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Students at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts celebrate their excellence and prepare for their 5-grade graduation.
By Executive Editor Nehemiah D. Frank
A caring teacher may sometimes be the only positive influence for their students. A child may not have the luxury of being born into a family with parents who understand the positive impact a quality education brings.
As a black male educator, I fully understand the value that an excellent education provides. And as a teacher who loves teaching black children, I don’t mind shouldering the burden — eight hours a day — for the parents who weren’t provided such luxuries as a result of systemic racial inequality.
So candidly, as a black educator who is wholly passionate about educating, cultivating and celebrating our black babies, I hold my apprehensions at the end of the year when I say goodbye to my students for the last time.
I live with the anxiety that my black students’ next teacher will not be as purposeful in seeing and further developing them to their full potential.
To be blunt, I am most concerned that my black students will land in a classroom with a teacher who does not look or speak like them. However, I sincerely hope that white teachers will understand that my validated biases come from personal lived experiences.
And although I am not the least bit concerned about my students’ writing or how they naturally speak at home or in black spaces, I am worried about how white teachers will go about correcting their black form of speech in white spaces.
Notwithstanding that I have taught them how to code switch, a cruel teacher who awaits the moment they can publicly correct their African-American vernacular is a real concern I live with.
So please think before you speak because I have spent the last year teaching my black students to love and celebrate their blackness.
Therefore, I hope and pray that their future white teachers’ approach will be gentle and sincere.
Will these teachers recognize the potential I see in each one of my beautifully talented African-American pupils?
Will they be unapologetic in saluting my former black students when they perform well?
Will they be stalwart at encouraging my black students to continue striving for academic excellence even when they feel academically defeated?
Will they rebuke the stigmatization that black students are incapable of doing rigorous academic work and challenge them?
Will they be sensitive and empathetic while teaching on the subject of slavery or conversing over the fact that at some point another black person will publicly undergo police brutality and or be innocently murdered by a police officer?
Will they be a black ally?
I pray that my students will be so lucky enough to arrive in a classroom with a culturally competent teacher who looks like them and is passionately and unapologetically black. And should they not land in a class with a teacher who does not share the same racial ancestry, my next prayer is that they will encounter a benevolent teacher who will love and celebrate them as I have done. I pray they will gain a wonderful pedagogue or role model who will tell them that the sky is the limit for them and that they can be whatever their heart so desires.
I pray they tell them that they are the most precious gifts.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is a community activism, a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award recipient for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. His latest accolade includes a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.