Election

I cried last night. Here’s why:

From 2003-2005 I taught here.  (And, turn on your sound if you go to the link because the choir rocks.) All of my students were African American. Most were on track to be the first in their family to go to college.

It was hard work…for us as teachers, and for them as students. Many came out of sub-standard schools. Many had tough to heart-breaking situations at home. Every last one of them were great kids.

One day, driving home, I passed one of my junior boys walking to the train with his little nephew trailing behind him. This kid was not the easiest to teach. He had a delightful mischievous streak that was absolutely horrific if you were his teacher. But he was so smart, and so charismatic, and I wished we could just squeeze a little more responsibility out of him. His grandma felt the same way whenever she had to come in and talk to teachers about his grades.

His nephew was in the grade school, and here they were walking together to the train. You could tell that he loved this little boy, and you could tell that this little boy adored him.

And then I realized: for this little guy, his 16 year old uncle was IT in terms of male family members who were around for him. At 16, my student, who wanted to be a normal, goofy 16 year old, was carrying the weight of that. Being the man for this little boy. Being the first in his family to go to college. Being the family’s bridge to a solid footing in the middle class. He was the adult to this little guy, but he had to do this with no one being the adult man for him.

It broke my heart.

I only taught there for two years. Now I work very comfortably in the suburbs, and I’m just not around those probalmes anymore. I feel strongly about this, but in all honesty, I am not giving my all to changing things anymore. But I can’t forget those two boys walking home.

This was the first presidential election that many of my students there voted in. So last night, watching a group of kids from Spelman College crying as the race was called, I started crying, too. Because this doesn’t change everything, but it changes some things. Yesterday, my kids from PSM got to walk into a booth and had the choice to vote for someone who at least looks like them.  I am so proud of them for voting, and I am so proud that they had that chance.

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