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!

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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

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

And how are the children?

If we want to ensure that all of our children are fed, we have have to feed them ourselves.

We have to teach our children that this is not the first time and it will not be the last that their livelihood will feel threatened.

And how are the children?

If there is one thing we as people care about it is our babies.

Black, brown, orange or otherwise. . .

The children . . . our children, are our future.

We protect them.

We provide for them.

We ensure that all is well in the universe, for them.

 

Troublesome to think that the tribulations the black and brown community has gone through, continues to go through, may gradually escalate under new policy and executive order.

So, a question arises.

How do we feed the children under this new administration?

When I think about feeding the children – i’m actively thinking both literally and figuratively.

How do we aggressively address how we will educate black and brown children during the Trump Era?

How do we ensure that their bellies are full; their minds are overflowing with knowledge and their hearts have swelled with pride and preservation of their identities, culture and and inherent innocence?

How do we ensure preservation of their bodies when everything surrounding them details otherwise?

When black spirit is being attacked from every angle . . . how do we ensure longevity and perseverance?

How do we ensure that we will have enough resources (as a community) to fill their bellies with nutritious meals on a daily basis? . . . when we are struggling to do that today.

How do we ensure safety and security, among violence and ill manner and intent?

 

Do we tell our children the truth. . .?

Do we explain to them that this is nothing new? That we haven’t been free since we crossed the Atlantic.

Do we remind them that #blacklivesmatter was a trend before Trump was elected to the highest office of the land?

Do we teach them about mass incarceration and relate it back to all of the black men and women who are missing from our communities because they are behind bars? That Malcolm X said, “if you’re black, you were born in jail,” more than 50 years ago.

Do we ask them about their schooling? Then teach them about lack of funding, resources and redlining?

Do we teach them that they are black and they are beautiful – and simply because they are both black and beautiful- they will be under attack every single day?

 

The answer is yes.

 

Yes to everything.

 

We have to be aggressive in educating our children. Now, more than ever.

If we want to ensure that all of our children are fed, we have have to feed them ourselves.

We have to teach our children that this is not the first time and it will not be the last that their livelihood will feel threatened.

We have to explain to our babies that we’ve been fighting the same fight all along.

Maybe we don’t have to fight behind closed doors anymore.  And, maybe we’ve garnered enough people to fight the good fight.

Then again, maybe we haven’t.

Because it was the people who elected the current administration.

 

Moving forward, those that want to fight the good fight must understand – there can only be one fight.

It is intersectional.

It is intentional.

It is big.

And, it is so complicated.

It always is and it always will be.

Our experiences are vast and our ideologies are diverse.

Though, at the core, the question remains. . .

 

How are the children?

 

This is a call to action.

Join us.

Support us.

 

We will have more, soon.

This is a promise.

So. Much. More.

 

For now, parlae on.

 

-Shamira

 

Resolved

I resolve to work hard at standing up for what is right.

I resolve to fight against injustice.

I resolve to engage in discourse around inequity daily.

I resolve to deliberately provoke and challenge stagnant thinking.

I resolve to always welcome anyone who would challenge my thinking for the better.

I admit I have been quiet lately. The events since the election have been a lot to process. I go back and forth from feeling extremely violent, to extremely melancholy, and always ending with utter disbelief. Then, because I have a conscious, contrary to popular “white” belief, and those who feel that my perspective is too narrow or unrealistic, I beat myself up…

 

Because maybe I am too hard on Trump and White America… (she says cautiously).

 

Maybe I should listen to Barack and have some sympathy/understanding  for those in power; those with privilege; who are struggling to accept the changes in social and economic structures that have come to pass under Obama’s administration. I mean, their way of life has been literally under threat for the last 8 years….(she says as she rolls her eyes).

 

The real reason I have been quiet is because I literally have had nothing nice to say…and while that usually hasn’t stopped me, I really needed to get myself in check so that I could write coherently and intelligently. Otherwise, this post would just have be a page full of expletives.

 

Today is MLK day, and at the end of the week Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States of America. If it wasn’t so absurd, I would be rolling around laughing in my bed right now. This is our reality. I am no longer in shock. I have accepted our nation’s fate, and have decided to move on with my new year’s resolutions.

 

I resolve to work hard at standing up for what is right.

I resolve to fight against injustice.

I resolve to engage in discourse around inequity daily.

I resolve to deliberately provoke and challenge stagnant thinking.

I resolve to always welcome anyone who would challenge my thinking for the better.

 

Trump’s America is a America I plan to challenge daily. Today, I rededicate myself to the mission and vision of Parlae, and I want to personally thank all of the folks who have supported us in our first year. We have a lot of plans for this upcoming year, and we are very excited. We have a dream, and we honor our forefathers and mothers today. Without them, there is no platform. Without them, there is no us…

 

PS…

 

I am not for all of the MLK posts on social media from all of my followers and the people I follow who never say anything about social justice on any other day….

 

Let’s be real. I am about this life 365, and yes I wasn’t always, but I am WOKE now. It irks me when I see posts about social justice just because it’s trending. Do me a favor and don’t bother. Consciousness is not a trend. Heads up…Black History Month is coming….please don’t get on my nerves…

 

There is a campaign to turn off all tv’s during the inauguration Friday. I have also heard many people of color say they plan to ignore the event altogether. My response to this: NOOOOOO!!!! What this man has to say on Friday is important. Why? Because we need to know what we are up against. You don’t want to watch on tv? Fine…then live stream that shit. Read the transcript. Make sure you read it to your children, your students, share it with your family. Spread the word!!! There is nothing more deadly than an unseen enemy. Knowledge is power.
Julia

…But, if you want to be basic, be basic.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

. . . But, if you want to be basic, be basic. A Response to, “Why I Can’t Be Basic.”

There are so many outlets telling us what to do, how to look, what to say, how to feel, when to breathe. . . that sometimes it’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is what we really want to do or if we’re falling for the either implicit or explicit trends that we see everywhere, everyday.

I think what you’re arguing, Julia,  is that a black woman cannot and should not be called basic because she is the epitome of everything . . . and what I’m arguing is that regardless of what a black woman is being called – she may act in any so way that she pleases and you can call it what you want.

I feel compelled to argue that if a black woman wants to be basic, then let her be basic.

By definition, a basic b**** is someone that follows the latest trends (be they good or bad) and is just one in a sea of many.

The idea of a black woman being whatever she wants to be is so important to me because I recently saw a meme that made me think twice about this ideal.

It was something along the lines of black women not needing to believe in (black) feminism because we believe in sisterhood.

I was so annoyed because no one ever said that (black) feminism and sisterhood had to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t we have both? Are they not one in the same?

Black feminism is sisterhood and sisterhood is black feminism.

Black feminism is the intersectionality of sex, class, gender and race.   

If  I had to theorize the idea of sisterhood, I think I’d copy and paste the definition of black feminism.

The idea that we can have one and not the other in and of itself is why we need them both in the first place. It’s another example of oppression – limiting what we can and cannot have.

When I’m asked to identify who I am, hands down, top 5 identifies always include black feminist. I am a black woman – never black and happening to be a woman or a woman who happens to be black. And, I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

Point. Blank. Period.

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. We keep saying it and then we walk around perpetuating stereotypes that deem it true.

#staywoke

And for the record – let’s stop stereotyping women all together.

I don’t believe even halfheartedly in the idea of a basic b****.

Not one woman should be called a basic b**** in the first place.  

Men shouldn’t be walking around calling women anything (feminism in its truest form).

And those of us in the sisterhood definitely shouldn’t be walking around bashing our gendered kinfolk (also feminism in its truest form).

Black woman, be whatever you want to be and get your life with this spoken word.

– Shamira

The Answer

Bobby Seale talked extensively about the power of the black vote, last weekend at the Black History and Culture Showcase

He said, “institutionalized racism, backed by law, is only undone by voting.”

Thinking about the idea that a man in a uniform can evoke harm until death on camera and face no punishment – I know that we are more than aware that institutionalized racism is rapid and rampant throughout these United States.

I was awed by the eloquence with which Seale spoke.

I was awed by his ability to recite, with enthusiasm and passion, poems and works from decades ago.

I was awed by the conviction in his voice.  

And, most importantly, I was inspired.  

It is often easiest to find ourselves overwhelmed by all of the wrongdoings that we hear/see/live daily – but, I couldn’t help but feel, last weekend, that Seale has had the answer all along.

The power of the vote.

Infiltrating the system by populating the offices of those that make the decisions that govern the country is the answer. And, it’s the method by which the BPP worked years ago. 

Definitely easier said than done; but, an answer, no less.

I find nothing radical about this notion; for, common sense should tell us that it is inherently right that a group of people should be governed by a group of his and her peers. And, even still, this is a notion that occupies, though in variation, many of the laws that govern the land.

So, it hurts my feelings when people that look like me say that they refuse to vote because none of the candidates are representative of them or their values.

And, it scares me senseless, worrying about the worst case scenario reining true and leading the country.

It feels like we’re starting from the ground. Fortunately, the idiom tells us that, the only way to go is up.

Perhaps it’s time to return to those foundations and principles that struck a chord with us so many years ago.  

If we can organize and educate, we can run for and win elections in order to make better lives for ourselves.

by: Shamira

*Check out Julia’s reaction to the Black History and Culture Showcase.

 

Parlae: Shamira

Parlae, To Me

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Shamira O’Neal

The systematic inequity that black people face every single day in America should seem both foreign and unfathomable. Unfortunately, it is a reality that has gone on so long that is silly to be surprised by the continuous injustices.

Notwithstanding, I find myself marveling at the idiocracy of our nation and at times completely confounded by the lack of empathy and respect. It’s easier to understand when I’m being real with myself; for I know that there are far worse things that have happened to our people than the atrocities that we hear/see/read about and/or fall victim to today.

Malcolm preached that if you’re black, you were born in jail.

Jail being representative of the slaughtering of Tamir Rice, Freddie Grey and Sandra Bland.

Jail being representative of mass lynchings that took place in the south in the 40s/50s/60s.

Jail being representative of what the white people called sharecropping.

Jail being representative of slave ships that docked on the Native Americans’ land in the 1800’s.

And, truth be told, right now feels like the worst. But I guarantee that nothing can be worse than being dragged from one continent to another, in shackles, forcibly sold and then working til death.

So maybe there’s light at the end of the dark, scary, and sometimes lonely tunnel that we call life in the United States of America.

Harriet saw the light.

Rosa saw it.

Malcolm and Martin saw it.

Barack saw it.

ParlEy by definition means to discuss. ParlAy by definition is a stake that is groomed and grows into something worthwhile. Parlae provides opportunities for productive discourse on the daily iniquities of marginalized groups of people.

Parlae is an opportunity for discussion, an outlet for frustrations, and highlight of shortcomings. It is an avenue for wanting something greater – and willing it true.

In order to “be the change,” you have to address the change.

Find the light; be the light; be the change; parlae the change.
In a world filled with injustice, hate, and false hope – Parlae is the light.