Followed me on Twitter this week. That simple act brought back one of the best memories of my life and one of the most poignant conversations I have had in this lifetime.
That conversation was with Stacey Summers, mother of Seun Summers. Sundance 2013 American Promise premiered and Filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michele Stepehson, friends and family came to Blackhouse’s space at the end of Main Street and they were electric with excitement. They entered the room with Zydeco band playing, Idris and best friend Seun were on fire – the film was well received and they were ready to celebrate. The Zydeco band was playing a rhythmic tune, and once the band found a groove Vikter Duplaix dropped an Afro Caribbean song and everyone on the dance floor lost it, including me.
I stepped off the floor to grab something to drink and that is where I saw Stacey standing and so I congratulated her. She reminded me of my Aunt Habibah and she had that strong New York twang and reminded me a bit of home. I thought Idris was her son, but then I guess he was tall and reminded me of my son – I incorrectly assumed. We laughed and hit it off and Stacey shared with me some of the experiences she and her husband Joe had navigating education in New York City. I think we wound up talking for almost an hour.
As a mom, I can tell you this film is so necessary, this dialogue about the educational gap in young African American men is an important one. Living in Southern California, the experiences Stacey and I shared as parents were common and some of the decisions made along the educational journey almost paralleled exactly. My son was diagnosed with ADHD, Stacey’s son was diagnosed with Dyslexia, we both transitioned our son’s out of “good schools” after the 6th grade looking for an alternative where they could thrive. As parents we worried about those decisions.
Well I just watched American Promise on Netflix. Kudos to the Brewster Stepehson family and to the Summers family. American Promise is amazing!!! The social dialogue, community activism, and educational tools that have come from this movement are groundbreaking. More info can be found at American Promise.
This may seem off topic a bit, but these are my closing thoughts, I remember being choked and lifted off the ground by my second grade teacher during a school play rehearsal. That one act taught me that you have to empower your kids to deal with crazy kids and insane adults in school. There is a moment in the film when Seun did not like a music class and another child projected onto him his prejudice and responded by saying “you do not like it because it’s not rap music.” Now if he had been my child I would have told him kids are stupid and you have to remember that people do project their insecurities onto other people and you do not have to accept it. In that situation you either call them on their shit or responded something along the lines of “just because your uptight parents don’t let you mix your classical strings with banging djembe beats don’t hate.” Now back to teachers for a minute, I have had A LOT of experiences raising an ADHD child in private, public, and charter schools, dealing with a host of adult educators, philosophies, energies along the way. I do wish that all schools had to give some sort of racial and/ or socio economic bias analysis to all teachers and teacher aides. I bottom line teachers and medical doctors to one thing, they are people too. Although their education may give them the ability to make very educated decisions, they are still people and people have biases. When it comes to educating kids, you should not be legally allowed to expose kids to your bias if in the long run it is going to be the disconnect that hinders our children’s ability to learn.
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