“I’m not saying that I will change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”
There are no more 24 hour news cycles of the events. Emotions are no longer boiling and have simmered to a lukewarm state of being. There are far fewer hashtagged posts. Less battles over whether black, all, or blue lives matter and the topics are not trending as much.
If only our kids’ hearts, minds and souls could mimic a social media timeline. Switching and forgetting about today’s current events happen so fast that if you blink too long you are too slow and have missed it. The developing and vulnerable minds of our children are far too often made to suppress what they are thinking, hide emotions, and catalog away what they feel into a growing storage of explicit memory.
We pretend they will forget and everything will be alright.
Attending a rally in New Orleans on the weekend following the shooting and killing of two black men by police officers and the events in Dallas that left several police officers dead and wounded, reminds me that these events have severe and damaging effects on our kids.
To my surprise, one group who participated in the nonviolent but effective rally was a group of educators and school administrators from New Orleans area schools. Led by Matthew Kincaid, a social studies teacher at Kipp Believe College Prep, the group of educators first attended a freedom meeting at a local school and then marched to Lee Circle to meet up with hundreds of people for a peaceful rally that united the community and established needed dialogue.
These educators know the important work of being there for our kids. One specific recollection by Mr. Kincaid demonstrated the cruel reality of the effects these events have on our children:
“I have received calls and texts from many of my students expressing concern and saying ‘Mr. Kincaid, what are we going to do, they are killing us?’”
The weight of the concern is evident and the participation of principals, teachers and school staff members show that they know what work needs to be done.
School starts for many of our kids in early to mid August, and when they get there they are expected to give their best, put their best foot forward and to show up prepared day in and day out. I personally see no problem with that, but teachers, administrators and parents must enable the therapeutic release of the mass of information our children consume on a daily basis.
We must start the work of providing a safe place for our children and teenagers to clear their minds. As this academic session starts, we should be innovative and use creative dialogue to discuss the dynamic events of this year. We also must begin to have a conversation surrounding the racism and prejudice that exist as the elephant in the room. By repairing our kids and preparing them to deal with these events, we will also begin the overdue restoration of ourselves.
At KIPP Believe College Prep, Mr. Kincaid and his colleagues are preparing for these events to take place. They are training, discussing and addressing the problems with solutions. They engage in anti-racism training during their summer vacations—training that will prepare them to have better interactions with their students, help facilitate healthy conversations and spark critical thinking.
They also displayed solidarity by showing up for their students in numbers to show that they are allies during a time when we are beginning to make sense of historical, suppressed and current events that shape our lives and thoughts. I am looking for this to be the norm in school systems around the country.
We are our only hope, and our children are watching. Studying our every move and action, they are taking note of what we do. Life is not a trend. Their life is not a sprint. It is a marathon that must be habitually prepared for and then ran at a pace that effectively brings them across the finish line. The time is now, let’s do it for them.
Lamont Douglas is a NOLA parent and education activist who led a successful campaign to change the leadership of his child’s elementary school. He blogs at Second Line Blog.