Author: Dr. Joy

How children’s books reach us…

Dedicated to the #BlackGenius and #BlackJoy of Author & Illustrator Floyd Cooper on his transition from this life, to the next.

Quote from Floyd Cooper (

Each one teach one only fulfills its calling when we reach those beyond the sphere of us…

Our voice, our fingertips, our gaze…those on the margins, for whatever reason, need tools that will help them save themselves.

African American girl looking at open book (half-length).
Assembled for 1900 Paris Exposition Collection curated by W.E.B. DuBois. Image available online at

When no one is coming for you, do you have what you need to dig out

Of the holes you fell into, or the ones you dug yourself?

Every learning environment has people in it who can hardly see (or hear, or feel) that which stands in front of them simply because the haze caused by harm swirls before them…just ahead of them.

Teaching reading, the ability to decode text, is the seed of fugitive pedagogy: the disruptor of miseducation that is historically significant. Not only does teaching, freeing, liberating people to read give them language to describe what others deem significant but it also gives them visual clues to connect the landmarks in their everyday life to the hidden meanings that symbols suggest.

Like a laboratory, a book, especially a children’s book is multi-sensory and sensational. Not quite synesthetic but maybe…

With all of the edu-talk and jargon living in our conscious about social emotional learning, culturally responsive pedagogies and critical race theory, I know the value of the work…heavy lifting…that children’s books do in every classroom.

Children’s books allow readers to see themselves: we call that representation.

Children’s books provide pathways for instructional/learning choice for a full range of interests, academic levels and content areas: we call that differentiation and modification.

Children’s books have one other very important role in the way that I see it. Children’s books help me protect my younger selves from the hurt that I feel as I heal from harm–violence whether physical, emotional, or curricular–at the hands of those entrusted to care for me.

Children’s books help us go back and make sense of who we were when we were little, when things happened to us that were beyond our control, when the world was new and unfamiliar. The world of children’s books allows us to travel across a line of reality and into a safe space that may not have been real, but felt real and important. There is a responsibility of social emotional learning that children’s books often accept.

To all of the authors who write and the illustrators who draw, thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Rest well.

Too many Cs: Thoughts on Junteenth

For a teacher at this time of year, the “C” is the truce between students, families and herself that says…’well, you are average’…I guess but it hardly ever means that to me. A C means you were less able to take advantage of opportunities to stand out and be noticed and perhaps that is fine in a system that wasn’t truly designed for you to shine any way…

Valuation (like evaluation) are judgments that mean very little in the economy of self if it is coming from a place that feels foreign…from a place that doesn’t feel like home…from a place that doesn’t hug you back when you wrap your whole being into it…we have nothing to be ashamed of and yet we feel shame.

I was asked the other day by a fellow educator to make suggestions for summer reading about Black History…I thought for several days…this is my response:

There is no singular, high quality book or set of resources on Black history. Sadly, colonization and conquest has divided the story of Black people; caste, capitalism and colorism forfeit the alliance of the people in preference for specific places and spaces…for proximity to whiteness.

I offer a short list of books that I think are magnificent but still so incomplete. There is fiction and other writing (essay, poetry, biography) that I think are important too. Amistad attempts to put all of this together but it is incomplete because it doesn’t make this point clearly.

Suggested book titles: Lerone Bennett’s Before the Mayflower; W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folks; Patricia Hills Collins Black Feminist Theory; Ibram Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning; Ethan Michaeli’s The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America; Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy; Keisha Blaine & Ibram Kendi’s Four Hundred Souls

Poets: Countee Cullen and Gwendolyn Brooks

Artists: Gordon Parks and Ernie Barnes


Biographies of Black women every human should know: Anna Julia Cooper; Ida B. Wells; Mary McCleod Bethune; Sadie Alexander

There are too many perspectives divided by our pain and our joy

There are too many voices that publishers refuse to elevate

There are too many stories to flatten who we are into a single moment, volume or day…our histories on other continents outside of North America are LONG, rich and complex…

We owe it to ourselves to commemorate THAT fact…that we have lived before this short journey on this land…

We are not average, we are great and our value can never be counted.

Links in this piece are there to guide additional inquiry…

Crossroads: On Being Ten Years Out

Now tell me whatcha gonna do
When there ain’t no where to run (tell me what)
(When judgment comes for you, when judgment comes for you)
And whatcha gonna do
When there aint no where to hide (tell me what)
When judgment comes for you (’cause it’s gonna come for you)…

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, 1995 (Songwriters: Anthony Henderson / Bryon Mccane / Steven Howse / Charles Scruggs / Ernie Isley / Marvin Isley / O’kelly Isley / Ronald Isley / Rudolph Isley / Christopher Jasper / Bryon Mc Cane)

When you get those reminders on your phone about photos you took and places you visited 2 years, 5 years and 10 years ago, you may wax nostalgia for a few moments before the anxiety about constant surveillance and changing conditions of privacy (or openness) to which you grant consent out of convenience sets in…my moments came in two doses: a text from a colleague who was there on the day I was hooded then an email from a colleague who is in pursuit of her own degree…

I have been Dr. joy for 10 whole years! Whaaattt? I didn’t even realize it…

Busied by life and focusing on my sonshine, my students and losing track of time/days/dates in a work environment that is seemingly never ending…

Somehow, my work is coming to the light even though I am not “out there” very much…that’s how I like it actually. Somehow, people are finding me in interesting ways and my joys are all blending together…

I don’t know what to put out there or what to keep for myself (and my employer)

Heading into an evaluation meeting, what will I take away from it? I am just not sure.

How will anyone see to judge who I am, and do I really want that?

Am I ready to do things differently when what I love to do is getting harder to do?

Being A JEDII Teacher: Reflections on a battle-scarred school year

Bitmoji avatar of Black anime style character in the foreground with a brown hooded jacket, right arm/open hand stretched forward; left hand holding a lowered light saber. Two shadowy characters similarly dressed with light sabers raised on the right and left of the main character. Banner below the art reads: USE THE FORCE.

During the summer of 2020, exhausted by the fights to keep everything together

A year of supporting my only living parent as she battled cancer, living thousands of miles away with my sister and her family as she battled her own painful truths about…life…

As an educator watching all the things I imagined could be true about technology (and a technological future in the classroom) come to fruition in a dramatically shocking style and at a frenetic pace, I felt prepared for the battle. Equipped to lead, the weight of rapid change hit me in the knees…crippling me, causing my entire structure to buckle under the weight. Bracing myself, steadying myself, more slowly, less time online, more time sitting…again…with myself and a book…

There’s more but…later

What is…who is… A JEDII teacher? What does it mean and why are acronyms so important to me? How do we translate this for the people and why does that matter? Oh yeah…it matters…there’s more…but…later.

At thirty-six weeks into the school year that started seventeen weeks after global pandemic shut down our schools and teachers never stopped…contrary to the belief that many of us have vacation in the summer, most of us never stop planning or working or serving…there’s more…but…later.

Here we are, the end of May and I finally see the students that are invisible…the ones that are veiled behind muted mics and black screens…

This one is probably suffering from dyscalculia,

That one dysgraphia,

That one dyslexia,

All…dis-connected while being connected…online…

Many depressed…while being at home…online…

Most overwhelmed…while being at school during a pandemic…

My question: “are we saying this year counts?”

My answer: “Yes”.

Their answer: SILENCE.

There’s more…later.

My jedi ways of July, shifting…expanding…not cute…imperative.

So what is…who is…A JEDII teacher?

One functioning to secure access, justice, equity, diverse perspectives, and identities of inclusion at every turn of the school experience…leveraging technology, ecology, sociology, psychology and every other -ology that exists to provide evidence of…everything.

Why do we hurt others?

How do we overcome excessive lack of trust?

When is it ok to say…nah…I ain’t doin’ that?

Where do we go to incubate ideas without feeling like you’re being watched or exploited?

Who is part of my circle for real?

What does a person do when their light (their weapon) is low?

I’ve got three more weeks…

For now…take refuge on a rainy day…it is rest for the weary.

Between 2 & 3

How appropriate it is

To be between 2 & 3

In the morning, I see

Between the second (Kujichagalia) and third (Ujima) principles…

To be self-determined and accept my role in collective works and responsibility…

Reading, to the end, the yellowed pages of this old book

Called Dark Ghetto

Understanding brand new and old references to dark ghettos

Wary of things that move in dark places, dark spaces…

“The poetic irony of American race relations…

…the rejected Negro…

…must somehow also find the strength to free the privileged…”

[Not just] white.

Words as true in 2020 as they were in ’65…

The last words on yellowed pages, in this old book…

How will you catch me…

…when I fall…when I fail…when everything

breaks…like cracks in the concrete…no foundation…thinking we grow without scars and wounds…from this system that sees itself as soil, pliable and rich with broken down stone structure giving life…but it is not


It is not solid like concrete because there is no structure to give when there is so little guidance or instruction on how to mix it…

…the methods all chosen by each experimentor…each cook in countless kitchens

interpreting it all like secret sauce whose flavor, color and fragrance elude us…

familiar and so unfamiliar at the same time…

I woke up with you on my mind

Dear student

The one




More than I can really see in my vision of this moment…

I could hear your heart beat


In this moment…how will you catch me

When I fail

Caring not about the fall

The opportunity to experience the accomplishment of the rough and tumble roll because you have been here before if not always…carving out your joy once denied and found and now taken…

You never really trusted this system and now…

You are losing hope

In this moment

Ringing in my ears

Echoing in my mind

Is your voice lost long behind blackened screens

No profile pic

No renamed identity

No hands to guide on a page

Or smile to confirm

Behind the mask and the veil…

“How will you catch me when I fall?” “How will you be there when you are not near?”

Black Love Matters

Black Love Matters: A 2020 MJB requiem for my mother (who is alive), her mother and their mothers, sisters, aunts and girlfriends…

Mary J Blige has supplied a generation, my generation, of Black women with a soundtrack for our love. I am grateful…somehow she found all of the emotion and the magic to put my heart issues in front of a beat and find the steps to dance it out and the pace to walk it out. Mary J is like that classmate in the school who leads the way and sets the direction of the crowd…thank you Ms. Blige.

Be Happy

#1 Self-love in our community is about peace and happiness. It is not necessarily drama free, actually, we expect it…drama that is. Living life can be addictive…people, places and things…but freedom is a choice. We accept it. In the same way that we fall in love outside of ourselves, we know when to walk away from destructive desires, understanding that we don’t have to self-deprecate in order to obtain love or happiness. We understand the cost of loving ourselves may be high but it is always worth it.

#2 Love(r)s that are “ride or dies” help build future…a higher life. Passing time and barriers like a cycle club, love like this is its own safety. The mountain that is love, is easily taken in and taken on…love like this is all we need to get by.

#3 Family love is a whole level of kinship: fictive or legally functional, Black families are complex yet simple. We choose to share and therefore love with and on purpose…to see each other…to judge it…sometimes harshly but always with an eye to see our own selves reflected in what is before us.

#4 Black Community love is not always about the party…it is usually and typically contemplative and reflective. It is the constant dissonance…wondering…how? Why? Where can we find peace, joy, love? We are struggle…Black community is a motley crew of sounds, flavors, colors. Look at our life. “It is hard, but WE will get far”…the peace of mind that comes from going beyond self…that is that Black Community Love that allows us to extend grace in the face of pain. Built on our faith practices, how we see the divine from high and low places, Black Community love unites among difference.

#5 The Black Love Matters vortex…the swirling…the spinning…the shifts in life that cause slow ebbs and flows with the same productive force as tumult and explosion, is real. Black Love matters. Black Lives matter.

Seeing the next Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris, a multicultural/multiethnic Black woman, stroll onto stage with #WorkThat as her soundtrack feels like an anthem that honors who we are and have been…forever.

Racial Literacy Development…

…is Bi-directional. The Kids Are Alright…in spite of us.

For the eldest among us, it–this destination we call literate–is a state of ascension from the abyss of past pain, past harm, past violence and past drama…at the hands of whiteness at a confusing time in the midst of a chaotic history in a nation whose need to classify stops abruptly at an A vs. B existence…thank you Ms. Morrison for the reminder that what we have today is better than before but there is so much more we must do.

For the youngest among us, it–this destination we call literate–is a baseline from which we make sense of the awkward interactions of past generations…as they tip-toe around the obvious pain, past harm, past violence and past drama…at the hands of their own whiteness…at a confusing time in the midst of a chaotic history in a nation whose need to classify stops abruptly at an A vs. B existence…thank you Ms. Maya for the reminder that we must do today what was done in our former days…employing that survival apparatus at every possible chance we get to love and save and celebrate our selves.

So I write this…this something, like a poem, outside of others’ gaze…for KSC, SJT and the women leaders who lead and give us courage…to pursue racial literacy in a box made for equity even though it doesn’t quite fit…moving beyond the table to places of kinship and joy. This is for you. This is for us.

The conversation I see Yolanda (Sealey-Ruiz) having with us…I do not want to be too familiar on this journey

How we start at the bottom of our selves…

Where we ask our selves to look at who we are in critical love, humility and reflection.

She calls this model, this thing that we can’t quite figure out, in spite of our own wonderings, our own wanderings, archaeology. Scientific and deeply personal.

The conversation I see Sonya (Douglass Horsford) having with us…I am more familiar with bound volumes than the person whose work inspires on this journey…

How we stand by and smell the stench of fire…

Where we sit in rooms among those in leadership asking our selves what social justice and inclusion look like as we imagine.

She calls this model, this thing that looks something like a staircase that we can’t quite figure out, in spite of our wonderings, our own wanderings, steps. Practical and deeply personal.

Then it hit me.

The eldest among us may start their journey with Yolanda as their guide. The youngest among is with Sonya. Hopefully we cross paths along the way and learn to walk together through the garden of my familiar…

Additional inspirations, readings & references:

Maya Angelou (1987) We Wear the Mask [spoken word]

Douglass Horsford, S. (2014). When race enters the room: Improving leadership and learning through racial literacy. Theory Into Practice, 53(2), 123-130.

Toni Morrison (1998) interview with Charlie Rose

Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2020) Arch of Self

I slept in your room last night

Mourning the loss of an icon

Chadwick Boseman

An actor

A man

Who in memorializing Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, reminded us of modern histories being erased from most textbooks, dying in the caskets of our elders, clouded by false progression and stifled by our hopes…did a great thing.

But it was not enough.

He took on another, more fantastic role in a universe of super heroes, fictional and not.

He brought to life a character in the Black Panther that was our collective character…

I needed to have you close, but you can’t be here prince…

My sun who moves cloudy skies…

It is raining.

I slept in your room last night so I could be comforted by the box of childhood toys hiding in your closet, peaking out if I looked…

Figurines of Black kings and superheroes mixed in among the cards and relics of childhood fantasy.

I needed to know that you are protected by my dreams for you…

I hoped as I drifted back to sleep that you would take care as you are out there fighting for your life, making good trouble in this moment.

I woke to a message from you…you heard the news too…

Don’t hate 2020 precious manchild, it is showing us who we are.