Coping…

The trauma of being black and a woman in this country is real, and sometimes I need a break from speaking, thinking, and educating. 

I know we have been quiet, but I can only speak for myself when I say it was necessary. I have been struggling to find the motivation to fight in the face of the constant assault on the character and lives of people of color in this country. Not to mention the emotional roller coaster our current administration has taken us all on.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, all I want to do is cry, or curl up with a good book and take my mind far away. The trauma of being black and a woman in this country is real, and sometimes I need a break from speaking, thinking, and educating. 

Sometimes I just need to revel in the fact that I am beautiful, intelligent, and creative individual. I must reset and recharge on a consistent basis in order to rebound from the micro aggressions I encounter each day. Whether it is because I am a woman, black, an educator, or college educated; there are always a set of assumptions people have of me. These assumptions are a symptom of the normative whiteness this society is built upon.

Intended or unintended, constant attacks on your identity are taxing. I would feel guilty at times for being quiet. I didn’t think I had the right to take time for myself if needed. I realize that, this is the only way I know how to cope for now. I am working on finding other ways to self-care on a regular basis.

As my distant family and fellow members of the resistance, please allow for grace as we continue our journey and share our thoughts with you.

Julia

Black Educators At Work

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness!

As a black woman and black educator I find that I often have to prove my blackness to the children I teach. #blackwomenatwork 

I’m a firm believer that black children need black teachers. It’s what keeps me going on the hardest of days. It’s what keeps me patient in what can sometimes be a sea of (controlled. . . always controlled) chaos. It’s what keeps me sane when the lesson – be it social or academic – is just not sinking in.

All too often – kids simply forget that I am more like them than not.

It’s as if one can’t be smart and black.

It’s baffling to me because after having passed the ever changing five year average teacher hump – I find it really easy to connect with kids, especially the ones that look like me and grow up similar to how I grew up.  And, I thought that they’d feel the same way.

Sometimes, adults that look like you and live how you live just get it.

But, that’s not always the case – I’ve found.

Though kids often say to me –

“You sound like my mama,” or “you remind me of my [x, y, z].”

They also say things like –

“I didn’t think somebody like you listened to our kind of music.” Or, “Oh, you know that song?”

“I thought you only shopped at Whole Foods”

And, “You know what this [what some people, not me, would call slang] word means?”

 

Well, yes, black child. Yes, I do. 

Yes because I am black, like you. 

That is why I take every opportunity to remind the students that I teach that I’m just like them.

It is why codeswitching is so important to me.

It’s why laughing, playing AND learning together are one in the same. 

Yesterday I told an 8 year old that the song he was singing (so passionately as he wrote his acrostic poem about pride), was about selling drugs.

He literally said, “Oh my God, what?! How do you know that song? I thought you only knew like Gospel songs or something like that.”

Cute.

But, no.

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

Though I do listen to Gospel music (which the same child also sings allllll the time), I also like Andra Day, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Maybe a little older than their taste of Migos, but, I can still keep up. 

And in the same breath, I also know trigonometry and love alliterations – and neither of those things should be wow factors. 

It’s disheartening that the idea of a black man or woman in many instances is the exception and not the given to the rule.

It’s our media, it’s our language and it’s our actions.

 “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeing black magic as exceptions to the rules written by the white forefathers of the constitution is another form of oppression. 

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness! 

 

Be Black and hardworking.

Be Black and inquisitive

Be Black and love to write.

Be Black and sing and dance and play from your heart.

Be Black and be the smartest person in the room.

Be Black . . . Be Proud.

Be Black, be proud and know that you, Black child, can be anything you want to be.

 

-Shamira

Two Swat Cars

It’s 4:53 pm and I am seated around the table at a discipline meeting for a middle school student. As we start the meeting, the introductions are drowned out by the sounds of sirens ringing outside. We all glance out and we see 2 police cars, followed by a paddy wagon, and two swat cars. TWO SWAT CARS.

My colleague made some reference to it being just another day in Philly. I disagreed…

Just another day in any hood, in any city were people of  color live their daily lives.

My hope is that when I watch the news later, it will tell of snipers or mass hysteria that required a swat team. But I know that wont be the case. I am certain that the swat cars were for no more than two unidentified black males. I have no idea what they have done. I have no idea why police are needed. But I am certain that a swat team is excessive.

Why are our streets considered war zones? Why is such force necessary. Why must the extreme be the norm when dealing with people of color?

For example, Philadelphia celebrates the hell out of St. Patrick’s day. On parade day you can find hundred of drunk white people on the streets, with not so much as a second look by law enforcement. On the other hand, during events when large crowds of black folk come together, the cops are on constant rotation.

This how it feels.

TWO SWAT CARS…

This is what it look likes.

It’s  a constant reminder that justice is not for all, and that the police are not here to protect us from harm. They view us as the harm. That’s the message we receive, whether we talk about it or not. That’s the message we are sending the youth of all backgrounds and colors. And that is how the cycle continues. That message spreads like a disease. That lie festers and rots, and pollutes our already broken institutions.

My prayers and thoughts go out to all of the families affected by what happened today.

I wish we could all vibrate higher.

Julia

 

Always Cloudy

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege.

The things that bring us the most happiness also bring us the most pain.

Little black boys are rays of sunshine and little black girls are breaths of fresh air.

Such joy I get from their laughter.

And, torment from their cries.

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege. Rain is just over the mountain, always on its way.

This week when I looked into the eyes of our children, I saw rain.

Underneath their laughter, I saw pain.

It was the reflection of my eyes, in theirs, looking back at me.

 

 

I’d heard about our missing girls and boys from DC early on in the week. And, every single day as I looked at a student, I wondered what it’d be like to no longer hear their voice.

I can’t compare the love of a child that I’ve conceived to the love of the children that I’ve taught, as I’ve not participated in the miracle of the former. But, I’d hope to think that they’d be about the same.

The power of the media is unprecedented. And, many of the numbers of reported girls and boys missing are (allegedly) false.

Whatever the rhetoric, whether the number of missing children is that of the past week or the past decade – the fact remains:

 

Black bodies have been stolen for hundreds of years and during slavery black babies were removed from the care of their enslaved mothers as early as 12 months.  

 

Here we are, 2017 – still enslaved, and still having our bodies and those of our children snatched.

Like crabs in a barrel, Julia says, we’re struggling trying to keep up. Fighting and fussing over each other trying to make due.

So, on my happiest days, I’m still weary.

Sometimes when everyone is laughing, I pause and think about the clouds.

 

Until the systemic barriers that we face on a regular basis are dismantled, it’ll always be cloudy.

 

On the bright side, I’m so happy to have hundreds of rays of sunshine and hundreds of breaths of fresh air.

 

-Shamira

Ben Carson, WTF

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Did Ben Carson really just try it??!

“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land,” he added.

This was his first speech addressing HUD employees…

I really don’t know what words to use to express how dumb this man sounds, and how disrespected I feel. Immigrants? I’m sorry, did African slaves have a choice? They were not seeking opportunity in this country. They were seeking freedom and their homeland.

This is another example of the foolery running our government. I want them all out of office. My blood is curling. Ben Carson should be ashamed of himself, and if you disagree you can kick rocks!

Parlae that!

Julia

Finding my “Black”

As people of color, someone else is always defining who we are, and communicating that to the world…

I have written in the past about racial identity and what it means to be Black in this country. This is something that I constantly reflect upon. It’s important to me, because we all struggle to discover/embrace/cultivate our identities.

Recently, I was at a conference where I was asked to share what my racial identity means to me, and for the first time I couldn’t identify as Black as easily as I once could. Being Black in this country means so many things, and comes with a burden that takes a daily toll. I couldn’t identify with ease because I refuse to identify with a term that was created to confine people who look like me. I refuse to ascribe to a classification created to subjugate me and minimize my worth. Black and White are social constructs. They are not racial identities.

Listening to the group at the conference share, I was saddened to think that as adults we still have trouble separating our social class from our ethnicity. Black is an identity that was given to us, forced upon us. Considering this, two questions come to mind.

One: As an African-American if I am not Black, then what am I?

Two: How do I identify with the Black experience without conforming to social constructs created to divide?

I am angry that at 33 I am still discovering, embracing, and cultivating my identity. However, I do believe that as an African-American this is normal. So much of what we see and hear in the media is crafted to confuse and cause us to question our self-worth. As people of color, someone else is always defining who we are, and communicating that to the world. 

This is in part why I decided to explore and learn more about my DNA. It has always troubled me, not knowing where I am from. Some of my friends of color have challenged me in my search, suggesting that I am American and that is all. I disagree; this is not enough. Saying that I am just American robs me of a rich cultural history that defines resiliency and strength. Robbing me of my African roots, encouraging me to just accept that I am American, is akin to telling me that “all lives matter” when they clearly do not. 

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So how do I answer when asked about how I identify racially? I could just say that I am African-American, but for me that still isn’t enough. That only tells part of the story. I take pride in our history of struggle and perseverance in a land that continues to view us as “other”. And, I also take pride in the history of our African roots. I choose to identify with the entire story, because in wholeness there is truth. I am African-American. I am African. In me is the blood of kings and queens. This is me finding my “Black” and owning it. I am a person of color living in the United States of America, and I fight daily to never lose sight of that fact and what it means.

Julia

 

Politics Not As Usual

“Nothing about Trumps administration is the norm, and nothing about how we respond should be the norm either. This includes the way we educate and speak to our children about the past, present and future.”

img_1471There is so much going on in this country right now, and it’s super hard to process at times. I find myself on a daily emotional roller coaster. It’s hard to know how to focus my attention as a black woman. There are so many issues that affect and concern me simultaneously.

There are many national debates at the moment, one prevalent debate being, “Should we give Donald Trump A Chance?” This is a question I am not going to answer at the moment. I don’t feel my opinion on the matter is important. What is important however, is what informs my opinion; and I feel that is true for all of us as American Citizens.

It’s Black History Month, and while I am not a fan of the absurdity of celebrating Black History during the shortest month of the year, I think it’s pretty shady that the White house has done a piss poor job of recognizing the rich culture and contribution of African Americans to our nations’ history. To be honest, I didn’t expect much anyway, but it would have been nice to have been pleasantly surprised. Bottom line, it really isn’t the President’s responsibility to educate the public about anything. Nor is it the media’s. We operate on this false expectation that these institutions are going to follow a moral compass and do what is in the best interests of the people; historically, the men in power have always done what is best for them unless the less privileged have put up one hell of a fight.

That being said, Black people, people of color, we have a responsibility to educate our youth on our own. Our schools are not teaching them about their history. Our schools are not teaching them that their lives matter. The television they watch, the music they listen to, the images they see on social media…none of it is crafted with their empowerment in mind. We have a responsibility to take their education into our own hands and change the narrative in Trumps America.

Right now in Washington, D. C. our President is changing the way government works right before our very eyes, and the media and congress are still behaving like it is politics as usual. This is absurd. The way he came into power was unusual. Nothing about Trump’s administration is the norm, and nothing about how we respond should be the norm either. This includes the way we educate and speak to our children about the past, present and future. 

I believe it is equally as important to educate our youth about their past as is about the future of this country. There is a very nationalistic tone coming from the White House, and if it continues where does that leave people of color? If we are to educate our youth with fidelity, that means we also need to educate ourselves as adults. What does that look like, sound like, feel like? I don’t have the answers, but I would love to have the conversation. Everything feels very important right now…scarily and eerily so. These 28 days can’t just be about Rosa Parks and MLK…just saying. They are important, but it’s not enough.

If you are stuck with how to start the conversation and you happen to live in the Philadelphia area, allow me to suggest a trip to the African American Museum in Philadelphia. They have a great new exhibit, Waging Peace: 100 Years of Action. The exhibit is presented by the American Friends Service Committee and it is on display January 14-April 23rd. It’s a great way to start conversations about immigration, prison reform, just economics, ending discrimination, building peace, and how to engage in justice work.

Teachers, take your students. Parents, take your children. Adults, take your friends or a stranger. Just have a conversation. Spread the word. Share some information. Engage in debate and live the discourse. We have to change the narrative that surrounds us.

Julia

Enjoy some pics from our visit to the exhibit!