Friday, February 2, 2018

"Life on Earth Was Always Supposed To Be Better Than This;" Thinking about a Thursday in Connecticut

 Yesterday was #World Read Aloud Day, and I had the honorable opportunity to visit one of my favorite schools in Connecticut, Hill Central, to work with wonderful third grade teachers and their students. The challenge given to all was to dress as their favorite book character and the educators and their youth represented.

Following a 2018 theme of LOVE, I read Matt de la Peña and Loren Long's book of the same name. In a dream world, they would be at Hill Central to read the powerful poem with accompanying illustrations, but they are in demand and not all schools can have the authoritative gurus of the book.

So, I read it. I also modeled for the 3rd graders the LOVE I have in my life and what I am able to do with that LOVE to make a better world. I challenged the kids to write a book called 3rd GRADE LOVE AT HILL CENTRAL, where they named and illustrated what they love most in their life. MLK quotes and conversations assisted the prompt, and I was highly impressed that the kids all had something they wanted to share.

Later, at the Quick Center at Fairfield University, I had the privilege (emphasis on the the word privilege) to hear insight and wisdom of Dr. Angela Davis. This post isn't going to delve into the genius (and controversy) of this individual - there are libraries filled with content naming what she's accomplished and incited in the United States. Rather, I am thinking of a line she said in response to a high school student's question about what they might do as a freshman just starting to think about issues of social justice.
Life on earth was supposed to be better than this.
Others asked about the Black Lives Matter movement and the response of All Lives Matter. I agree - ALL LIVES MATTER. What I want to know, however, is that when people counter with #AllLivesMatter, what does this look like? I want to know what people who stand by that statement have to show for what THEY DO to stand by that statement. If they have examples and actions, reports and policies, histories and narratives that show that they really stand for the slogan, then what does that look like? Black Lives Matter, then, wouldn't be countered with ALL LIVES MATTER, because if ALL LIVES mattered, there wouldn't be a Black Lives Matter movement.

That's history. That's books. That's simply driving into communities where struggle is an every day norm.

At Hill Central, a school with dedicated educators who are working passionately to change the lives of young people, the community surrounding the school looks like a world of decay, poverty, hopelessness, and loss. I'm not sure if any political party, the left who claims to stand for such populations or the right who likes to shame such poverty as individual choice, have done anything to address the issues that such communities face. Rather, they pit one another against one another in a political show for power, but equally ignore the fact that communities are struggling.

Look at the schools with their lack of resources. That's my primary exhibit. They have been forgotten. Look at joblessness, the lack of adequate health care, the blaming, and the current vitriol against such communities as evidence of why both parties are lost when it comes to the extreme inequities in the U.S., especially in regards to class and what is available to American youth.

The youth are the ones that deserve champions.

I couldn't help but think about all of this last night during an intellectual forum at Fairfield University. Walk across campus, look at the price points for an education, survey the student parking lots, look at demographics and, WOLA! the inequities seem ubiquitous (and, I should add, comfortably complacent).

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do know that I'd much rather spend time working with kids and teachers who are working so hard to challenge the American inequities than to surround myself with castle inhabitants pointing out the flaws of society from the castle. That, to me, is hypocritical and central to the problem.

I will be thinking of Angela Davis's wisdom for the rest of my life. It was wisdom. It was sage-material that she was passing on to another generation that will inherit the Earth. The hope is that they will make it better and a location that imagines a more perfect world of LOVE.

Such LOVE has not been realized just yet. The 3rd graders at Hill Central, however, know. Love is about reaching out to others and finding a way to be kind, to be supportive, and to offer help wherever it is needed. I'm afraid too many adults, for generations and generations, have lost sight to this.

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