Your Blues is Like Mine

I have been collaborating with a Macedonian hiphop Dj and producer named Goce (pronounced GO SEE AH). He began to talk about why hip hop was resonant with him and Macedonian people. He sees hip hop as a dissident art, as he came into consciousness of it in 1989 when socially conscious groups like Public Read more about Your Blues is Like Mine[…]

The Global Reach of Blackness

Today I presented about Fannie Lou Hamer. This is a presentation I’ve done many times now, but because of the audience it was quite different. Because the audience was European and specifically people from the Balkan Peninsula, I stopped much more frequently to explain terms. I spent time on “sharecropping” “Jim crow” and explaining why Read more about The Global Reach of Blackness[…]

“Friend is Worth More than a Dollar”

Today I rose super thankful for not having to sleep in the airport, and then slog through an eight hour flight, a two hour flight, and then a two and half hour drive . . . unwashed.   My grandmother used to say, “A friend is worth more than a dollar.”  Her reasoning being, if Read more about “Friend is Worth More than a Dollar”[…]

The Number One Reason the Orlando Shooter was not a “Deranged Loner, and Why We’re More Like Him Than Not

        Almost as soon as the Orlando shooter was identified, he began to be described as a “loner.” This description is often used to describe the personality of mass shooters. If we look back at the headlines surrounding many of the men who perpetrate mass shootings, the descriptor, “loner” will come up. Read more about The Number One Reason the Orlando Shooter was not a “Deranged Loner, and Why We’re More Like Him Than Not[…]

Is there Such a Thing as a Poor White Progressive?

“We po’.” Almost everyday, my grandmother would say this simple sentence. The missing verb served to make it more immediate, like a simple equation. “We po’.” We equaled poor. Sometimes she said it in response to the evening news when groups of white men argued in Washington, DC about laws and elections. Then, “We po’” Read more about Is there Such a Thing as a Poor White Progressive?[…]

Representation Matters

I threw the bodiless blonde in the trunk of the car, hoping I’d disposed of it in such a way as to not draw attention to her abrupt disappearance. This was late night espionage. I drove around for days like this. I imagined her painted smile, and her pastel blue eyes with their fixed stare. Read more about Representation Matters[…]

Intimate Partner Violence as an Issue of Workplace Diversity

It wasn’t this picture that fell out of the dead man’s pocket, but it was one very much like it. When I was in the first grade, a friend of my mother’s boyfriend, a man who had sat at our table and had eaten in our home, murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide. My Read more about Intimate Partner Violence as an Issue of Workplace Diversity[…]

What Do Black Childhood, Charter Schools, and Tamir Rice Have in Common?


Hint: Harriet Ball was her name, and she passed away in 2011. A veteran teacher from Texas, Ball was observed in the early 90s by two novice teachers, two young white men who were impressed by the way she infused the curriculum with rhythm and mnemonics that engaged the children thoroughly; much more thoroughly than they had been able to do.

Those two men, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, have never denied the origins of their program. But here I sit two and a half decades later wondering if Harriet Ball, who taught for 35 years in the Houston and Austin school districts, knew what the KIPP program became.

Answer: Black and Brown women.  Like so much cultural production in the U.S., the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP as it is commonly known, was conceived by the genius and love of a black woman.

I enrolled my son in the KIPP charter school when he began 5th grade. I took him out before his 8th grade year ended when we were able to move to a suburban neighborhood with good public schools.

I was slightly familiar with KIPP because I had read poetry at a KIPP Academy in Memphis, Tennessee. So when I saw that there was one in St. Louis, Missouri, I expressed an interest and sent in my son's application. I was heartened when two representatives from the school showed up at my home to talk with me about the program and to have my son and I sign a contract. The contract was designed to impress the seriousness of academics upon us both and to make it clear to me that they expected rigorous parental involvement.

I happily signed the contract and looked forward to sending my son to a school where rigor was the order of the day.

And I have to say, the curriculum was quite rigorous. Each week, my son came home with a packet for each subject. My son still uses the multiplication facts song he learned there, and the accountability he was taught when it came to behavior and completing assignments are others areas of positivity I could point to.

So why is it that when I think of his time enrolled at KIPP I am left with a persistent and a worrisome sadness?


No, People of Color are Not Here to “Spice Things Up”

In the days after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, I posted the following on Facebook: “I wake up to a world where a black led group I was a part of told the white governor to his face: we don’t trust you. I wake up to a black president who delegated a Read more about No, People of Color are Not Here to “Spice Things Up”[…]

An Open Letter to the Dear Sugar Podcast or “If it’s white, say so”

Dear Sugar, I’m writing you because I love your podcast. You’ve created a place in the auralsphere where the big themes – betrayal, parentage, love — are met with measured, loving consideration and made shatteringly personal. Every week I get to hear some shard of myself speak and be acknowledged, or sometimes get its ass Read more about An Open Letter to the Dear Sugar Podcast or “If it’s white, say so”[…]