I must admit. I’ve been choking.
Each day since the beginning of April when the novelty of staying home wore off, I’ve had at least a moment a day when I couldn’t breathe. Literally.
The times that we are living in has been nothing that we have seen before. As the elders say, the wool was pulled over our eyes, with many of us being disillusioned by the advancement of the few. We are now staring racism, inequalities and inequities in the face and are forced to do something about it.
When the pandemic first emerged and learning moved from the classroom to the living room, we stood face to face with a time we weren’t prepared for. Educators were forced to integrate technology into their instruction beyond the Powerpoints that were previously used to satisfy the requirement, with many rising to the occasion to meet students where they were. Many students adjusted and adapted to the changes.
But my Black babies didn’t.
My desire and calling has always led me to teaching and leading in the neighborhoods that reflected my own (impoverished) childhood, whether in Memphis or Chicago. Teaching on the South Side of Chicago during the pandemic meant that my students had access to computers but not the technological infrastructures that lent itself to learning. There was a computer but no internet. A desire to learn but no assistance. And while we as educators were trying to figure out how to navigate this “new” territory, there were many students we didn’t hear from at all from March to June.
I’ve recently realized that the choking I’ve been experiencing isn’t a result of having nothing to say. But a result of the pressures of the system that was built to restrict voice, leaving me bottled up and ready to explode.
This isn’t unprecedented times.
We’ve known for hundreds of years that the system was not built for the advancement of Black people or the enlightenment of our children. We have witnessed the creation and sustainability of sub-par schools that failed our children and limited their progress. We have rallied for school choice and better options, only to be given the option to choose which is the lesser evil of the two. We’ve had to choose between necessities of life or sending our children to private schools, sometimes exposing them to greater ills at the notion that the education received there will present better options.
When we were stripped of the illusion of options and choice by a global pandemic, we were once again standing face to face with the reality of the iconic MJ’s words…
“…they don’t really care about us…”
I must admit. I’m a part of the “we”. I’ve worked within the “system” for years, toiling the same “field” of education as others, disillusioned that the masters tools can be used to dismantle the system. Standing in the reality that this system I’ve worked for has also failed my own, I’ve come to the following conclusion:
We are the change we seek.
I’m proud of my ancestry that has a history of rising to the occasion. The collective energy of suppression and determination of elevation that has presented us with the “unprecedented” opportunity to take back control of our children and future generations.
Out of every crisis is an opportunity to rise!
When I stopped looking at the many ways in which the system (once again) failed my Black students and families, I saw the opportunity that we have to relish in our own solutions.
I thought about the parents who found ways to educate their children at home and work, not limiting learning to the confines of the school building but using the world as their classroom. I began to beam with pride at the countless non-profit organizations and initiatives that were birthed during the pandemic, an answer to the problems in our community – for us by us.
I stood taller knowing there were platforms such as this, that used their voice to illuminate the inequities and provide light to the ways we have to and must collectively answered the call.
Because of this, I am reignited.
Yes, we are in unprecedented times, but we have been given an unprecedented opportunity to take unprecedented responsibility of our future – the hands-on approach that’s necessary to usher in a future generation of change agents and leaders.
Our children not only need us, they are pleading to us.
The cries of rebellion and frustration that come out as protesting and looting is the call to action we have been “waiting” for. The anger that has transmuted to action is just what we have needed. Just what I’ve needed.
It’s the valve that released the pressure of my advocacy asphyxiation.
Now that we are fully aware that the system isn’t and won’t rescue us, we must rescue ourselves. We can use collective responsibility to continue to educate our children, through programs and initiatives, but also pooling resources and knowledge. Tapping into our educators for tips and help with tutoring, creating small group sessions with families in our neighborhood or circle of trust. Let’s band together to raise our children in the village we had, one family at a time.
This time has revealed that the work can’t be done alone. We need each other. I need you. And if there are those who need my experience and skills, I’m also here for you!