I recently sat down with a group of Black thirty year old and forty year old, newly trained mentors. Their alma mater (HS) was embroiled in a scandal this time last year, when a group of black kids created a twitter hashtag that revealed their experience at this “elite” public high school. Without revealing the school, let’s say it said something like, #blackinthisracistassschool. The hashtag started in December, blew all the way up in January and the officials had to swoop in and make things happen! One of the ideas birthed from this student led protest and indictment of this school culture, was the forming of this mentoring program. Former Black graduates from this HS agreed to come back and donate their time to mentor current Black students at the school.
So we sat together to discuss the possibilities of this mentoring program, it’s possible impact, what was “ok” to talk about and what was “not.” At one point, a mentor said something like, “We’re always only 7% and we have to learn to deal with it.” Continuing on to say, “we are always the minority.” To which I replied: “Nope. I’m not the minority in Antigua, on the continent, in South America or in East New York.”
The conversation then turned to how social media is ruining our kids sense of understanding the world; that they must understand that they will be the only one in the classroom and they have to learn to deal with that.
An older white woman, one of two white women in the room then said, “The problem is that when you all were here, the school was 50% black and now it’s 7% and that’s a big problem. These students are not having the same experiences you had. And it’s not right.”
That was Monday. And Tuesday I was greeted with what has inspired today’s post, the very woke, buzzfeed collection of student giving no fux, power point presentation. Please, please take a moment to look through them. Below, you will see some of my personal favorites:
So, I can hear you now.
Your particular students aren’t this woke.
Ok, maybe that’s true.
But, do you think they’re connected to social media enough to see this? And if that is true, do you think that seeing this would wake them up to the fact that something ain’t right in the world, and that they don’t see these things being discussed in their school, in your class?
What does this have to do with my mentors? Well they look at social media as a problem, like a lot of teachers do. And we’re challenging you to look at social media as one of the many possible solutions to engage students in learning, like this amazingly wonderful video of Black students from Appetite for Change talking about growing food and eating well, that I only found through the wonders of social media.
After tons of elation, my first thought was, who was their teacher? That teacher was amazing. After investigating some more, I realized it was a Community Led Organization and then it hit me; this would never be crafted and created by a school.
But side bar: Do you see the entire amount of Black joy, freedom, creativity and unapologetic blackness in this video, though? No pretenses, no respectability politics, just them, free! My soul sings!
Here’s my point. Our kids are woke! They are woke by association, by communication, by an unlimited source of information in the palm of their hands that is shared across all nations. Students can learn whatever they want through their phones.
We tend to ask or to delineate all the things that’s “wrong” with our kids and this generation. But we must take on a new approach, and begin asking what’s right, what’s burgeoning, what’s on the horizon and how can we assist them as they grow? If not, we will become obsolete.
One of the mentors, that night, said, “these kids are not the ‘turn the other cheek’ types of kids.” I will add, that these kids are yearning to be free from the societal bondages that we’ve all been convinced cannot be broken. We want to give them tools of survival, while they’re asking for tools of resistance.
Now, I KNOW many people find this tee shirt offensive. I’m not here to argue if it is, or is not. I’m here to ask, what about the sentiments of the tee shirt resonates with young people, because it is often sold out. What about it makes it disrespectful to some and not to others? And how do we bridge the understanding and knowledge gap between the two? How do we identify the gap? How do we teach to close the gap. And how does this tee shirt, like the power-point presentations, and the grow food video, help to wake us up to what is valuable and engaging and exciting to our current students? How is this generation, pushing us, to no longer accept things we think we cannot change?
Yesterday, a student asked me, incredulously, “You really believe we can end racism?” I said, “I’m dedicating my life to it.” He looked at me with a serious side eye. I asked him, “Do you think our enslaved ancestors believed that they had the power to end slavery, to be free?” Silence. I said, “You couldn’t be sitting here, right now, in this prestigious Catholic School if they didn’t believe the impossible was possible. Freedom was NOT handed to us.” I went on to say, “I’m going to do my part so that your grandchildren and my own will not have the same experiences as you and I have had.”
And so, the way I choose to answer the question, “how are the children?” is that some are woke af; some are just waking up; some are begging to be awaken from their slumber, while others don’t even know they’re asleep. The children are in various states of Black Consciousness, just as we are. But it is time for everyone, to wake up!
Wake up everybody
No more sleepin’ in bed
No more backward thinkin’
Time for thinkin’ ahead
The world has changed
So very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred
War and poverty, whoa, oh
Wake up, all the teachers
Time to teach a new way
Maybe then they’ll listen
To what’cha have to say
‘Cause they’re the ones who’s coming up
And the world is in their hands
When you teach the children
Teach ’em the very best you can
The world won’t get no better
If we just let it be, na, na, na
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it, yeah
Just you and me
Please remember to like, comment and share