Monday, August 3, 2015

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I am highly recommending Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi not so that you can agree or disagree with him, but for you to read and try to understand his perspective of growing up as a Black man in America. All of our stories are important....

I must confess that I totally admire Coates for being what I call a “self-educated man.” He grew up in a house where he was exposed to books and then he later made the journey to Howard University to use their extensive library and the culture that the students brought to the University to educate himself. I admire that he took the time to read and study things that may or may not have been taught in his classes and used the wide array of cultures within the African American community in order to learn to think critically and to leave Howard without a degree but with a great education.

Coates can write, and he strings words together in a way that made this short book read like poetry at times: “In this way racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.” Powerful right??

This book was painful to read at times such as when he talks about growing up in Baltimore, systematic racism, schools that are not liberating children, but on the other hand this book was also liberating when he states that “But you cannot arrange your life around them and the small chance of the Dreamers coming into consciousness. Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious. And you are here now, and you must live - and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else’s country, but in your own home. The warmth of dark energies that drew me to The Mecca, that drew out Prince Jones, the warmth of our particular world, is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable.”

I read this book twice, and it gave me so many things to think about such as race as a social construct, the purpose of school, the importance of traveling abroad, how vulnerable our bodies can be, how awful it must feel to be a man who can not provide for his family, a father’s ability to show love to his son, the power of questioning and on and on and on...

Look for blog posts where I will write about the many topics that I read about in this short book: I could write for months about this particular book.

Right now, this country is having very courageous conversations on Between the World and Me, so please read this book so that you can at least follow the conversations...

Happy Monday!

Next, I’ll be reading The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Culturally Diverse Novels for AP English

Yesterday, I presented on one of my many passions at the Advanced Placement Conference in Austin, Texas: Novels

Words, and authors, and talking with people are three things that I love, and it brings me a lot of joy to do all three at the same time.

When I first saw my name in the AP program guide book, I felt a little nervous, but I quickly reminded myself that I belong here, I am prepared, and novels are my love.

So I went to do what I do; I felt good and confident. I hope that I conveyed my love for novels to the audience, and they will go home and share that love with their families, colleagues, and ultimately the children in which they teach, because all of this is really about our students, their lives, and the world that we want to help to create.

The look that you have when you live in Purpose!

My people, find what you are passionate about, and watch your happiness soar.

Off to Houston to meet my sisters of Delta Sigma Theta for our National Convention....

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Land of the Free and the Home of the BRAVE!

I am a Black woman who lives in “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” and I am not feeling so brave....

With the public display for what appears to be hate against Black People, I must admit for the first time in life, I feel afraid.

I was thinking that the attack was on Black boys, then I thought it was on Black men and boys, then I thought that it was Black men, boys, and young girls, but after seeing a guy go into a church and killing nine people and finally seeing Sandra Bland, a college educated African American woman, being thrown on the ground, and later dying, it has finally sunken in that I have a real cause to be afraid.

"The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!"

I have traveled all over this country, oftentimes by myself, and I have never felt afraid, cautious for sure, but never afraid. I would drive from Michigan to Alabama, without a cell phone, and it never crossed my mind that I could be targeted, because I am Black. I always thought that if anything came up, the police would come to my rescue. Now, I am starting to be believe that maybe I have been quite naive, and maybe I should have been fearful all alone.

Later today I will be flying to Austin, Texas for a conference. I will get to Austin around midnight and will need to take a cab to my hotel, and my people, I am feeling a little afraid.

I am a Black woman traveling alone in the United States, “The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave," and I am wondering if I should call someone at midnight and stay on the phone with that person until I am safely in my hotel.

Sunday, I am renting a car and traveling from Austin to Houston, and my people, I feel afraid. I am going to follow all the rules of the road, including using my turn signal when I change lanes. However, I am wondering if “following all of the rules” will keep me safe and alive.

If I am stopped, and I humbly say “Yes Sir,” will this keep a cop from pulling me out of my car and throwing me to ground.

Must I forget that "I am somebody” in order to stay alive.

I think that being Black in America, whether I am a “Good Negro” or not, makes me very unsafe....

“The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!”

I am going to fly to Austin, drive to Houston, and just like my ancestors, continue to move forward through the fear....

I’ve been thinking about the words Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave, and all I can do is shake my head!

Where Do We Go From Here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I’ve been at Colgate University for almost three weeks studying Abolitionism and The Underground Railroad.....

This experience has been truly amazing, and all day everyday, I have been thinking God for this opportunity!

There are so many things that I am going to share with you about this experience, but right now I am going to focus on passion.

Over the course of this seminar, we have had three visiting professors: Judith Wellman, Stacey Robertson, and Stanly Harrold.

Me and Dr. Judith Wellman

We spent last Thursday and Friday in Seneca Falls and Rochester with Dr. Wellman, and her passion for history was apparent the minute that she boarded the bus. She literally was bubbling over with excitement and passion for Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Stanton and all of the other people who were involved directly and indirectly with the abolitionist movement in the 1800s.

When we went into the house of Elizabeth Stanton, she excitedly told intimate, fascinating stories about Elizabeth. At Harriet Tubman's house, I literally followed her around, because I wanted to hear every detail that poured naturally from her mouth. Dr. Wellman even walked us through a Quaker cemetary to pay homage to the one unidentified slave who was buried there.

We went to a library at the University of Rochester to look at some primary documents that included a lock of Frederick Douglass’ hair, a letter to William Seward, the first book that Frederick Douglass bought and so on.

Well, there was a letter from a slave owner that stated something like “I won’t spend a nickel on a slave woman,” and Dr. Wellman could not finish the letter, because she was overcome with grief. Now, this is some passion when a person feels grief over a letter that was written over one hundred years ago. Dr. Wellman’s display of compassion caused to me respect her even more knowing that she is passionate and loves my people as much, if not more, than I do.

Dr. Wellman wears passion well!

Dr. Robertson and me!

We sent Monday morning having an interactive lecture led by Dr. Stacey Robertson. Dr. Robertson, just like Dr. Wellman, filled the room with her presence the minute that she walked in. I absolutely admired how her presence demanded respect, and she took control of the room and passionately drove the discussion.

Dr. Robertson’s lectured on her book Hearts Beating for Liberty, and my people, she passionately brought these fierce, women abolitionist of the Old Northwest to life. Listening to hear, I was frantically typing trying to capture as many of her words as possible; I wanted to remember them long after she was gone. She taught this lecture on slavery and brought it home to modern day slavery and gave us suggestions of things that we can do to help end modern day slavery.

She lectured in a manner that was both informative and uplifting, and I thought to myself, "When I go to Austin at the end of the week to present at the Advanced Placement conference, I am going to take the confidence and command of Dr. Robertson and do what I do".

You know, passion also looks very well on Dr. Robertson.

Dr. Harrold and me!

This morning was spent listening to a lecture given by Dr. Stanley Harrold, a professor at South Carolina State, a Historical Black College or University (HBCU). Yep, Dr. Harrold teaches at a HBCU, and he instantly earned my respect for spreading his wealth of knowledge at an HBCU.

Dr. Harrold lectured on his book that I learned quite a bit from Border War, and it was evident that this man knew his stuff. I got the feeling that Dr. Harrold could talk about the fight over slavery all day long and would not get tired.

Now, the bonus is that I was riding through town with a fellow NEH participant, and we saw Dr. Graham, our fearless NEH leader, and Dr. Harrold siting outside of a restaurant. So, of course, we stopped and had quite a lively discussion with Dr. Hodges and Dr. Harold, and know, there is no way that you can talk with these two without talking about slavery if only for a few minutes.

Spending time with these incredible historians over the past few days, it is apparent that they have passion for their subject matter.

I believe that finding things that we are passionate about keeps us alive, and vibrant, and happy. All three of these historian appeared relax, happy, and satisfied. I believe that the peace that was emitting from them came from following their passions and working within their purpose.

My People, We Can All Wear Passion Well.......

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Freeing Charles by Scott Christianson

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. Chimamanda Adichie
Not sure about you, but many of the stories that I was told about Africans who were enslaved were told from the perspective that enslaved Africans were brought to America, fought a little but basically waited for their freedom, were freed, and then Dr. King came alone and fought for our rights.

Not sure about you, but I was not taught that enslaved Africans have being fighting to be free since they landed. History portrays enslaved Africans as the Uncle Tom and Mamie type who were just happy to be alive even if they were enslaved.

However, through my readings this summer, I am hearing a very empowering story of an enslaved people who fought and risked their lives to be free and to free others. African American who fought with the British during The Revolutionary War, fought during The Civil War, and had an organized plan for escape that was called The Underground Railroad and on and on and on.

If we told the Africa American story in American from different perspectives, we would learn some stories that would perhaps empower and inspire.

This story, Freeing Charles, is about an enslaved man named Charles who emancipated himself and fled from Virginia to Philadelphia to live as a free man. He was successful at doing this, but eventually someone found out that he was a fugitive slave, and his master came to Philadelphia to capture him. But what is so remarkable about this story is that the community pulled together and literally fought, like a street fight, to free Charles. “There were Whites, Blacks, women as well as men, girls, and boys.”

In the crowd was The Harriet Tubman, and Christianson turned her into a superhero: “Through it all, Tubman kept thrashing like a demon, even as she was losing all of her gear except for a dilapidated outskirt. She seized an officer and pulled him down, grabbed another and tore away him from Nalle, all the while keeping hold of the slave...” (P.113)

I just love the way that this book showed the community working together to free this man, and it also showed the strength of Harriet Tubman. This is not the story that I was taught...

Eventually, people were able to raise money for Charles’ freedom, and he was able to live happily ever after with his wife Kitty and their children in Washington, DC. “Kitty and Charles appear to have been extremely devoted to each other, leaving behind a story that speaks to the power of love between a man and woman who were determined to remain together despite all of the obstacles placed in their way.” (P. 139)

Now, I have never heard about this type of romantic love between a man and a women during slavery time, and if only this story was told more often.

Scott Christianson dared to tell the enslaved African story from a perspective that uplifts and empowers and shows the power of love......

If you tell a people’s story from different perspectives, it gets us away from that one definitive story.....

This book is approachable, and you may want to add it to your reading list!

Knowledge is power, and I am feeling empowered...

Happy Thursday, My People!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Arlington County Virginia had a series called Black Lives Matter, and Jesmyn was one of the speakers....

Jesmyn started speaking with a sweet southern twang, and she completely captivated me and the rest of the audience. She told her heartfelt experience with racism in the South in a manner that was not abrasive nor in a manner that would put people off but in a manner that was very forthright yet inviting. 

I did not have great experiences with Jesmyn first two novels, so I was only going to this forum to hear her speak; I was not planning to buy the book. But, after hearing her speak, I bought the book and looked forward to learning more about Jesmyn’s story.

I started reading this incredible story, and I was captivated from the first page until the last. There were parts of this book that I had to read and reread and think and think. Being a Southern girl myself, I identified with this memoir, and my heart was saddened to the core. 

She tells her story of growing up in DeLisle, Mississippi in an impoverished situation where there seem to be little to no hope. In the telling of her story, we learn about the complexity of her family and the complexity of living in Mississippi. With this novel, she very boldly, yet subtly, posed the question of Do Black Lives Matter, and I also was left asking myself if our lives matter to us...... 

Jesmyn merges the telling of her story with the story of five young men, including her brother, who died premature deaths. Reading about the death of each of these young Black men who all died in different manners, and only one of them, her brother, died by the direct hands of someone else, I am still pondering did society, by not seeing and acknowledging these young men, contribute to their deaths indirectly??

I identified and connected with this novel more than I thought that I would, and when I finished I could not keep myself from crying and wondering Where Do We Go From Here?

This is a story that will make people uncomfortable and maybe sad, but I also hope that it makes us have open, honest conversations about race and place in this country which may lead to some sort of plan of action. 

This is a very important book, and it needs to be included in the important conversations that we are having today in this country on race...

This book is short, well-written, and it should be read and discussed over and over again.

All praises to Jesmyn Ward for having the courage to tell this courageous story.....

This book is more confirmation that We Must Tell Our Stories!

Me and Jesmyn Ward

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