As I write this Femi Kuti is blasting on my phone: “Black man know yourself, don’t forget your past…” That’s it right there; our reason for being here in this together is so that we might not forget who we are and where we have been. Last weekend I participated in a day filled with art, music, dance and conversation about the idea of the “lakou” or shared space in the Haitian diaposric community here in Brooklyn, specifically Crown Heights. All day we shared in expressions of our lakou, our coming together for community, connection, understanding and action.
The experience felt so vital and indeed it was. It left me wondering how is it that I exist without this. The reality is that I cannot. I believe the same holds true for our students. They cannot exist, be fully themselves without the benefit of community, connection, understanding and action. We experience community in many aspects of our lives whether it is at home, in our neighborhoods, our places of worship and so on. However schools are shared places that by and large do not emphasize the importance of the collective.
As I sat and took part in the lakou we created that day I understood the brilliance was in what we each contributed to the experience. From the youngest to the oldest we all had an opportunity to share, learn, express and celebrate. It was the perfect classroom.
Being reminded of the history of Ayiti (Haiti) assured me there is no challenge or obstacle we cannot overcome. If our students are not a part of shared spaces that affirm them and clearly connect them to their heritage and culture, our work is in vain. Yes we must help them pass the test but they first must know how their ancestors defeated those who sought to destroy them. When students are grounded in the truth they are better equipped to be academically successful.
So I ask you to consider is your classroom a sacred space for your students to learn and contribute? Do students feel connected and valued in that space? Does the teaching and the content draw them closer to their shared history and experience? Your students need not be of Haitian heritage but they all need a lakou.
Peace and love good people.
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