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Conversations with my Son: Rap, Rhyme and Reason

Conversations with my Son: Rap, Rhyme and Reason

My son has always been a bit of a deep thinker when it comes to world affairs. As a matter of fact, we could talk for hours on end about pretty much anything…as long as it didn’t relate to him personally. There was always an understood wall guarding that part of him.

Yesterday, this conversation took place…

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Rap Communication

I had no idea that my son was “free-styling” every night before he slept and probably throughout the day. The other night, he decided to type his thoughts into his phone. He’s never done that. He said that as he was sitting there, the words kept coming and he had no choice but to write them down. He said that writing felt like the right thing to do. He could focus more as he typed words into his screen. (apparently paper and pencil is not a thing)

musicWhat my son did was bigger than what he even realized. Growing up, rap held such a negative connotation in our home. My brother wrote songs and rapped but his life was filled with so much negativity, that rap music often carried the blame. If we knew then what we know now, I imagine that our approach to my brother’s music would have been vastly different. The pain of our lives…his life…was deeply intertwined in his music and we didn’t listen. I regret that.

For my parents, it was easier to blame the music than to look at the truth of what was happening. I wouldn’t make that same mistake.

So when my son sent that text message announcing that he had written a verse, I felt nothing less than the need to hear what he had to say.

He wrote…

“I remember late nights talkin to granny about life. Bout how I was doin mama wrong when dad wasn’t treatin her right.

How I ain’t been to church in a while and I needa see tha light. Steady arguin wit dad bout it but it ain’t worth tha fight.

Seein momma struggle man that was the final strike. That sparked somthin in me man it made my heart tight.

They say the sky is the limit but I’m tryna reach new heights. Hopin that I make it, motivate me more when people say I might.

Nowadays you looked down on if you ain’t white.

But it’s been like that forever it’s been like that forever. Been feelin sick lately but I gotta get it together. So I can get my momma a new roof for that bad weather.”

In one verse, I understood my son more than I had in months. This wasn’t just about artistic expression. This was him channeling his emotions into rhymes and rhythms.

I wouldn’t make the mistakes that we did with my brother. As difficult as even the rest of his piece was to hear, I needed to know.

My son sent me the rest of his work…his heart in rap. In two verses, he was dealing with not only the pressures of growing up but also how the divorce and tumultuous life that we lived prior… bothered him.

I promised him that I wouldn’t share the rest of his words but I will say that somewhere in the craziness of adult actions was a teenage boy trying to figure out his place in life and how to handle the pressures of being him.

There is a rhyme and reason to this moment and it’s wrapped in a cloak of words with rhythm.

My son would go on to ask me what I thought about his work. My reply was that I was deeply touched and that I loved it. His reply, as simple as it sounded, also carried so much meaning…

“Thank you mom. That means so much hearing you say that”

He’s talking…I’m listening…

(On another note, I’m glad that my son has my brother to help him understand how to manipulate his words. This was the first real connection that they’ve had and they both needed that.)

Want More Women in Tech, Grab A Bunch of High School Girls

Want More Women in Tech, Grab A Bunch of High School Girls

I’m working diligently on a book about the missing voices of edtech, which is a look at diversity from multiple lenses. Every time I think that I might just be finished, a new layer shows itself. A few weeks ago  Stephanie Sandifer, in all of her twitter “rant” greatness, kicked off “INVITE“, a facebook group aimed at tackling the issues of diversity at edtech conferences. There was no way that I could publish a book without including this because the impact of that conversation was so hugely inclusive and important… that leaving it out would have been blasphemous, in my opinion.

I love that fact that others are coming out of the woodworks to say that not only were they thinking the same thing, but they wanted to help by finding ways to help our community be more inclusive. I also love that so many have said that they had not even realized that this was an issue and were willing to listen. It’s easy to sit and complain about what’s wrong in a situation but to purposefully discuss and listen is the only way that change begins.

Warrior Women in Tech

A little over a month ago, another tech in my office told me about a new high school tech club aimed at women in technology. I made contact and through twitter connected with the student initiator of the group. She’s an amazing young lady who loves technology and had her own vision to change the landscape of it. With the encouragement of a teacher, she started a club at her school aimed at women in tech. Thinking that very few girls would show, she was pleasantly surprised to find that 24 girls were interested.

24 girls from disproportionate computer science classes were not only interested in the club but also wanted to change the world.

Their first order of business was to encourage more girls by reaching out to their junior high feeder schools. Once a week, the ladies of “Warrior Women in Tech” teach coding to a room full of junior high girls. You could not sit in that room and NOT “get” why such a venture was necessary. The conversations that these girls were having, the relationships that they were building and the skills that they were learning…were possible because of being in an environment created to cater to their needs. I have never been as inspired in my entire life at seeing a room full of middle school girls learning to code apps from high school girls.

I talked to them about blogging and sharing their story. Last night, a blog was created. We even talked about video which I’m sure will be on the way. Another project that the ladies of WWIT are doing is building an app aimed to have impact on their community. This is a part of the technovation contest where teams of girls compete in coding activities.

Technovation

How can you NOT be inspired? Perhaps my greatest takeaway from the entire evening was learning that 24 girls got together to change the world and they are doing it with skills that their passions have led them to learn…on their own.

Empowered by one teacher and their google apps account, the world became their classroom. The world, within reach of the tips of their fingers, is theirs to disrupt and we all get to witness it.

So, maybe the answer to getting more women in tech was right in front of us all along. They’re sitting in classrooms waiting on permission to be the change.

Now, with pleasure, I get to rewrite this portion of my book.

A Reflection on Being Articulate

A Reflection on Being Articulate

Tonight, I read an article that gave me pause on the use of the word “articulate”. I believe that the intention was to pay a “compliment” to students at a conference who were speaking up about their needs for technology in the classroom. Aside from the fact that students pictured were of color, which I knew had no real correlation to the meaning, the implications of the word in the sense that “students were actually poised and articulate” rubbed me the wrong way.

I cringed upon reading the word. It bothered me and I needed to explore why.

(I actually started this piece and restarted this piece on several occasions throughout the night. I talked to members of my family and had deep moments of pause…and enlightenment.)

Some Personal Background

Both of my parents attended segregated schools and in both of those schools learning to speak articulately was embedded within the curriculum. My mother says that this was the case because her teachers understood the world that they would face if they did not have this skill. My father agreed. Growing up, my mother trained us to be “speakers” too. It was important that we understood how to speak with authority, eloquence and clarity. We learned this skill through church and community speaking events. To my parents, being “articulate” wasn’t a choice. It was a necessity.

They also BELIEVED it to be a compliment

Reflecting on being Articulate

Neither of my parents have ever really been immersed in professional circles. My mother is a retired educator but our circles of involvement were much different. Our experiences are not the same.

My mother even echoed the phrase, “Being articulate is a compliment. Maybe it’s you. Why does it bother YOU? Maybe this is something that you need to have reflective pause about?”

I told her the story of our family friend who upon being appointed HS principal at a nearby school was cackled by a group of admins about being a “rapper” principal who would probably walk the halls of his school sagging. Upon meeting him, they’re tune changed to “Oh, he’s actually pretty articulate”. It was as if they heard him speak and decided to accept him. My mother was shocked.

I told her about the times that I listened to a state winning UIL speaker speak amongst a group of speakers. He was the only black speaker and the only one that members in the crowd referred to as articulate. Again, my mother was shocked.

I told her about the times that I spoke and was met with, “oh you’re so articulate” and the time that even my nephew spoke followed by, “wow, he’s articulate”. Shock…not compliment.

My mother said that maybe this has more to do with the obvious rift within our own race…that we have some who are very articulate and some who are not. Like it or not, there is some truth to this statement. Within our own race, there is often an aura of “class” associated with articulateness.

She reminded me that for years, black folks had to learn such skills in private because it was frowned upon publicly. Not everyone learned how to speak. Not everyone could.

My mother said…”Maybe people still expect us to not speak well.”

The more that we sat and talked, the more that she realized that sometimes this phrase was filled with more condescending tones than even she recognized. We also agreed that even with a “racial divide”, we don’t refer to each other as articulate. There is a sense of pride but not one of shock.

This phrase is almost always one that is used from a place of “privilege” to one of “less privilege”.

It’s the black exec in the office, the leader, the student speaker, the keynote, the teacher or even the brand new principal. It’s too often the person of color sitting in the gray area where being “articulate” becomes the “pass key” to acceptance…privilege.

No one calls the white speaker articulate. They expect him/her to be.

No one calls the white quarterback “well-spoken”. It’s expected.

Yet, when I speak…you feel the need to “compliment” my articulateness.

Oddly enough, when I speak…I do so with the echo of my mother’s voice demanding that I speak with purpose and clarity. I guess some might consider this as articulate.

I consider it an expectation and maybe others should do the same.

 

My Parent Perspective: Motions and Blue Magic Hair Grease…You Are Not Your Hair

20140420-132502.jpgToday, as we were prepping for Sunday Morning service, I stood watching my niece do her hair. I had just arrived at their home after a store run for hair products…a trip that I’ve made many times over the years.

I had “a moment” at the store upon finding the one small corner shelf for products meant for ethnic hair. It’s amazing how much of the world is blind to us when we aren’t “in a place” to see it.

One shelf…amidst an entire aisle…

When my daughter was younger, we had many disagreements about hair. She didn’t live in a world of noticeable differences. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t use the latest fruit flavored scents from the other shelves.

In her mind, she was no different than her other friends…why would she think any differently?

One moment between us gave me pause. We arrived home after her getting yet another relaxer and a friend invited her to go swimming. Even with the tightest of swim caps, there was no way on earth that she could swim in a pool of chlorine after her chemical straightener.

She was 16 and we had a nice long discussion about her hair compared to her friend’s. After a few minutes of talk, she looked at me and asked…

“Are we really having this discussion about hair mom? I’m not going to limit my life because of my hair.”

Amazing how much life was loaded into that one statement.

One small shelf….amidst an entire aisle

No daughter, you are not your hair…

Braeden’s Easter Bunny: A New Tackk

Braeden’s Easter Bunny: A New Tackk

If you follow any of my other social feeds, you know that Braeden made a new Bunny puppet for his mother. So, naturally I used TACKK, an amazing digital storytelling tool to share the story.

I love Tackk because it’s the perfect way to share the details beyond the images and videos that I load across the web. I especially love the instragram integration. If you haven’t checked it out…you should!

I’ve embedded it below. You can also view it on TACKK, here.

Self-Hosted WordPress Tips: Choosing a Theme, Designing and Chrome Extensions to Help

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Oh Bammy: Promoting Collaborative Positivity Sans Back End Deals

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Last year, I watched the Bammy drama unfold from afar…begrudgingly fielding 12 different “vote for me” twitter DMs and cringing throughout much of the telecast that I could stand to watch. From my seat, it looked like a show aimed to recognize the closed circle of twitter edu-stardom. (not to mention that the show itself wasContinue Reading

GTA Application Video Submitted, a post reflection

GTA Application Video Submitted, a post reflection

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Going Google At Home, A Reflection of my GTA Video Process

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Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Share and Borrow Each Other’s Stuff

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Share and Borrow Each Other’s Stuff

Yesterday I taught what was supposed to be an intro session to google forms in my school district. I wasn’t scheduled to teach but a peer took sick and of course I volunteered to teach the class. I’ve taught google forms quite a bit so teaching on the fly wasn’t that big of a deal.Continue Reading