Wednesday, May 27, 2009
This past weekend I was honored to be a staff chaperone for our students attending the California Conference on Equality and Justice (CCEJ) retreat at the foot of a picturesque mountain in the city of Yucaipa. While the focus was breaking down barriers and building respect among our various races, ethnicities, and cultures, the most powerful yet humbling revelation for me was the depth of anger, fear, and pain so many of our young people suffer that is far beyond criminal, but an insidious form of genocide.
When we segregated into our racial groups, several of our young people were courageous enough to reveal the most heart-wrenching details of their lives that for the first time in a long time publically I was driven to tears. At one point I had to apologize for the irresponsibility of my generation when bringing these young people into the world only to subject them to such emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. Abandonment, sexual assault, drug abuse, parental incarceration, violent death: How can you expect a 14-16 year old to process the nuances of racism, sexism, etc. when every day is a struggle to survive? Throughout my young 14 years in a classroom I’ve always suspected these challenges, but having students openly share them with such raw, real emotions both shook and humbled me more than ever when working with young people. Remember it was the ice below the water line that sank the Titanic because it’s the mass of ice you don’t see that is the true danger.
These wounded yet resilient warriors corroborate more deeply the tribulations of brothas like Monroe, which I will surely share with him during our next meeting (which should be this weekend when I travel up to celebrate his upcoming birthday). The stories of his upbringing were similar to these young people yet told through the filter of young adulthood. As concerned and caring for my students I thought I was, just today in class my demeanor toward every student in class was a level beyond where it had been just the previous week; if any more of my students come to class with these debilitating yokes on their shoulders, I have to be that adult that both accepts them as a responsible parent should yet pushes them to be the talented soul we see versus the damaged, discarded humanity their own family has treated them.
Finally a ray of hope: before I departed for our weekend one of my newly registered students, a Black boy, was quite vocal in his opinion of my chaperoning the retreat: the word he used in his FedEx field voice was ‘RAPIST!’ After having him in class today, and ‘flipping the script’ in my approach to him after my weekend experiences, as he left after school tutoring/detention (and funny how he ‘chose’ to serve it in my room), his words were, “Nah Mr. ____, you ‘da homie…”
The ‘AB Challenge’ is neither voluntary nor superficial: the survival of a race, ethnicity, and culture depends upon it.
Question: What are you doing each and every day to guide our young people through their trials? Are you waiting on the government/someone else for 'change'?