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

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!

 

 

 

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

 

An Inauguration and a March

I am Black and a Woman, not just a Woman. There is a difference and that means something.

Where do I begin?

The Inauguration. 

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Like many citizens I had to work while the president was being sworn into office. So, I watched his speech later. I wanted to be fair. I wanted to have an open mind. I wanted to hear him speak and have some peace of mind. I wanted to leave the speech feeling like things might be okay.

Ya’ll know it  didn’t happen.

Instead, I left feeling even more alienated than before. I left understanding that I , unlike our president, understand checks and balances. Trump has a lot of grandiose ideas that our government is never going to let pass or give him their support towards. Not to mention that a number of his cabinet nominations openly testified that they did not agree with many of his policies and positions.

He stood up at that podium and talked about government for the people and an hour later signed a document that repealed the Affordable Care Act which was crafted specifically to take care of the people. There is no way to talk around that…

His speech was pure propaganda, and if Paul Ryan and the Republicans think they are going to dangle Trump around like a puppet and hide behind his propaganda doing dirt in the dark they have got another thing coming. I SEE YOU! I am going to make sure everyone else sees you too SNEAKY SNEAKY PAUL RYAN. Ya’ll better watch out for this man.

The March. 

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Get Involved!

I had an amazing time yesterday marching in D.C in solidarity with Women across the globe. The president has said some really horrible things about Nasty Women and he needs to be confronted about them every chance we get. We have been put in a position where we have to fight for human rights that have been common place for years, and should have always been common place.

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Feminism is a tricky area of activism, especially for a woman of color. A march like yesterday holds a great deal of importance, but there are still underlying tensions that will need to be addressed moving forward. A really great friend of mine shared a really great article with me today about the march and it’s intersectionality. At Femenisting they are discussing the disparity between the organizers’ radical policy platform and the way things are unfolding on the ground. I was there, and I agree.  The vision is strong. The names and leaders involved are big, inspiring, and revolutionary. But there is a disconnect. On my bus there were 3 women of color. In the crowd we were few and far between. We were there…but we weren’t. Why?????

For me, it always comes down to trust. Do women of color trust white women to truly put their lives on the line for theirs? I don’t think so.

I am Black and a Woman, not just a Woman. There is a difference and that means something. As the movement progresses we are going to have figure out what it means if we truly want to unite.

Just saying…

Julia

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