From the front lines

I spent all afternoon hiding from the heat and trying to understand the fine line between Rapcore and Nu-Metal music, fusion genres combining hip-hop, punk and heavy metal influences. Now I was born in the Bronx; aspired to being a graffiti artist, bought Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh on vinyl and swore I was going to marry Rakim when I heard his smooth, bass delivery—-

But this is not about me.

I am tuning in to the pulse of this generation and listening for new trends of expression to introduce them to because I am their teacher.

The recent cheating scandal, where 178 principals, teachers and staff of the Atlanta public school system falsified student answer documents to inflate test scores, is calling into question the integrity of educators on a whole, but of all the people involved none stands to lose as much respect as the teacher.

Teachers are on the front line. We cannot afford to have our expertise, our authority, and our dedication questioned because it is the teacher who knows her student best. And it is no secret that though we spend the most time with the students and are well aware of their needs, our voices can’t compete with No Child Left Behind or the Race to the Top.

My issue is not with accountability which is how teacher concerns about testing are deflected.  It is simply that the high-stake tests do not take into account the needs of our students.  We do the delicate dance of introducing children to their dreams, giving them the skills to communicate and understand ideas and offer them the tools to become life-long learners. All while following the dictates of a pacing guide designed to cover material slated to appear on a test.

We work in a system that does not always trust our professional opinion and in the aftermath of the APS cheating scandal, we will have to assure the public that we dedicated ourselves to this profession to serve the next generation. We know our students and we dream the autonomy to design a curriculum related to the needs of the flesh-and-blood people in our classrooms instead of one focused on an assessment that doesn’t make sure our children are poised for the possibilities.

This is not about us.

So while I turn my attention to influences of disco on funk music to create themes for my class website, somewhere there is a teacher stockpiling pencils found on sale and another perusing the aisles of Barnes and Nobles for recommended reading

because we know what the true focus is—

It’s about the next generation.

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whose little girl am i?

 

originally written 9/5/2010

Haunting.

The question, the searching, the discovery: Whose little girl am I?

I can not remember how I came across For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

I vaguely remember watching ACT-SO one  Saturday morning and marveling at young people rehearsing and preparing, a bevy of activity around dreaming.  And then the auditioning.

One young lady began a monologue that was so raw and real that I stopped right in my tracks: “One thing I don’t need is any more apologies/I got sorry greetin me at my front door/You can keep yours/I don’t know what to do wit ’em…”

The discovery of the title, the author and how I finally got my hands on a copy, I don’t recall. But once I found Ntozake Shange, her 1979 work became my wisdom book, scripture; the model and standard. It was unadulterated talk about womanhood and even more specifically Black womanhood. And there I was, setting out on my own woman-walk, afraid to express what I felt and even worse afraid to feel because being a nag, or having an attitude or simply crying had been done to death.

It was drama.

But when I found these words, this poetry, I was rest assured that not only was it okay to express the highs and lows; entanglements and escapes associated with this woman-walk, but the spirit demanded a purging for the journey that lay ahead. She did this for me and for countless others in her choreopoem, For Colored Girls who have considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. She offered a place to sing girlhood songs and cry and laugh and remember first-times and question perceptions and contemplate our bodies in bold, beautiful color.

Then I heard that Tyler Perry would bring my beloved Bible to the big screen.

All I could think was: “This is a woman’s trip. I need my things…”

I admire what Tyler Perry has accomplished, but I am not a fan. His work never moves me to deeper questioning and deeper understanding. It’s not designed with that purpose in mind. I get that. But to take on For Colored Girls…?

I was very skeptical and frankly— scared. How could he possibly capture the haunting, the magic and the beauty that is this woman-walk.

Then the first chord of Nina Simone’s, Four Women  called me to attention, chimed in my soul like calling, as it does anytime I hear it.

Then I watched:

Whoopi Goldberg in white garb and head wrap concocting guidance; Phyllicia Rashad in protective panic and Loretta Devine in eye-rolling disappointment all interspersed with Thandie Newton’s suppressed tears and Aki Noni Rose’s gushing love and Janet Jackson braced for love’s end. All culminating in Kimberly Elise’s shattering.

It is just the trailer.

But it was enough to have me eager for November 5th when the movie opens.  I just have to see how her words coupled with Perry’s interpretation lead souls back to themselves.

Because  For Colored Girls… always championed that you are yours and must embrace all that you are because the answer has always been to find god in yourself and love her fiercely.

 

LISTEN

You can find

The Lord and Savior

Ordering a seafood roti

On Gates and Linden

 

Bible study is canceled

Jah is sure to come in for

Saturday sorrel

Bun and cheese

 

They will sit

Talk loc maintenance

Speculate about real estate trends

Trade cooking secrets

 

Auntie will call greetings from the kitchen

They will answer that they are blessed

Lester will set down a duffle bag of DVDs

To play a sample movie

 

They will shake their heads politely

Jah will ask for Bob’s1980 Peace Concert

Lester will promise to have it next week

The lord will remind him he said that last week


Drawn by word or dream

Neighborhood kids will press their faces

Between the beef patty ad and faded jook-jook posters

Will be invited in for patties and coco bread

 

They will squeeze onto laps

Scrape chairs along checkerboard tiles

Clamor to their rightful place

Listen

 

I will

Eaves drop