happy Monday… Racism still exists…

amidst all of the weekend’s coverage of the NBA’s sterling silver collection of racism, i had the distinct pleasure to have the following conversation with one of my administrators upon signing in this morning.

me: when are we taking the (insert latest version of standardized test here)
administrator: we are supposed to be taking it now but… you know, i didn’t realize that we have so many new kids from Mexico… or those other Spanish speaking countries.
me: uh… how did you let that one slip past your radar (SMDH!!!)
administrator: well i mean i knew that, well… in other schools that i’ve worked at there has always been a lot of EL kids waiting to reclassify… and you know, i’d have the kids that i’d tell to take their hats off and they’d respond to me with the “oh miss, you know me no speaky the english.” (in the best spanish speaker? accent they could muster so early in the morning.)

never-mind that spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet. never-mind that you are an administrator at a public school in a community that largely speaks spanish. never-mind that the person you are addressing, their entire family hails from one of those spanish speaking countries that you can’t bother to commit to memory by name. never-mind that this land USED to be Mexico, the land of spanish speakers… oh wait, no.. that is the language of the conquistador colonial European country (who has their own brand of racism in sports)….

never-mind. you’ll never get it. or will you? i had to walk away in the moment, while another colleague who witnessed the exchange debriefed with me on how to respond to such ignorance. we agreed that this would be the first step. i have since resolved to speak with this administrator directly… but had to pause first and reflect.

Murals look a lot better than red tape… Usually…

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One of the most moving projects I’ve been fortunate to work on with students was this past year’s mural, a collaboration of mural club students, the wonderful Noni Olabisi (community artist extraordinaire and all around awesome human being) LA Commons, Building Healthy Communities Initiative and the California Endowment. It’s always frustrating when a project of such scope and effort experiences resistance from decision makers in the final stages. But I awoke yesterday to this wonderful email:

The final mural in the Building Healthy Communities South LA “Windows to Health” series was installed yesterday at Augustus Hawkins HS! Artist Noni Olabisi and youth mentor Mark Gomez led an all star team of Augustus Hawkins Youth to collect stories and to design and paint the mural, which was installed on the exterior wall the music and art building facing the courtyard at the school.

Special Thanks to Principals Claudia Rojas and Tony Terry, plant manager Giovanni Meyorga, Dellis Frank, Mark Gomez, AMGRAPH, Building Healthy Communities South LA Partners and the California Endowment for making this possible. Over 8 professional artists, 8 youth mentors and 79 youth successfully completed the 17 murals now all on display throughout South LA.

I was on campus to see it myself today. So proud to have been a part of this project, which allowed not only my inner design and project coordinator to shine, but also my inner artist to re-emerge more powerfully than at any other time in my life. Can’t wait for the students to come back from spring break to see this. It has finally come home.

playing around with Counter-Narratives

it is only year two at the Critical Design and Gaming School @ Augustus F. Hawkins High School and we are attempting our second community game for change. the last few years have provided me with the opportunity to be extremely creative in teaching within the context of a 9th grade geography curriculum. exploring our communities through local action and inquiry, my students have seen intersections of anniversary/ethnographic mapping of the ’92 Riots, historical twitter timelines, and transformative policy around discriminatory truancy tickets. We have examined issues of local and global sustainability through urban ecological lenses and attempted to critically design responses to such issues.

in a couple weeks my geography class (along with those of my colleagues in the other small schools of Augustus F. Hawkins) will attempt to host our first Community Planit Game (register here to play with us!!!) which aims to engage our broader community in dialogue around issues of land use (access to parks and open spaces), health advocacy (access to health services and clinics), and socially responsible local entrepreneurship (access to healthy food and local market conversions.) i have not been more excited about a classroom project’s potential to truly impact some amount of community change in awhile. our students had a hand in every aspect of this game design, researching issues, creating game content including the following video… it is a testament to how curriculum can become both transforming and engaging. in the coming weeks our students hope to engage audiences that transcend the walls of their school. they hope to discuss issues of great importance to their community. they hope to win a game that is specifically designed to engage players from communities in decision making and planing processes that reflect the type of power and agency that are embedded in type Counter-Narrative Story telling that we seek to teach. reclaiming power through education. i hope that this will be another example of ed4change…

Reimagine South Central Game Video from Community PlanIt on Vimeo.

The birds and the bees…

There aren’t many things that irritate me more than false fire alarms. Except for real fires set in school by some youngsters that don’t understand the bigger pictures of safety, respect, etc. Not that I did when I was younger but that’s a post for a different time.

So I was annoyed for sure when the entire school had to engage in a real fire drill at the end of the day at the end of long week. Upon arriving to the field at my designated spot, I showed little patience for my students as they attempted to frolic on the field. They did not and we were one of the few classes seated in their designated area before the next wave of pandemonium hit.

As the screaming and yelling crowd grew closer, so did the sound and speed at which they were approaching my class. Until an all out stampede of students AND teachers started running and screaming for their lives… From the SWARM of BEES circling the crowd!

I had to laugh inside as I tried to maintain my professional demeanor, not inciting more panic and remembering that some students may be very allergic to bee stings. Luckily no one was injured. But it made for one of those clear reminders when all sides of nature, that of adolescence and swam intelligence, conspire to let you know… Your institutions? They exist at the frontier of our mercy. Have fun. Be safe.