CLMOOC –Letters to the Next President

 

 

Dear Future President,

 

Do you believe that Black Lives Matter? Do you even care? As an Black woman born to a Black man, married to a Black man whose family consists of several Black brothers, nephews, cousins and students, (yes students, they are my family too) this is an issue very close to my heart. In the past eight years our country has witnessed countless killings of Black men and women. In the last 48 hours there have been two black men gunned down by the police, both murders caught on tape and broadcast for the world to witness over and over again. I know as the president there will be several issues that will be important to you. You will have many favors to return and specific interest groups to repay but what about the people whose cries have been ignored for so long? I recently read a Nikki Giovanni poem that prompted me to write this letter to you, our next president.

 

I never even thought or imagined that in my lifetime I would have to proclaim, or remind people that black lives matter. Growing ups as an 80’s baby there was a semblance of racial equality. It was a post Civil Rights America in every sense of the word. We had overcome way before I was born– right? Malcolm X awakened our sleeping brothers and sisters while enlightening the masses that didn’t know or want the enlightenment. While Dr King led marches which united blacks and whites inspiring real change in this nation. These and countless other Civil Rights activists had already lost their lives in pursuit of a better tomorrow. The time had come for our chance to live because we were in charge of our life and now we have real choices. By the time I was born Black people were well on their way to reaching the “mountaintop” — or so I thought.  

 

If i can’t do

what i want to do

then my job is to not

do what i don’t want

to do

 

It’s not the same thing

but it’s the best i can

do

 

My peers in primary school were comprised of mostly Black and Hispanic children in my hometown of Newark, NJ. Yet, it never struck me as odd because my parents had a choice of where they wanted their children to be educated. White people didn’t live in my neighborhood. But, I never thought there was a “race” problem. This was their choice. As it was my parents’ choice to live in a community with their family and friends. My childhood home was smack dab in the middle of a city that looked like a wasteland as a result of the Newark Riots of ’67. While living in this reality I always thought that the ills of the past were just that,  ills of the past.  At home and in school I was taught that there was no limit on what we could do as Black people. (Well, except for becoming president.) Nevertheless, I had no concept or knowledge of Reganomics, police brutality or the need for affirmative action. How could I? I was a child. I was taught that as Black Americans, we were making strides in spite of the devastating crack epidemic that was all around me.  There were Blacks  going to college, becoming doctors, lawyers, politicians, CEO’s, the sky was the limit because we had choices, real choices...

 

If i can’t have

what i want . . . then

my job is to want

what i’ve got

and be satisfied

that at least there

is something more to want

 

In the 1990’s it appeared that America was on its way to becoming the place it was supposed to be for Black Americans. Then, in 1992 the Rodney King beating happened. The violent and brutal police assault of an unarmed black man was caught on camera for the world to see. An attack that looked more like footage from the Eyes On The Prize documentary than the 6 o’clock news.  For me, and some other naive Americans it was a no brainer, those cops were guilty– there was video proof. There was no way they could be anything other than that? The shocking not guilty verdict shattered my “free at last” ideals. For the first time in my lifetime I witnessed the injustice of the judicial system that mirrored something from days passed. Americans of my generation looked to NWA’s F*ck the Police as an anthem to deal with this moment. While I asked, “What’s going on here?” This type of behavior was no longer acceptable, we marched, we sang, we sat — things changed. Apparently, not so much, instead, the not guilty verdict sparked a riot in a city on the opposite side of the country from my Newark, NJ home that destroyed a community. Just like it did in Newark and Detroit almost 30 years prior. What is happening to our choice?

 

Since i can’t go

where i need

to go . . . then i must . . . go

where the signs point

through always understanding

parallel movement

isn’t lateral

 

Everything was upside down for quite sometime as it relates to racial relations. The OJ trial showed the world that all was not well in America as it pertained to race. In pursuit of the “American Dream” my parents’ chose to move their family to the suburbs where I attended Scotch Plains Fanwood High. Now, I went to school with Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Egyptians and a few Blacks. There were many different racial groups in the school, yet the cafeteria tables were segregated based on race. No one’s fault. That was our choice. A decade goes by and once again we see change when the nation that once had my people in chains like chattel then hung us from trees like laundry now had the choice to make one of us the leader of the greatest nation in the world.  Finally, America has allowed Black people to reach the “mountaintop.” Black boys could grow up and actually become the president of the United States of America like Barack Obama– if they live that long.

 

This celebration of equality didn’t last long because shortly into President Obama’s tenure the past is back to haunt us. The people that we are supposed to look to for protection are taking our lives — they don’t think we matter. Police are murdering us in the street with the cameras rolling, hashtags trending and then the courts are giving the assailants pats on the back. Do you know that there is a website with the names of over 100 Black men and women that have been killed by police officers– this is in addition to Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and the more recent Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. In 2016 they are choosing to take us down like animals. Not crocodiles more like gorillas. They are showing us that our lives doesn’t matter at all.

 

If all lives were getting handled this way then there would be a very different public outcry. But it’s only Black people that are getting murdered in front of their women and children. This is a modern day lynching. Where we have members of law enforcement taking our men down, not to disarm but to harm with a lethal blow. This is a very hard pill that I’ve had to swallow because I like so many wanted to believe that things had changed. Instead, I see that life is nothing more than a series of images that change as they repeat themselves. This is not to say that all people in these positions of power are abusing it. But, the harsh reality is that the few are making   a  choice that is overshadowing the ones that are truly protecting and serving.  When the time comes every American will have a choice to make.

 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” I”m asking that you, future president, future leader of the greatest nation in all of the lands, decide what side of the aisle you’re really standing on because for my people it is a matter of life or death.

 

When i can’t express

what i really feel

i practice feeling

what i can express

and none of it is equal

 

I know

but that’s why mankind

alone among the animals

learns to cry

 

Choices by Nikki Giovanni

 

Sadly, I am fresh out of tears.

 

 


Day 2 Class Log

Today marks our second day on our journey to complete Kean University’s Writing Project or KUWP for short. The day doesn’t start off smoothly for me because I was late. I don’t like to be late, but a last minute decision to move my car made this so. Anyhoo, I say all of that to say that I was so busy trying to get myself together from being late that I missed the conversation at the start of class that followed Colin’s reading of yesterday’s log. He did a really good job with that. His writing had great voice. Anyway, while Kim was showing everyone around the Letters to the next president L2P website, I was trying to connect to the WiFi on my phone.

 

Eventually, I’m able to connect and join the group as we look over the L2P website. We learn about the features of L2P and makes. Makes are literally something that you make. We will make something that will be posted on the L2P site. We were told that we had to do one of them. We could do them all but we only had to do one. Kim then took us back to the main site. She told us that this page was chuck full of resources but to be careful.You don’t want to “go down the rabbithole” If we like something, bookmark it because we may not be able to locate it again. Colin asked a question, I was looking out of the window thinking about how I could use the makes in my class so I missed it. But, I heard Kim say that we could use this in our classroom but again she reiterated that we only had to do one.

 

Hope then asked a question and again I missed it while I was typing this log and rereading it to make sure it doesn’t sound boring. I’m not sure how successful I will be with that. Wait, I think she asked something about poetry. Yep, that was it. But now, I totally missed Kim’s response. It’s not looking like I am too good at this. I could never be a court stenographer.  I am missing most of the conversation. Kim keeps saying that we only have to do one make I’m thinking that I am only going to do one. There is no need for me to be an overachiever.

 

Andayie our resident vegan chef asked what a clMOOC was again. L2P is the clMOOC. It stands for: Connected learning massive online open course.) Kim likens it to Wikis then she points out that Wikis are old and outdated now. She goes on to tell us that if you are a teacher, you will use this. Especially in light of this election season. You can use the MOOC to teach how everything is an argument, making a claim and providing evidence in an academic setting.

 

Marykate asked if L2P was akin to Makerspace and Kim said yes, I may look that up. I am all about using technology in my class. Kim goes on to tell us that one her Ohio hating children wind up attending Kenyon University. Listening to Kim talk about Ohio makes me want to visit there. I don’t know much about Ohio other than Cleveland and that doesn’t seem like a top five place to visit. As I listen to Kim lament about Ohio my eyes are drawn to the coffeecake sitting in the middle of the table. Looking at the coffee cake makes me think about yesterday’s banana bread that Colin so masterfully incorporated into his blog. Today much like yesterday’s sweet treat, the coffee cake sits. I can’t help but notice it because it’s in our view as we watch the David Foster’s picture on Kim’s laptop.

 

Foster’s speech, This is Water is very insightful and somewhat existentialist. As he spoke I realize that my blog is very self-centered. I have interjected my thoughts, throughout this entire post. Yikes! How very narcissitic of me. But, as Foster continues on in his speech I realize that this is okay. I am at the center of my own perspective. That wasn’t a direct Foster quote. I paraphrased that big time.

 

So, moving right along, Kim segways from the Foster speech to us discussing the Authority piece that we read. She left us with a question, Who is the authority of language in New Jersey? After a few awkward moments of silence where no one wanted to start, Colin prompted a discussion about prescriptivists and descriptivists and trying to see ourselves in either of those titles. Imogen talked about her Autistic student and her style of writing being acceptable or not. I through in a Zora Neale Hurston reference to talk about her writing style and there was a time when that was deemed acceptable. Quanesha referenced what she learned in a Writing seminar class then when engaged in a really good discussion about what is acceptable writing and why should we care about hammering kids so much a grammar? After our colorful and somewhat off track discussion about language and who can or should say what when and where, Kim was back. She inquired about the highlights of our discussion. Hope shared a story about her children and how vernacular so vastly different from two towns as close as Rahway and Newark. She told us about how her Newark relatives think her children talk “proper.” Kim wrapped up our thoughts and moved on with our agenda. And in the words of Colin and the banana bread, the coffeecake sat.

 

Kim shifts us to Writer’s chair. But not before explaining the difference between Author’s and writing chair. Author’s chair is more sharing and Writer’s chair is more task based. She is going to give us handout to clarify this further. Imogen decided to be the first brave volunteer to allow the group to read and critique her work. Imogen read her story to the class and it left us all in suspense. She’s got some great imagery moments in her piece. A budding writer if I do say so myself. Class ended  and Kim sent us off to write. After hearing Imogen’s piece I realize that I’ve got a lot of work to do. We missed Debbie’s spirit today and so the coffeecake didn’t continue to be lonely. I took a piece before departing from class. It was rather tasty.

 

And that concludes our day.  

 


Mid-Point Reflection

Midpoint Reflection Questions:

  1. Describe yourself in terms of the three strands: Writer, Theory and Technology.

 

As a writer I am passionate. I love to write. It is one of my favorite things to do but yet I don’t spend much time doing it. During this course I have noticed that I am a procrastinator when it comes to my writing I often second guess myself once my fingers kit the keyboard. I don’t know if it is because before now most of my writing has been linked to social media outlets and I am very aware of what I say. I try to be honest but without being offensive. Truthful without ruffling too many feathers but then I think about my favorite writers and they are truthful, honest and their work often makes people uncomfortable. I am in search of my writing voice and I like what I am discovering.

 

When it comes to my education theory I believe that I am stuck in between being a progressivist and a cognitivism developmentalist. If my students are able to learn and recognize real problems and understand the connections between the academic disciplines to see the bigger picture of the education then I have done my job– well I might add. Making progressivist learners is my ultimate goal as an educator but, I have to also be mindful of the obstacles that stand in the way of my students’ learning.  I understand full well that because of their financial constraints, restrictions and limited cultural capital that it may be difficult for them to achieve this. And that is where my social constructivists views come into play. By trying to reach people in their community at large to come in and make real world connections to their learning can help them get the big picture. Not only does leaving the classroom on via field trips helps this happen but bringing the world to them via technology does this instantaneously. Which is why I try to use technology as much as I can in my classroom. My students are familiar with it. They understand it, they trust it and that will allow me to reach and teach them.

 

  1.      Although all three strands will be explored, which strand will you focus on?

 

Of the three strands I think I am going to focus on my writing. I believe that it is through my writing will I be able to better teach my students how to write. Now I understand their struggles, their frustrations and reservations about writing for me. I am six years out of undergrad and the only time I have written since college is when I wanted to. And it was for  a specific audience. But it was never under a true time constraint and there was no pressure. This opportunity is giving me the chance to see the world through the eyes of my students. I am learning how to adjust my expectations and/or step up the rigor in some instances.

 

  1.      How are you documenting your growth?

 

I started a blog. I’ve always wanted to start one. But I never did until now. I kicked off my blog with an entry about being a grad school mom. Then I talked about summer break and what that means to me as a teacher. And my last entry was about the tragic events that have transpired in regards to police brutality. And with each I am seeing my growth as a writer. I am finding my voice, paying attention to details the flow of the article. My thoughts are being shaped by the readings and I am seeing this manifest itself in my writing.

 

  1.      What are your developing goals as the ISI progresses?

 

My goals are to stay focused. In this process I am overwhelmed with ideas and things that I want to write about. It is very easy for me to get lost in each one of those. The readings are sparking questions and igniting ideas that I hope to take back into my classroom. So my goal is to stick with one thing. See it through and then go on to the next idea and allow that to flourish. I am learning that it is good to collect ideas and strategies for my teacher arsenal but I need to be mindful that I can’t use everything at the same time.

 

  1.      What help/guidance do you need from me as your facilitator?

 

This is a tough question. I think because you have been doing this for so long you have answers for my questions before I even ask them. Talk about anticipating student misconceptions! This point though I will need for you to be available to be a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and offer feedback. Also, I will need for you to continue to be easily accessible and willing to help us if and when we get stuck.