Tuesday, March 17, 2009

To Sir With Love

A show of appreciation from some of my students....

This is why I went for the letters. To build young minds, and even save lives whenever opportunity knocks. Convincing a street kid to choose college over quick money and earlier pregnancy is not a simple task. Not when marginalized youth see education as indoctrination. The trick is in proving to them that even if the educator himself is also marginalized for thinking out the box, it's worth the effort when the goal is to establish a career for yourself while still keeping your ethnic swag and hood membership. So receiving a plaque for mission accomplished is a sign that I must be doing something right!

I was recently asked by a blog policeman if I was worried about potential gigs and book sales falling low because of my non-traditional views. He seemed especially concerned about my essay, 25 Things Black People Don't Wanna Hear, suggesting that I consider not be so unapologetically direct and honest. I enjoy a good debate, but I can recognize fear and denial when they peer through even the best of intentions. Had I been Stanley Crouch, I would have pulled out my literary machine gun and punched holes in his concern, no doubt causing him to limp back to the factory that feeds his anxieties and wondering what happened? But education is not humiliation, so I chose instead to do a re-cap for the sake of possibly saving yet another life--

When I say we think street culture is Black culture, I'm referring to the infiltration of an already fragile community by gangsta mentality. When I suggest we wear wigs and weaves because we despise what natural hair represents, I'm merely asking the question, Where does freedom of choice ends and self-degradation begins? By pointing out that we tend to dehumanize our gay brothas and sistas--especially our effeminate gay males--by treating them as easy targets for comedy hour, I'm challenging us to think more critically about human sexuality and school bullying. When I push for open dialogue about internalized racism, and how religion hijacks people's minds, I'm trying to shed light on the difference between spirituality and dictatorship. By bringing up depression, it's my way of admitting we have relationship issues, and post slavey psychosis. When I use the term racismo, I'm calling on my hermanos to keep it real about the racism at their family table. And by putting R Kelly in it I'm simply asking the question, Who's sick? The one who exploits an already sad situation or the one who wants her or his union recognized legally, so their home and bank account are protected?

Fear and denial are merely symptoms of arrested development. When you define yourself on your own terms, you live a life free of doubt and worry because you know that Spirit has placed you where you're needed most, that your blessings come natually when you're living out your divine purpose, and therefore chasing the approval of others becomes an indication that you don't mind going against your personal mission--if you have a personal mission--that you bought into the belief that success is determined by how well you run the gerbil wheel.

When you get to that place of peace and harmony with your self, you really can't help telling it like it is. Your passion for the overall development of the under-represented and often times blatantly ignored tells the story of a pacesetter, whether recognized or not, who's not interested in editing his words and movement for the sake of appeasing to already questionable standards. It's this kind of revelation that has a direct affect on the way we lead, supervise, teach, counsel and advise.

What I'm interested in is connecting with other educators and healers who aren't stagnant in their approach to the overall development of Black and Brown youth. Out of the ordinary individuals who don't subscribe to safe formulas that are ultimately designed to avoid reality. I'm looking for leaders who have the power and the resources, and even more important, the kind of imagination it takes to create real change in the educating and de-socializing of those whose options are limited; directors who define staff development as working on their personal selves for the sake of providing more effective services to their students and not merely buying new office furniture; a PhD who wants to start an alternative school, or a youth center that's willing to address issues that the grown ups aren't prepared to deal with; a principal whose hands aren't handcuffed by bureaucracy or prejudice, who sees value in bringing in books that both educate and motivate our youth in a manner that empowers them personally, so that academia makes sense to them; teachers who are more about inspiring than showing who's in control; guidance counselors who are keeping up with the times; group homes and detention centers whose supervisors know that sometimes it's best to think out the box; and c.o.'s who are willing to take the time to drop some wisdom in a cage and hope it rattles. Otherwise, it's just more recycling. You feel me?

So I'm going to say this once. Pay attention, because you just might miss it if you let the slightest stir of distress cause you to look away...Ready?...You sure, now?...Alright, here it goes...

I don't do gerbil wheels!!!

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