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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 put all of  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

 

 

 

 


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

 


Rest In Peace, Nelson Mandela. Amandla!

 

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela (july 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013)


Millions of people around the world are devastated by the transition of former South African President Nelson Mandela. At ninety-five years old and still fighting health challenges, we knew this day was inevitable.

Social media and mainstream media exploded with tributes to the man who spent 27 years in prison and fought for the civil rights of blacks in South Africa. Sadly but not unexpected, some people took the opportunity to use this great man’s death to make crude jokes and display other instances of disrespect.

No matter the detractors, Nelson Mandela’s legacy as a leader, an activist and a compassionate gentleman will live on in perpetuity. So much of South African history and the history of people of color around the world is intertwined. Mandela united ethnically diverse coalitions of people around the globe in their universal call for his release from prison or sanctions calling for divestment by corporate giants. That was truly a period of ‘Power to the People’. 

Upon his release from and throughout his election and tenure as South Africa's first black President, Mr. Mandela remained a statesman. Rather than get bogged down in sadness, let's use this moment in history, while reports on his life permeate the media, to teach or reintroduce others, especially children, to the legacy of Nelson Mandela. He was a true leader. He was imperfect. He will be missed.

Thank you, Mr. Mandela!

 

 

 


Red Tails: An Epic Tale of Patriotism and Courage

 

Red Tails Poster

I went to see Red Tails yesterday with my Dad. He asked about movie times and where it was playing so I know that was my cue to be a good daughter and take him. After being married 58 years, Dad still misses my Mom who transitioned almost two years ago.  Whenever he wants to do something or go somewhere I try to oblige him. 

I don’t like going out to the movies. First of all, there are no theaters in my neighborhood so anywhere I go requires at least a 10 or 15 minute drive. Then there’s the parking, expensive admission and way overpriced food at the concession stand.  Not to mention the fact that I usually have lots to do and going to the movies takes a real big chunk out of my day.

Anyhoo, we saw the movie at the Aventura AMC24. We arrived just in time for the previews to start. My Dad had not been to a movie theater in at least 25 years. He said the previews were too long. The movie showtime was scheduled for 4:15 p.m. and that’s the time he expected it to start. The movie started at 4:30.

The opening scenes of the movie explicitly indicate the movie is ‘inspired’ by true events. If you expect a documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen, this is not the movie for you. Does it touch upon the racism the men of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps endured? Yes, it does. It also highlights the assumptions of intellectual inferiority of the black pilots and their relegation assignments that did not have any impact on the War. 

This movie is also entertaining if you enjoy the rock ‘em sock’em shoot’em up special effects producer George Lucas is known for in his Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. There are portions of the movie that are predictable and others that are not. The character development of the men was good but could have been a little more in-depth. The relationship between Joe and Sofia was a tad clumsy but a contrast to the fighting and racism. 

I highly recommend this movie. Kudos to George Lucas and to director Anthony Hemingway for a movie that will be remembered for a long time. My deep appreciation to the Tuskegee Airmen for the obstacles they overcame and the lives they saved. There are a few Tuskegee Airmen still alive today. If you know them or they live in your community, please say thank you.

In spite of the cost of the afternoon — admission ($29.00), concession ($24.78) and valet parking ($11), I would have spent twice that to see my Dad smile and have him talk about the Tuskegee Airmen and his military experience for the rest of the evening. 

Go see ‘Red Tails’ and make it a family outing.

 

 

 

Related Links:

Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

 

 


Remembering Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy

The transition of Senator Edward Kennedy was expected after his health challenges became more difficult to overcome. Young people may not know the Kennedy legacy but my generation of Americans knows the Kennedy family as this country’s royalty.

Each tragedy that family endured was shared with the American public and we felt their pain. The assassinations of JFK and Bobby, John Jr. ‘s salute at his dad’s funeral and his tragic death left us in awe of the resilience of that family. Now that Ted, the last of the famous Kennedy brothers, has passed on the family power, influence and mystique is in the limelight again.  

As we say good-bye to Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, let us remember the legacy of one of this country’s famous families.

 


Happy Birthday, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz!

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action." ~ Malcolm X

MalcolmX

Today is the anniversary of the birth of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz AKA Malcolm X AKA Malcolm Little. Had he lived, he would have been 84 years old.

Often misunderstood, Brother Malcolm was one of the most prolific leaders of our time. He came into his own beliefs about people and religion and paid the ultimate price. Brother Malcolm is not given the respect and recognition he deserves. He is most often characterized by his once separatist views but Brother Malcolm grew beyond that.

Get to know Brother Malcolm by checking out the links below and spread the word of the true story of Malcolm X.

Biography from the Official Malcolm X Website

Malcolm X (Wikipedia)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

This is my favorite scene from the Spike Lee movie, X, starring Denzel Washington. It is as powerful today as it was when I saw in a crowded movie theater almost 17 years ago.


Happy Birthday, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz!