When I Wake Up, It Won’t Matter if It’s 1860, 1960, or 2014

Sometimes I think about staying in Europe. But Europe does not understand my pain.

I stayed up really late to work, but more importantly to listen to the grand jury decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. I was writing the beginning of my conclusion when the live newsfeed began rolling across my screen. I knew as I listened to the man’s words that this would end like all the other times. Each claim of media blame and ‘unfounded’ statements and social media frenzy drove knives through my chest as I felt my word sink a little deeper into the numbness that comes from familiar pain.

I read a post that said, “Everyone’s guilty except the people who are.” You took the words right out of my mouth.

I shut the feed off a few minutes past the declaration that the grand jury would not be indicting Wilson, and felt the first few angry tears sting my eyes and blur my vision. I could no longer clearly see the conclusion to my paper. I haven’t been able to see the conclusion for days now.

In one of my supervisions my supervisor asked me if I would engage with theories of a post-racial America. I felt a bubble of laughter swell in my chest at the thought of such a laughable suggestion, but I quelled the feeling. I came to Cambridge because I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to find a way to get my seat at the table that is allowed to produce knowledge. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that on some days, I just feel lost. I’m writing a term paper, and eventual master’s thesis, on the potential for positive impact Afrocentric education can have for our children of color. It would give them a different way of conceptualizing the world, one in which they would not have to be assessed through a lens already bent on destroying them, telling them that ‘different is deficient.’ For them, self-knowledge would be the highest form of knowledge, and education would not sell them the idea of socio-economic mobility and safety, but rather the tools to become their own producers of knowledge–of themselves, of their people, and of the world.

But I have not finished the conclusion. I can’t seem to bring myself to write the summary of this work, nor do I feel encouraged to do so. Tomorrow I have another supervision, and the only thought in my head right now is to rip up each page of this paper because it.does.not.matter. I’m not sure what I thought I would find here. I’m not sure how exactly to fit into what feels like a fixed narrative for black bodies.

Tonight, I will probably fall asleep to tear stained cheeks. Tonight, I will probably cling a little tighter to James Orbinski’s words that if we can imagine a better tomorrow then it can come to pass. My grip so tight some nights, I can feel it squeezing through the creases in my fingers.

And I think especially tonight, for the first time, I’m a little selfishly grateful to not have 4 classes to teach. To have to smile through curriculum that itself does.not.matter. Because there are days when I’m too weak to smile and say that things will be different one day. That even though at least in 1860 we were not hunted because our labour was ‘prized,’ we should be grateful to live in the 21st century.

I am only grateful for sunrises that have become precious for so many of my people. And the chance to try to begin again, without forgetting, and think about how the work is not done. That’s how they got us the first time–they tried to convince us that the work was done and finished. We must stay vigilante. We must keep working: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s done.”

Tomorrow, I will begin again. And try to find the right words for this conclusion.

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25 Thoughts and Musings from the 25th Year

1. I always have a song that I use to focus on my year and the things I want to do. This past year it was “Live Like That” by the Sidewalk Prophets. Whenever things got a bit crazy–as they often do–I focused on the words of the chorus, which helped me through the year remember what it was I want to project from my life:

I want to live like that

And give it all I have

So that everything I say and do

Points to You

If love is who I am

Then this is where I’ll stand

Recklessly abandoned

Never holding back–I want to live like that 

2. I may never be completely fine with my decision to leave my students in Miami. I do feel like I made the right decision for myself and all that I want to do in education to pursue this degree here at Cambridge, but I still have the days when I think about what I could have done for my students had I stayed.

3. Along the same thought, hearing today that a student I taught for two years, who I saw come into himself as a confident, unique young man, passed his state mandated graduation qualification exam made me burst into tears. Best.Present.Ever.

4. Having a close circle of inspiring and killing the game women around me has really helped me grow tremendously over the past year. I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today without the influence of those women in Miami, helping each other through all the career and personal curve balls, transcending age and color lines: Thecla, Amber, Priscilla, Yolanda, Tiffany, Nadine, Michelle, Danielle

5. Some people do not know how to let go. They will try and pull you in to a past that you have firmly left behind, and you will have to continue the path forward no matter the hands that try to drag you backwards.

6. Belleville, Indiana continues to be the ultimate place of rejuvenation. The suspension of time allows me to digest everything that had happened over the last year of life, right before moving to the UK

7. I will never be able to understand senseless acts of violence. Losing a friend through the cowardly act of her husband shooting her really rocked me to my core and made me think about how anyone’s life can be cut short, without any warning signs, no matter what you are doing with your life. But it always seems to be the ones who are pursuing the truth and beauty in this world who are taken so soon.

8. I’m going to make bad choices because I am not perfect. I am going to do things that I know I should not do, and trust those I know I should not trust because I want to believe in change and progression.

9. Writing will always be my therapy. I cannot always articulate the myriad workings of my mind, but I can always write about it. Taking blank pages and turning them into the poetry of my soul is still a gift I thank my mother for passing on to me and I thank various teachers along the way for fanning the flames of

10. In my end of year meeting with my supervisor Tiffany, she asked me about things I felt like I could have done differently in my classroom. I told her that I wished that I was a little stronger, because there were days I did not push back against the system as hard as I could, because I got tired, and it was easier to just lay low and not draw attention to myself. But I felt like those were days that I needed to push back the hardest, but I didn’t, because it was more convenient for me. I pushed back the majority of the days, I just wish I could have ‘shown up’ for 100% of them…but the obstacles sometimes feel insurmountable…but then I think about how it must feel/be for my students

11. I’ve had people tell me I could do anything I want with my Harvard degree, and I should just give up on trying to fix the education system because it’s too far gone to go right. It’s a pretty huge job to play my part in…but I’m never one to back down from a challenge..especially when it’s people’s futures at stake

12. The English accent and lingo seeps inside your head and your tongue much faster than you would expect

13. I really love Taylor Swift’s old songs. I feel like her earlier music reflected the country existence I lived and feelings of first crushes and relationships. Emphasis on ‘songs’.

14. Jaffa cakes were a great find. I feel like Rihanna, ‘Wheeeeeeeeereeeeee have youuuuuu beeeeeeen, alllll myyyyyyyyy liiiiiiiifeeeeeee?’

15. I had missed traveling so much. The immersion of being in a new place and engaging with its ways of being. I am so grateful for this year.

16. Traveling with my family abroad was a lot of fun. I hope they have all caught the travel bug and will continue to keep planning journeys

17. I cannot say enough about the AMAZING individuals who continue to bring immense wealth of friendship and inspiration to my life despite being thousands of miles away. Thank you Aley, Scott, and Mel for all the ways you push my thinking and believe in all my crazy dreams.

18. Apparently when you go abroad, your platonic soul mate will think it’s acceptable to cut down the amount of ‘5-minute’ talks that happen :p

19. Even the things you think will take a long time to move on from, you will surprise yourself at how, when you least expect it, they don’t seem as great of a problem or event as they once seemed any longer.

20. Helping high schoolers become fluent and confident and joyful readers is the hardest job I have ever had in my life. But it was also the most rewarding, as cliche as it sounds. Reading should always be for the ability to meaning-make and be your own means of production in life, and never for the sake of paper and pencil or computer based testing.

21. School+start-up= late nights and lots of carefully planned out days

22. I’m a better businesswoman than I thought I could be. And I’m really happy to be learning these skills of business in real-time application than in a classroom.

23. I have huge intellectual crushes on all my course mates taking Politics, Development, and Democratic Education with me. The dialogue and the banter are just pure intellectual and heart-warming gold.

24. Cambridge feels like home already. I have some friends I know already will be friends for life.

25. Despite not getting the funding that I applied for, I took the plunge and came to Cambridge anyway. I could not have made a better life choice this year.

Here’s to getting deeper into my 20s! It’s something a lot of women dread, but I am thoroughly excited for. Each year gets better than the last, and I’m on the path I want to be on. Thank you God for another year to keep trying to produce good. And here’s this year’s guiding song lyrics:

from “Ocean’s Deep”

You call me out upon the water

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find you in the mystery

In ocean’s deep, my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When ocean’s rise, my soul will rest in your embrace

For I am Yours, and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger