So last week, I began my research on Fannie Lou Hamer to prepare for this post. I was lucky enough to find her album.
Yes sirrrrrrrrrr. I said album.
Let me hip you to the BLACKEST thing ever. In 2007 The Smithsonian Folkways Recording, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, got together to combine music and storytelling in order to embody the Sankofa principle.
The African American Legacy Recordings series include reissues and compilations drawn from the Folkways catalog, plus previously unreleased archival material and new recordings of contemporary artists. Genres include blues, jazz, gospel, folk traditions, spoken word, hip hop, and more. The goal is to reach new audiences with historic recordings and capture contemporary traditions for future generations.
I’m not even going to talk about how music, storytelling and Sankofa are key elements of CREAD’s Woke Cypha.
So, I finds this album on the interwebs. (Yes, I mean ‘finds.’) And the first thing I did was go to Tidal to see if they had it.
Which they did.
I puts it on in the background as I continued my research on Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. (Yes, I mean ‘puts.’)
The 1st track is Precious Lord. You know, the gospel song. You hear the piano in the background and Fannie Lou’s voice comes on…
You know what?
What I want you to do right now, is to go ahead and listen to the track. It’s ok. I’ll wait for you.
Side Bar: Imma refer to her as Fannie Lou from now on, because that’s what I want to do. Because her voice sounds like the voice of your favorite big cousin, who cusses in front of you and is quick to tell you all about yourself and ain’t afraid of no damn body. The kind of cousin that the family gotta have bail money for all the time because her righteous body, mind and soul means she stay getting in trouble. So, even though I was raised better and I know I should refer to her as Momma, Auntie, Big Momma or Mrs., I wanna call her Fannie Lou!
Did you sing along? Because I stopped reading and closed my eyes and began to sing.
On October 6th, 2017, Fannie Lou would have been turning 100 years old. And I know you know what I’m going to say next…
I never learned ANYTHING about Fannie Lou Hamer during my formative years. And prior to me doing the research for this post, if you had asked me to tell you everything I knew about her, I would have said….”I’m sick of tired of being sick tired?” With a question in my inflection.
If you were to push and ask when she said that, why she said that, what led to her saying that? Well, I’m mad smart so I would have made it sound good, but I wouldn’t have been able to give you anything definitive.
And I’m tired of being ashamed of not knowing what this entire education system made damn sure I did not know, because my word, they knew, that if I knew what my people did and continue to do, I and you, would be UNSTOPPABLE.
Sidebar: That was the longest sentence ever.
So, I ended up listening to the entire album of negro spirituals sung by Fannie Lou before I could get back to reading up on her. Y’all should listen to her Mass Meeting speech, though. For Real, For Real.
I did, however, text my former colleague who works at the Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School in the Bronx and asked her if the school was doing anything to celebrate her birthday.
She sent me this:
Which then lead me to go look up the documentary; This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer.
So now I’ve listened to her voice put to music, watched her on screen and I’m feeling very moved, because, shoot gospel music and freedom fighting will have anyone’s heart swell.
It was now time for me to check on Amazon to see how many books I could purchase. Did yall click on the link? There are maaaaaaaad books on her y’all. Why are there so many books and I grew up knowing nothing about her?
I’m starting to get really mad.
And I’m thinking to myself, what do I want to share with y’all. I don’t want to do a simple bio. You can get that from wikipedia.
I thought back to a White teacher who came up to me after my session last week. She said that every time she hears me speak she feels like she’s just not doing enough.
I had asked the teachers what they were doing for Hispanic Heritage Month and a handful shared their plans. The majority had no plans at all. This English teacher explained that she wouldn’t have time within the unit to get to HHM. I asked her what were the themes of the book she was teaching.
She ran off the list.
I asked her if it would be possible to find a poem, short story, a song from a Latin American singer or writer that shared the same themes in order to compliment the piece.
She gave me a look.
I couldn’t tell if it was sadness or anxiousness or frustration, maybe defeat. I honestly don’t know.
I told her, this doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.
I asked her if she could introduce current events into her classroom?
I realized that this was a no win conversation.
I had hoped that my workshop would be inspiring. And I don’t doubt that for some it was and for others, they felt irritated and yet still for others, they felt nothing.
And so, yeah, Friday is Fannie Lou Hamer’s Birthday. You can talk about her on Friday. You can talk about her during Women’s History Month or Black History Month. American History teachers can include her when you discuss the sixties. English teachers can use her speeches to discuss rhetoric. Music teachers can use her album as a mentor text as you ask students to create a similar album about the Kwanzaa principle Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. They could use Cardi B as the subject.
STEM teachers, you MUST institute current events into your classroom environment. You are right. Everything can’t be seamlessly connected to geometry, algebra, chemistry and physics. But shoot, EVERYTHING you do in life is connected to the subject you teach?
As I told one of the participants in my session earlier this week; don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. You gotta start somewhere and then you can revise and refine.
This weekend, I shared with you a story from NPR that basically reveals that if your teacher looks like you (as a student) you’re likely to perform better.
But it’s not because people tend to take extra care of those who look like them and with whom they share some cultural connection with. But, I think it is because when you do share that cultural connection, you see that child as a whole and complete and lovable human being. And therefore you want to nurture all parts of them. You are not just there to teach them math, science, or how to do a push up correctly.
You know those things are secondary to loving oneself and having pride in oneself, which comes from knowledge of self and those who you come from.
Let’s stop being afraid of messing up y’all, of not doing things right or being afraid that if I deviate from this thing to do that thing, everything will fall apart.
A teacher said to me, “I want to do something for Hispanic Heritage Month, but I have a Regents at the end of the year and so much to cover. There’s no time to do it all.”
I just looked at her and smiled and moved on to the next person. Because I’m not fighting that battle with her. In my mind I wanted to say, just because you get through the curriculum doesn’t mean the students learned.