Cruz recast’s Gloria Gaynor’s famous “you’re not welcome anymore,” heartbreak anthem as a song about resilience and joy in the face of trials. The struggle for freedom, the tears for the friends we leave behind, the perseverance and the love for our people that carries us forward. The ancient song, hands on drums and feet dancing, the blood of our villages that we carry across all borders and barriers, into spaces that do not always love us but where we must love in order to survive.
European colonizers met non-binary people advising kings, and being spiritual leaders, warriors, and court eunuchs among nations and tribes as diverse as the Zulu, Buganda, and Amhara. Christianity and Islam coexisted with women warriors, men with long hair and braids, and women marrying each other for convenience and economic stability. The diaspora is no different; there are many examples from Brazil, Haiti, the U.S., and Cuba where African descendants break our normal expectations of men and women.
It’s refreshing to hear music that is intentionally moving away from some of this contemporary trash we have to deal with. Don’t get me wrong I be loving certain songs when they add to my overall vibe, but I acknowledge the lack of substance in a lot of the records. And while I’m not saying that I only want to listen to this conscious type of rap, I am saying that I appreciate the way in which this can impact our kids.
All content areas require literacy, so I’d encourage educators to access those literacy skills through the visual arts. Contrasts and contradictions, repetition, imagery and symbolism are tools that help us construct meaning in our world. The development of these skills is at the heart of critical thinking which makes it possible for us to imagine a different world than the one we live in.
I’m in awe of Blackness right now.
Let’s share a little of that awe with our students and bring our classrooms to life by looking at our content through the eyes of the great Black artists of our time.
There is an elegance to being able to capture such complex issues like Afro-Latino identities. This issue is really as simple as a question on the Living Environment Regents. I mean, imagine if science teachers taught the unit on genes and punnett squares through the lens of the diaspora; everyone in the room would not only be engaged, but they would know where the hell they came from…like genetically and geographically. Hell, this quote makes me want to get a science certification just so I can ask the question: “How do Afro-Latino features manifest?” or “Can two white people create a person with African features?”
The more I thought about it, the more I have realized how right Khalilah is. Anger can be useful as a spark that spurs us on toward the work, but it is a terrible life partner, and useless from a sustainability perspective. Anger, especially over the mistreatment of others is absolutely legitimate, but joy and love and gratitude are the only thing that can sustain us over the long haul, and we must cultivate love and gratitude in every corner of our soul.
Thus, in celebration of our Black history in what is currently called America, let me call your attention to one of my favorite sources of joy and healing for me and for so many of us: Black music.
Make sure the celebration is shared across your school. Black History Month has grown since my days in K-12. The “create a poster of MLK” lessons have shifted into a discovery of amazing artists, writers, painters and revolutionaries that students otherwise may ever be exposed to. Use this month to create a lesson with your students that celebrates Claudette Colvin, Bayard Rustin and The Black Panthers. Host a celebration after school, bring in food, music and dance.