Via Instagram 12.19.17
There is nothing wrong with us. There is something wrong with thinking there is something wrong with us.
Johns Hopkins University. 2010. I did not want to "sound dumb" in front of "them." No confidence in my ability to articulate myself. Inadvertent lessons learned by way of my grandma cursing me out one minute and answering a random phone call with her "high-class" tone the next, taught me that there was only one way to "sound" intelligent. So, before my very first graduate school presentation, I spent hours in the mirror, annunciating my words to mimic the intonation and cadences of "their" accents. Here I was, earning straight A's on every one of my written assignments, a well versed scholar, adept in my content but still, not enough.
Writing this to clarify the intended message of my last post. My students are EXPECTED TO SPEAK/WRITE STANDARD ENGLISH in my classroom, PERIOD. However, I do not want them to believe they are any less intelligent because of the way they NATURALLY speak. When they leave my care, the chances of them having teachers who are unfamiliar with our population is quite high. They are being taught not to allow their knowledge to be undervalued by anyone who may not take the time to understand our culture, and misjudge them based on stereotypes and homicide statistics.
Most of my teachers, even those of color, taught us that our verbiage was "wrong." They were echoing what was taught to them, not knowing they were developing an implicit fear within us. My students will not silence or alter themselves because they don't "sound" right. They are learning how to speak Standard English, without losing their essence in the process. .
My students published an anthology of 27 essays last year, all written in Standard English, with high-leveled vocabulary and critical concepts, complimented by hand-written journal entries of unfiltered poems and narratives. This was an intentional move to say: I recognize the brilliance in ALL of your work.
For centuries, without question, we learned to CODE SWITCH/ASSIMILATE in certain settings, to be deemed acceptable. It's over for that.