What is the Loss of a Revolutionary to a Black Radical Teacher?
Updated: May 11, 2019
It is no surprise that I am dissatisfied with the education system our students inherited. And while as a whole I think it often lacks in its purpose to prepare all students for adulthood, independence, and general post-secondary life (be that college or career-focused)... I think a particular harm is done to students of color
(this is without even mentioning the LITERAL harm done through a multitude of racist policies but I digress…)
Like DuBois said (and Beyonce reminded us), “Education must not simply teach work, it must teach life.”
That said, our kids miss out on so much.
It is not right to graduate Black boys and girls without helping them to critically understand the inequities they have survived and will continue to have to face in adulthood.
It is not right to pump the idea of meritocracy to those who have to work twice as hard to eventually be paid less than their white counterparts.
It’s not right to measure our kids’ worth by test scores knowing fully that the system that administers them is crooked and set up for someone else’s profit rather than their gain.
I could go on and on here, but you get the idea… these are American truths our kids should know.
It is also not right to have them leave with so little knowledge of their own history, accomplishments, and figures.
It is partially why so many Black teachers, radical or not, slide lessons into the curriculum on Black events/ figures, both historical and contemporary, that they feel students should be taught.
When curriculum is set and standards are the end-all, be-all of what kids get to learn, there is not enough time for culturally relevant conversations to replace lessons, even if they are desperately needed.
When I think of the myriad of folks I have snuck into the curriculum, people that I wanted our kids to know, talk about, and be inspired by, I think of figures like Nipsey Hussle.
*Not long before this was posted, I caught glimpses of Black educators from elementary teachers to college professors sliding him into their curriculum like G's!*
When he passed, I tried to explain to my high school freshman just how devastating of a loss was. Not just for music, I repeated, multiple times that day. To say that this was the death of a rapper would be tragic, for sure, but also a complete misjudgment.
Nipsey, I struggled to explain, was a massive loss for Los Angeles (and as a southern California native it was impossible not to hurt for the city in that moment).
But even bigger than that, he was a loss for the culture. For a community of Black people in America. For his home country of Eritrea and the entire diaspora.
Here was a man who had grown up in the hood, proudly affiliated with a set, and STILL reached heights of success many of us will never see.
Here was a man who taught himself about history and business and finances, who had built his own computer at the age of 12.
A man who bought the block he used to hustle on to set up a business employed by locals who needed work….who built a STEM center and workspace in his neighborhood.
A man who told an interviewer in on the red carpet that his dream was for our 👏🏾 people 👏🏾to 👏🏾 step 👏🏾 into 👏🏾 their 👏🏾 greatness 👏🏾collectively !!!
This was a man the whole world mourned when he passed. A man black people's forever prez wrote a letter to. Who had Stevie (!!!) sing at his Homegoing!!!!
How in the world could we *NOT* teach our students about an individual like this?
One who rejected the narrative that he had to leave his community, align himself with the right people, make money, then glance back to lend a helping hand to others.
Nipsey said that we could stay with our people. Love the people who had loved us from the very beginning. Climb out of poverty and pass ladders down while we scaled it.
I cannot think of a more significant lesson for Black kids to be hearing right now.
Grind, work hard, stay persistent, learn yourself, teach yourself when others fail to do so, and no matter how long it takes you to get on, remain grounded in your community and your people… so that you are forever connected to where you come from.
In a time when gentrification claims homes and lives… when they love our culture more than ever while refusing to love us…. Here was a man who seemed to love us in a way that so many others didn’t. A way that did not require the validation of white folks.
As more and more people process through the pain of losing a young revolutionary many are spurred into action driven by a lingering question that Nipsey left on our hearts:
“What more can I do for my people?”
His life, his loss, his very energy seemed to echo that very question across the world.
“The marathon continues” he always told us.
Beyond culture-setting, and academic standards, and high-stakes testing, it is job to teach our students how to run. Or else, how can we be doing right by them?🏁🏁🏁