My moms was my first:
- Real love
Most importantly, she was my first real teacher. I remember the time she sat on the toilet and verbally talked me through how to tongue kiss as I practiced in the mirror, or the countless times she’s forewarned me about my ratchet female companions, oooh and the countless other times she’s attempted to mend my broken heart after horrible breakups with those same females she warned me about.
Yeah, my mom’s the shit. And yes, I’m hardheaded.
It’s the occupation of these multiple roles that has made my mom my best friend in the whole wide world.
She’s my right hand.
The one I’m taking on a heist.
She’s the brains and I’m the muscle.
She’s the one I’m splitting the check with.
The one I’m going to the grave for if need be.
The one who’d go to the grave for me; despite them times I came at her wrong and she tried to send me to that aforementioned grave.
She’s the epitome of a ride or die. I love her in ways that can’t be described because, for me, she has been the sun, stars, and the moon.
And she’s been schooling me for the better part of my waking days.
I’ve been learning.
When it comes to me and my sisters, she has always been active in our education and overall development. Mama never played when it came to school. She has always utilized styles of teaching and learning that have helped to engage us as a community of active learners. Through the fights, cursing, and times of not speaking, she has helped to aid us in our growth and development. She taught us to have a “each one teach one mentality,” the idea that if you learn something new, you bring it back and teach the collective, or engage in that larger inquiry as a group.
For me it’s been amazing to experience, time and time again, her ability, and most importantly, her commitment, to being a continual learner. It’s always been that way on her quest to get ahead as a Black woman and single mother of five. And as I’ve grown into this new level of masculinity and consciousness, she’s really been open and excited to hear and learn about everything that I am experiencing and learning.
The shift from student to teacher has been quite an experience.
Last weekend, we sat together having several deep conversations about religion, Blackness, and our miseducation or lack of education as Africans in America.
Sb: While the other two topics are my shit, I have to admit that I’m not a particularly religious person. I believe in the notion of a larger sense of spirituality, but I’ve never subscribed to any faith based worship. However lately I’ve entered into the stage in my life where it interests me.
We talked about the creation of the Bible and the way in which the information within the book has been used to back the agendas of powerful White European men, how in fact the Fourth of July is not the day of independence for enslaved Africans in America. And about the origins of the Atlantic slave trade and the horrific system of chattel slavery practiced in the Americas and the Caribbean.
We talked about a lot y’all.
All through a lens of Blackness.
The time we spent talking was really special because it showed me how much, she, like myself and countless other Black people, don’t have deep meaningful connections with our history and their culture. We have been brought up believing in White supremacy and as such have been indoctrinated by its inequitable grasp.
In effect, our minds have been conditioned to view all aspects of our lives through this White colonial lens. Y’all know, like our:
- Religious institutions
- Health decisions
- Financial shit like credit and such (even tho that ain’t half bad)
I mean damn near everything.
This lens has traumatized us and fostered the creation of what Marcus Garvey called “mental slaves.”
“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”
If we don’t free our minds, how can we really liberated Black people?
Now, while she has no college degree, to me she’s the most brilliant woman I’ve ever encountered; solely because her heart tells her mind that growth is constant and change is a must. She knows that she doesn’t know it all and that learning is something we do continually and collectively.
I love enlightening my mom and sharing my new found knowledge with her, so that she may know for herself the truths I’ve come to know.
The last few days, I’ve had the privilege of attending a workshop facilitated by the lovely Zaretta Hammond, around the principles of her book “Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain.”
Yoo, I can’t lie y’all. This woman had the same vigor as my mama except she was dropping gems about culturally responsive education and its matrimony with neuroscience; unlike my moms who spent her life dropping jewels about contraception and abstaining from drug use.
Both are powerful messages I might add.
Hammond, who prior to this was an English teacher, is a lecturer and school coach with a strong focus on professional development around the areas of literacy, equity, neuroscience and culturally responsive education and the issues faced within these realms. A mother, wife, and Professional Black Girl, Hammond has dedicated her work to facing educational inequities head on, by operationalizing the tenets behind culturally responsive teaching with the goal of servicing classically marginalized communities in order to create positive learning environments and practices.
One of the most poignant concepts that stood out to me in the second chapter of her book was the notion of being colorblind. Her session was so real that I started reading her book on my train ride home. In the chapter “What’s Culture Got to Do with it?” (That’s a fly title.) she explains that applying a colorblind approach to teaching and learning, is counterintuitive to the deep levels of cultural immersion that it takes to service our Black students.
She says educators, but imma just infer and say she was talking about wypipo and melanated wypipo.
In this chapter, she explains Cultural Archetypes or universal patterns that exist across cultures. One in particular, is this idea of Collectivism vs Individualism or these two totally different ways in which the brain organizes itself.
“Turns out our brains are wired to favor a communal view of the world. Humans have always sought to be in community with each other because it enhanced chances of survival. We shared workloads and resources. Over time, our brains became hardwired towards working and living cooperatively. As people moved from rural communities to urban communities, they became less communal and more individualistic.”
Looking over the chart entitled The Individualism-Collectivism Continuum, you see that while European countries fell high in the individualism index, Black folks and diasporic folks alike come from more communal collectivist types of cultures. We thrive in community and learn more dynamically. Black people internalize and ingest all types of content from sciences to the humanities, if you just understand the cultural lens through which we should be taught and how the way we learn is all staked in community.
One of my favorite new books that Khalilah has put me onto is entitled The Spirit of Intimacy by Sobonfu Somé, and I gotta tell y’all, this shit is deep and complex, yet simple. It’s the type of book you take great time and care to decode and really overstand.
In the book, one of the main tenets that reverberates is yet again, community, the way in which community is the essential underpinning of everything; love, teaching and learning. It speaks to how community is essential to the development and nourishment of the spirit and the place spirit holds in marriage and sexuality.
Basically, community ain’t nothing we need to be slacking on, and we need to be out here creating and fostering this community by any means necessary.
Get on ya Malcolm X community thang people.
The 3rd chapter of Spirit of Intimacy entitled The Embrace of Community states:
“Community is the spirit, the guiding light of the tribe, whereby people come together in order to fulfill a specific purpose, to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another. When you don’t have community, you are not listened to; you don’t have a place you can go to feel that you really belong. You don’t have people to affirm who you are and to support you in bringing forward your gifts.”
I mean really people.
Between Zaretta and Sobonfu, do I gotta spell it out?
We out here trying to teach and enrich our pedagogical practices and we forgetting the essence of it all. Black people are communal people who thrive when placed in rich communities that focus on this collectivist concept of the whole, versus individualistic thinking. We need to foster strong and dynamic communities around teaching and learning that explicitly support our Black boys and girls, because the literature tells us that they succeed in these types of learning environments.
And when we apply this eurocentric, White supremacist, individualistic process of learning for our Black students, we are hindering their educational progression and inducing all sorts of trauma and cognitive dissonance among them.
We out here telling TyTy, “You know, if you just learned at the pace Billy does, that you’d do much better.” This is an unresponsive and dangerous approach. Hell, even your assumption that the proverbial Billies and Ty Ty’s of the world learn in the same manner is problematic.
We must understand as teachers and learners that Black people and other Diasporic people do not learn in the same manner as their White counterparts. We are cultural people, with cultural practices that tie back to before the days of colonialism and slavery in America. If we are to eradicate education gaps, we must realize that all students can not be put into this one size fits all framework.
From Mom to Sobonfu to Zaretta, I’ve experienced learning as a cyclical and communal process. We must learn that a communal collectivist approach is the way to properly educate Black youth. We must teach and learn in a communal collectivist manner. It is our duty to aide our people in the pursuit of knowledge, of both our peoples rich history and how we destroy White Supremacy.