My President is Black…

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…for 9 more days.

Well, well, well, last night was intense. Did you watch the President’t speech? A true culturally responsive educator wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And if you did, go on over to the poor man’s university (youtube) and check it out.

In our welcome back post on Monday, I talked about the fact that, for our students, saying goodbye to Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha is going to be very traumatic. One because all they’ve ever known is a Black family in the White House, two because that Black family has been the epitome of grace, intelligence, charm, beauty and love and three because the incoming president, is well, the total opposite of everything the Obamas are.

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TRAUMA.

Here at CREAD, we’ve been thinking a lot about next week. With MLK Day on Monday and the Apocalypse aka the inauguration on Friday, how do we help our students and ourselves through this transition, this four year long transition, that is full of uncertainty and fear?

Well leave it to President Obama to craft a road map in his farewell address. He outlines the threats to our American democracy and encourages us to “forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need.”

You know that we believe the education our children need centers on race and addressing the role it plays in their development. Not since his “race speech” entitled A More Perfect Union, in Philadelphia in March of 2008 has he discussed the topic of race in such a heartfelt way:

“So if we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system.

That is what our Constitution and highest ideals require.

But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. It won’t change overnight. Social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change. But if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…

…For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ’60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our founders promised.”

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Barack did what he has been known to do, calm the masses, inspire us and lay out a framework of progress built on hope and direct it to the most powerful interest group in America, our young people:

Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.

Our young people, those who are sitting in your classrooms today, goofing around in the lunch room, cutting in the bathroom, studying for the next exam, performing experiments, writing prose or rhymes for their next track. Our young people, who we have daily interactions with, who we have been entrusted to teach, to guide, to love, to help mold into our future leaders, and who as Obama explained, will “soon outnumber” us; his farewell speech was aimed squarely at them.

So YOU better make sure they see it, analyze it, internalize it, and use it as a recipe for hope AND action.

I know some of you will RUSH into playing this and using this today and I understand that desire. And so yes, talk about it with your students, maybe watch a small clip or two, but I implore you to take this speech and make it a part of a much larger plan.

I ask you, what does next week look like for you? And how are we ensuring in times of uncertainty that our students still feel hope and that they have the power to help.

The line that will last with me, is the following, “I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.” Family, it is time, to be our own guardians of hope and be our students’ light. It’s time to stop just speaking about it and start BEING about it.

Our next four, maybe eight years will be PAINFUL. I do not doubt that. And we have to take care of ourselves, mentally, emotionally and psychologically AND we have to take care of the mental, emotional and psychological development of our babies, may they be 7 or 17, sitting in front of us daily.

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So here’s my charge to you; remind yourself of the incredibly steep climb it took for Barack Obama to become the 44th President of the United States. Do you remember how unbelievable it was, how impossible, how many naysayers there were? Do you remember his “yes we can” speech? Do you remember waiting in long lines to vote and holding your breath on election night only to be filled with jubilee and disbelief? Do you remember trekking to the inauguration and how very cold it was? Do you remember Barack and Michelle coming out of the car and walking the parade route and the fear of them being harmed creeping into your mind?

I know you don’t truly remember.

And I know our students don’t.

Hope and action got us our first Black President and only hope and action will help us through this presidency. So make the time leading up to the inauguration a tribute to the youth, because they are the ones who elected Barack Obama.

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Here are a few ideas:

Have your students research how Obama became President.

Engage in an exercise of hope and action and choose five of his speeches to dig into with your class, look at the videos and read the transcripts. Then you can have them write their own recipe for hope and action.

You know music is the true textbook. Take a look at the lyrics of these two songs; Young Jeezy, Jay Z and Nas’ My President is Black (RMX) and Nas’ Black President and have the students do a historical reflection piece juxtaposing those two songs of pride to Obama’s speeches or even MLK, since his day of honor is quickly approaching.

Oh and when Barack thanked Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, you want to talk about water works? I would definitely talk about that in my classroom, because honestly the most revolutionary thing we can do as Black people is love each other. Shoot, on inauguration day, I may just watch “Southside With You” about their romance or the movie they went to see on their first date, “Do the Right Thing.”

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Lastly, take time to have you and your students reflect on what the Obama presidency has meant, and record it in written form or using video or audio. Understand that the ability to tell our stories, the way we want to, will impact future generations. We must control our narratives and experiences and leave them as our historical gift to our progeny.

Whatever you do, do NOT let this transition go without acknowledgment, joy and pride, while ensuring that we do what Dr. King implored of us, “build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

In solidarity!

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Posted in Community Building, education and politics, PRIDE, We Honor You.

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