Meeting John Lewis

Yearly, I attend book events. Especially children and young adult book events. One evening, I attended an event at the New School without doing my research. I just showed up to listen to the different authors and illustrators read from their stories.

I sat in the back and kept my eye on the time. It was a weekday and I had work the next morning.

That night Congressman  John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell were given the National Book Award for Young People Literature.

That night, I was completely mesmerized by Joh Lewis’ speech. His voice coming over the podium was so strong. I’ve been to many book events but this one by far was the first one that brought me to a special place. The voice said church, family, country, past, present, future. In a way it even said me.. I sat upright and looked at the program again.

Is that John Lewis? The one who marched with King?

To sit in his presence at that moment in time was a gem.

When he finished speaking, the entire house stood up and clapped and clapped.

I didn’t even know he was sharing his story via graphic novels.

After the event, he stood around shaking hands and speaking to the book lovers. Everyone stood around outside talking in the autumn breeze. Of course, the man of the hour was John Lewis. Young people listened to him and revenced him.

Thank You, I said to him before he signed my book and then again afterwards.

Thank you.

I’m grateful God allowed me time and space to share my gratitude with the Civil Rights leader while he was alive. Even if all I could think of saying was, Thank You.

 

Super Saturday

This past Saturday, was Super Saturday.

It a day set aside for Pratt’s graduate students to present their year long projects to the Pratt Community. It’s a fun time, a time to gather and meet. A time for discussions about community, preservation, gentrification. A time for futuristic thinking. Planning. Mapping. GISing.

A time to find out about what’s being built in the city and what’s being taken down. Who’s doing what and how are they doing it and where is the money coming from. Who got a scholarship and how was it possible and how can I sign up for next time.

It’s a time to be questioned by peers and professors about how you foresee your project coming into fruition.

This year It happened virtually.

Someone had the control to mute voices. Someone had the control to mute comments. Any type of talking meant timing and/ or texting.

This time, the Pratt Community spoke about Community trying to maintain what they knew as community.

Lift Every Voice and Sing- A Virtual Assembly

VirtualAssembly5

 

As tradition has it, every first Monday of each month, my school would gather for assembly. We will lift our voices and sing the anthem.

This Monday we were muted. We listed to a muffled Dr. Roland Carter version.

We listened to our Principal tell us the virtue of the month, Resilience. Resilience.

And, just like that, Assembly was over.

When the question was asked, anyone have anything to say, the students unmuted their microphones and said hi. Cries of children saying hi as if they wouldn’t have an opportunity to be heard. Calling teacher names and saying they missed them.

This was the first assembly I cried. The first assembly I didn’t have to speak to any children nor lead them in a rendition of the Black National Anthem.

Another voice came. Assembly is over, please hang up.

No one moved. Everyone stayed. No one spoke. just stayed in the call. Until the call was dropped.

 

Learning (and teaching) the History of Route 66

TaylorMy curiosity about the history of Route 66 was sparked by my third grade students.

During the lessons,  I could not answer many of their questions; therefore, I conducted a lot of research before and after each lesson.

I was grateful when I came across  Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey which was/is  a great resource….and I want to say, the only one for children covering this topic.

(I find that sometimes when teaching the history of my people, not a lot of material is out there and if it is, it’s not for children. Which most times, is okay with me because I think children should be told the same story adults are told. Especially when these children are black and brown children who are taught to have a double conscience…)

So, for lessons about Route 66, YouTube came in handy. They watched Candancy Taylor’s documentary on Route 66 and I was blown away by what they understood about a time period that came before them (and their parents)!

Are blacks allowed to travel on Route 66 today? What’s redlining? What happened to Route 66? How does a road disappear? So, there are absolutely no businesses there now?? What happened to the black people? Do you think Nat King Cole took Route 66?

Without Taylor’s research I don’t think I would have been able to answer most of their questions so efficiently.

After the year ended, I had forgotten about the videos and Taylor’s research. Then, one day  in January, I received an email from the Schomburg inviting me to Taylor’s book signing.

Of course, I didn’t turn down a chance to meet the author and buy her book.  Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America was finally on the shelves. I told the now fourth graders about her success, to which they were jealous they couldn’t attend ( but couldn’t wait to see that book was signed to them)!!

I called a couple of my friends who I knew would appreciate the topic and we met at the Schomburg to listen to Taylor speak about her research.  IMG_2822

I was already familiar with some information, since I had watched her on YouTube so many times before. Nonetheless, hearing her speak in person meant a lot to me.

One of my favorite stories she tells is the one of her step-father Ron (which is at the beginning of the book) and how the project brought them closer. When she started the project, he opened up to her about what he had been through as a black man traveling through America. After he passed, she found the courage and grace to continue her research.  This story resonates with me for many personal reasons. It makes me think of the sacrifices of my parents and grand-parents and the stories they took to the grave with them (or shared) about what they experienced. Likewise, it also resonates with me because of social reasons. It reminds me of the many historians who dedicated their life to documenting and researching topics that are out of the ordinary.

The night of the book signing we didn’t mind waiting over a hour (Ishita waited till the last minute to pick up a copy) to get our books signed.

When I met Ms. Taylor, she was extremely kind and patient. She listened to my story about my students and told me she is also writing a book for children (thank God!).