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Women’s History Month Salute to Teachers: She/Hers/Nation

How absolutely blessed I am to be a third generation educator. I proudly identify as a middle-aged, Black woman educator, Pan-African Nationalist, granddaughter, daughter, Mother (intentional capital ‘M’), and educator. In fact, like many other educators, the bulk of whom are female, I am/we are every woman – she/hers/nation . . .

Women educators are empowered, life changing, Revolutionary, nation builders. I know because not only am I striving to live up to this fine tradition; I am also blessed to come from the greatness of which I speak. How fortunate that I have inherited a legacy of service as an educator on good authority and with this gift of inheritance I hereby salute ALL educators, for their daily sacrifices on behalf of the greater good. I suspect there existed a legacy of service (teaching, healing, giving) in my extended matrilineal line to include my great grandmother Bigmama Carrie and my great, great courageous and ultra Revolutionary grandmother Mary Ella. However, for my own beloved grandmother Lestine (for who I was named), she was a life preserving and enhancing scholar/pastor/humanitarian who was also a devoted wife to my equally impressive grandfather Jefferson and a revered biological mother to ten children-5 girls, 5 boys. As such, my Bigmama’s distinction is that she birthed her very own village and embodied a role as a community mover/shaker and nation builder in her own divine right. She not only physically birthed, nurtured and raised her own ten children (and countless more of her more than 30 grandchildren) . . . but she saw fit to earn advanced degrees from such esteemed universities as the University of Michigan and Cambridge, so that among other meaningful goals she could study and show herself approved to teach high school at Central HS in Detroit, MI and later led her own flock of faith filled worshippers in her small, uniquely-branded African Methodist Episcopal Church in Detroit’s historic Russell Woods neighborhood. Thus far, in my own divine right life path I have followed in my Bigmama’s footsteps both literally and figuratively by being both an educator and to starting off my teaching career in the very same neighborhood high school where her instructional experience base was cultivated so many years earlier. Ultimately, in addition to being a supreme wife, Queen Mother, and AME preacher; my Bigmama was first a teacher: she/hers/nation . . . What a powerful legacy indeed!

My warlike, Revolutionary, activist, Queen Mother JoAnn – Assata is, like her empowered mother before her, so many iterations of greatness to so many people that it is hard to limit her areas of expertise to a mere few words. But among all of the things which make her special she too, inherited the legacy of being an educator, she/hers/nation – first and foremost. Early on in life, after trailblazing a first generation college graduate legacy at the time, and earning her Bachelors degree in social work from the esteemed University of Michigan, my parents who had met, married and had the first two of their four children while still in college, later moved to my Dad’s hometown of Benton Harbor, MI. Here in this rural, small town marked by the gross disenfranchisement of the overwhelming population of Black residents, my parents leveraged their newfound status as college graduates and their own admirable brand of Black Nationalism as members of the Black Panther Party to making positive change in their local community. My heroic, educator mother served as the director of nurturing childcare center and didn’t hesitate to expand upon her educational training and certification (even after earning her undergraduate degree), by subscribing to the coursework required by the State of Michigan to obtain the license to operate the daycare center in alignment with recognized ‘best practices’. Similarly, my own small business, Educate to Liberate LLC will soon expand to include a licensed African centered childcare iteration – the more things change, the more they stay the same!

My accomplished mom later went on to birth my younger brother Stephen B., to lead the local branch Y.W.C.A. in Detroit and to later transform her organizing and grassroots activism expertise into a national antiracist platform of fighting racism, sexism, and oppression from an impactful executive leadership post from the organization’s headquarters in New York City. After having a fourth child, a baby girl who is now a brilliant attorney, my trailblazing mother could have been content to simply assume safe, corporate positions of power in various capacities. Instead, she chose to continue to fight injustice by bringing her talents back home to Detroit and opting to lead the largest branch of the N.A.A.C.P. in the nation. In this role, her leadership was cemented as one who was fearless, committed to ending oppression of our people and who did so on notable fronts such as via the National Anti-Klan Network – yes, the Ku Klux Klan is still very much alive and well even in 2023 – and leading the national call for Reparations as a national staffer for a legendary Black Congressional member and Dean of the CBC. All of the aforementioned years of dues paying and notable work ethic contributed to her being successfully elected to represent the city of Detroit as an esteemed city council member at-large; a post form which she retired as an emeritus in 2013. In true, African genius, holistic and spiritual manifestation manner my Mom’s life has now come full circle as she has leveraged her “retirement” to being a senior pastor of her own faithful flock of unity, truth seekers and to teaching, full time as a beloved and ever-popular college professor of English. After all these years of meaningful work, my mother still is//we are every woman – she/hers/nation . . .

And now that my accomplished, esquire sister has seen fit to share her vast talents with future barristers via college campuses and my brilliant, beautiful daughter has (at least temporarily), embraced her inheritance of greatness by embracing the now 4th generation of educators and absolutely shines in teaching high school science, I could not be more proud to salute the women in my own family and those nationwide who make radical change in the most meaningful, and yet unsung way imaginable – as teachers! All I know is that there is perhaps no greater misnomer than the world viewing educators through the myopic lens of being somehow lazy, one-trick ponies; when in actuality, the educators I have inherited my powerful legacy from and those with whom I have tirelessly worked (over the past 29 years) comprise the most impressive group of highly educated, moral, and committed to serving humankind people I have ever known. And since the overwhelming mass of this hardworking, admirable group happen to boast of an intersectional identity which includes being women – she/hers/nation – I salute you today, tomorrow, and always! Ase’

My Bigmama Lestine and her great-granddaughter and future educator

Mother and daughter proudly embrace their legacy of educator inheritance

My beloved grandmother and I on my wedding day – I was her namesake and a teacher!

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We Wear the Mask, COVID Reprise

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Like Claude McKay said, we have always worn the mask. That part of our lives is not new. Only now, it seems that all of humanity wears an external, tangible mask-not just an eerily symbolic one. It’s true that the whole world is donning a mask right now. But your masks still ain’t like ours. We are not the same. When you take off your masks you can breathe deeply again. Fill your lungs with oxygen, expand your chests and breathe life unencumbered by suffering. While all the while . . .

We literally and figuratively: Can. Not. Breathe. We wear the mask 24-7. We wear the mask eternally. We wear the mask and yet, still – We are dying. We are not allowed to mourn or to bury our dead. We attend drive through, virtual or nonexistent funerals for the countless Black lives that have been lost to the pandemics of racism and Coronavirus and we suffer silently. We mourn inwardly, cause we have to work and don’t have the time or capacity to heal. We mourn inwardly because y’all can’t stand to see our pain. We cry intermittently and out of necessity we work, serve, teach, pray, move, sing, dance, pretend, play and all the while . . . we are grasping at breath and dying slow, miserable deaths in alarmingly disproportionate rates to everyone else. We. Wear. The. Mask.

Why should the world be over-wise,

in counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

To suddenly see people everywhere wearing a mask should be startling, an anomaly to our very spirits and souls. But somehow it makes sense that the truth of the guile of humanity should be partially hidden in plain sight. As for me… I don’t want to see your smiling faces when your wretched souls harbor such hatred for Black lives. To see Black people wearing masks so faithfully, while others fight to go without and declare their rebellious right, indignation to live freely without them; should be evidence that we are simply not the same. What means life or death to us, is truly a nuisance to others. Your privilege absolves you from the losses of life, agency and joy that this global health crisis has uniquely inflicted on our lives. You seem to only know the inconvenience of Black people and other people of color from faithfully and willingly serving you. While we know all too well the very real toll the violence of dual pandemics of racism and its sister global killer, COVID can and will continue to wreak on Black lives.

Empty streets. Economy at a standstill, sane school systems engaged in online instruction. And yet, the vast disconnect between those who want a swift return to business as usual and those who want a reimagined future (without your oppressive foot on our necks), is only widening. Assault-rifle armed Klansmen, women and children protest at state capitols to demand a return to business as usual. Their efforts encouraged by the demented, unfit madman at the helm of the country who increasingly ridicules, berates, poisons and kills at will in the name of a vast, white supremacist version of America’s greatness as their driving force. And sure enough, slowly but surely, states buckle under the pressure to begin to open (but slowly, in stages), so that they can once again be “served” as Black lives and those of others low on the priority rung, re-assume their essential (read expendable), lives and duties continue to engage in the performative preservation of the status quo.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!”

Meanwhile as cities burn and mass protests ensue the pandemic lingers on to encompass a new normal and way of life. One in which there are no more illusions of power, democracy or social justice and order. The masks on our faces only reveal the long term stratifications and intersectionality of identities, layered beneath the surface. Teachers, nurses, doctors, certified nurses assistants, orderlies, maintenance staff, service employees and restaurant staff have now become the essential fabric and components to a society that cannot function without us. America seemingly can’t abide the round the clock, 24-7 realities of life with their own children and families in their own sprawling homes, communities and living freely on their own expansive plots of land. Indeed, from tortured souls arise the cries of a crumbling economy and the disintegration of an age-old facade of a global superpower, now uncovered to be the sordid, broken infrastructure of a vile, racist and rotten to the core cultural framework.

How ironic that as America hastens to its inevitable demise and irreconcilable doom . . . You too, wear the mask.

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Coming from Good Stock

Both my maternal grandmother and my sweet, saintly mother were anointed women of God. They were each respectively devout, well educated wives and mothers who exceeded all expectations of them in terms of being relegated to just being basic. And my Bigmama and Mama were absolutely exceptional in everything they devoted their lives and energies to achieving. Honestly, between both of my Nichols’ grandparents examples of unconditional love of family, reverence to God and the premium values of hard work (not to mention the importance of a college education), all 10 children including my mom, aunts and uncles were blessed to come from exceptional stock.

My paternal grandmother was similarly regal, discerning, anointed and loving in every way. Her striking, and deeply melanated beauty was merely the outermost component of her vast storehouse of virtues. She was an exceptional wife and mother who devoted much of her energy and life’s work to ensuring that her many children would benefit from the values, motherwit/common sense knowledge, formal education and work ethic that she and my grandfather had the privilege and wherewithal to strategically pass on to their 11 children. On the Watson side of the family, my father, aunts and uncles were blessed to come from exemplary stock.

It is such a privilege to come from greatness. Still, the prior generation’s own lifelong commitments to serving God, family and others in the community – Including their combined years of service as devoted parents and grandparents, educators, pastors, blue collar workers, and even as elected leaders – are only the PUBLIC facing part of their powerful legacies. I’m not sure whether this fine tradition will ever be replicated. Sadly, today our family is separated from one another, without Matriarchal and /or Patriarchal leadership and without meaningful traditions or values. The most important and PRIVATE point of pride for each of the older generations was undoubtedly in being situated in, then in building and maintaining their own strong family unit first. So, if in fact greatness is elusive in this generation – and I would argue that it is . . . . The reason and sad reality is the inarguable and unmistakable destruction of the Black family unit.

The family unit for African people has always set the standard of the vital village construct. Each family or village is the literal foundation of trust, loyalty, support and love and primary source of inspiration, encouragement, protection and strength (particularly outside of the public gaze). You can also mimic this family and village dynamic in independent Black communities and institutions: I know because I have seen and borne witness to the beauty and empowerment of this exemplary model (Asante Sana /thanks to Dr. Clifford Watson, Queen Mother Imani Humphries and Baba Malik Yakini), in both Detroit’s Pan-Afrikan, nationalist community and in multiple African-Centered schools, Malcolm X Academy, Aisha Shule/W.E.B. DuBois Preparatory and Nsoroma Institute, specifically. But, until such a time as Black men and women are unified in our mission to raise our own children in loving families, instill self love, common sense/work ethic/formal education, encourage them to fall in love, marry (other Black men and women), then to procreate and MOST importantly to provide for their Black children in a manner comparable to past generations, in order to perpetuate a hint of the same positive morals, values and cultural norms . . We shall NEVER again have a generation of people who can confidently say they have come from good stock. African people It’s Nation time! Yebo, Yebo‼️💯🖤💣💚✨

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Protecting our Intersectional Identity

Once as a graduate level student earning a master’s in Secondary English Education at Brooklyn College (CUNY), I read a poignant work by a Caribbean scholar and wrote a paper entitled Fat, Black Woman Exposed and earned an A+ for my rather unorthodox and admittedly risky approach to a graduate course assignment. In retrospect, I had dared to engage in a scholarly, comprehensive literary analysis in a manner which addressed identity both personally and head on. Based on the time period in my life in which I submitted this assignment, I had to have penned this close reading assignment and thoroughly personal examination between 2008-2010. And this was long before I knew of or had even been exposed to Dr. Kimberle Crensahw’s brilliant framework of the concept of Intersectionality. Yet, I innately understood and even then could passionately speak to how the intersection of these identities resided in my own Black experience. I could also readily relate to how the author and others who identified with identities similar to my own, related to the world around us (or at least, so I thought).

My intersectionality is comprised of all the ways that my identity presents itself to the public and it means that injustice does not merely manifest as racism, sexism, ageism, or ableism (which for me is more sensitive and prevalent, since I have only spent the past 6-7 years facing the tumultuous cycles of disability and limited mobility). Truly, my own unique intersectional identity is a unique combination whereby all of these primary identities and descriptors intersect as a means to either oppress me (in the form of a triple threat), or spur me into action against the injustice of the being unduly oppressed – and I choose (and have always chosen) the latter as an appropriate form of self expression. I embrace, as did my ancestors before me, every component of my intersectional identity as a badge of honor and an enormous asset in my life and work. I keenly trace my educational career through the lens of an empowered Educate to Liberate movement ideal in the sense that I have an unspoken, obligatory commitment to much more than parroting curriculum and standards in a way which is devoid from critical consciousness.

The meeting of my Blackness, my womanhood, my wisdom in aging and even in my (often invisible), disability is itself revolutionary. Because I experience all these identities very consciously and simultaneously, there is this constant need to engage in spirit, soul and life-affirming practices (like prayer, meditation, journaling, affirmations, positive self-talk and the ever warranted need to fiercely protect my inner light and joy). For me, everyday life in America wields power in an intentionally genocidal manner and it literally drains my Revolutionary life blood to be forced to exist and/or identify in ways which are foreign and yet inescapable from a colonizer and marginalized perspective. So, to live, work and fight against oppression yet another day and what motivates me to be ever so committed to retaining the parts of me which are innately African, without making apologies for doing so is to proverbially fill my own cup and to religiously protect my energy.

As such, every part of me is loud, Black and proud and speaks to my identity. From my name to my physical appearance and my personal habits and thoughts, I live out loud, and I celebrate my culture in a manner which is consistent with both an outer and inner appreciation for all the things which uniquely set me apart in this society. My unique Pan-African name is as much of an intentional choice as is my natural hairstyle, my inner city of Detroit address, my lifelong activism, to even my career as an educator and something as seemingly insignificant as my style of dress – I am an intentionally authentic reflection of a proud Woman of African descent, who is differently abled and unafraid to challenge the WS culture norms and system which would sooner erase than embrace me in that it has persistently oppressed my people for generations.

My most unexpected collision with the insidious WS culture traits to which I refer and have become accustomed to being misjudged by, occurred earlier this month amongst a large, virtual gathering of Black activists no less (and while smack dab in the midst of mourning the abrupt end devastating loss of my dear, beloved Queen Mother). As a revered, African woman who worked well beyond retirement age and who gave of herself unselfishly to ALL – my mother should have only been showered with high accolades and regard upon her transition into the ancestral plane. However, two women who worked very closely in the movement for liberation with her and who have known and experienced firsthand the benefits of being loved by such a remarkable woman, opted to speak of her in a recent posthumous tribute in ways that were more offensive and off putting than reflective of respect. In the moment, while I was deeply grieving but still ever protective of my mother’s legacy and keenly conscious of the initial slighted comments, in regards to her heavy teaching load as a tenured professor, I opted to speak freely rather than to read my prepared remarks. But in hindsight, what an incredible oxymoron to be faced with offensive comments and intersectional identity adjacent beliefs (regarding the tireless work ethic and heavy load of Black womanhood), while simultaneously paying tribute and honor to a larger than life human rights activist and public servant who had just literally given of her life’s work in devotion to our collective struggle against racism and oppression, sheesh. Given our common history of raising children, speaking truth to power, being a wife/mother/activist while still maintaining an extensive work schedule any untimely and distasteful commentary re: our cautionary need to attend to self-care as a deterrent against illness and death is as assumptive as it is reprehensible. Both of these separate and disparaging comments and statements (from so-called sister friends no less), are/were deeply driven by personal agendas, opinions, the literal pot calling the kettle black and represent merely a sad reflection of WS culture traits which seek to weaponize catch phrases like self-care, and are not based upon the abject reality of growing up Black, and woman in a culture that solely promotes and affirms white male, heteronormative identity as valued, treasured and synonymous with the privilege of longevity.

Furthermore, the sheer biased, incredulous and external assertion that my mother did not engage in her own deeply regimented lifestyle inclusive of: prayer, meditation, journaling, affirmations, spiritual/physical fitness, positive self-talk and conscious, fierce protection of her deeply religious and ever present spiritual light and joy is wholly unwarranted and false. Her transition from the earthly realm was as predestined, inevitable and as inescapable as is the sun rising in the east and setting on the west. Her life infinitely worth much more than your sound bites of flawed, biased, and un informed opinions. Indeed, her inspirational life and hugely influential path was predetermined and should therefore not be subject to the scrutiny and dangerous assumptions of other Black women whom she regarded as so fondly.

Rather, each of us are entitled to determine for ourselves how to best protect and honor our intersectionality in ways that contribute not only to our own preservation but in such a way as to enhance the lives of others. As for me, I owe an insurmountable debt to my mother, one of my longest 6-year blog subscribers, and certainly my greatest love and fiercest ally and source of strength in all aspects of life. In so much as I have always and will forever strive to model mama’s wealth of love for God, her family and others and to live her exemplary life of service in a way that outlives my own fragile, temporary years – I will continue to embrace and protect her powerful legacy, which proudly runs through my DNA as I continue to protect my intersectionality. Of course, I am extremely aware that perhaps in doing so, and not spending my life retrofitting my African hips, nor lips into too small places that were never meant for me, I risk the consequences of harsh judgment from those whom I love and the external world alike; but honestly, that’s a risk that I’m willing to take and the only one which honors the ultimate sacrifice of the mighty African warrior women who came before me. Asé

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Education Post-Affirmative Action

The systemic and structural inequities in schooling were already at an unprecedented level and all time high in 2023, given evidence of the struggle to establish and maintain more diverse and inclusive academic environments in the United States. Yet, we are now witnessing the impact of adding insult to injury and harm in real time, with the recent Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action and/or consider race in college admissions. This decision renders a college education as an option for only those born of unearned privilege and wealth. Thus, ensuring that an already under educated America (especially in comparison with the rest of the world), will certainly be worse than ever before, from the lens of its ability to compete.

It is a historically significant fact that affirmative action policies were only established to redress the oppressive, generational effects of institutionalized racism in the years immediately following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling to desegregate schools. And now that these protections and remedies are no longer enshrined in the law, schools serving Black, Latinx, Indigenous and students of color (which were already inherently unequal), are now even more susceptible of being classified as merely carceral places synonymous with inflicting irreparable harm. As if the schools were not already part and parcel of miseducation – now this reality has been made official by the highest court in the land. Sigh . . .

In an Amicus brief, arguing in favor of continued affirmative action protections, Apple and 70 other major U. S. corporations theorize that the Supreme Court ruling which bans race conscious admissions in higher education, have implications far beyond academia and only serves to hurt companies and the economy as a whole. Their compelling argument concluded that the dissolution of affirmative action would mean that some of the best talent would go untapped in the “pipeline of highly qualified future workers and business leaders”. Needless to say, the sentiment of these companies is informed by their own commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Kudos to them on their attempt to speak on behalf of a policy aimed at equalizing the corporate playing field. There is certainly value and impactful data to support their claim that diversity does indeed enhance creativity, communication, and improves decision making in business performance. Despite the justice’s recent abysmal decision to perpetuate a system of codified oppression, Apple, Adobe, Airbnb, Cisco, Dell, Google, Ikea, Intel, Lyft, PayPal, Salesforce and others have largely seen fit to recommit their intention to apply affirmative action norms in their hiring practices, as equal opportunity employers committed to inclusion and diversity of all.

Without the provision of affirmative action and race conscious admission policies, the disproportionate impact of limited education access and opportunity will be most severe for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander and Asian communities. Undoubtedly, the negative and limiting impacts of knowledge sharing, employment opportunities and business ownership, and most importantly, the economic earning potential of marginalized communities will be felt for many generations yet unborn. As an ominous example of a sign of the times, nine states had already banned the use of race in admissions policies at public colleges and universities: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. Essentially, every college and university in all states now have the blanket authority to fail to mitigate the effects of generational oppression, institutionalized racism and to return to the yesteryear reality of segregation.

Clearly, this decision which effectively eliminates over half a century of precedent, will now undoubtedly contribute to the elite colleges and universities accepting far less historically marginalized groups of students to their ranks. We would be remiss to erroneously believe that the deleterious consequences of this ruling will only be suffered by those who seemingly benefited from affirmative action. Indeed, only time will tell how the privileged few who legislate inequity, will also experience the repercussions of this desperate attempt to permanently relegate the masses of BIPOC persons, to a permanent underclass.

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Education as a Priority Investment

You know the old adage about how doctors make the worst patients? Well, I’m beginning to wonder whether this analogy also applies to educators. I can readily admit that in spite of being a lifelong student and learner in so many ways, I still have so much to learn about our capacity to love and to leverage education as a priority obligation – especially when it comes to our greatest assets . . . Our beloved children.

If anyone had asked me just a year ago, whether I believed that American citizens properly valued our education? My cynical response would have been a vehement “No, not nearly enough as we should”. And I would have likely shared my own experiences as a veteran teacher and school leader for nearly 3 decades and countered that too many parents are only motivated by negative stereotypes or grades as a means to propel them to get up and get actively involved in their children’s educational lives and schools (especially beyond the elementary stage). I might’ve even rather arrogantly shared, that as a small business owner myself I have only attracted 1:1 individualized tutoring revenue from the many Chinese families I have been blessed to have worked with, as evidence to support my position. Surely, while there certainly is truth to the reality that I have partnered with too many to count Chinese families in ensuring their children’s mastery of the English language, the fact that they eagerly seek highly educated Americans to teach their children English doesn’t mean that we don’t equally invest in our children in equal proportion. Well, today – the 18th of May in 2023, I can unashamedly and even publicly announce that I was 100% jaded and undoubtedly wrong by minimizing the degree to which we too, value education as worthy of our capital investment.

How refreshing it is to learn how wrong you’ve been about such a negative attitude and skewed belief in education, when you are yourself a lifelong member of the esteemed educational career in question. Especially since the truth of the matter re: our collective willingness and predisposition to investing deeply in our own children’s education has much more affirmation and value in demonstrating the limitless love, commitment, and integrity that so many countless families have chosen, when it comes to the academic success of their own children/grandchildren. I for one, have never been more proud than to stand corrected as I am right now. And I owe it all to the supplemental education company, with whom I partner (that happens to have been around for decades and is almost as old as I am) 👀. For I am now convinced in a very short span of time, and to the tune of thousands of dollars of sound investments, that our own American families are no less committed to sacrificing on behalf of our own children’s education than that of our international peers – who are frequently touted and globally regarded for their high respect for knowledge, education, and advanced degrees.

I’m being serious when I say that prior to this year, I would have lost my hard earned money in a very foolish bet against our perceived willingness to invest in education when compared not only to the affluent and working class families I have worked with in China; but also in comparison with the families on the African continent who have such an admirable esteem for the educational system as a whole that even the children in Ghana, would sooner be in school learning, than to play outside in the glorious, idyllic warmth of the soul-enhancing sun. I know this to be true because early on in my teaching career, when I was just starting out and in my early to mid-twenties and while teaching in a legendary African centered school in Detroit, Malcolm X Academy – we were fortunate enough to sponsor a fully subsidized/community financed trip for more than a dozen K-8 students (and 2 adult chaperones), to celebrate Kwanzaa, volunteer our efforts, and spend 7 days abroad in our sister school, on the Eastern region. Not only was this trip remarkable in its capacity to expose our young scholars to the glory and beauty of the African diaspora from which our ancestral descendants (and quite frankly from which all humankind) sprang. But how utterly blessed I was to share in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (as both photographed and immortalized in the pictures and video shown herein). Among the indelible lessons learned from this life altering pilgrimage to our Motherland, we witnessed firsthand the meager architectural structure and supplies readily available within our sister school in Ghana. Moreover, despite its relative simplicity, use of natural light, and surplus of the traditional, one room schoolhouse charm; we encountered African children of all ages, who by far surpassed our own seemingly high standards and expectations for the sacred realm reserved for as the learning environment. No doubt, a teacher in Africa is/was extremely high regarded by all students, without exception. And the students would sooner welcome basic school supplies as treasured gifts than to worship and/or selfishly demand the latest, most expensive designer clothing and shoes for themselves. In comparison to Western societal norms, this was revelatory indeed. Needless to say, our students who were tasked with copiously reporting and presenting their research findings to their peers, were unanimously humbled and admittedly awed by how much they and their peers take their own (largely free and enormously well equipped, by comparison), education for granted, back home in the U. S.

Similarly, countless Americans have likely borne witness to the presence of newly transitioned immigrants who are new citizens to this country make zero excuses for their above reproach attitudes towards achievement in their studies and high academic performance pursuits. There are certainly enough demeaning stereotypes of those external to typical cultural norms who value education as a priority and as such are typecast as a sort of “model minority” which abounds. Yet scarcely do we hear about or celebrate those of us who are disadvantaged, working paycheck to paycheck, and/or who happen to comprise the ranks of the privileged, wealthy class, and who equally find themselves in respective positions of needing to supplement their children’s education’s, out of their own pockets and by any means necessary. In the case of my college educated parents, early on in their marriage and when they were admittedly strapped for cash, they were flatly denied by the bank as they sought an education loan to help subsidize my brothers and my private school tuition. Thank goodness that in spite of the reality of such racist redlining, they were quietly advised to seek a “vacation loan” instead. Without much formality, this nonsensical request was swiftly approved and we were then afforded the opportunity to benefit from a private, premier African-centered education at Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit. The ironic headline here is that though I was an actual beneficiary of my parents commitment to investing in our education, I still believed the hype that most Americans don’t value education nearly as much as do other cultures and societies. Newsflash: I have now witnessed it as a veteran educator and the truth is much more satisfying than fiction! In fact I count myself as lucky to have even helped to foster tangible levels of academic supports to U.S. families by recently partnering with a privately owned and wholly committed, small company -which has as its core beliefs and mission, the goal of providing the needed resources and personalized learning services to K12 students and their families, per their demonstrated intention to move Heaven and Earth (if need be), to ensure that any/all struggling students are afforded the opportunities that may come more easily for our ranks of the privileged.

I guess what this means is two things: that you’re never too old to learn new tricks and that I’m never again tutoring my family members and/or friends’ children for free (sorry, not sorry)! Listen, I have seen families of all kinds collaborate in the singular goal of offering their youngest, most promising family members the literal “gift of education”. I have patiently persisted with these families in their efforts to determine and devise of new and creative ways to finance the academic supports their child needs. I have been privy to some agonizing over the dilemma of how to ensure that their child is not somehow left behind, through no fault of their own. Does this mean that we’ve somehow solved the age-old dilemma of miseducation which plagues this country and which this blog essentially exists to bemoan the existence of? The answer is of course, a resounding-No! Alas, the struggle continues. We must be ever vigilant, especially in the countless ways that this outdated educational model in the United States informs and otherwise cripples, deleteriously affects the scores of children of color who languish in the opportunity myth and gap, as so aptly coined by TNTP in a groundbreaking study. I daresay that our unending, universal struggle for educational equity and the the ever increasing need to abolish the oppressive power dynamics cultivated by thoroughly oppressive, white supremacist culture traits and construct do indeed remain (and even thrive in this post-pandemic, book banning and ridiculous critical race theory propagandist era). Still, all is not lost.

So, I guess the only question that remains now is how precisely, do families best navigate the pitfalls of our current educational systemic failures? By coalescing around the priorities of right-sizing the entire flawed system (for the benefit of our children’s children), whilst also valuing our own children’s academic success by unapologetically speaking life over their life trajectory, through tangibly investing – not in cars, clothes and meaningless things – but in education. I urge more of us to continue to dig deep (even as we work to improve what ails us), as we match the powerful energies of that which people the world over hold dear: investing in our children’s education and futures. In my own case, in addition to my lifelong passion of extolling the infinite virtues of African-centered education, for Black children in particular, I am also humbled and honored to have been in the midst to collaborate with an incredible and empowered group of exceptional educators at the nonprofit organization Leading Educators, as we tapped and gleaned from students’ own voices and envisioned a culturally relevant, responsive, and sustainable framework that by the way, can be downloaded and implemented for free (!) and which guides us all in the valiant pursuit of “Teaching for Equity”. This publication, in concert with our individual family and larger organizational institutions must forge a unified front, in ways which allow Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx students who are furthest from opportunity to feel seen and to justifiably have access to an affirming educational model. Let’s all pledge to increasingly invest in the education of all children, as often as needed to offset the enormous burden and costs of widespread miseducation. After all, every single child alive is certainly worth it . . . Kudos to those of you who have helped me to learn this meaningful life lesson from your sterling examples – especially after so many years of ignorance about the depths of our investment in an industry with infinite returns! #Salute

Malcolm X Academy students in Ghana (December 1997)
Malcolm X Academy, Detroit MI –
a short, retrospective film to honor the inherent beauty and value of an African-centered education.
Malcolm X Academy students in Ghana (December 1997)