Thank you, Mr. Floyd Cooper

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain.

I checked my email and all at once the rain became a symbol.

I read the Associated Press title twice: Children’s book illustrator Floyd Cooper, who painted positive images of Black History, dies at 65.

I was blessed to meet Mr. Cooper in Philadelphia at the African American children’s fair in 2019. After signing a couple of books for my class, he spoke very briefly about being an illustrator. I remember telling him about my students and the Nat King Cole lesson I was currently working on. He listened closely and even asked me to send him some of my work.

While we never got to work together, I am very happy I met such a wonderful individual who painted pictures of yesterday so our children of today could resonate with both worlds. I will keep his family in my prayers.

Ms. Tami Charles, Ms. Nikki Grimes and Mr. Floyd Cooper in 2019

Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here I am standing in front of a DMX wall mural with my children.

To an outsider, it’s a group of people standing in front of a wall mural; but the insiders know, the the wall mural is relevant to the people and the time.

When DMX died in April of this year, many of the children spoke about it in class. After all, we do live in the Bronx and associate ourselves with Black Culture. They spoke about his death in a reminiscent way. Which I knew, was a way for them express their parents grief. I mean, do they really know who he is?

I am not sure, but because of the times they could relate.

They were finishing up Sounder by William H. Armstrong which, if you don’t know have many themes: death, life, survival of the Black man, and the Bible just to name a few.

COVID, George Floyd’s death, protest of last summer and returning to school made the children more aware of the times and the injustices and inequalities that exist in America, specifically, New York. DMX’s death added to the conversation.

Timing is everything. While walking to school, I saw the graffiti artist, Andaluz and his team setting up and asked about their project. Then asked if my students could come later on and witness the painting. To which they said yes.

After getting an okay from my Principal, they got to meet Andaluz, the graffiti artist painting the mural, and also got to interview the other artist and reporters were were on site. A month later, after the painting, we returned and talked about the art. The first question one student asked was- what does it say near his head?

Ecclesiastes 3.

What does that mean?

It’s a book in the Bible. That part talks about time and season and how everything has a purpose under heaven. What does this remind you of?

Sounder?

Yup.

We stood there for a while in silence.

Ms. Hurley, there are a lot of candles here now.

I know. I think that is a way some people remember those who passed on.

Oh.

Hey, Ms. Hurley?

This little kid made sure to visit his sister’s class all year long. He sat at the computer learning with her and most times when I would ask his sister a question, he would fight her to answer it himself.

Once, the children had a conversation about what age it was appropriate to make a bed. Right when the class was about to agree that a 4 year old could not make up a bed, he turned on his sister’s camera and told us he made up his own bed. Then, we all sat then in silence.

Forget it when it was time to make projects or have fun. I had to beg him. “please allow your sister to speak” then his parents would come and take him to the next room.

He’s so bold. I thought.

But that was all virtually because when I ran into him and his dad in the train station, he refused to show his face.