Dia Jones, shares a poignant message about her grandmother, Dr. King, and the hope and dreams of Black students.
My grandmother was the epitome of a dream catcher. She was born in a place and time when she was not expected to read. Yet her cousin taught her to read by drawing letters in the dirt with a stick. She was born the youngest of 13 and was expected to work the fields.
At a young age, she told her father she would not pick cotton and he gave her permission to remain in the house and learn to cook. Her aunt told her that Black women would never drive cars let alone own one. My grandmother learned to drive and owned several cars. With barely 8th grade educations, she and my grandfather owned their home, they were entrepreneurs and owned several rent houses. When they passed away, they had amassed the type of wealth that many of us can only dream of.
The lessons my granny taught me about education, business and just being a good person empowered me to be who I am today. The deepest lesson she taught me was when I was 4 years old. I told her that I wanted to be a nurse. She said, “Why be a nurse when you can be a doctor? Women can do anything now. You can be anyone you want to be. Just work hard, have faith in God and believe you can.” She was teaching me to dream big and I never forgot that.
I teach all of my students the lessons my grandmother instilled in me, but I often wonder are all children being allowed to dream big in all schools? I see too many of our children around the country living in the sunken place with zero hope in their eyes.
In chapter 9 of his book of sermons Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opens with this:
One of the most agonizing problems within our human experience is that few, if any, of us live to see our fondest hopes fulfilled. The hopes of our childhood and the promises of our mature years are unfinished symphonies…is there any one of us who has not faced the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams?
I thought about our Black, Brown and poor children in schools across our country when I read this and the piss poor educations they are receiving. Ultimately leading their hopes and dreams to fester like sores and run.
When they begin school, children embrace the hope of being anything their little hearts desire. The dream killers tell them, “No. You can’t be a doctor. Why don’t you shoot for something a little Black boy can achieve?” “You can’t be an astronaut Estrella. No one I know who looks like you really can do that.” “Young lady, you can’t be President. Stick to small dreams.” Those low expectation folks are in every school, city and state ensuring our children are academically unprepared for a world they once dreamed of.
Dr. King says that those who lose hope are “Too unconcerned to love and too passionless to hate, too detached to be selfish and too lifeless to be unselfish, too indifferent to experience joy and too cold to experience sorrow, they are neither dead nor alive; they merely exist…Nothing of the aliveness of life is left in them; only the dull motion of bare existence. Dr. King described what it means for our children to be forced to attend schools in this “the sunken place.”
We need to recognize this.
We come up with a thousand reasons why our children are detached from learning and all we need to do is ask them, “What are your hopes and dreams?” We may find the solutions to combating the achievement gap within their honest answers. But how many of our children do not have champions at school that care enough to ask them or even listen to their hopes and dreams? What educators will push our students to dream big at all times and prepare them for that life? Who will care enough to help our students put cotton in their ears, ignore the detractors and fight out of their sunken place with hopes for a better life?
Dr. King says the answer is for us to face shattered dreams head-on and never let them go. Remain hopeful. He states our ability to deal with shattered dreams is ultimately determined by our faith in our children, our God and our abilities to fight for them, no matter the cost.
I am here to tell you my friends that in 2018 and beyond, my One Voice warriors and I are prepared to do just this. We are gifted, intelligent and determined to fight for education equity for all of our children to fulfill their dreams. Our melanin infused voices will not be silenced. We are unbossed, unbought and unbothered. We are ready for this movement. Our children will no longer be denied a quality education…in any school…anywhere. For this cause, we march on…for Dr. King, our ancestors and my granny.