Donovan Livingston's Spoken Word Convocation Speech at Harvard is a Classic

Enjoy this speech, in video and text, by Donovan Livingston, Ed.M.'16, student speaker at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 Convocation exercises. Instead of a traditional speech, he chose to communicate via spoken word and he is awesome. 

Donovan Lingston

 

Lift Off

 

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,

is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.

At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — I couldn’t write.

Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.

For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.

Yet somehow, we have never questioned the keeper of the keys —

The guardians of information.

 

Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering

In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.

For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.

How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —

Like tokens in coined phrases? —

“Diversity. Inclusion.”

There are days I feel like one, like only —

A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.

But, hey, I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

 

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.

With a passion that transcends the confines of my own consciousness —

Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.

I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,

With veins pumping revolution.

I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.

I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.

And a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget

My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.

So my body, like my mind

Cannot be contained.

 

As educators, rather than raising your voices

Over the rustling of our chains,

Take them off. Un-cuff us.

Unencumbered by the lumbering weight

Of poverty and privilege,

Policy and ignorance.

 

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,

“Donovan, we can all of put your excess energy to good use!”

And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.

She gave me a stage. A platform.

She told me that our stories are the ladders

That make it easier for us to touch the stars.

So climb and grab them.

Keep climbing. Grab them.

Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.

Light up the world with your luminous allure.

 

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.

Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.

If you take the time to connect the dots,

You can plot the true shape of their genius —

Shining in their darkest hour.

 

I look each of my students in the eyes,

And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt

And the pyramids of Giza.

I see the same twinkle

That guided Harriet to freedom.

I see them. Beneath their masks and their mischief,

Exists an authentic frustration;

An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

 

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.

We were born to be comets,

Darting across space and time —

Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.

A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened right here —

An indelible impact that shook up the world.

Are we not astronomers — searching for the next shooting star?

I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —

Tribulations into telescopes,

So a child can see their true potential from right where they stand.

An injustice is telling them they are stars

Without acknowledging the night that surrounds them.

Injustice is telling them education is the key

While you continue to change the locks.

 

Education is no equalizer —

Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.

So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices

Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.

Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.

I’ve been the Black hole in a classroom for far too long;

Absorbing everything, without allowing my light to escape.

But those days are done. I belong among the stars.

And so do you. And so do they.

Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness

For generations to come.

So no — no, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.

Lift off.

 

~ Donovan Livingston

 

 

 

 


May Day: On My Grind

May 1

Today is May 1st. We are starting the fifth month of the year. I don’t know where the time has gone with all of the items remaining on my open items list. But today is the day that I designated to get on my grind and make myself a priority. 

There are a number of things that I still need to get done so I am rearranging, delegating and eliminating some current projects and tasks from my life. I am focusing on my health, my businesses, my relationships and my community. 

Some of you might think that I have changed but not really. I'm just the 'me' that many of you do not know. Anyhow…Happy May Day!  

On my grind. Deuces! Vanessa Out!

 


Flag on the Play: Premature Excessive Celebration about the New Harriet Tubman $20 Bill

 

Harriet Tubman 20
Newly redesigned $20 bill will feature Harriet Tubman on its face and Andrew Jackson on the reverse side.

 

Yesterday, Black folk in the US went absolutely crazy celebrating the announcement that abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson on the United States $20 bill. However, Andrew Jackson is not “off” the $20 as has been widely reported. Andrew Jackson will be on the reverse side of the new $20 bill along with a depiction of the White House. Any logical thinker and realist would know that the United States is not about to allow a woman, especially a black woman, to totally displace a white male on currency. Let’s just keep it real.

Also know that the $5 and $10 bills have also been redesigned. The concept for the newly redesigned bills will not be unveiled until 2020 and there is no firm date of when a decision on the final design for the bills will be made and the when the bills will be placed in circulation. Let that sink in. It will be four years before the “concept” will be unveiled. Also note that the U.S. Treasury website indicates that the $10 bill, honoring women’s suffrage leaders —Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, will be released first. 

Black folk, as a people group, have yet to rise to the level of actually earning the respect of the power brokers in this country because Black folk still don’t know, and therefore use, their actual power. So Black folk are frequently placated by superficial actions such as this redesign of United States currency. 

Don't get it twisted, Harriet Tubman on United States currency is a good thing. Sharing her depiction on currency with Andrew Jackson who was a slaveholder and lead in the genocide of Native Americans? Waiting at least four years for the bill to even be released into circulation? Not so much. Only in America are Blacks expected to be happy while they are being insulted. 

 

Related Links:

Introducing the New $20, $10 and $5!

Modern Money - Frequently Asked Questions

 


 Voting shenanigans at precinct in Florida [VIDEO]

Voting shenanigans

At least three Democratic voters were told there were only ballots available for the Republican race at Precinct 321 in Winter Haven, Florida. The voters, including Teresa Wibert, showed up to participate in Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary Election on March 15, 2016. Wibert was initially given a Republican ballot. When she questioned that, she was told there were only Republican ballots. Wibert persisted and knew her rights as a voter. A call was made to the Polk County Elections Department. The clerk at Precinct 321 was told the ballots for the Democratic race were located in a closet. Wibert, her husband, and the other Democrat voted using the correct ballot.

The Polk County elections supervisor, Lori Edwards, and other elections officials in Polk County are trying to minimize this serious incident but it should be reported to the Department of Justice. How many other voters were given the wrong ballot? How many other voters were turned away? Has this happened during previous elections at this precinct? Did this happen at other precincts in Florida?

This incident highlights why it is important to know your voting rights in this country and that you exercise those rights. When you hear citizens say voting is not important, or their vote doesn't matter, they need to understand that voting is so critical that some folks will try to stop you from doing it.

 

 

 


American Nightmare: The Trump Campaign for President of the United States

Trump
 

It’s apparent that Donald Trump will say, and likely, do anything in his quest to become president of the United States. He led the failed birther movement in questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama, who is an American. He has referred to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as a communist when Sanders is not. He said he’s going to make Mexico pay to build a wall along the southern border of the United States to keep illegal immigrants out. Mexico's president balked at the statement. Trump has encouraged his supporters to attack protesters at his campaign rallies and offered to pay the attackers' legal fees. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump's campaign isn't staging some of the protests at his rallies just to distract his supporters (and the media) so he won't have to expose his ignorance of domestic and international policy issues.

Trump's dog whistle politics deliberately lacks the typical subtlety GOP candidates, and their surrogates are known for. He has tapped into the anger and fear of "poorly-educated" white Americans. He used that term, and the number of his supporters seems to continue to increase. Go figure. 

Let me translate Trump's slogan Let's Make America Great Again. The message...Let's make America White Again. Let's make America segregated again and put those minorities (and women) in their place. Please see MSNBC's Rachel Maddow's segment as she beautifully and skillfully exposes Donald Trump's Race War. 

  

In spite of this madness, Donald Trump's Republican opponents have indicated they will support him if he is their party’s nominee. What does that say about them? There is an epic leadership fail in the Republican Party. They choose to destroy the United States of America. They choose politics over people even if the people are the "poorly educated" Republican voters or other men, women and children in the United States. Including you.

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

 


Angry Baltimore Mom: Right or Wrong?




By now you've seen the video of the Baltimore mother physically disciplining her son for participating in the riots. Praise has been heaped upon the mother for the beating and profanity-laced tongue lashing of her son…in broad daylight…in the presence of television cameras and others. The unidentified woman has been given the unofficial title of "Mother of the Year."

So what I want to know is where are the folks that typically would condemn the parent for corporal punishment and for the psychological trauma of humiliating the young man in public? Where are the folks who say the mother is teaching her son to respond to violence with violence?

I'll wait.


Are Republican Senators more sexist than racist?

Today is Day Number 160 and President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch for United States Attorney General has yet to be voted on. Republican Senators have stalled the vote by entwining Lynch's nomination with legislation on human trafficking and abortion. These issues have nothing to do with Lynch's nomination. Stop the shenanigans. Current AG Eric Holder is a black male and his confirmation took eight days. Are Republican Senators more sexist than they are racist?

‪#‎confirmlynch‬ ‪#‎becauseofthemwecan‬

 


Happy MLK Weekend: The Dream Continues




Today we honor the Life and Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Shamefully, in this Year of 2015, his DREAM of FREEDOM, JUSTICE and EQUALITY remains unfulfilled.

The masses of people in America are uneducated and undereducated, in most instances not due to lack of opportunity but due to intentional distractions and misdirection to keep them ill-prepared, hopeless, helpless, disengaged and confused. To keep Americans fearful of one another because race, religious practices and sexual orientation ensures a nation that will not reach its full potential.

On this day, we must truly reclaim the dream. Now is not the time to succumb to the brief dash of energy brought about through repeated clichés. Now is the time to do what is right, understanding, correction --- knowing, that we have the ability and responsibility to help each other and especially those in need.

May Dr. King's Dream be fulfilled soon.


Before "Hands Up, Don't Shoot", there was the Black Power Salute





St. Louis Rams players assume the hands up, don't shoot position.

Shout out to St. Louis Rams players Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt for peacefully protesting the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr.

The grand jury's decision sparked days of rioting in Ferguson and protests throughout the United States. The Rams players assumed the 'hands up, don't shoot' pose when entering the field of Edward Jones Dome before their match up against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, November 30.

These young men are to be commended for their courage in making a social and political statement during these precariousp times in this nation. Rarely does one see athletes and other celebrities making such statements in recent times.

The St. Louis players' actions are reminiscent of the Miami Heat's hoodies up in solidarity with supporters of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL in February 2012. But no action would have the impact of the black power salute and downward stare of Tommie Smith John Carlos during the national anthem at the1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City during the medal ceremony. Smith and Carlos were awarded the gold and bronze medals.




Miami HEAT basketball players don hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin supporters.



USA track & field athletes, Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right), raise gloved fists in protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Contrary to the belief of some professional team 'owners' and others, athletes have the right to peacefully express their personal beliefs. I do believe it fair and accurate to offer the position that all law enforcement are not racist however those offended by the actions of these football players have called on NFL officials to discipline, even financially penalize the players.

It is sad and amazing that sixty after Brown v. Board of Education, the United States has progressed very little in eradicating racism. After decades of racial integration, it is obvious that we have not been able to conquer the hearts and minds of Americans who still do not believe in racial equality.

 

 

 

 

 



Florida Gubernatorial Debate 2014: To Fan or Not to Fan?




It's really sad that last night's gubernatorial debate at Broward College between current Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will be remembered for a delayed start because of Gov. Crist's use of a fan at the podium. With so many important issues affecting residents of and visitors to Florida, it is amazing that a small fan would become such an issue.


It's no secret that Gov. Crist uses a small fan at the podium, if Gov. Scott wanted the use of said fan to be prohibited, the rule should have been explicit rather then vague. A reasonable person would think that the rule regarding the use of electronic devices references the use of electronic gadgets that might serve as a prompt for a candidate, not a fan.

It will be interesting to see how each campaign uses last night's awkward beginning in their campaign ads. Even if Gov. Rick Scott disagreed with former Gov. Charlie Crist being able to use that fan, Scott came off as a bratty child throwing a temper tantrum. Scott supporters might assert that Crist didn't follow the rules. However, Crist came across as cool, calm, collected and personable. It also did not help Scott's campaign to allow Crist those moments alone onstage before Scott decided to participate in the debate.

Scott's protracted absence from the stage also allowed Crist this smoothly delivered zinger, “Are we really gonna debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state. I mean, really.”



Were it not for the drama of Fangate, the rest of the debate was largely a snoozer. Neither candidate disclosed anything not already known as they traded barbs back and forth and forth and back.

It has been reported that the Florida Governor's race is too close to call. That doesn't speak well of the incumbent considering the Rick Scott Campaign is outspending the Charlie Crist Campaign. Unless the Democratic turnout improves over the General Election, Gov. Scott will be victorious again.

It must be a challenge for the GOP to rally around Rick Scott. Even with almost completing one term in office, he still comes across uncomfortable and therefore not trustworthy. Like Charlie Crist or not, he is a people person. He just has that charisma and you can't take that from him. Were it not for that infamous welcome by hugging Pres. Barack Obama, Crist would be a potential GOP VEEP or presidential candidate. Such is the game of politics and prayerfully voters understand that.

The response from the Rick Scott Campaign after last night's debate…“Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave and toaster to the debates – none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott,” said Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers. Sorry, Melissa, snarky is also not a good look from a campaign. That type of message should be delivered by a surrogate, if at all.

Question: If Gov. Crist's fan was battery-operated would there still have been an issue?