Tag Archives: Oprah Winfrey

Capstone: Social Commitment

Capstone: Social Commitment

The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side. (Baldwin, 1961, p. 240)

For me, social commitment is self explanatory. As Elder Baldwin highlights, while my knowledge of this great field of teaching and education grows, so does the trauma I face as I begin to unravel the shortcomings we (un)knowingly push forward onto our students, their teachers, and the communities they jointly represent. As I grow in skill and scholarship, I’m ever more encouraged to meet the repulsive side(s) of education head on, as opposed to the relative indifference I am led to believe I must helplessly wade through until met with retirement. This growing dedication and desire to battle and triumph against the challenges of my beloved field represent a commitment to see social development within my lifetime as a result of my specific and consistent efforts to be the change agent I know my communities need.

“It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me… It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.” (Douglass, 2003, p. 46)

Part of the suffrage I endure thanks to my education is that I am never actually able to release myself from the perceived injustice I feel this craft is doing to its teachers and their students. The burdens are quite comprehensive. Yet, I haven’t felt weighed down. Oddly enough, I feel empowered. Throughout my short life I’ve learned to trust myself in being able to create an answer where my peers and colleagues may not see one.

Contextually, as a newly minted urban education master, being committed for me means giving myself the space to be that entrusted revolutionary. It hasn’t been easy articulating that capacity to critically think about my own ideas as opposed to the ideas shared with me by well-meaning pedagogues. I actually still encounter doubt as I often disagree or at minimum have a vastly different opinion on everyday classroom scenarios and education theory. However, I’m getting to a place where I feel comfortable with this distinction. I’m in a place where my values push me to always act out of integrity and purpose, not only in my classroom and in my scholarship, but also in my social and private life. I commend people that are able to flip a switch to shift from one aspect of their identity to another. Personally, I’ve found that I’m most dynamic and effective when I bask in my self-hood as not an, but THE advocate for my students and other less fortunate individuals. This is something I aspire to do all of the time, even when it means slighting myself in the short term.

“My name is Amara Enyia,” she began. “I live in East Garfield Park. I work in Austin. I met Arraon a few years ago. Arraon’s been doing this work in theater for years, I always respected, always enjoyed it, and I am running for mayor of the city of Chicago.” The three dozen teens applauded. “I wanted to say a few words to encourage you,” she continued. “As someone who remembers, not too long ago, when I was your age, I know what it’s like. I know what it is, in the community here, and I want to encourage you, all of you, to do what you’re passionate about, and not to let anyone tell you anything is impossible.” (Steinberg, 2014)

One of the practices I’m socially committed to within my own development is creating positive/asset based forms for viewing the world and its challenges. I actively seek out positive, developmental, encouraging gospel to aid me as I sculpt this frame through which all phenomena can be met via a conquerable context. It sounds complicated in academic form. In my head its normally as simple as a “Self, we got this!” mentality. One extension of this has taken shape through digestion of commencement speeches from those that I admire. I recently watched Oprah Winfrey’s commencement speech for Spelman College’s 2012 graduating class (Spelman College, 2012). Winfrey, an Honorary Doctor from Spelman herself, imparted three pillars of knowledge upon her audience which I’ve decided to infuse into my own explanation of the social commitment domain:

(youtube.com/watch?v=Bpx8uNzRdew)

1 – Know who you are, and know what you want:

Who am I? I’m an honest and hardworking educator. I teach the same community that when boiled down equate my own sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews. If expanded out, these same youngsters morph into my parents, my neighbors, and my ancestors. I view myself as the contemporary intermediary between the Harriet Tubmans and Duboises of yesteryear, the Barack Obamas and Aja Browns of today, and the Laquan and Sakeenah’s of my tomorrow. My community entrusts me to see them out of the predicaments they’re in, and through that trust I draw focus and power.

Oprah states that her defining moment was when she realized that she needed to use television for good, as opposed to being used by television. I can relate in that I feel that teaching, at its core, is commonly used as a destructive force for marginalized communities; though its warning label for the uninformed public and teacher would never say so. My mission is to use these tools given to me by LIU to truly educate my pupils and peers about their ability and destiny to define their place in that world. I feel as though I have begun to decolonize my mind from the years of propaganda used to limit my existence to a simple middle class citizen destined to live life as it were defined by someone else.

Pride in our people shouldn’t stem from the fact that we used to be a great empire before the white man came, but from the fact that we stand as a great empire regardless of that conquest… [D]ecolonization should be a process of changing the way we view the world… Frantz Fanon wrote, “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land and from our minds as well…” Sometimes in our urge to break free from mental colonization, we become ensnared in the same thought processes of the people we despise… The residue of colonization allows for the continued stratification of people. Rejecting labels, selfishness, egotism, a black and white binary, discrimination and judgments are, instead, traits of the decolonized…A person with a decolonized mind accepts their past, loves their present and creates their future, regardless of what stands in their way. (Giron, 2009)

As I continue to embark on this journey I aspire to create a new vision of this world. This vision includes showing those that I’m entrusted to educate the power in creating their own futures. This will help lead them to a success that is established from within their own internal being. I am ready to make these moves independently, and create the change I want to see myself, and alone if necessary. However, I understand, respect, and encourage the power that we all can have in creating a utopian society together.

2. Find a way to serve and be significant:

Many people work tirelessly to become famous and well known by society. Oprah states that fame, although easily accomplished is not long lasting, and isn’t the true way to find success. A life filled with purposeful service is the quickest way to be deemed significant by your peers and is the way to true immortality.

Negroes often do themselves harm when they actually believe that they are doing good. Under their present teachers they cannot easily learn to do any better, for such training as we undergo does not open our eyes sufficiently for us to see far ahead of us… If we can finally succeed in translating the idea of leadership into that of service, we may soon find it possible to lift the Negro to a higher level. Under leadership we have come into the ghetto; by service within the ranks we may work our way out of it. Under leadership we have been constrained to do the biddings of others; by service we may work out a program in the light of our own circumstances. Under leadership we have become poverty-stricken; by service we may teach the masses how to earn a living honestly. Under leadership we have been made to despise our own possibilities and to develop into parasites; by service we may prove sufficient unto the task to self-development and contribute our part to modern culture. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 84-85)

For me, my service begins as I commit myself as viewing the schoolhouse as the absolute place of hope and opportunity for all. I understand that statistically, socially, and institutionally speaking this may not seem feasible to some. However, those things are abstract and do not directly impact the very tangible process of teaching and engaging with my student population each and every day. My classroom door IS the barrier between cultural expectations/limitations and my teaching to my students’ highest possibilities. [You must view your classroom door as THE barrier between cultural expectations/limitations and your teaching to your students’ highest possibilities.]

LIU’s claims are a great beginning tool to guide our cultural scrutiny as graduate students. However, they miss a monumental opportunity to push us to challenge our own thinking and furthermore to try, ourselves, to breed the new and useful additions to global canonical research. Part of what I’ve worked to uncover through my LIU products, teaching products, and SkoolHaze (my personal blog where I reflect on my teaching practice) products has been an effort to contribute to what I consider my own modern day Library of Alexandria. The more I seek to break new ground and shine new light on Afrikan accomplishments, the more I see the need to lay down the seeds of my own pilgrimage to this place of wisdom.

Such has been the education of Negroes. They have been taught facts of history, but have never learned to think. Their conception is that you go to school to find out what other people have done, and then you go out in life to imitate them. What they have done can be done by others, they contend; and they are right. They are wrong, however, in failing to realize that what others have done, we may not need to do. If we are to do identically the same thing from generation to generation, we would not make any progress. If we are to duplicate from century to century the same feats, the world will grow tired of such a monotonous performance. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 138)

In my mind, I think about the generational transformation for LIU and its teachers as they work purposefully to pollinate their urban youth using seeds of their own dedicated and intimate research interests. LIU, as a socially committed and connected organization, should reach out to its “talented tenth” in an effort to review where the program stands in it’s strengths and areas of immediate development. This think tank would be an amazingly authentic opportunity to use your own expert practitioners to innovate from within. We must all remember that we lead from the front. When we work to serve our communities and fill in the clear gaps that exist, we become significant in their eyes because they see our efforts to continuously add value to them and the people they’re working so hard for.

3. Always do the right thing:

If we know it takes overt excellence for our urban students to reach success, let’s not set them up by training their teachers that anything but is acceptable. Excellence should be the target all of the time. In fact, excellence should be our baseline. Part of my Marginalized privilege is that I have internalized that the standard for my productivity must always be excellence – always. I would venture to say that my graduate school products have shown this better than I can explain it. Keeping classroom expectations into perspective, we know as educators that its not uncommon for us to push our students for even more than what we envision is possible – and we do this purposely to stretch our pupils into giving us their best as opposed to giving us their scraps.

We, as leaders, must take that first crucial step to do what we know to be right, even if society has coded it as impossible or fruitless. Impossibility is in the eyes of the beholder. Impossibility/implausibility is only so until we see someone has accomplished what we had never thought of before. Understandably, this puts us on the stage for the world to see and ridicule. But, that quickly changes once they see what dedication to justified and equalized education can do for its teachers and their students.

“Many an able leader is lost to his race because of this fear, and sometimes we must admit the reasonableness of this argument; but as I have said leadership means martyrdom, leadership means sacrifice, leadership means giving up one’s personality, giving up of everything for the cause that is worth while.” (Garvey, 1967, p. 48)

I recently watched a video delving into the power of pulling on our ancestral knowledge produced by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The compelling piece, features graduate student Aulani Wilhelm as she discusses her connections to ancestral knowledge, and how we seamlessly shift from being descendants of our ancestors to ancestors of our descendants. When we come to recognize this shift as meaningful, looming, and prescribable, we realize the power we have to create the very fabric of our childrens’ futures.

“We inherit molecular scars from our ancestors, not only do our weaknesses and deficits get passed down. but so do our strengths and our resiliency. We inherit loving behavior, we inherit kindness, we inherit positive outlooks. So that eternal optimism that you have, that ability to overcome to persevere likely came from somebody in your family line who overcame something and then passed those awesome traits on to you. So I started thinking what kind of ancestor do I want to be? What kind of negative things am I carrying around or things that I’m creating that I don’t want to pass on. Conversely what are those positive things, those awesome traits, or those things I have yet to create that I want to make sure that I do… Simply thinking about our genetic origin can help us perform better… Imagine what ancestral wisdom is stored up in you from the thousands of years since your ancestors were born. Imagine if we could tap into that ancestral databank to help us make better choices now, to help us perform better… What kind of ancestors do we together want to be to leave society better. We start off as descendants of our ancestors in life, but at some point either directly or indirectly, we end up as ancestors for our descendants. Our choices, our decisions are going to affect what happens to future generations.” (Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2014)

(youtube.com/watch?v=YfeqU5nnOPg)

In closing, I seek to draw attention to our imperfect humanity. I seek to draw attention to our continued and contemporary agency in defining the immediate and distant futures for ourself-singular, and humanity-the whole. The more I teach and engage with my students, the more I see that energy does, infact, transfer, it never dissipates. Therefore, I am gladly able to state that my mission, my commitment to myself and this world, is to continue to exude the energy and force of justified development of all members of society.

crown

“Your crown has been paid for, put it on your head and wear it.”

(Spelman College, 2012)

————— Sources

Baldwin, J. (1961). Nobody knows my name: more notes of a native son. New York: Vintage Books.

Douglass, F., & O’Meally, R. G. (2003). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics. (Original work published 1845)

Garvey, M., & Garvey, A. J. (1967). Shall the Negro Be Exterminated?. Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or, Africa for the Africans (2d ed., ). London: F. Cass.

Giron, I. (2009, January 1). Decolonize your mind: A decolonized mind defends its cultural roots. Decolonize your mind. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://web.utah.edu/venceremos/Articlesix.html

Spelman College. (2012, May 22). Oprah Winfrey Delivers Commencement Address to Class of 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/Bpx8uNzRdew

Stanford Graduate School of Business. (2014, April 28). Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/6DlrqeWrczs

Steinberg, N. (2014, July 31). Does “Amara Enyia” ring a bell? It will.. Chicago Sun Times.

Woodson, C. (2012). The Failure to Learn to Make a Living. The MisEducation of the Negro. Buffalo: EWorld Inc. (Original work published 1933)

Capstone: Empathy

—- E  M  P  A  T  H  Y —-

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.

When you look at this map what do you see? clash_of_civilizations_map

(The Clash of Civilizations, Abagond, 2014)

 “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.

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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)

======= Sources

Angelou, M. (Performer). (1997). OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them USA: Harpo Studios.

Dennis, D. (2013, May 15). Why isn’t New Orleans Mother’s Day parade shooting a ‘national tragedy’?. theguardian.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/15/neworleansshootingnotnationalnews

Delpit, L. D. (2006). Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press :.

Garvey, M., & Garvey, A. J. (1967). Shall the Negro Be Exterminated?. Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or, Africa for the Africans (2d ed., ). London: F. Cass.

LYDERSEN, K. (2014, February 20). Who’s Afraid of Rahm Emanuel?. . Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://inthesetimes.com/article/16321/amara_enyia_rahm_emanuel

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.