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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Today, someone told me Mike Brown's voice didn't matter

I don't know her personally, but ...

Today, someone told me Mike Brown's voice didn't matter. I was scrolling my Twitter TL and she (her photo icon is a red stapler, which I hope doesn't indicate that she is a fellow teacher) direct-messaged me, accusing me of favoring one side over the other. Although her comment, "Mike's side of the story doesn't matter," felt like a slap in the face, not only to me, but to all of my brothers out there, I remained calm with her and tried to find some common ground.

I asked if her statement was in fact an example of favoring one side over the other. She replied right away saying, "you people are full of s---." She then continued to prove her case saying she had been following the story on Fox News since Mike's death in Ferguson, Missouri and she was sticking only with facts, unlike myself. She was tired of the eyewitness accounts constantly changing. Ah yes, Fox News, of course. Upon hearing this, I asked if she had explored other news sources to get a more balanced view of the news coverage. She had not. She didn't know of any other news sources.

While I wanted to make fun of her apparent ignorance, I chose not to, and invited her to agree on at least one thing: There was loss of life nine days ago. A teen is no longer headed off to college. Mike Brown is no longer here to tell his side of the story of that night. No matter what side of the coin one chooses to view this tragedy, it is a tragedy indeed. All life matters. All loss of life matters, too. Once the videos and name-calling from her continued to flood my TL, I ended up having to block her. We found no common ground. However, the idea that there are folks among us who don't feel like some lives are worth living, is crushing, heartbreaking.

Despite not having every single detail from the fateful night in Ferguson, I do know one thing: Mike Brown's voice did matter. His side of the story did, and still matters. No matter his choices that day, his life was worth living.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Open letter from an educator to parents of school age children in Ferguson, Missouri

Open letter from an educator to parents of school age children in Ferguson, Missouri

August 18, 2014

Dear Ferguson parents,

Although the school doors may be closed this week in light of the untimely and horrific death of Mike Brown, the teaching and learning moments don’t have to halt while your children aren’t inside those buildings. There are many moments during the unrest that can be used as teachable moments for your children as they add their voices to the important racial disparity, profiling, and justice conversations taking place in Ferguson and wait for their schools to reopen. Below is a list of eight activities for all school-aged children. These activities are designed to be completed with your child. Change any part of these activities as needed.

1.     Photograph your surroundings. Use your phone and document the events happening in your neighborhood. Describe the photo and write in detail what you see unfolding in each picture. Share with one of your peers.
2.     Interview three of your neighbors. First, write a list of questions about life in Ferguson right now and ask the neighbors you select to answer your questions. Once you have their answers, write down your thoughts about your interviewing experience. Once you have written down your thoughts, share with a reporter or newsperson around you.
3.     Look up the definition of protest. Count the number of people you find who have joined the protests in your neighborhood. How many women are present? How many men are present? How many of your fellow students are present? How many children are present? Once you have your total numbers, make a bar graph to display your results.
4.     Investigate your free speech rights as a peaceful protestor. What does the constitution say? What are your rights? Write down what you have found and share with one of your peers. Next, make a list of how your rights are being protected or violated presently in your neighborhood.
5.     Journal your thoughts on the Mike Brown death. Each day keep a journal of your observations, photos, and thoughts through the day. Your journal can include lists, quotes, thoughts, drawings, etc.
6.     Open a Twitter and/or Facebook account and document what you are seeing in your neighborhood. Engage in the dialogue that is happening by adding your voice to the ongoing conversations.
7.     Create your own protest signs. You can use materials of your choice, but be creative. Always keep in mind the reason you are protesting and write one statement on your sign that sums up your feelings about Ferguson and the unrest happening right now.
8.     Recycle and help to clean your neighborhood after a protest. Separate and carefully gather all recyclable materials –plastics, paper, glass, metals, compost-ables, and batteries. Once you have collected two bags full of recyclables, separate into the appropriate piles and count how many items you have found. Once you have separated and counted, take all items to the nearest recycling bin and recycle them.

The school doors are closed this week, but real teaching and learning happens everywhere and at anytime. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. And remember, teachers and students all around the world stand with you during this time #Justice for Mike Brown. 

“We’re hoping to have greater stability in the community, but we look forward to opening schools as soon as possible” – Ferguson educator on school closings.

Ebony Wilkins
Educator & Author

Monday, August 4, 2014

This is an important counter-narrative to the Chi-Iraq stories we are so used to hearing about by now. And it just so happens to be from the mouths of 'babes,' so read and take a listen if you have time http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/02/337338509/-you-don-t-really-know-us-chicago-kids-tell-news-media

Friday, February 7, 2014

Glamping (aka my first writing retreat)

I went on my first writing retreat last weekend. I drove up to the Smoky Mountains (in Bryson City, NC) with a friend and took home in a beautifully renovated log cabin. (did I forget to mention we were glamping?) Not only was it a needed break from the way-to-cold winter we've been having, but I actually got some writing in, too. Win-win. Oh, and there were no animal scares, with the exception of two rather aggressive kitties and two coyotes spotted from the car. Whew!

Here are some pics:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's never too late

One of my Facebook friends updated her status to read that she didn’t think she could make any new BFF-type friends after her mid-20s. Another friend posted that if you are a woman in your mid-30s who is single and childless, it is your fault and you are hopeless and you must be miserable. Well, that wasn’t his exact quote, but you get the point. My first thought was then what happens in your 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s then? Dare I even ask about once you turn 80? Gasp! Do you just stop living and breathing and growing after you hit 25? We are inundated with stories by countless opinion-havers who publicly and privately pressure others to imitate their own experiences by perpetuating messages like…if you haven’t done this by this age, then it’s too late. Well, my question is: SAYS WHO? And where is this life-expectancy-handbook by which we are to follow? I must have missed that somewhere during the many years I have been furthering my education.

What if I want to start a family at 60? What if I don’t want to start a family at all? I just read an interesting story about a 70-year-old foster mom. Isn’t it more important that she gave a homeless child a place to sleep? The article of course focused on her age. What if I want to travel all the way around the world, but not until I’m 83? Or do they revoke passports at that age? Or I know, what if I want to live in a different country for every single year that I am alive? When does it no longer become appropriate to dream? Have goals? Set new goals? Grow? Stretch our thinking? I get so excited when I hear stories of high school or college graduates who began a new degree program after their retirement or the seniors who take up weight lifting, marathon-ing or cross-country skiing so they aren’t just sitting around the house, settling. In fact, every holiday that I’m home, I play volleyball with my grandma and her senior friends. I show up every time reminding myself to take it easy on them, but I’m the one who walks away with the bruises. She’s 82.

Maybe this is a regional discussion. When I lived on the east coast, I loved the diversity. My friends were intelligent, eclectic, and unique –charting their own paths. When I visit the west coast, I meet similar free spirits –everyone doing their own thing. However, my time in the Midwest has been a little different. There are rules in play here. Rules that not everyone (me included) are privy to. For example, you must be married by this age, with this amount of offspring, live in this neighborhood, by this age, have this amount of money in your bank account, and if you have not accomplished any of this, by this age, there’s no hope for you to ever achieve this later. You are a lost cause. And we will give you the ‘pity stare’ at every chance we get.

I guess I like to think a little outside of the age-box because of the examples around me. My parents started new businesses and complete school programs well into their 50s, their friends travel the globe and write about their experiences, some are foster parents who ‘have new children’ every single year that they are charged to raise. Now, let me be the first to say that I have fallen to societal pressures before. I’ve gotten engaged at the ‘appropriate age,’ gone to graduate school at just about the ‘right time’ in my life, and have accomplished many a life goal when others ‘expected me to.’ But, I’ve also gone ‘off the grid’ so to speak and my life doesn’t always flow exactly as I’ve planned (or how others have planned), but I am still OK, better than OK even. In fact, I add something new to my bucket list every single year.

This post can probably be attributed to the fact that I just turned a year older yesterday or the fact that I really dislike being closed into any type of box. I’m just sick of reading about where I should be in life, and what I should have accomplished. Everyone has to the right to live each day exactly the way they want to. So, rather than questioning my age and accomplishments thus far, I choose to celebrate exactly where I am today and look to the future. And let’s celebrate and support each other, no matter what age, no matter what stage of life, no matter what accomplishment. So, to any of you out there still hoping to reach that next level, hike that impossible mountain, travel around the world and back, write a scandalous novel…I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late, so get started.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I thought I'd share some of his famous words:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that -MLK Jr.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase -MLK Jr.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity -MLK Jr.

Happy Birthday MLK Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth297520.html#rLLfGhU0svoHxEF6.99

Friday, January 10, 2014

Picture books are (just) for kids?

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Picture books are (just) for kids?

Some people laugh when I say I still read picture books. My avid children’s literature friends understand. I read picture books for a few reasons: I taught preschool for many years, it’s now my line of research, I enjoy writing them, and for pure enjoyment! As an adult, the messages I take away from a picture book are endless. 

Take Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave for example, which I read again today. It tells the story of an artist and poet, who was able to practice and perfect his craft while under the oppression of slavery. What many around him saw as useless dirt, Dave used to make clay to mold into beautifully handmade pots and jars, which he sold and used to store goods. Each pot was signed and engraved with one of his original poems –I wonder where is all my relation, friendship to all –and every nation.

Dave’s inspiring story reminds the adult me:

1.     Perspective is key

2.     One man’s trash is another man's treasure

3.     Even when you doubt, exude confidence

4.     When you discover your purpose, you can give more than you ever expected

5.     You can produce a lot with just a little

6.     Leave your mark along the way
7.   Brush past the roadblocks and excel

Thanks Dave for those reminders!