As I sit here preparing for finals, in Howard’s Law Library, I cannot help but be engrossed by the history of the space surrounding me nor can I resist coming to terms with the journey of the spirit that sustains me. It’s not my birthday (Dec 23rd) and the first semester of law school is not over (Dec 20th) but I do feel as if I have completed something beautiful in this last year. I’m not sure what it is, but whatever it is, it has strengthened my soul, liberated my heart and sharpened my aptitude for self/active love/care. A lot of it was about teaching.
Melancholy is not the right word. Perhaps I’m in my feelings–as us people of color like to say when we’re in touch with ourselves, that grossly (publicly) forbidden (private) act. This time I was preparing to resign (read: be pushed out) of my job teaching high school students in Miami-Dade. I had never enjoyed a job so much. I’ve never written about this because something within me is not finished wrestling with the outcome or the process. There is something about over-performing, your children over-performing, yet still being criticized for teaching outside the lines that malign the soul. There is something about encouraging and mandating critical thinking and historical and cultural accuracy in the classroom that apparently scares the hell out of establishment-based, black administrations. There is something about Black, Dominican@, Puerto Rican, Haitian freshman demanding answers from principals, other teachers, police, security guards and local leaders that will get your ass fired. And of course, there is something about BlaQueeRealness that will get your ass investigated, slapped up and economically sanctioned in a school that needs all the realness, all the queerness and all the authentic and un-maligned blackness it can get. It was never hard teaching my 100% minority classes–the children, the young adults, gave me life. Many of my babies never spoke english. I officially taught freshman World History from “lower levels” to advanced. What I really taught was that history is a weapon, a double edged sword, that one must own and be intimately familiar with in order to live boldly and contend/challenge violences…to freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors and parents…12-17 hours a day. Children at my home, with parents in tow, to talk about white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, nativism, misogyny, colorism (no darling, you’re too black), queerness, religion-inspired violence, classism, war, capitalism and why there were no black people, women folk, queer folk, or Latin@s in the history books. Students wondering why their books were 8 years old and why they were being criminalized or kicked out of school for wearing high water pants…why they were often punished for being “too black, too latino, too hatian, too niggerish” by teachers that looked like them and those who did not. Parents and students who cried and told me that I was the only teacher, or professor as they called me, that cared, got it, understood, believed in loved them. Somethin’ about finally having a black woman as your most senior boss, and having her sit in your class, after your kids give stellar projects and speeches from the podium, to call you down to her office and scolding you for not segregating the kids in seats according to “learning ability.” We sat in a circle. Kids didn’t raise their hands. They never fell asleep or spoke out of turn. bell hook’s “teaching to transgress” was our classroom “rulebook.” We combined Lupe Fiasco videos with our lessons and partner work to frame and contextualize lessons on freedom of speech, imaginative reconstruction of her/history. But that was too much. Free, thinking, free-thinking, beautiful, confident black/latina youth are a dangerous thing, an undesirable collective of warrior-lovers. The principal referred to them as my “little army.” TFA called them “Tabias’ radical mafia.” They were both wrong. Silly folks. My children were also my parents, were also my partners, my teachers, in producing knowledge and new ways of seeing society. They taught me as they learned. They critiqued me weekly, as required, on anonymous index cards. We reviewed the critiques together and edified the class. These young folks were too free to ever be ruled by myself or anyone else. Demanding proper teaching from my peers, intersectional teaching, interactive teaching, holistic and affirmative teaching…they were not ready. Critical Pedagogy slices those who refuse to acknowledge it’s importance, it’s power, it’s sword. I’m rambling now. But teaching was easy…it gave me life..but being a teacher, dealing with the beaurocracy and white supremacist-capitalist-heteropatriarchal-misogynistic-classist-nativist ideologies of the school of TFA and the school was too much. So I had to go..or wait to be fired. The investigation from the district about my sexuality was the final straw…”Are you gay, we have reason to believe you have a boyfriend. Is this him? Do you talk about gender, feminism, or sexuality in class? How does that relate to history or social sciences?” As they showed me pictures they’d found of my ex..from three years ago..Never would I allow myself to be caught off-guard or fired and economically lashed by a system. So I left, first to NYC, then to Boston..then to law school in DC..then I got a job offer from TFA affiliate in DC last week. Girl bye. And yes, I’m still BlaQueeRealAsFuck.