When I was in my 20’s (years ago) I remember working for a summer camp in Harlem, NY. The day’s activities included being at an outdoor park. I can’t recall much else besides the 10-year old boy who called me a bitch because I told him he couldn’t do something. And no, I don’t remember what I told him he couldn’t do. Back then I was mild-mannered and a bit nervous. The boy could read that energy on me. He read it well. So very well.
Recently, I had a 3rd grader say to me, “Hey Dog, can I…” I can’t recall what he was asking me. I think I blanked everything else out, because all I focused on was “Hey Dog.” I began having a dialogue in my head on how to read him carefully without yanking him up the way my father would…[which would only get me arrested]. I yanked no one up that day. I did read him, along with other students who did nothing wrong. It was simply a warning.
I’m a small woman. Petite. Brown woman. Hairy. It seems important to note the hairiness that comes with being in this body, especially since it was recently a discussion among my male students who felt that women should not have hairy legs, hairy arms, hairy underarms and wherever else you choose to imagine hair grows. It’s not worth revisiting the dialogue we had in the middle of the hallway while teachers and staff walked by every so often. However, I will note that one of the 3rd grade males asked me if I had hair on my chest. My response? Please return to the 2nd paragraph in this blog.
This year I spent my days with youth. I thought I was teaching drama. I wasn’t. I was being taught drama. I was a student [with a teacher’s title]. I was a rebellious student. A student with Calm at the helm until waters rumbled. I learned this year that I know how to scream, holler, borderline cuss people out without using ‘the language.’ I learned how to think slow and fast. I learned that my intelligence is emotive and emotional and courageously spirited by intuition that comes “after the fact” but not during a situation that is spiraling out of control. I learned that humans don’t always have control externally even when we think we do. I learned to ‘Let Go.’ I learned to love my students at the crossroads.
I have spent days lying on the big red carpet in the school’s drama room, asking every ancestor to come forth and whisk me away…I did a lot of God-talk. I have siblings, although I was brought up the only child in my adolescent years. So I know what it’s like to have imaginary friends – full blown conversations with beings, Creator and alien forces – both while my mouth is and is not moving. I’m past the age of feeling like being weird is awful. I embrace weird. That shit is more normal than normal. And I suspect, teaching our students that weird is ok, might be the route I am more interested in, especially after this year. Caveat: as a libra (balancing scales) and a shapeshifter, I know how to fit in. Some of us call it code switching. I used to think that this skill belonged to namely brown bodies on U.S. soil, but I’ve learned that other folk do it to fit in as well. Funny (but not really).
I leave for China in 1 week. And I will teach again. And I will write. And I will explore. I will poetry myself for 5 weeks. I will use verbs as nouns and nouns as verbs, just because I am giving myself permission to do so. I will Audre Lorde this experience…and possibly be a Sister Outsider. Or maybe not. Regardless, I will Be.
Lesson: The power of language is to simply USE IT. How else will we ever know if our message of communication is being received?