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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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