If You Want to Hide Something from a N'gga, Put it in a Book
Zayne, one of my former students and adopted son, asked me today, "What made you start reading more? I hope when I get older I start wanting to read more like you do. You didn't always read like this before. Right now, I really hate it." I looked at him for a moment and realized how much this kid really knows me. It's almost scary.
"Honestly, right now.. You're 17.. You've been taking care of your self for the majority of your life.. and you've managed to maintain decent grades... Not living with your mother or father has really caused you to believe that you know everything. And that's exactly how I was too.. Even during my first year teaching, when I was your teacher. I thought I knew everything about life. It wasn't until after I earned my masters, traveled to Europe, and started working at my school that I realized I knew nothing. I mean, here I was, traveling to countries with sites that I never learned about because I barely paid attention in high school social studies and then I started teaching with a staff full of walking encyclopedias. And they were so humble and always discovering new things, even though they already knew sooooo much! That's when it hit me.. The wise man really knows that he knows nothing at all. So I started reading more and more .. And at this point, that's all I prefer to do.. Soon enough, you'll get to the point where you understand how much of this world has been written down for you to either understand or question. But that's why our communities look the way they do.. Because we as a people really don't know the value of reading. If you really want to love reading, then just start reading more. Your love for it will grow before you know it."
"I hope so. I couldn't even finish that book you gave me."
"Correction, you COULD'VE. You just haven't yet."
While I was driving home, I thought about all of the students that I have taught over the last 6 years. Zayne was actually one of the highest leveled readers in his class, yet he hated reading. I couldn't help but wonder what his reading level is now, as an 11th grader, compared to where it was when he was in the 6th and 7th grade, reading on a 9th grade level. Has it grown as he has matriculated through high school or is it still the same as it was when he left my class? I thought about all of my former students. Last week, the Baltimore Sun reported that only 7% of 8th grade black boys in Baltimore read on grade level. How can this be when there are hundreds of teachers, like me, going hard every day to close the achievement gap? And then, I thought about my peers.
It's always annoyed me that my selfies get so many more likes than my wordy posts. Not that people are obligated to agree with what I am talking about.. That's a given. What vexes my soul is the harsh reality that the posts just are not being read by my followers. My own best friends have admitted to me that sometimes they "don't even read" them. I don't take it personal at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with me. I mean even big time bloggers like Alex Elle accumulate thousands more likes on her selfies and family-life pictures than her words of wisdom because the reality is, most of our peers just do not care to read. You may disagree with this if you want but I'm not here to argue, I'm speaking from my first hand experience.
For months, I've wanted to start a book club ...one that would allow the participants to virtually participate in discussions and exchange ideas. I've been very hesitant though.. It's not that I didn't think it would be successful.. But I know I would have to choose something that my young black audience would actually take the time to read. Im not into ghetto novels like I was when I was a teenager and I've never read 50 Shades of Gray. I'm not knocking those types of books or the people who enjoy them. A good read is a good read. But my mission is to give people something that will enlighten them. And I want people to really find out how powerful they can become if they self-educate theirselves. I don't want my black brothers to finish their first book in a jail cell and I don't want my sisters to either.
I'll end my rant for now.. But I guess I said all of this to remind myself of my life's purpose, to urge you as my readers to help spread the word, and also to ask you: How can we inspire more of our people to read? What do you suggest? I need answers folks.
We have to encourage one another to read, explore, and discover more. Not just for today but for the sake of our own futures. Malcolm X said it best, "Knowledge is power."