Some of the people we met


While at the Louis Armstrong museum, we met some art lovers who happened to be visiting city at the same time. Very intelligent and talented intellectuals who bonded with us over beignets, fried chicken, collards, and avocado wraps.

We met them for Sunday dinner afterwards and had a blast talking about the city and life. They were the age of our parents and talked to us as daughters. When they learned of the little trouble we got into while there, they warned us about creating a better travel plan for next time and then spoke to us about our careers and future.


We met so many people we kept a list of who we met and where.

The first was our Uber driver, James, who was the first to tell us his true opinion of NOLA. ‘If anyone tell you they had a bad experience in NOLA, it’s because of something they did.’

Then we met the crew mentioned above: Marget, Melissa, Fritz, Adjoa and Debra

Around the same time, I met James at the lemonade stand who asked me how old I was and then if Stacy and I brought our boyfriends along.

When we left the museum and fair, we met the tour guide assistant who helped us pick a tour…

We met the bus driver, Marlon, who spoke to us about the disparities in NOLA and told us to visit the 9th ward if we really wanted to see the hood.

We meet Lindsay and her boyfriend who set us straight about the pronunciation of New Orleans.


We met very intelligent Ellenie, who worked at a herb shop. She knew the names of different herbs and what each on was used for. I learned that Ginko helps with retaining memory.


We ran into smooth talker Dabir at the flea market and Shari and her friends outside of the market.

Then, Shanay, a soon to be bride, whose photo is on my blog, posed with her girlfriends at a popular Cajun sea food spot.

The most funny crew was Ron, Robert and Rick. The ‘R’ Crew at Cafe Dumonde. They weren’t even related but acted like brothers.

The most daring was meeting Mr. Keith who allowed me to climb a ladder and take photos of the painting on the side of the building.


We met Uber Driver Kynytia who told us how to pronounce the supermarket name, Robért’s. You can’t say Robert’s. You have to pay attention to the accent.

Then, Kimble, the most dope uber driver and musician who rapped his songs to us on the way back home.

Where we stayed, we met Zachariah, an ecologist who told us Louisiana loses a football field of land everyday.  

We met Cameron at the famous Gumbo shop and because he was standing on line ahead of us turned around and engaged in conversation with us. He was visiting from Wyoming on a business trip. He asked if he could join us when the waiter called us.

We ran into the same Australian couple two or three times.

Then, at the musical festival, we met dancers after their show whose names were Suga baby doll, G baby doll, baby doll kit, and Pinky. All baby dolls.



Christopher Paul Curtis


I was super excited to meet Christopher Paul Curtis at the National Book Awards Ceremony this month! I attended without finding out who were on the finalist list. I love surprises…especially if I can control them in some way.

The first thing I would always do when I arrive at the New School (which is where the ceremony is held) is visit the book seller’s table. I do this even before looking at the program. Looking at the books for sell tells me who I will be listening to that night.

When I came across The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis, I asked the vendor if he Mr. Curtis was going to be there that night. Sometimes authors don’t show up to the event.

Yeah, I believe so, he responded.

And, sure enough. He was there!

I was really happy to meet him in person because his writing kept me up at night as a little girl. His books were among the many books my favorite librarian, Mr. Hardy, placed in my hand when I was in middle school.

When I introduced myself to him during the intermission, he looked at me and smiled.

It’s a pleasure meeting you, Lystria. Do you teach?

Yes! I do! How did you know?

I actually didn’t. I didn’t know weather to ask if you taught or how old you were! You look so young.

Thank you, Thank you. I get that I a lot. I teach third grade.

Oh, third grade! I still remember my third grade teacher.

He signed my book and we spoke a little bit about his writing habits. I had remembered some of his habits by reading all of his books closely over and over again as a little girl.

Do you still wake up at 6 to write?

He started smiling. Well, Lystria, it’s getting earlier and earlier.

After we spoke, I met other authors. But meeting him and hearing him speak was by far the most nostalgic and settling for me.

Before I left, he introduced me to his wife Mrs. Curtis and author, Andrea Pinkney. They all looked at me in my eyes and told me how thankful they were that I was teaching.

Thank you for teaching our children.  They told me constantly.

I would be lying if I told you I did not leave that event feeling better then when I walked in. The same feeling I felt after reading  Bud, not Buddy or The Watsons go to Birmingham had returned to me when I met Christopher Paul Curtis in person.

Majora Carter


Last year after doing a mini lesson on Urban Planning and talking about communities, cities and how they are built, I invited  leading urban revitalization strategy consultant, and real estate developer, Majora Cater, to speak to the students and we all were surprised when she actually came!!

She spoke to the third graders in a language they could understand. She shared with them the power of education and how needful it was as she was growing up. Of course they were more interested in the story about her dog walking in her wedding and how she felt when the Bronx was burning. However, she kept them engaged and informed them of what the Bronx used to be before they were born.

As the teacher who invited her, I was extremely happy and proud! I kept smiling the entire day! Especially when my principal said she enjoyed the presentation.



Going to see the Amish


For the end of the year trip, the third grade went to Pennsylvania to continue their studies about the Amish people.

The tutor guide, Ms. Ellen, was very down to earth and had a clear understanding about the Amish and their way of life.

Before we went, I searched for children books about the Amish but only found cookbooks. The New York Public Library told me there were no Amish children books in their database. I asked my brother who is in graduate school to see if his school had any books about the Amish. That night he came home with  a thick but easy read book titled: A History of the Amish. It was worn and someone had highlighted all the important material so it was easy for me to use the book to teach my class.

During the trip I took notes worth sharing:

The Beginnings: Menno Simon, who was a priest, objected the idea of taking babies and baptizing them. He argued with the Pope and left the church with a lot of members. They now call themselves the Mennonites as oppose to Catholic. They believe people should be baptized as Adults and not as babies. Everyone should be given the choice to decide whether they want to be apart of the church. They were kicked out of Switzerland, Germany, France and other European countries because of their defiance.

Another Breakaway: Then in the 1690’s the Mennonites begin to argue among themselves about people not following rules. Jakob Ammann argued that the rules needed to be stricter, such as, if you don’t obey the rules in the church, well, then you will be thrown out. You will be shunned. The Mennonites then split in half. Those who wanted things more strict, became Amish and those who were satisfied stayed Mennonites.

William Penn: These two groups heard about an American, William Penn, who started the colony of Pennsylvania. He told both groups that they were welcome to come to Pennsylvania. Thus, both groups came to Pennsylvania. Today the Amish is in 23 states and in 3 Providences in Canada- but none are in Europe. On the other hand, the Mennonites are everywhere. They are in a lot of states, South America, Africa, and Europe. There are so many of them because they have missionaries and want to bring more people into their church. Meanwhile, the Amish are satisfied with the members they have.

(The man who gave us a buggy ride was a Mennonite).


The Amish House: They do not have electricity so they use an oil lamp or propane tank. They do not use rugs because you need a vacuum to clean the floor.

Church: They also do not have church buildings. They have church in their homes. Every other week, they attend someone’s home for service. Each member should have room in their house for the church members to attend.  During church their will be singing and a sermon. Then Brunch follows and the ladies are the ones who fix the meal. The men eat first. After they eat, the ladies and kids eat. After they all eat and clean up, then it’s time for sports.


They have bishops and minsters, all of whom are elected by each other. They do not get a salary because they already have an occupation as a farmer or carpenter. Everyone gives ten percent of their money to the church which goes into a bank account and if one of them has a problem which result in huge expenses, the church steps in and pays. For example, if someone has a huge hospital bill and can only pay half, the Bishop has the power to pay half of the bill.

They take care of each other. No one goes into an institution and no one gets sent away. If someone has alzheimers or if a child is born with physical problems. Everyone in the church, helps you out. Very little crime. If you committed a crime and the Bishop heard, he would come to your home and take you to the police. They do not hide anyone. If you get arrested for a crime, you are also shunned.

Sports: Everyone participate in sports after church. They might play: volleyball or baseball. We saw a pair of skates near the bed, in which we were told everyone had skates and scooters. Some have bikes that they ride on the farm. Everyone plays together.

Holidays: They celebrate all the traditional Christian holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They also celebrate birthdays. They do not celebrate memorial or labor day (which celebrate soldiers). But they celebrate July 4th.

Citizens: They vote only if the issues is important to them. So they vote sometimes. They do not take part in elections. They pay their taxes and are good citizens. If you lived by them as a neighbor and needed help, they will help you.

Daily Life: Everyone eats together. Breakfast and Dinner. The mother and daughter are up early in the morning to prepare the food for everyone. The men do a lot of physical work. They are farmers or construction works. No one eats a piece of toast or fruit for breakfast. They all have big hearty breakfast (eggs, sausage, pancakes). Then, the kids go to school and Dad goes to work while mom does house work. Like, tending the garden, canning, and making quilts for themselves and tourist.


Fun Fact: The Amish calls us Englishers because we speak English. To the Amish people their are three types of people: The Amish, The Mennonites and the Englishers. They call themselves the plain people. They dress the same, they want to look like a community of people. The individual is not important. The community is important. The look and live different from Englishers. When they are growing up, they are not Amish. They only become Amish when they grown up and choose to become Amish as adults.

They are taught from the time they are very little that their are three very important things in life. They are very religious and teach their children the acronym JOY. Because they are very religious, it’s more important to learn about JESUS, be a good person and get to heaven. The O is for OTHERS. Others are your community and family and church group. The Y stands for YOU. You as an individual come last.

Marriage: This one I wasn’t really clear on…but it seems as if the Amish date before joining the church. It’s only when they decide to marry when they must join the church. The soon to be bride, makes a plain dress for her wedding. Her dress will be either blue or purple. The dress she makes for her wedding is the same dress she wears to church every other week. She wears the dress all her life. And when she dies she is buried in the dress. The bride also wears her prayer cap on her wedding day. The day she marries, she will wear very old-fashion high top shoes. The rest of the time, she wears high top black shoes and black stockings.

The Wife: The ladies have very long hair. Their hair is parted in the middle and pulled back into a bun. All ladies have the same hair style. They want to look alike. They wear a prayer cap. Like the Mennonites and the Muslim,  the Amish follow the scripture closely about a women’s hair being her crown and glory and should be only seen by her husband. Thus, they cover their hair.

When the women work, they dress plain. Unlike the Mennonites who believe in wearing bright colors and prints on their clothes.

The main job of the women is to be a wife and mother.

The Little Girl: When a child, the child dress exactly like the mother (kind of like having your own American Girl Doll). The little girl wears a plain dress and a black apron. However, she will not wear a prayer cap. She will part her hair in the middle and wear braids with a scarf for covering.

The Husband: He wears black slacks without cuffs or buttons. He also does not wear a belt. He wears suspenders. He may wear a shirt from Walmart (this comment aroused a lot of questions…as my students had learn that they make their own clothes…). All Amish men wear their straw hat  or his black wide church hat (which my students declared: ‘That looks like Ms. Hurley’s hat!” ) and construction boots.

When the men attend church, they wear hand made suits which have no buttons. He wears a white shirt and not tie and a vest.

The Little Boy: The kids are taught to work from very little. They are not out playing, they are working. The little boy sits on the back of the plow (he’s 5) and helps his dad (who maybe a farmer) plant tobacco. When the  dad puts the plow through the ground, his son is sitting on the back with the plants and he’s leaning over placing them in the grown.

In conclusion, the Amish are a happy people who are not interested in violence or war. They have a different culture.





My Classroom Door


The theme for this year was based on Javaka Steptoe’s book, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

I got foam like crowns and pieces of foam for the frame from the dollar store. The radiant stars had to write one radiant thing they learned so far in the third grade.

100 Day of School Activity


For the 100th day of school, I wanted an activity that would encourage thinking, writing and even some math.

I found two coloring books with African American greats and made 19 different copies (one for each student) of our ancestors. Each sheet had a small paragraph or two about that historical figure along with their birthday and the year of their death (if they died).

My students had to figure out how old their figure was 100 years ago then write about what they thought their character was doing.

There was one student who got Crispus Attucks  (1723-1770) who figured out that he wasn’t alive 100 years ago. He was the only one who had to get another figure.

A visit to Norfolk, Virginia


When I was a little girl, my mom would send me along with my siblings to Virginia to spend time with her family. Those trips south ended too quickly and as an adult I have only a few memories.The memories are the ones my siblings and I spoke often about when we returned back home.

The most popular memory is of  my little sister telling my Grandma her spanking didn’t hurt. We were all stun when she spoke back after getting a spanking! And, we remember what happen afterwards, my Grandma got another switch from the tree outside. Somehow my sister became a hero of us all and we celebrated that story by reciting it to all who would listen. We didn’t care that she got another spanking, what mattered was, she was not afraid to talk back!

Another favorite character of our memories was The Eagle. For some reason, we were also obsessed with The Eagle. Our grandma would warn us not to wander far from her house (which was in the country) and told us of the bears and other scary animals which lurked behind the trees. We were most afraid of The Eagle that could come at anytime and swoop a child up from the ground.

One day her stories turned into a frightful event when she ran outside her house while we were all playing and told us to hurry back in. She could see The Eagle in the distance. We ran back inside and watched The Eagle land in her yard. We were all sitting on the couch looking out the window, our hearts beating fast. The only two not crying were my older sisters. But everyone was truly afraid.

When we arrived back in New York, our mom had a time telling us that The Eagle didn’t travel to the Bronx.

Then there’s memories that are very faint.

One of me stepping on my older cousin’s feet just to see him get mad and ask my grandma ‘What’s wrong with her? She keeps stepping on my feet!” But of course I don’t know which cousin it was? Andre, Raymond?

Then there’s one of my grandma telling us to come back inside. She had a swing set attached to a see-saw that was made out of metal. It was green and white and as a little girl, I thought it was very huge. Every morning after a hot breakfast, we would run outside to play.

I remember the clothes line and the wash machine at the back of  her little house. The clothes were always white and smelled of fresh lemon and grass. I would run back and forth between the white sheets until my grandma told me to stop.

I remember eating lunch and dinner. She would make mashed potatoes and ground beef with lima beans. That’s the only meal I could remember. I think it was my favorite.

And we always ate ices or ice cream for desert and snack. It was served to us at the diner table. The ice cream was always served in cheap, plastic bowls. The ones you’ll find at the dollar store. The ices were always on a stick. I remember us watching our grandma bite the ices without a care in the world. We didn’t know she could not feel the cold because of her false teeth.

Of course she took us to church services but I don’t remember much. So recently when my cousin drove me to the temple in Norfolk, I was certain it was my first time there until my aunt reminded me that I used to come to Norfolk as a child.

I did?

Yes. With your Grandma.

As she spoke, the memory of the layout of the church returned to me. I remember thinking how strange it was that all the pews in the sanctuary were not facing toward the pulpit, but some were on steps and placed against the walls. I remember running up those steps, thinking, a church with steps in the sanctuary is so cool!  I remember sitting with my older cousins, Shawn, Mona and Dina who had the best handbags filled with stuff to satisfy a little girl’s imagination. I remember being given money to go to the offering but then, that’s where the memory stops.