Welcome to this first letter of 2021! Let's jump right to it.
As most of you know, I have been an educator for some time. I started out in after school programs in the South Bronx, now I'm a college professor with a PhD and what a journey that has been. Enough about that. This letter will be (sorta) organized with some tidbits of info, resources, and book/music recommendations. Sometimes, it might get a little spicy, so have your water with you. I will also share about an organization I am supporting and hope you will do the same. So let's go...
Because of COVID-19, this semester was a lot for faculty and students, but there are a few things that could have been avoided. I want all of you parents, grannies, aunties, unk-ties, and big cousins to really work with the young folk in your life to:
Speak up for themselves: Although I explicitly state in the syllabus and on the first day of class (and repeatedly throughout the term) that I understand "stuff" comes up, life happens, and we're all human...so if anything prevents you from handing in work on time, let a sista know. The number of students who lay in the cut and then try to to hand in everything months later isn't huge, but it's enough. I have gladly extended deadlines 1 or even 2 weeks for students who emailed me or came to office hours, but no one can accept an assignment after grades have been posted and you realized that the outcome was not in your favor.
Ask for help: See above, sort of. I can ask you if you understand 50-11 times and if you say yes, I gotta believe it. But when those assignments come in and it's clear that you don't...woosah! Helping students is part of my job. I enjoy it a helluva lot more than grading and it's part of what I am paid to do.
Don't play themselves: Everything these young folk have tried to get over on me, I have already done it and done it better. As the the Most High Saint Prince has been known to say, "You try to play me, you only end up playing yourself."
Know school policies: I know it can be a lot, but everyone should know the school and class grading policy. This can be the difference between an "unofficial withdrawal" and and "F." I had students try to be slick (see above) and hand in the final paper and miss 50-11 (my favorite number) other assignments. This was only worth 20% in a particular class I taught. So even if a student scored 100% on the assignment, but are missing 50-11 others, they still fail. Also, if the student missed 50-11 assignments and did not hand in the final, they received an unofficial withdrawal which has less an impact on their financial aid and GPA. Whatever your school's policy--even high school--know it.
A Little More on Education: Crip Camp
This summer/fall I worked on the curriculum for the Netflix documentary Crip Camp, with the super dope Dr. Bianca I. Laureano (go to her site, she has great offerings). While it may seem daunting (one of my lesson plans was 25 pages, shrug), it is vitally important that we are educating folks on ableism and disability justice. I can pretty much not do anything else with my life because in working on this project, I sorta worked for Barack Obama--his company produced it--and I have made my Black mama proud.
My inspiration and fuel for working on this project was my daughter, who has a brain situation called hemiplegia. She's honestly the inspiration for most things in my life---truly the light and the way, but I digress. While there are school-based lesson plans, there is also a parent discussion guide that will help you discuss the film. I believe that in order to create a world where we all thrive, we must first support the most marginalized and those with disabilities fall into that category. Also: the lessons are FREE99 (my other favorite number).
Some Book Recommendations*
This letter went a little longer than I thought, but I can't end it without some literary recommendations because books are life. I read as much as possible and reading definitely makes better thinkers, writers, and figure-outer-ers. *If you purchase any of the books from the independent shop provided, some proceeds will go towards The Black Girl Project, which is my jam. You can also get them from your local library and wherever books are sold.
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Funeral Diva by Pamela Sneed
Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
Organization of the Month (sounds fancy, right?)
A note on supporting orgs: you do not have to give them all your monies. I think folks shy away from giving if they can't show out and give big. Multiple donations of $5, $10, and $20 go a long way. However, if you got a little more, give a little more.
The org I am sharing with you is The Black Feminist Project and their Give a Damn campaign. Based in the South Bronx, the founder, or Head Negress in Charge, Tanya Fields, has done a lot of work to better the lives of Black women and girls, inclusive of an urban farm where she dispenses food boxes to those in need. She's recently signed a lease for the Alice Fields Community Center that will have to be built out over the coming months. She's planning multi and intergenerational programming that will help her community--one that NY, more often than not, turns it back on.
So that's it. May everything you are seeking find you. Wear your mask, and wash your hands.
(If this newsletter benefits you in any way, please feel free to tip a sista. Venmo and CashApp: AieshaTurman)