Activism: Does it Matter?

Everyday my Inbox is full of entreaties to protest for, petition in support of, and donate to a myriad of causes. Most are in response to the continuing assault on the environment, human rights, immigrant rights, education, and to fight the Trump administration’s agenda.

Although I am a supporter of the activist spirit (as I myself have been activist, both passive and active), I wonder sometimes how much of what I sign, write about, or donate to, has any effect whatsoever. Sometimes I feel I would be better occupied by continuing to educate future people– so that these same issues, and the clearly destructive decisions by those in control, can at last be eradicated by a more intelligent, compassionate generation.

Of course, how we engage with current events and social issues is also being watched by those whom we teach. How we deal with them is watched by our own children. If we do nothing, say nothing, then they will think there is nothing to be done. And so, the cycle continues.

So—even if it feels as if we gain no real ground by venting our discontent with the status quo and the wrongs of the world, through our passive and active acts of protest, perhaps we should continue to do so. Diligently, conscientiously, but not randomly. We cannot hope to fix everything, especially by passively signing every petition on social media or in our e-mail. We must make our truth a reality by living it.

Being honest about what we believe in and support, without negligent judgement, or pressure (especially on the younger generation) is an important first step. Showing, instead of telling. Encouraging others’ exploration into issues that concern us all. And then, asking those who read or hear us to decide for themselves.

It is our responsibility, almost a sacred duty, to educate and prepare the next generation. But we need to be prepared to ask and answer the hard questions, always and without fail.

And occasionally, delete some petitions in favor of others. Small but significant steps.

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Alicia Keys short film: Let Me In

This is a very poignant and beautiful example of what it might be like if the tables were turned, and we in the West were the refugees. I believe Alicia Keys is a great activist spirit, sent from heaven (with a voice to match), and I wanted to share her vision with you here…As another human being who loves and respects all lives, most especially the thousands of refugee lives across the globe, who need our love and compassion, and shelter from the storm. Please watch! Via Upworthy on Facebook.

This video still applies: #BlackLivesMatter

This needs to keep going around, until everyone, everywhere, gets the point. We should not stay quiet in the face of racism.

You Don't Know Me, But You Will...

This video, courtesy of AJ+ via Facebook, pretty much sums up the race war being perpetuated by elite, mostly white forces—under the guise of “law enforcement”– in this country. Two more deaths: #AntonSterling, and #PhilandoCastile.

Now, violence in #Dallas.

If this cycle doesn’t stop soon, it will spill over into everyone’s lives–it already has, to some degree.

But when you have to worry that your child or any of your loved ones could be the next to fall, then you might understand the rage and sadness felt by those who lost someone in these horrible incidents. And exactly why #BlackLivesMatter.

The young poet, Sarah O’Neal, in the video says: Ask us to  be polite, to stay calm, to voice grief with respect…while our brothers’ bodies are laid out in the street, sounding the alarm.

This is not a time to stay quiet.

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Culturally Relevant Education Workshop with Dr. Love

I recently attended a 3-day workshop and seminar at the U of A, called The Culturally Relevant Education Seminar, sponsored by the Department of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy & Instruction within my district. With the temps hitting upwards of 115 degrees for most of those 3 days, I was happy to be in the air-conditioned kiva, learning with colleagues from across the city. I was also honored to be in the presence of so many awesome educators, community leaders, and speakers of color, as well as artists and performers sharing their cultures and craft.

But I was most affected by this keynote speaker and educator, Dr. Bettina Love. Dr. Love  is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. I had seen her present before, through a video on TEDx UGA that was required viewing in my Cultural Education Foundations coursework. So I was very surprised and pleased when she was featured on day three of the seminar.

Dr. Love uses hip-hop sensibility and culture to transform urban education, tapping into students’ cultural intelligences, informing the way in which students can learn about their social and cultural identities, while being active in social justice. She uses music, digital technologies, and full-body kinesthetic learning techniques to enhance student engagement, and provide them with a voice. She makes a very eloquent argument for shifting the current paradigm of education to include tools and experiences that relate directly to the lives and academic needs of students of color.

As a teacher of inner-city youth myself, I have tried, with limited success, to bring some of these techniques and methods to bear in the classroom, particularly the inclusion of musical genres that the students share and respond to. I realize, as a white educator in a predominantly WASP culture, my understanding of Hip-Hop culture and what it is like to be African American in our society is limited at best. But what I do know is, my students–African American, Latino, Indigenous, along with many other cultures–want to learn, but most importantly, they want to be accepted and heard. So I will continue to use all the tools and research at my disposal to provide them with a voice, and an alternative way to learn.

I invite my readers to check out Dr. Bettina Love’s website, and view the TEDX video, as this was pretty much a similar presentation to what I experienced at the CRE seminar.

She is launching a website soon that will feature a curriculum, tools and materials to enhance learning in the urban classroom, called Get Free. I believe it is still a work in progress, but if you watch Dr. Love’s website,  I think it will be available soon.

The need for this way of teaching, and a curriculum to deliver it,  is  so important now, more than ever. With the predominance of racial violence, intolerance, and the negation of social and economic resources being made available to multi-racial cultures and the poor in this country, we must begin to inspire the hearts and minds of the next generation, show them that their lives do matter, and be active in the call for social justice.

Education is Power. Knowledge is Freedom.

http://www.bettinalove.com/videos/

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why We Should Honor the Dream, Not Just the Day

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The national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. was hard-won in the state of Arizona. In the late 80s, we had an ultra-conservative governor, and a complacent  legislature (as sadly, we do again), who refused to join the majority of the country, and honor this great American figure for freedom. Despite the public outcry, and the eventual impeachment of then-governor Evan Mecham, it took about 5 years for the holiday to become law in this state. A short timeline:

1983, Congress passes, President Reagan signs, legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

1986, Federal MLK holiday goes into effect

In 1987, Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinds MLK Day as his first act in office, setting off a boycott of the state. 

In 1992, Arizona citizens vote to enact MLK Day.

1993, For the first time, MLK Day is held in some form—sometimes under a different name, and not always as a paid state holiday—in all fifty states.

So today, I am off of work from school. It is a day of reflection for me, and hopefully for many other citizens in this state, as it should be in states across the nation. I started the day watching a special on PBS World, on the filming of Eyes on the Prize, a massive documentary released in 1987. (click on photo below for more information)

Eyes on the Prize

It has also been a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, as well as how far we’ve stepped back—and how what was once a fight for equality and social justice, now encompasses much more. Poverty, economic inequality, and continued violence continues nearly unabated in our country. It continues to be perpetuated against those of color, those of other national origins, different religions, and sexual orientations. Our only weapon against it spiraling completely out of control is the power of social media, and a new breed of activists who are not afraid to stand up.

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So today, I am grateful for MLK’s legacy, and for his message of The Dream. It is a day for reflection and service to others. For some others, this time may be more about having an extra day off to go buy discounted products, and binge-watch their favorite TV shows. I think it is profoundly sad when our society uses a holiday such as this one, a day that should be about giving back and standing up for what is right, to sell products and cash in on it.

Although it is admirable to grow our economy at the grassroots level, and to encourage people to work and earn a living, using this day as an impetus to get out and buy stuff is a bit insulting, especially as there are still so many in this society that cannot partake in our economic freedom, because poverty and inequality is still so prevalent, especially among non-white races.

Martin Luther King Day Sales: All The Best Deals From Target, Walmart ...

Refugees, immigrants, and disadvantaged citizens of this country will not benefit from any “deals” on this day. More likely, they will be on the other end: Working long hours, making little money to show for it, and having no real voice in our society–and thus, no real rights. What kind of “deal” is that?

MLK Day Parade

 

So, if one is inclined to go out and buy things in the name of MLK Day, remember that our freedom, which was (and is still) so costly, is the reason that we can do so today.  That we can have a day off from work and service, that we can shop anywhere we wish, that we can eat in any restaurant, that we can ride on public transportation, and most importantly: That we can stand up publicly and speak out against what is wrong in our government and society–these are the reasons for a holiday. We still have a long way to go in gaining the full impact of MLK’s dream, but there is still hope that we will, if people of all ages, orientations, religions and races, here and  in the world over, keep their eyes on the prize.