“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
I remember the first time I heard Maya Angelou speak. It was when I was in college and completely at a loss as to what to do with my life. I struggled with myself in so many ways; the way I looked, the way I dressed, and the way I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I decided to take a creative writing class and my professor introduced me to Maya Angelou. This began my love story with Dr. Angelou. This quote particularly touched me because I was so concerned about how I showed up in the world but mostly that I didn’t feel like I was showing up. I felt invisible in a world full of people who were better looking, more eloquent, smarter, thinner, and better than me. How was I to compete? Part of my struggle came from me navigating through the various cultures I was caught between- a traditional Muslim familly where I was held to my family’s standard and an American culture where freedom was a right. I didn’t know which part of the cultures to embrace without being shunned by the other. Only through the support of others and positive representation did I realize how strong and courageous I am. This is one of the main reasons I became a teacher. I wanted to show others that they can be themselves, unapologetically.
Black History Month (and every other month) is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of all the great Heroes and She-roes of the community. Black History Month is incredibly important as it is about positive representation. We live in a society where black students are being discussed because of their high suspension and expulsion rates. They are being discussed because of their scores and the repercussions it has on their education. The current representation does not do the community justice and does not help students see themselves in a positive light. To hear about your community through the oppressive lens would have an adverse impact on your ability to see yourself as being successful. How do you have courage when the society you live in is attempting to keep you marginalized? How do you live up to your potential when society only points out your deficits?
Dr. Angelou and other Heroes and She-roes are ones who help us find our place in the world. It is our duty as educators (and humans!) to build on people’s strengths, to inspire, to create, and to love. We need to teach our students that Black history is more than slavery; black folks have invented the clothes dryers, fire extinguishers, refrigerators, traffic lights, typewriters, and peanut butter and so much more. This is the history we need to teach our students.
Be Epoch. Be Courageous. Be You. Unapologetically.
Equity Trainer, Epoch Education