I want to make it clear that the black race did not come to the United States culturally empty-handed. The role and importance of ethnic history is in how well it teaches a people to use their own talents, take pride in their own history and love their own memories. — John Henry Clarke
As a child growing up in the 1970s, I often heard the following statement: “You can’t be _____________________________ because you’re Black.” Fill in the statement with President, Miss America, an astronaut, or any number of roles traditionally held by White Americans. Because there had never been a Black President (President Obama was not much older than I was and probably hearing the same things), Vanessa Williams had not yet been crowned Miss America, and the first Black astronaut did not go into space until I was in junior high school in the early 1980s, I did not argue the point. Why would I? The person was right. Black people did not do those things or if they did, I didn’t learn about it in school since Black history generally covered Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I was in college before any history class talked about Malcolm X. I will admit that for a brief time, I wished I was White. I wanted White girl hair, I wanted to date the cute blonde hair, blue eyed boy I had a crush on, and I did not like my big lips.
Eventually I outgrew the ‘I don’t want to be Black phase’ and to some degree, I embraced who I was. Not until I attended a PWI (predominately White institution) did I actively get involved with Black organizations. I joined the campus chapter of the NAACP as well as the Minority Achievement Program. I will admit there are times I wished I had listened to my parents and gone to an HBCU (Historically Black College and University). They wanted me to go to Spelman. I didn’t think I would fit in. I now know I would have fit in better and no doubt, I would have had a different college experience. I don’t regret my decision because going to the college and the various experiences I had there showed me that I was not meant to be a United States Supreme Court Justice but an educator.
It has been six months since I have penned a blog post. It has been six very long months. I unveiled my #GoogleEI project, Ernie’s Mobile STEAM Lab only to have to pack everything up and park the bus because of COVID-19. We have been at home since March 13, 2020. In that time, I finalized the adoption of my son. He is the light of my world and has my whole heart. Clark’s adoption is the biggest and most important thing that has happened in my world, but to most everyone else, okay, definitely everyone else, other major events have taken center stage. Those events have caused me to cry, shake my head in confusion, and raise my hands in frustration. They have caused me to want to take my son in my arms and shield him from the world. The events I speak of are the ones in which Black people, my people, have been killed, beaten, harassed, and blamed for things they didn’t do. In the last several months, I have heard: “I didn’t have slaves, so stop blaming me for racism.” “Racism doesn’t exist.” “Black people wouldn’t get killed by the police if they weren’t doing anything wrong.” “Why are Black people protesting? Shouldn’t they be at work? Oh yeah, they all get welfare.” “Black people are more concerned with police brutality than they are about Black on Black crime.” And my favorite, “I’m not racist. I have a Black friend.”
My blog is entitled Diary of a Not So Mad Instructional Tech Coach. I have yet to mention anything about technology except the brief reference to Ernie’s Mobile STEAM Lab. I am not sharing tech tidbits today. Today I am sharing how I feel about the ongoing racial tensions in this country and how Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of King T’Challa in Black Panther has sparked something in me. Until Black Panther, I had not seen a superhero movie since Christopher Reeve portrayed Superman in 1978. I was intrigued by a Black man portraying a superhero so I went to see Black Panther when it came out. From the opening scene, I was immediately drawn into the characters, the setting, and the plot. For the first time in my life, a Black man was the leading character in a superhero movie. The majority of the cast was Black, and they were not portrayed as slaves nor criminals. They were well-spoken, tech savvy, and proud to be from Wakanda. Yes, it was a movie, but it made me want to go to Wakanda. Wakanda wasn’t perfect. They did have the Jabari tribe who did not fall in line with King T’Challa until they realized they were going to have to unite to defeat their common enemy.
When the death of Chadwick Boseman was announced, I was devastated. No, he wasn’t a personal friend of mine. He was an actor who did a phenomenal job of portraying great Black men – Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and the fictional King T’Challa. King T’Challa and Wakanda resonate with me because I long to be in a place where Black people can be unapologetically Black. I long to be in a place where I don’t have to fear that the crazed customer who threatened bodily harm to my nephew won’t return and make good on his threat. I long to be in a place where my ancestors are celebrated. Heck, I long to be in a place where Black people are technology geniuses. I long for a place like Wakanda. Chadwick Boseman brought a character to life. He ignited a sense of pride in so many children who dressed like him in their Halloween costumes, played with their Black Panther action figures, and had Black Panther birthday parties. The movie ignited a sense of pride in Black people. For him to die at this moment in history when Black people are still marginalized hurts. It hurts because for the two hours and fifteen minutes of the movie, Black people had a place. We had a place where we were the majority. We had place where we celebrated our achievements. We had a place with rich history, traditions, and culture. We had Wakanda.
To quote Jackie Robinson, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Chadwick Boseman made an impact. At this moment, I doubt my impact will be as great as his, but I want to be able to impact the lives of the students and teachers in my district. I want our students of color to have pride in being Black or Brown and to know they can do great things. I want the same for our teachers. It’s hard enough being a teacher. It’s even harder when you are teaching students in the midst of a global pandemic, your students see videos of Black men being gunned down and murdered, and you have students who wonder will there ever be justice for Breonna Taylor. How do you have conversations with your students about those kinds of things when there is so much unrest? I have no answers. I have more questions than answers. What I do have is an appreciation for an incredible actor who brought to life Black royalty. He brought dignity, quiet strength, and an incredible dedication to his craft. He brought us Wakanda. #WakandaForever #Yibambe
Until next time,