Hard truth: lying is a part of being human. Big lies, small lies, lies of commission and omission; If there is one thing you can count on human beings to do at least once in their lives, it’s lie. Whether it be a lie to spare someone’s feelings, like the ones you tell at office pot lucks (You know damn well you’re not gonna try Brenda’s nasty looking crockpot surprise, so telling her you’re “on a cleanse” is just easier), or a lie to make something more appealing (Telling people Brenda’s dish was SOOOO GOOOOD last time you had it—which was never), or even a lie to avoid getting caught in a previous lie (YES you ARE still on a cleanse, you’re taking the cupcake hidden under this napkin HOME to your KID…), most people consider the majority of lies they tell harmless or benign, which is why they call them “white lies.” White denotes purity, therefore a white lie must be something pure in intention; innocent; meant to help and not harm.
Then we have actual white lies: the lies white people tell to excuse their racism and bigotry. From Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his “it wasn’t me in that picture” (after first apologizing for being in the picture, but ok), to newly minted dummy of the day Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, white people can come up with some WHOPPERS when faced with the label of “racist.” Lisanti is the latest casualty of the True Colors Shining Through epidemic, after a colleague reported that she used disparaging language to describe the majority Black county of Prince George’s, Maryland. According to reports, Miss Mary Ann told her white colleague that when he campaigned in Prince George’s on behalf of a candidate last fall he was door-knocking in a “n—– district.”
When first questioned on the accusation, she acquired situational amnesia (a frequent symptom of the TCST epidemic) and stated “I don’t recall that. . . . I don’t recall much of that evening.” Later, when asked if she’d ever used the n-word, Lisanti went with “I’m sure I have. . . . I’m sure everyone has used it. I’ve used the f-word. I used the Lord’s name in vain.” However, when witnesses came forward, she firmly stated her white lie. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democratic Lawmaker in the state of Maryland, released a statementto the American public, in the year of our Lord, two thousand and nineteen, that read in part: “I am sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth. It does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what is my heart.”
A word…that is not in her vocabulary….came out of her mouth. Like, involuntarily.
Now, look—I don’t claim, to have knowledge of every miracle, medical wonder, or inexplicable phenomenon to have ever occurred, but I’m fairly confident that words don’t just emanate from the larynx unassisted by the brain. Especially words like nigger. Especially words like nigger, when referencing Black people. ESPECIALLY words like nigger, when referencing Black people, from an American White person. For instance, I don’t know the French word for ugly. It’s literally NOT in my VOCABULARY,
Therefore I have not, do not, and probably will not ever use it to describe ugly things. (I just looked it up though, and it’s “laid”—which now makes me question if every time someone said “your hair is LAID” it actually meant my hair looked like trash…but I digress.) Yet, when you use a word in proper context and common definition, it is safe to say the word is definitely within your vocabulary.
Mary Ann, why you lying? WHY? Just say you didn’t mean to speak in such an ugly way. Say that you apparently have inherent biases that prevent you from being objective when it comes to Black people. Blame it on your privileged and prejudiced upbringing. Blame it on your parents using the word around you growing up. Blame it on the rain. Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. But this whole invasion of the bodysnatchers routine is for the birds, as are most actual white lies. Reason being? Actual White lies are easy to spot. They require such a Herculean suspension of disbelief that the most common reaction to hearing them, across multiple demographics, is “bitch, please.” Actual white lies want us to disassociate with our own life experiences and believe in fantasies, fallacies, and fictional fuckery. They are not just an insult to human intelligence they are, themselves, just…dumb. Void of intellectual content or logical thought. As are the people that tell them.
As of this writing, it has been reported that Lisanti was stripped of her leadership role on an unemployment subcommittee, and will attend sensitivity training for the offense. I wonder if the training will be run by a young priest and an old priest? Maybe Lorraine Warren, famed Connecticut paranormal investigator (and the lady from “The Conjuring”) will make the trip down to the DMV? No matter who facilitates it, I fear whatever possessed Mary Ann and forced her to say words that “aren’t in her vocabulary” won’t be exorcised. Some believe you have to call a demon by its name in order to cast it out—but as long as White people continue to tell these actual white lies? Racism and bigotry are here to stay.
I don’t have an overwhelming need to surround my kids with people who look just like them. I believe that kids should be familiar with all types of people, customs, and cultures. Children’s perceptions of other people and cultures should not be solely from the outside, but rather from an intimate, familiar perspective from relationships and exposure.
While the above is true of all children, I believe that exposure of black children to other cultures must include at the core of its framework a positive experience of people who look just like them. Black children should see people who look like them working in significant roles as they interact with them through their life’s experiences – such as, going to the doctor, or their church, and especially when learning from teachers.
Anyone who cares for children and devotes his or her life to teaching other people’s children is commendable. It’s a career that is getting harder to do in today’s environment. Although many can be qualified to teach, it takes a special talent to reach children where they are. In order to reach children, you have to understand who they are and understand the complexities of their experience. You must also be able to imagine their potential future experiences not only as black children but as they grow into adulthood. This level of understanding can only come from having walked in the shoes of a black person. At this level, the care and focus can be in educating and molding the whole being, the whole child.
In the book Black Like Me, published in 1959, John Howard Griffin, the author and main character undergoes medication and exposure to ultra-violet lights to darken his skin in order that he might understand the black experience. In his own account, and of course, speaking of that time period, Griffin finds that conditions for blacks were appalling and that black communities seemed run-down and defeated. He even notices a look of defeat and hopelessness on his own face, after only a few weeks as a black man. This new level of understanding he possessed could not have be possible without having experienced what black people experienced first-hand in the 1960s deep south.
Our understanding of one another’s experiences as black people is critical to the manner in which we educate our children to respond to and cope with racism they will face. Black children, in particular, are bombarded with mixed messages about who they are and who they should be. This is confusing at best.
Having a black role model in such an impressionable position is significant to a healthy sense of self and identity. Further, it is even more impactful and meaningful for a young black male to have a black male teacher than it is for him to just have a black teacher. Positive images of black males are not in abundance in our society and unfortunately, many young black boys do not have fathers living with them in the home.
It is on this basis that we clearly identify the need to adopt the African proverb into our way of thinking concerning educating black children, it takes a whole village to raise a child. You might add it takes a whole village to raise and educate a child. Others in our community must be aware of their part in this village and we, ourselves, interacting with our children should recognize the role we play in the village.
With the digital network and systems in place today, the work of the village must broaden with increased diligence or we will completely lose our children. We cannot ignore the impact that black teachers have on black children and the role black teachers play in molding future generations of black children. It only further dictates that our voice must be deliberate and lifted as one on this topic to ensure that we value and secure more black teachers and leaders for the future.
“If a rising tide lifts all boats then Black women are the wave.”
Have you wanted to work on a campaign but didn’t know where to start? Run for office but didn’t know the first step? Then this training is for you!
Citizen SHE United, along with the Democratic Training Committee, is bringing Black Women’s Campaign School to New Orleans on Saturday, March 16, 2019! This event will be held from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Cafe Reconcile with registration at 8:30 A.M.
This FREE training is for Black women (and allies!) who are interested in running for office, staffing a campaign or wanting to gain party and community leadership skills.
We will also have a host of community partners who will be able to offer continued supportive services after the training!
Afterwards, we will put the LIT back in politics! We are also offering a happy hour for participants and the community on Friday March 15, 2019 from 5:30 PM-7:30 PM at Victory Bar! Come meet the trainers and other black women and allies who all want to work for a better Louisiana!
Register at: https://bit.ly/2N9JJXA
We can’t wait to see you. Wakanda starts at home!
The criminalization of Black kids in schools continues with a new disturbing story coming out of Florida. A middle school student there was recently arrested in a “disturbance” resulting from his refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance.
On February 4th, the 11-year-old student refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance at his school, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida. When substitute teacher Ana Alvarez tried demanding that the student, who is black, stand for the pledge, he reportedly answered he would not “because the flag of the country is racist.” He then started to explain why the national anthem was offensive to black people.
This got Ms. Alvarez all the way in her feelings. So much so that she attempted to violate the young student’s first amendment rights, seeing as the supreme court has already ruled that compelling school children recite the pledge or salute the flag violates freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.
But violating the young man’s constitutional rights apparently wasn’t enough for Ms. Alvarez, and she decided she would sprinkle in some racist comments as well. She reportedly asked the student why he didn’t “go back” and leave America if he “didn’t feel welcome”
Dhakira Talbot, the 6th grader’s mother was understandably shocked.
“I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt,” she said. “More so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should’ve been handled differently. If any disciplinary action should’ve been taken, it should’ve been with the school. He shouldn’t have been arrested.”
According to Talbot her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied at school in the past.
The school district has shared that the substitute teacher was “unaware” that students are not required to stand for the pledge and said she will no longer be allowed to work in the district.
While this story is going viral let’s remember that it is just one disturbing case in the ongoing pattern of criminalizing black students in schools.
Ayo Scott is a New Orleans painter who can teach us all something about the importance of connection, community and art as education. I first met Ayo at a community paint day at Xavier University. The room was crowded and bustling with art amateurs of all ages who had come to participate in a painting event sponsored by the Young Artist Movement, Arts Council New Orleans and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve called the ART of Citizenship. At one art station we added color and sealant to a mural that Ayo had sketched out that depicted a social justice narrative of the immigrant experience. Not only was I impressed with the mural and the depth of the story it told, but also the artist’s bright smile and patience with everyone who wanted to help. He was clearly in his element—helping everyone around him, children and adults alike, find the joy of art.
Later, I met with him in his studio, a small rented space in a warehouse in Mid-City that he shares with other painters. I wanted to know more about him and his journey into community art projects. Almost immediately he told me both of his parents were educators. I wasn’t surprised, since I had already witnessed firsthand his talent for teaching, even in a crowded and chaotic space. He also humbly mentioned that his father, John Scott, was a renowned artist and that many of his opportunities were because a path had already been laid out before him. Like many people, I can be quite clueless about art, so I didn’t grasp the import of his father’s name or impact on the art world until later at home when I researched him. I also thought to myself that Ayo was being a bit humble about his own talent. There is always a path laid out before us—whether it’s our parents or mentors, but we still have to do the work, and as Ayo expressed, we have “an obligation to pass on the legacy.”
“I’m always wanting to try and do better,” Ayo said.
That idea became even more important to him after his father passed. Inspired by his father’s legacy, he came together with three friends to start an open mic initiative called “Pass It On,” which was a way to celebrate poets, musicians, comedians, and other types of artists.
But Ayo didn’t always identify as an artist. Growing up he was immersed in the artistic world, but he didn’t necessarily recognize it as part of himself or his path. He attended high school at St. Augustine and Benjamin Franklin, and was focused on a pre-med program. But he now realizes that what he experienced was in and of itself a teaching.
“Art is a form of education. I wasn’t pressured to be an artist. But I also grew up making paper out of blue jeans.”
He didn’t give much thought to art as a career until college. He started with a Biology Pre-Med major, but it didn’t feel quite right, and so he switched majors a few times before settling on art with a focus in graphic design. Later, when his father passed, he became more serious about art.
“There was suddenly a void of art in my life, and so it was a response to that void, to that loss…and to Katrina.”
His art has been inspired by a need to see beyond himself, whether that was connection to his father, or his desire to serve others. He was in graduate school at the Institute of Design, located in Chicago, when he decided to take a year off to dedicate his art to the cause of the tsunami of 2004. He did a series of paintings inspired by the people affected. A year later, on the day he was to return to the Institute, Hurricane Katrina hit. As soon as the city officials allowed, he returned home to New Orleans.
Since then, he has been using his art as a way to build connection in the community. He sometimes does substitute teaching to help “fill the void of Black men” who serve as role models to youth. He’s taught mural-making, ceramics, and graphic design. In viewing art as a form of education, he also believes in the importance of sharing it with youth, which is how he became involved with the Young Artist Movement. He has connections to the Arts Council, and he was a natural fit when they and their partner YAM were looking for a muralist to work with youth on the ART of Citizenship Mural Project.
In the changing landscape of New Orleans, Ayo feels a pressing need to preserve art in order to preserve the culture of the city, especially in schools.
“Artists are preservation warriors, cultural warriors. We are part of a tradition and in practicing that tradition we become cultural ambassadors…Our culture is being taken away from us. The whole process of rebuilding the city and schools has not been conducive to art. There is no respect for art in schools. It’s become a dumping ground for kids who need real help. It’s art on a cart and it can’t flourish in the school system we have right now.”
It is clear that through his art, Ayo imagines a world and an environment that nourishes creativity and is deeply connected, especially for our children. Part of what drew me to him was seeing him with his wife and daughter at the mural event. It was beautiful to see his expression of the love of the arts, family, and community all together in one place. He and his work is an inspiration for all of us to nourish our own creative spirits, to connect with one another, and to pass on the legacy.
You can view Ayo Scott’s work and get more information about the themes of his work on http://ayoscott.com.
Black Education For New Orleans (BE NOLA) was founded for and by Black New Orleanians to support Black educators and Black-governed, Black-led schools in New Orleans to enhance the opportunity for a quality education for New Orleans’ children. Their Executive Director, Adrinda Kelly, is a proud New Orleans Public Schools graduate who knows firsthand the impact of Black educators who are respected and supported to do their best work; she is supported by an active Board of Directors who serve as leaders and activists in our community.
You’re invited to BE NOLA’s social hour for Black educators and community members to enjoy some food and libations while we introduce our organization and share our work. The event will take place on Wednesday, February 6th at The New Orleans Jazz Market (1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) from 6pm-8pm.
Come join the BE NOLA team as we fellowship with a purpose on February 6th!
For more information, please contact Kellie Cass Broussard or visit https://blackedunola.eventbrite.com to RSVP.