Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Unapologetically Black, Human, and Speaking Out

The past few days were a swirl of events that all lined up to somewhat say what I have been trying to say for a while.

First, the community where I live has an inflated view of itself as a wanna-be-country-club estate inner suburb of nine square miles. We have the superintendent who has the gold platted package, the school board that doesn't seem to be listening, the massive budget cuts that have riled up the students and have seen a twitter war between a board member and a beloved journalism teacher. That was all against the backdrop of strongly worded emails from the administration to editorials in the newspaper that chastised the voters for their "willfullness" in not passing their tax increase.

Second, this same community has a huge race problem that gets hush-hushed. There may be rumblings of it during the task force meeting to discuss "the African American Achievement Gap" or other things that cause the all white teachers to wring their hands. Meanwhile, all is not right behind the trees of their estates.

Third, our same community has a massive, like huge Super Bowl Commercial worthy herion problem that is wrecking havoc in the storied wanna-be-mansions along Argonne, Taylor, and Woodbine, among others. Three students died in a year at the high school. It went from community gossip and hushed converstions at the local coffee shop to front page news on Saturday, February 6, 2016, the same day as the Mardi Gras Parade and a bunch of known drinking parties and night clubing on Woodbine. The image is just getting cloudier and cloudier.

Fourth, the school board announced more and more cuts. They want to charge for extra curricular activities and busing, increase class sizes by 10-20%, in some cases, and effectively punish the just-under-6000 students who attend this small district. They want to make it so painful, intentionally, that the parents will go back and pass, without question, whatever tax proposal they are scheming  up for next school year. Just watch.

Fifth, the drop of Beyoncé's Formation Video on Saturday was all kinds of life and happiness because she took her bold confidence and addressed everything from slavery to free people of color to Katrina to black lives matter. It was simply wonderful. It was validation, it was a free lesson for all the white folks (some are well meaning) who simply don't know where to start on teaching about the sociocultural issues that are wrapped abound the systemic racism in this country. Show the video and them read the many analyses about it, including some lessons on New Orleans Creole culture, black southern culture, how Dr. King was not just their dreamer, and definitely about the Black Panther Party.

Sixth, Cam Newton and the Panthers were much talked about and celebrated before the Super Bowl. His faith was examined in some churches on Sunday (to be fair, along with Peyton Mannings) and his style was on some fashion radars. His winning smile, confidence, and of course, that dab. He is a black quarterback, a feat in itself considering the very white-owned NFL tends to act like black men do not have the strategic thinking and leadership to be the center of the team. We, even us non-football lovers, all were rooting for Cam. He is young, younger than my two older sons, and had so much on his shoulders. The press was examining everything, the haters were on it and then, then came Sunday.

Seventh, The pressure was too much. He was young, I'm not a football analyst, so the fumbles, the missed catches, the excitement, the injury, the better executed defense all lead to the Denver Broncos beating the Carolina Panthers for the win for Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning, a very white man who did not do much to win the game, was going to get his ring, the trophy was going with Denver, and he would be able to retire in glory as a more senior player. Meanwhile, young Cam Newton was visibly disappointed, who wouldn't be. The game was huge, nevermind all he did to lead his team to this place, he just didn't do it and during the media bully session, he refused to fully engage them, simply saying, "I'm sorry." They wanted to rake him over the coals, falsely accuse him of poor sportsmanship, untrue, he smiled and congratulated Peyton Manning, and were mad he was not stepping and fetching for the blood thirsty press. He is human and in that very real black man moment, he showed that human side. He is still Cam, still wonderful, and still has a lot of years to get that ring.

Eighth, Mrs. Carter, Beyoncé. She nailed it with her Super Bowl Show. She and her all female dance squad marched out in Formation dressed in all black. Every bit of love and acceptance exuded in her mesh of history from honoring Michael Jackson to the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party to the love of black women (see all those fros!), and the reminder that black lives matter, justice was still being fought for, and we weren't going anywhere. It was such a moment, followed by the commercial for her Formation Tour, that my middle school daughters, were jumping up and down with all kinds of confidence. Representation matters. And it angered the white folks. And Bey didn't care, she made magic.

Ninth, bringing all of this back home the African American Achievement Awards on Thursday, and a community forum on the achievement gap. The first morning assembly is to recognize and applaud those black students in this district  who have a 3.0 or above. Last I checked, a 3.0 was honor roll. So, there are some, a little mixed girl among them, that are running around crying racism that this event is happening. Nevermind that it is during Black History Month and may be a bit of a token, after all, it is not in the Keating in the evening, the rest of the students' friends, teachers, and community will not be there, and it may feel like a bit of an appeasement, but it is not racist. It is a bandaid of a much larger issue. In some ways it is a bit of Black Students Matter and a bit of celebration. We will see.

This week was a big pot of gumbo that was all black smiles, black hair, black culture, and black love.  Time to "get in formation" because my sistas and I are going to keep writing, keep speaking, and keep teaching, regardless of who is mad. We got our paper.

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