Changing the narrative

This past week saw a lot of extreme highs and lows for me. As a father, I got the blessed opportunity to celebrate my daughter’s 4th year of life in this world. An amazing gift. As a citizen of the most powerful country the world has ever known, I got to watch in horror as we as a society continue to tolerate, even condone the blatant killing of black and brown lives, at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve us. I also got to see people’s perspectives emerge, friends, family, acquaintances and strangers… Here and here (see #8).

Realizing this has EVERYTHING to do with the narratives we consume and proliferate, it is all the more significant when things like this happen, work done to try and change the stories we feed our minds and souls about people and places of color.

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Granted I missed this iteration of one of my favorite events is Los Angeles, celebrating a golden birthday with my loved ones at the beach… But then again…

I ride my bike most days to work, passing through many places in this city that I used to only traverse in my car. I teach students in South Central the importance of recognizing and appreciating the beauty all around them, within themselves. We work hard everyday to live our truths, lives with dignity. We live and learn life’s lessons together.

The day after the Another grand jury’s mistake to not indict the officer who unjustly took the life of yet another black man in Eric Garner, I paused the previous day’s lesson on the intersection of the industrial revolution, social movements and design to dialogue with students around the connections they see between the past and the present, in the hopes of changing the future.

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As a school community we then honored the work some of our students are doing around science and gaming.

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Everyday we try to help steer the narratives away from the dominant ones of fear, skepticism, dismissive inhumanity… Towards ones more reflective of the reality I know to be true. Black and brown youth are not what our country’s made them out to be. Places like South Central Los Angeles are not the places you think. Seeking out the stories and sharing them are of the utmost importance to any movement towards social justice and change.

Am I leaving? Or have I just arrived?

Today I was reminded in several instances about how important my role as a teacher is…

by my cousin in Panama, through a very nice Facebook post porque en Panamá, hoy es el Día del Maestro.

by Eric Mann and Ashley Franklin of the Strategy Center who left a voicemail and personally signed note respectively, each thanking me for my involvement with their youth organizing campaigns over the years.

by the United Way, who informed me last week that I had “been nominated for the 2nd annual Inspirational Teacher Award and identified as a top teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.”

by the National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator program letting my nemesis and I know: “We are now delighted to let you know that your LRNG Innovation Challenge proposal ‘Supporting Game Design for Students, Teachers, and Parents in South Central Los Angeles’ has been approved for funding!”

And once again by those that are hopefully impacted by my role the most; my students. For some reason, several students had gotten word that this would be my last year teaching at Hawkins. I shockingly replied, “Do you know something I don’t?!” Many replied that I couldn’t do that because, in their words, “you’re one of those teachers that…” (You can fill in the blank)

Either way, I’m here now. And I’m proud to be where I am. Despite the fact that a close friend and former colleague of mine about fell out of his chair in shock and awe (and anger) when I told him what a 10 year veteran in LAUSD makes, including the compensation I get from my other two jobs at other institutions of learning. UTLA’s demands for schools students deserve, including pay that teachers deserve couldn’t come at a more timely juncture… But that’s a post for another day, hopefully when we renegotiate a fair and dignified contract.

Today I’m just honored and proud to be a teacher. Not bad for a Monday returning from a holiday.