I am thinking about identity this week: its power.
Saeed Jones asks, “How old were you when America taught you that being who you are could get you killed?” He goes on to quote Toni Morrison, who similarly wondered “What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company,” in his blog in the New York Times Opinionator. He shares with his reader the power of poetry as he came to experience his fears about how he would live with being who he was. Both James Byrd, Jr.’s murder and Matthew Shepard’s murder reverberated for him personally, as they should for us all. Read his short and incredibly moving reflection here.
While reading Jones, a poet at “the crossroads,” I thought about our school wide Poetry Out Loud, and then I thought about our wall in the cafeteria that greets everyone as we enter our community. It is my fervent belief that all children who enter here to learn and grow with us can find who they are; can be who they are; can celebrate one another for whom they are. It is a high and lofty goal.
In English classes, your 8th grader is thinking right now about how to grow up in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s where racism was rampant, but your father, Atticus Finch, knew better. Your 9th grader is watching Siddhartha journey past temptations, be they ascetic or extravagant, to find himself and his purpose. Your 11th grader is watching one American navigate the 1920s’ world of excess to find love between East and West Egg.
Who are we? How will the children we are raising and teaching find out who they are?