Raising Revolutionaries

Power to the PeopleIt might have started when I shaped black construction paper into Amadou’s 41 bullets and created a timeline in the back of my classroom for my 8th graders to follow the case. They collected articles, watched the evening news and reported from the streets as we watched and waited for justice.

The result of that case and the one’s to follow and a teacher’s struggle to talk children–black and latino children–through their confusion about the justice system is a conversation for another day. Another blog post altogether.

This post is about my introducing young people to their ability to be socially conscious, socially active and forward-thinking young people without even realizing it. 

Today is one of those full circle moments that makes you realize that without speaking it, your mission has manifested. Today I will host a HBCU Panel proposed and spearheaded by Howard University freshman and RCA alumna, Princess and my heart is full!

Since stepping into my first classroom in East New York, I have insisted that my students take a look at what is really going on around them so they can address it.

Wait. Maybe it started before that. Maybe it was while attending NYC public schools, before video footage could capture Friday afternoon beat downs, and wondering at the kind of pain and rage that drove young people to self-sabotage and self-destruction that planted the seed. It could have very well been the teachers who turned a blind eye, hopped in their cars and drove past and through the self-destruction that really sparked this need in me to make kids see, truly see, so they could fend fo’self and create the life they wanted.

I never thought about that as social activism. But it is.

And so it occurred to me that between changing trends, pedagogical debates and over testing, I have been about the work of raising revolutionaries.

And the blessing, I am proud to acknowledge, is that countless former students–always my babies–have reached back and shared their experiences and talents with the students sitting in my classroom at the time.
LegendsI already carried them in my spirit so it was natural to share their stories with  current students, but back in 2010, I actually paired my former students with my then 8th grade students in a pen-pal, words-of-wisdom exchange.

I called them “Living Legends” and some of my former students shook their heads at the title. But I wanted to honor the lives they were creating for themselves, no matter their status. I wanted them to value the ups and downs they were navigating. Especially because the system was not, is not, set up for the faint of heart. They were already legendary because they were hustling to come up and were striving to bring friends and family with them. Social Activism on the block is as grassroots as it gets. Their insistence on social change is activism. Period.

And in preparing for today’s event I stopped short…

tiara-howardu.jpgGuess who was part of that lesson in passing down wisdom? Yes. Miss Princess, who years later is giving back by reaching out to share her experience with the next generation so they know what she didn’t about the myths and misgivings about Historically Black Colleges and Universities that could have blocked her blessing.

I will remind her today about the “Living Legends” experience she had long ago in the 8th grade and proudly add her to the list of young social activists set to enact change on the block and beyond.

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