The school pays no mind and makes a little girl pay the ultimate price because the school clock says there is no time

No time for a woman to be a woman

Because outdated textbooks and sentence structure mean more than the period at the end

Of the day

There’s more than enough time they say but

When she rushes back to class, everything is


The flow of life

The greatest abomination

Drips down her leg

It makes no sense

The thoughts placed in her head like

All the things her teacher should have said

It makes no sense

No time for a woman to be a woman

When everything is red

When School Hurts More Than it Helps

segregated classroom edit

Go to school. Get your education. Be better and live better because of it.

But what happens when school is imprisoning instead of empowering?

What happens when your teachers tell you of all the things you can’t do instead of what you can do? What happens when good grades become bad and bad grades become good, all in the name of peer pressure, manhood and being “hard?” And how complicated it becomes when grades are no longer black and white – when they are associated with race, when “acting black” and “acting white” and “acting” other ethnicities blurs positive and negative images, attitudes and ideals – full of gray area. Or when you’re too hungry to concentrate…to make the grades to get out the hood that’s keeping you hungry. Or when the school keeps testing you because you can’t pass the tests – but for your failure, they have no answer. Or when in general, school seems like the strangest, most distant foreign land, because nothing about it resembles who you are or where you’re from.

What happens when these things and more not only exist, but are also exacerbated under the school’s roof? What do you do?

You fight back.

If knowledge is power, you have to be willing to fight for it.

Kids don’t know the fight as well as we adults know it, as many of us have been there before, so essentially, the fight for our kids’ education is in our hands.

We can’t take everything for gospel, simply because a teacher, a principal or another official says it. My parents were told that I may be deaf and/or autistic at a very young age because I started to walk, talk and develop in general at a later age than most children. But then, all of that was debunked. But then I started school. I was tapped for the gifted program in school. Then, I got honor roll, and much later national honor society and other honors and today, I’m an author with an advanced degree from one of the best schools in the nation and God willing – it’s only the beginning. So many people I know have eerily similar stories, and they’ve gone on to accomplish a whole lot.

All kids are capable of greatness. We can’t let naysayers dressed up with fancy titles tell them otherwise.

We have to be willing to sacrifice for education, for if we don’t, we sacrifice our children. If he or she is struggling where you’re at and you’re convinced he or she would fare better in another area, do what you have to do within reason to make that move. Before I was born, my folks were young and struggling, and opted to go without furniture for a year to send my older sisters to a private school in Long Island, because it offered them a safer environment and better opportunities. An uncomfortable year it may have been, but the advantages of that sacrifice will last a lifetime. If we don’t buy into education, they surely won’t. Buy into it, no matter how much it costs. Temporary discomfort beats the permanent setback of the generations that follow us.

 Praise them in school. Many scholars reference the transition from third grade to fourth grade as problematic for kids, particularly African-American boys, as the nurturing from the teacher (the doting, the “babying”) drops significantly during that transition and as a result, grades drop . But technically, it’s not the teacher’s job to nurture our children – it’s up to us. The praise matters. We have to recognize their efforts and reward their accomplishments. We have to be active and interested in their studies. We have to be their backbone and their biggest cheerleader, especially during the younger years. The smallest strides need recognition just like honor roll and graduation. Don’t act like you don’t remember how good you felt as a little boy or a little girl when an adult noticed your good work.

When school hurts more than it helps, the story isn’t over. If we play our cards right, it’s simply a bump in the road. If we play our cards right and put up a good defense, we’ll win the fight.

Throwback Week: “Talking White” and Other Fallacies

“Talking White” and Other Fallacies


As I do a great deal of work with children on self-esteem, a lot of parents have recently contacted me about their concerns for their children at school. Because of fights? No. Because of bad grades? Nope. They’ve been concerned about their children doing WELL at school and because of that, being TEASED for talking “white.” I cringe every time I hear such stories.

Been there, done that.

A few months back, a worried father of a middle school boy shared his story — his kid had been excelling in school over the years up until now. He’s been getting teased and tormented by his fellow classmates, as they constantly put him down for his hard work and achievement. “You’re a nerd, you ain’t really black,” and “You talk white” are among the many negative statements that are dished out to his son on a regular basis. So it all has worn the son down. It’s worn him down so much that he has made the conscious decision to not try as hard in school and talk less proper because he wants to be “down with the black kids.” Ouch.

Since when did “white” signify intelligence? Can black mean intelligent too? I’m afraid it’s too late, as such negative connotations have already been attached to “black,” and for some reason, a lot of black folk (and whites) think that success and intelligence are only for white people. Do we as a community fully realize the monster that has been created? Apparently not.

I’m writing this as a wake-up call. This attitude has to come from somewhere. I realize it’s impossible to trace back exactly who/ where this has come from within a family, but on an institutional level, we can all probably agree that this is an ill effect of “slave mentality.” We don’t have time to dwell on that now, but we do need to correct this. I am far from an expert on parenting (or on anything, at that matter), but I can say I’ve been through a similar struggle, but to a much lesser extent.

Let me share my story with you — I had been told many many many times, and so had my sisters, when they were younger, that I acted/spoke “white.” I was on the yearbook staff — I acted “white.” Was in majority honors classes — I acted “white.” Didn’t speak Ebonics — I talked “white.” I, unlike the boy I mentioned earlier, never backed down to the ignorant remarks. In fact, they made me try harder. I knew better. My folks had instilled black pride in me from day one. At the same time, my mother stressed the importance of education — it was always valued highly in my household. “Education is key,” “books are your friends,” and other similar sayings were not only said, but lived out in my family. I had such a strong grounding — too strong to be knocked down by any ignorance.

And for those of you who still think this isn’t a problem, think again. This issue is so pervasive, it has even made national news. “Ninth-grader says teacher told him to read Langston Hughes poem ‘blacker,’” read a recent MSNBC headline story. As Jordan Shumate, a black ninth-grader from Falls Church, read Ballad of the Landlord, he was suddenly interrupted by his English teacher. She told him “Blacker, Jordan. C’mon, blacker. I thought you were black.” Shumate refused to read it. The teacher grew frustrated, and provided the class with an ebonics-ladden reading of the piece herself. This lady managed to teach an entire classroom-full of students that ALL black people speak broken English; that’s nothing short of a travesty.

So I beg you, ALL of you — children, adults, men, women, students, teachers and everyone else in-between — to stop this “acting white” ignorance in its tracks. When you hear it, please educate those who think education and success are only for white people. Tell them that we can be just as successful and just as smart. We, whatever color we may be, are all people — we have brains, we have mouths, but more importantly, we have minds. If we all use our own minds, this world will be a much smarter place.