Dear Dissenting Parent

I wonder how well you think we are…

Sands are shifting under our shoes

Tomorrow,

We face your sons and daughters

Not knowing the foundations you laid for them

To see us

To see their peers

As humans with value and values

Worth

While

Living now

Breathing

Now

Bones walking

Birthed and living

N.O.W.

In spite of the chaotic fights that took place long before walking into these rooms

In these halls, hallowed by sacrifices made long ago…

The choice of life (to live a life)

In person and in profession[al]

Impersonal and un-professed

in a space

where presence and being present is

despised, discarded, dismissed, dis-respected and dis-regarded

How do you expect us to choose this life

Where our freedom is not free to be?

Forget roaming free.

That roaming you get to do is not granted to us.

We lose

Time

Every time.

Even in safe places, we are not secure.

We are always present in plain sight

With no place to hide

And yet we are rendered invisible

Meaning

Less

Having little value in your spaces and occupied places

In a world

U (of the ‘I owe you’ kind or ‘the me not you’ variety)

created.

For February 1, 2022

Like the unseen forces that both hold together and distort the shape

Of a molecule

Because of their individual strengths in their own electron domains

Polar and covalently bonded

On opposite sides of the same

Institution

Sharing in the work of

Being seen, heard and felt

Like electrons being pushed and pulled together into an undeniably strong bond…

Because…

…by nature they are attracted and alike.

Molded within their environment and outside of the safety of their structure…

I celebrate

Black [American] History and

The Lunar New Year [in America]

In Black

and

In Red

As if for the first time.

Making sense of it all

Why does knowing international history matter in the 21st century?

I was a newly emergent adult when all of this happened but somehow, I remember… 

Not the details…

But pieces of the details 

That make it all make sense…

A hunch or a feeling you get when you don’t really understand but you know

Something

Is not

Quite right…

I remember my 4th grade Czechoslovakian teacher

Saying something

I remember the command heard round the world when I was in college

“Tear down that wall” spoken from an American president

Very close to what I remember was a series of global citizen campaigns to

Heal the world

Amid calls to boycott

Coca Cola

For apartheid in Africa

And the release and triumph of Mandela 

But

I don’t remember this…

The rise of Yeltsin

But

Now

It all makes sense

When these words…written in 2007 about “The real Yeltsin legacy” could have easily been written in 2022…a year after an insurrection that is being skillfully dismantled in the public memory of the people.

Written in 2007 by Archie Brown for the Guardian, you fill in the blank:

_______’s main merit as president of ________ was that he preserved many of the freedoms introduced by _______. His principal fault was that he helped discredit the very ideas of democracy which had evoked real enthusiasm in the last three years of the _______.  This was partly a result of his lack of interest in democratic institution-building. He was disdainful of political parties, and refused to join one. He was scarcely less dismissive of legislatures, most literally in ________ when he ordered the bombardment of the parliament building. He had little understanding of the significance of the rule of law. When the minister for justice was dismissed in _______ he was told by ______ officials: “You have one problem – you always cite the law.”_________ came close to cancelling the ______ presidential contest and only allowed it to go ahead when he knew that, with TV on his side and huge sums of money from the oligarchs, he could win.

He overlooked vote-rigging in both ______ and _______ elections.Although he launched a bloody and unnecessary war in ______, he gave substantial leeway to regional ______ and the _______ of the ______. He genuinely believed _______ was too large to be governed exclusively from the centre. Devolution, though, was at the expense of freedom and democracy.Popular support for democracy was further undermined by the sell-off of _______ natural resources to preselected buyers at knock-down prices, at a time when wages or pensions were often unpaid. The level of corruption was such that his main concern, when picking a successor, was to find someone who would safeguard him from prosecution. Having earned much of his popularity in the late _______ period with attacks on privilege and inequality, he presided over such a vast increase in both that he seriously damaged the cause of democracy to which, at his best, he had made a real contribution.

It sounds eerily familiar to an American president, elected by some people who did not concern themselves with democracy or popular votes, opinions or interests.

Additional reference:

Yeltsin’s legacy https://www.jstor.org/stable/40260037 

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 (http://floydcooper.com/index_files/Page332.htm)

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 https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c24674/?co=anedub

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

And

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

that.

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

Two

Three

Four

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

I could hear your heart beat

Panicked

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?”