This was my first day at this ritzy school. Each room was themed and elaborately decorated, adorned with MacBooks, Ipads, Mac desktops, oh they had plenty of money and even had an active and involved PTA. This was the kind of school I would have loved to attend as a child, it was nice like a Disney Channel school and the complete opposite of the public schools I attended in inner city South Memphis. I walked in and got a little nervous while doing my routine scan of the students and staff to see if anyone else looked like me because as far as I could tell they didn’t. I checked in, in the office and roamed through the halls, making my way to my room for the day, up the stairs and around the corner. From what I could see and my four eyes were looking hard, there was no other Black Teacher or Staff in the entire building and not too many Black or even biracial students. A situation I have encountered numerous times in this little pocket of Ohio. On this day I was a 5th grade intervention specialist, my specialty was reading, perfect for the little avid reader in me. I was expecting 3-4 students in my first group. However, I learned that this was a semi optional check in session and I would get them all after their first period classes. I sat at my desk anxiously and excitedly waiting for my first students of the day.
To my surprise in walked a little Black girl. She had hair not too different from my own, and a lot of it. Thrown together in unkempt pigtails. The poor girl’s hair was so matted that there wasn’t even visible part to divide the left from the right pony tail. I didn’t even have a comb on hand because I was running behind when I woke up that morning and left my pick. Who knows the last time that baby’s matted head had seen a comb. She was a little Black girl with a caramel complexion, tall and lanky just skin and bones and very tall for a 5th grader. She had glasses with lenses as thick as mine, but with a purple square frame. She wore Sketchers that looked like Converse and a jacket that should have been replaced three Christmases ago. When she saw me and her eyes connected to mine, her face light up and just like that I knew was was about to have a wonderful day. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what this girl’s story? What is she doing at this school were no one else looks like her and all the other students were from a higher socioeconomic class? But what was I doing there….working…..and she was…. learning. Although we had years and life experiences between us, our skin and our natural hair united us and at the end of the day we were just two little Black girls, hustling our way to the top, while navigating through white spaces.
I introduced myself, “Good morning, I’m Ms. DG, your sub for today” she immediately wanted to know my real name and so I divulged, De’Garrica “but most people have a hard time pronouncing it and I don’t like explaining so I just go by DG.” She told me that she thought my name was beautiful and unique, this little girl was quickly becoming my favorite. Her name was Emerald, my heart skipped a beat! She told me that there were three boys in our morning session but they didn’t usually come until after first period and that one was absent from school that day. So it was just me and her. The teacher had left a reading assignment, simple small group reading, that turned into one on one because the group didn’t come.
We began reading, she did have some struggles, but was very good at taking her time and sounding words out. We got about two pages into the book when her curiosity of me took over. She looked up at me her thick lenses looking through my thick lenses and she started “De’Garrica I want to ask you something”, and so it began. “What’s up?” “Why come every boy I meet asks me if all Black people are rude?” (by boy she meant white boy) “Should I be friends with him?” Well this immediately pissed off the big sister in me. I had to get my thoughts together quick, In the words of Jay-Z I had to give this baby a “million dollars worth of game for $9.99”, but in a school appropriate and kid appropriate way.
I started out with my parents always told me “NO BOYs”, first of all you are too young to be trying to date, enjoy being a kid, leave that for when you are older and have the brain capability to do that, second my dear Emerald, You are “KIND, SMART, AND IMPORTANT”, and you don’t want to be friends with someone that is ignorant. It is not your job to defend your race or your culture to foolish boys, you don’t want to be friends with someone like that. A friend would KNOW BETTER! A friend would not approach you with stereotypes. “Do you understand what a stereotype is?” -Yes she did, she even told me that she had real friends, friends that got angry when boys said that to her, friends that told her the same things I did, to stay away from boys like that. I told her that if someone wanted to be her friend they would always treat her with respect and see her for who she really is, a Black girl, yes, but also a person, a kind, funny, intelligent young woman, and anybody who wasn’t for her was against her and people who fell into the against category, could either get with it or get lost. “You are in school to learn you have to work harder to get the level you need to be at and boys right now are a distraction, one that you don’t have time, energy, or patience for anyway.” “And a friend, a good friends is hard to come by but when you find one you will know because they will always have your back and you will want to have theirs.” When our little talk was over, we got back to reading, because we have to love to read. I gave my new found little sister a big hug and I thanked the lord that we crossed paths. I hope when we meet again she will tell me that she has made more friends that treat her nicely, instead of chasing after boys that don’t understand her and are little racists in the making. Most importantly I hope she moves out of reading intervention and more into self love.
(back at it again/to be continued)