave. If you can control man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” (Woodson, 2012, pp. 84-85)
As Elder Woodson points out, its difficult if not impossible to build a strong person if he has no history of himself and his people to root himself in. I’ve been very fortunate to understand this and use it as a call of action to seek out the information myself. I’ve been on my own journey in search of knowledge for approximately four years now. Finding pieces that speak to my point of view and those of my target audiences has been difficult. Unfortunately history that presents African Americans, their educational attainment, and the issues that prevent them from doing so are usually never written from a positive uphill stance. It would have been very difficult to find solutions in the negation and labelization so often coded throughout popular marginalized studies curriculum. Thankfully, I feel the coursework gave me the opportunity to go out and seek resources that did closely represent the thoughts and ideas of the marginalized scholars themselves.
It was really powerful realizing that I was looking up scholarly journal articles, dissecting those, and using their contents to help inform my own thoughts and practice. That’s something I’ve heard about off in the ether, but never thought I myself would have the opportunity to do it. Part of me is the most sad that now I wont be able to use my library code to have access to the Journal of Negro Education – a scholarly journal disseminated by Howard University. I feel this was a great direction to anchor my learning and reflections. It allows me to take full ownership of remediating my strengths and weaknesses through resources that I can find myself. I now know solid routes to locate resources to help develop and refine my own brand of theory and classroom practice.
This was a last minute substitution into my portfolio. Part of my mission was to show a range in my practice as an education professional. I’m over that now, LoL. I’m just being honest, I have 3 more claims left then I’m done. So… bare with me the end is near. This portfolio has been the unexpected realization that I represent a body of work. One that I am proud of. One that shows a solidity of ideas and practices meant to build communities of able-bodied citizens. Now, hours away from its completion – I can look back from the angry and disappointed person that began this process. There is a battle of confidence that comes with being a young Black man in this country that knows his work. We saw it when Richard Sherman blew up the internet and our TV screens before winning the 2014 Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks.
Sometimes people can perceive your confidence in yourself as a threat or unbecoming in the moment. I’m always one to argue that there is ample space for all opinions. So, let’s set that on the table. However, this program has shown me that you withdraw exponentially more than you contribute in these type of investments. If you put in the time to find the answers, knowledge, and perspective, they will come to you. There IS a power in that. In knowing that you can reap what you sew, in a good way. I think what made me me this summer was realizing what I do now that I see power in. So many other people focus on where they don’t have power, influence, control. Its an inefficient focus of energy in my opinion.
I’ve worked immensely to make the most of this opportunity! To experiment, to ponder, to reach, and to learn. My works cited is the culmination of what that can look like on the ground. I do have a bachelors degree, but I’ve never had to do a focused research project before. Now I can say, I’ve done many. I have created an automatic filter, sensor even, that directs me in the position of knowledge I need to consume as opposed to other less advantageous avenues.
The diversity represented in my Works Cited includes books that I’ve read in the past 3 years and articles provided in class. The remaining mediums: youtube videos, panel discussions, commencement speeches, etc… are elements that i found in my more personal/private browsing and research sessions.
My point is that knowledge is observable everywhere in every medium, and in every situation. By working to open up and be receptive of that concept I do believe my practice has demonstratively grown and blossomed to encompass a variety of competencies. The information I’m exposed to allows me to ask more thorough questions of society and most importantly myself in reaction to it. I absolutely recommend reviewing my works cited page to see if there are any authors or mediums of interest.
“Maybe I have a leg up. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I didn’t grow very different than most of my students. Maybe it has everything to do with the fact that I was once labeled special ed, and I know the horrors and pains as well as what worked for me as a special ed student. Maybe it is the fact that I don’t look much different than most of my students. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and been at the bottom of the barrel, and I teach not because I want to, but because I have to. I’m here because a community- my community is dying and suffering, left behind and lost. I teach because so many young people, especially young African American boys do not have any positive male role models. And I’m teaching because I know that until we all make it, none of us have. All but one of our guests were women, and mostly Caucasian. I have no doubt that anybody can make a difference while teaching students who come from mainly African American and Latino communities. However, I do believe that being an African American and a male will help to reduce some of the cultural friction, as well as increase some of the trust that my students will have of me. I am in this for the long haul- student by student, community by community.” (“I’m a Cohort 14 NYC Teaching Fellow”, 2014)
I agree with Cohort 14 Teaching Fellow, the palette of sources we use to inform our practice make and break our experiences in the classroom. Being purposeful in consuming sources the reflect the vision I want to create for the world has been pivotal in creating a pedagogy that I feel proud and supported by.
Again, another piece that I’m really proud of. This intellectual context allowed me to play around and stretch my skillsets as a researcher, a scholar, a critic, and as a creator of curriculum. This project gave me the opportunity to find four research articles all culturally relevant to my student population. Three of the sources were based on students home culture, and the last was based on my student’s generational/technological culture. Its important to note that research foci automatically frame/bias your practice and its implementation. For instance, I explicitly wanted to find research that I felt directly represented my student’s in constructive ways. There are certain types of research that I think can constrict of view of the possibility of being a magician in the classroom. I’m a firm believer that we can use the knowledge(s) we have about our students to help create new worlds for them in the classroom. Paladin, DOE Illusionist is my new title. Oddly enough, one of the through lines I’ve strung through this portfolio is the importance of having texts that represent me, and people that represent the fullness of my culture. Part of my research for the Intellectual Context, a small part of the larger Teacher Inquiry project, argues just how important it is for marginalized citizens to see visions of themselves represented in their curriculum.
For African American students, the presence of African American literature by women and men is a special necessity. African American [AA] students will benefit from exploring the way AA writers wrestled with the problem of authentication, struggled toward freedom through writing, overcame or were overcome by economic demands, and worked toward writing themselves into the center of American culture. For many AA students writing themselves into the history of AA literature is no easy task, for that history has been kept from them… (Thomas Fox Repositioning Writing to African American Students 298) (Fox, 1992)
I also recognize that my students aren’t just Black and Brown kids trying to make it in the work. They need skills too. Writing seems to have been the easiest focus to create more challenging learning opportunities around. I’ve worked to try to allow my students to express themselves in a variety of ways. I want them to get used to the repetition and consciousness it requires. I also want them to be able to define a space for their own voice as they begin to mature into adults.
More than ever, writing teachers need to abandon a simplistic skills approach to writing, which for African American students has meant an unnecessary concentration on the verb forms of standard English. Instead, we need to elaborate a model of classroom behavior informed by the central questions of race and gender relations suggested in this essay. The purpose of this classroom is to build articulate and powerful writers in the university, writers who can participate in and shape an academic culture that desperately needs their presence. The ongoing annoying questions of whether or not to teach “standard English” withers in its significance. (300 – 301) (Fox, 1992)
Overall, I’m happy, again, to see another skillset be etched into my armament. I can’t quite conceive what scholarly research will look like outside of this program. But I’m eager to see how I can continue to actively implement new and additional teaching strategies and theory into my practice.
“The Black artist must do, what all the other artists do, talk to each other. I love Latin-American literature, and Russian literature. It would never occur to me that Dostoyevsky was supposed to explain himself to me. He’s talking to other Russians, about very specific things. But it says something very important to me. And was an enormous education for me.
When Black writers write, they should write for me. There is very little literature that’s really like that. Black literature. I don’t mean that it wasn’t necessary to have the other kind. Richard Wright is not talking to me. Or even you. He’s talking to some White people. He’s explaining something to them. Leroi Jones in The Dutchman is not talking to me. He’s talking to some White people. He’s explaining something to them.
It may have been very necessary. It certainly was well done. But it wasn’t about me. And it wasn’t to me. And I know when they’re talking just past my ear. When their explaining something. Justifying something. Just defining something.
But when that’s not longer necessary, and you write, for all those people in the book, who don’t even pick up the book. Those are the people who make it authentic. Those are the people who justify it. Those are the people you have to please. All those non-readers… They are the ones to whom one speaks…Not to the NY Times, not to the editors, not to any distant media, not to anything. It is a very private thing. They are the ones who say yea, uh-huh, that’s right. And when that happens very strangely, or rather very naturally, what also happens, is that you speak to everybody. And even though it begins as inward and private, and gets its own juices from itself, the end result, is that its communication with the world at large.” (Morrison, 1975, 1:14:00)
Sometimes you have to step back and let the body of work introduce itself, and I think this is one of those times. I want to thank my sister Samantha, and friend Judah for proofing my domain drafts. Thanks to them you all will notice far fewer grammar errors in those sections. In crafting this portfolio, I drafted the Domains first, then moved on to the Claims. As a result, you’ll see that the Domains contain a bit more fire, while the claims hold a bit more love. Hopefully that informs the way you want to read through this body of work.
A few months ago I was in one of my late night Youtube trances, and I stumbled upon Oprah Winfrey speaking at Maya Angelou’s Memorial Service. In it, she shared the final piece of wisdom that Maya had given her just a few days before she passed. While the two talked on the phone, Oprah shared with Ms. Angelou that she was about leave to start filming her new role in the movie Selma. She says that Maya told her to do what she always says when she’s about to begin a new job.
“Baby, I want you to do it, and I want you to take it! Take it all the way!” Raising her fingers to the sky, and basking in the crowd’s gasps, Oprah calmly grabs her glasses and her notepad and begins the journey back to her seat.
I can’t encode what was expressed in that moment. But I will say that this project embodies that message. I took this all the way! If I could, I would encourage my peers, and my students to do the same. Take it all the way!
In closing, I would just suggest that you to let my words spark a conversation between you and someone you trust. Share them on a piece of this portfolio and let my language spark a different conversation between you. It could be the beginning of something amazing.
Tucked away in the SkoolHaze back alleys are about 15 drafted reviews for the books I read this summer. I was on a reading binge from July to September. Initially it started as a #Read40ADay challenge. I was doing pretty well, reading on average about 70 pages a day until maybe… early August. My mind and eyes got tired and…. the world started to slow down. I was still able to get through quite a few books, many of which expanded my thinking and gave my brain great distress. For example, Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand and W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks were extremely tedious and difficult to get through. Not only did I have to translate their formal language into something I could comprehend, but I also had to try to put myself in their time. The Souls of Black Folks was written in the early 1900’s and I felt the need to put myself in Dubois’ world in order to truly understand his story. This is sort of how Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children felt when I tried to read it before having taught a day in school. I picked it back up right after finishing my first year and it felt like Ms. Delpit was speaking to my soul. Other books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow forced me to analyze every word of every sentence that described the evolution of our criminal justice system. It became a sad soap opera that I couldn’t put down, and recommend everyone read.
Thankfully I’ve used a lot of what I consumed in my teaching practice and grad school papers. One day I may actually finalize the reviews and post them for your all. Until then check the list out below.
What are you readin?
Recommended Books – I highly recommend these books. These are all titles that I ended up creating my own table of contents as I knew I would be returning back to the book years later for sources and tips.
The Mis-Education of the Negro– Foundational Text for anyone educating black children or people. If you haven’t read this book and you teach African American students you should really take a second to see what Elder Woodson has to say. Its probably the most profound things I’ve heard about education theory for Black students, and it was written over a century ago.
The New Jim Crow– Great read for anyone who’s work or life is impacted by the criminal justice system. Compelling argument that highlights how the criminal justice system for over 200 years has worked to create poverty and a caste system in minority communities.
Trying to Get There– Great story about fighting for your own success in a market that isn’t used to your culture. I just loved being able to get a piece of Roderick’s story. And have actually taken to wearing bowties at work because of him.
Eleven Rings – The master coach. I admit the sexy cover sold me! Phil replays his youth as a basketball player and how it helped turn him into one of the most successful coaches in history. It was great seeing him make teams from players of individuals. I’m still hopeful I can use some of his tribe influenced techniques in my classes.
Other People’s Children– Amazing read that puts cultural communication differences into perspective. I would say read this if you have at least taught 1 year in a school setting. It made so much more sense once I was able to recall my own work-related situations where communication just simply wasn’t the same between my students and coworkers.
A Handbook for Teachers– Fan of Baruti Kafele’s work. He actually came and spoke at one of the conferences my old job put together. Motivational book that gives the reader so implementable tips for working with Black students.
Good Reads – Outside of The Narrative, these books are all a bit more specialized. I recommend them if you’re looking for specific tips and strategies in the areas listed.
Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males – Great book that highlights some strategies on working with Black male readers. As a Sped teacher its been a bit more difficult to implement these in an ICT setting. But I do feel like this book gave me a better perspective to assess my student’s literacy skills.
The Black Man’s Guide to Graduates School – I read this after I had already finished my 1st year of Grad School. Shout out to co-author Corey Guyton who got his Ph. D. from my alma mater Indiana State University. Great read if you’re thinking about going to grad school but not sure where to start. Book offers multiple perspectives from 6 different guys who all had different journeys to meet their success.
Narrative of Frederick Douglas – I read this in high school, but didn’t quite remember it. Great perspective builder for anyone who needs a refresher of Black/American history – how far we’ve come – and how far we still need to go.
Motivating Black Males to Achieve – Another book from Baruti Kafele. I’m in the middle of reading this now. I love that he approaches this work form a surplus perspective. It shows in his writing and its refreshing reading about Black youth from that perspective.
Unlabel – Motivation Maker. I’ve been reading this book for a while. It talks about Mark Ecko’s rise to fame with Ecko clothing, Complex Magazine and all his other business ventures. I love this book because every time I read it I end up putting it down to go work on SkoolHaze. Definitely worth the money.
Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys – Perhaps one of Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu’s founding works. Dr. Kunjufu is a voice for the Black Male scholar to speak about his own condition in society. The book was written in the 80’s and reflects some of popular black opinion from that time. But overall a great read for anyone wanting a deeper look at issues that may be affecting Black male success.
General Collection – These books didn’t give me groundbreaking new information, but they were interesting reads.
DreamKeepers– So, at one point we were asked to read a book that I didn’t agree with in our grad classes. The title of the book related to scare tactics that I just couldn’t stand behind in class. I went to the professor and she offered to incorporate an additional text for me and others. This is that text. I like DreamKeepers it kind of touches on the teaching and communication differences between White teachers and teachers of color.
Coming of Age: Rites of Passage – I would recommend this for people who have been through a Rites of Passage program themselves. The book gave me a language to use in describing and thinking about the pro’s and con’s of the process. I don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone without an intimate knowledge already though.
To Be Popular or Smart – Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.
Motivating and Preparing Black Youth – Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.
Teaching Matters – Great book written by two education scholars from my alma mater Indiana State University. They talked about how educators owe it to their profession to be and bring passion to their work.
The Warrior Method – This is a book I just started. It gives basic information about raising strong Black boys. The title is what caught me the most. But I haven’t read enough of the book to really speak about it.
The Alchemist – A book I’ve always wanted to read about reaching your personal legend, and creating doors where there were no doors before.
Angry Little Men – Oddly enough I didn’t have a problem with this title even though its similarly framed from a deficit standpoint. I don’t remember much about this book, but in the margins I wrote “This book answers how African American children (boys) can have a high academic self-concept even if they don’t perform well academically.”
Empire State of Mind – Anecdotal review of Jay’Z’s rise to fame and stardom. The authors interviews people close to Jay-Z and uses old newspaper articles to piece the story together. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re looking for more first hand information on Jay-z.
Juggling Elephants – One of the first books I read two or 3 years ago that began my library. It was the beginning of me figuring out how to effectively use my time to get what I want.
Fraternity – I’ve been eyeing this book forever. It’s the story of the group of Black men that were recruited to attend Holy Cross University on scholarship. The class was part of an integration push by the school officials. Some members of the cohort include Clarence Thomas, Theodore Wells a successful defense attorney, and Edward P. Jones a Pulitzer Prize winner. I started reading this book, but haven’t been pulled in by the story yet so I put it down. I plan to return one day.
Prince Among Slaves – Last but not least a book about a former African Prince sold into slavery here in the states. I loved learning about Ibrahima’s story. I haven’t finished the book yet but its historical facts mixed with anecdote.
There’s a lot of shit going on and history being made right now, this second, in the world. 80 years from now people will be reading about these current times in whatever newspapers, books, or blog posts there are in the world or beyond. During these, future times what do you want people to read about humankind, humanity? Some bull-shit about you making Fool’s Gold in a global economy!? Or stories about you inspiring your peers and community by trying to enduce and inflict the positive impact that that time needed!? Time will judge what that calling will be.
At the end of the day, my observation as a teacher is that we need all strong citizens to feel compelled to reach back into their communities to teach and support those that need it, which is really everyone. No matter where you come from, if you’re of able body and mind, you should feel obligated to do what you can to (over)fertilize that ground and village that you sprouted from. It should be inherent in you to leave the ground more plenteous for whoever comes after you.
Support, lead, guide, nurture, develop, fertilize, choose whichever word carries the most meaning to you. I can accept initial ignorance, and in response, I will inform you now! Teaching and learning are the nutrients and the duties we all carry as a burden if weare to complete our most basic of civic duties. If you’re reading this, I will repeat again, (your interpretation of) teaching and learning are the nutrients and investment you must see fit to return once you reach individual success.
Change would be instantaneous in communities around the world if people began to purposely mentor the youth they touch (family, friends’ kids, neighbors, church family, students, friends, co-workers… whatever.) And also chose to view these as learning experiences more so for your for your own sake just as much as your mentee’s. I think this is a vital step toward beginning to build strong communities of worldly citizens, importantly strong Black, Brown, urban, marginalized, (insert label here).
As Dr. Kunjufu says, no one gets to success without stepping on a few backs intentionally or inadvertently along the way. Even people that believe they achieved success through their own grit and control – You owe it to that very alignment of the stars-esque luck to actively help align the heavens for someone else. Once you know these gates exist, they are easily out-maneuvered. However, the cost of this privileged-knowledge burdens its users with a debt of eased-maneuverability and flexibility: often forgotten, and never paid back in full with interest.
My strong Black and Brown citizens, it takes a new level of arrogance and disconnect to believe that you, yourself, have found success without having received uninitiated support and guidance from a community elder during your youth. Remembering the context that this is the same world where the verdict in the George Zimmerman Trial could have been anything but not-guilty. This argument instantly puts my emotions into over-drive – filling my body with the passion that leaks out of my eyes and mouth – words and motions spilling out on the floor faster than I can process or recall for all that matter.
No string of language(s) exists that can begin to describe the institutional webs that block the natural and otherwise promised progression of young people of color, specifically males. And to be clear and fair, there is no amount of studying that will ever make me believe I know all the ways these (plural) institutions affect our daily lives for better and forthe worst.
At the end of the day, really all I wanted to say was this. HEY YOU, do your job homie! If you can read this ask yourself are you purposelyteaching and learning? If you are not, for the sake of your ideals on equality, justice, humanity, love, whatever – Start. If you don’t know how, ask someone to help you start. It’s that simple. You can ask me and I’ll brainstorm with you. Yes, it’s that simple.
Established in 1984, the FEF’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program has increased the number of African Americans who have earned Ph.D.’s in historically underrepresented, crucial disciplines where African Americans have not historically enrolled and completed degree programs. The FEF has awarded more than 750 Fellowships to African Americans and Hispanics pursuing Ph.D.’s, and the Program enjoys an impressive near 80% retention rate. More than 300 Fellows have graduated with Ph.D.’s, in an average completion time of 5.5 years.
Up to 50 Fellowships are awarded annually to study at one of nine participating Florida universities. Each award provides annual tuition up to $5,000 (tuition above this amount is waived by the participating institution) for each of three academic years plus an annual stipend of $12,000. (An additional two years of support at this same level is provided by the participating institution.) The award also includes a comprehensive system of academic support. Each annual renewal is contingent upon satisfactory performance and normal progress toward the Ph.D. degree.
PURPOSE: The McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program is designed to address the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty at colleges and universities in the state of Florida by increasing the pool of citizens qualified with Ph.D. degrees to teach at the college and university levels. As a by-product, it is expected that employment opportunities in industry will also be expanded.
The Open Society Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship, powered by Echoing Green, is an innovative partnership between the Open Society Foundations and Echoing Green, dedicated to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys in the U.S. It is the first fellowship program in the world for social entrepreneurs who are starting up new and innovative organizations in the field of black male achievement.
The 2012 and 2013 BMA Fellows are currently hard at work building innovative solutions to the barriers facing black men and boys in the United States: generating new ideas and best practices in the areas of education, family, and work, such as initiatives related to fatherhood, mentoring, college preparatory programs, community-building, supportive wage work opportunities, communications, and philanthropic leadership.
The 2014 BMA Fellowship will be awarded to individuals or partners representing up to eight organizations who will receive:
A stipend of $70,000
A health insurance stipend
A yearly professional development stipend
Leadership development and networking gatherings
Access to technical support and pro bono partnerships to help grow their organization and a dedicated Echoing Green portfolio manager
A community of like-minded social entrepreneurs and public service leaders, including Open Society Foundations and the Echoing Green network of nearly 600 Fellows at Large working all over the world.
*Info courtesy of the Florida Education Fund
and Open Society Black Male Achievement Fellowship websites*