"All I do is Win, Win, Win...!" DJ Khaled
The Fourth of July weekend is a perfect time to reflect on the role of education in nurturing informed and engaged citizens who contribute to the betterment of our society and the protection of our freedoms. I've been a lover of reading for as long as I can remember and started learning when I was about 3, surrounded by family and friends of the family, many of whom were teachers, who made it a joy. Education was a core value and, for me, then and now, and still so much fun!
Teach the Teachers Well
In kindergarten, I was the only student of color in my class. The teacher assigned me to the lowest-level reading group. How my mom found out is beyond me... she's a superwoman... and she and I talked A LOT. She forced the teacher to test me. Guess who led the entire class in reading thereafter? From then on, I was an A student. Because my mom was a teacher, and my parents were with me side by side, ensuring no neglect, abuse, or mishandling of any kind, I LOVED school all the way through law. The supplies, the first day, the engagement, it was all electrifying.
The Joy of Art
I was captivated by a range of literary works from the early days of "Gulliver's Travels" to the later days of "The Odyssey," "Little Women," and "The Bluest Eye." When we read "Huckleberry Finn" and other similar books, I didn't feel one iota of discomfort. I was intrigued by ancient cities and encyclopedias. I was introduced to reading and writing poetry, a passion to this day, in third grade, by the only Black teacher I had until college. In second grade, I was introduced to music and played the clarinet in the band and orchestra, from Bach to Ellington, from then through high school. Believe it or not, we even had our own darkroom in high school. I was hooked on it all! We also had an Olympic-size pool and an Olympic-quality track. The only regret I have is missing out on competitive sports.
Summer, Summer, Summertime
During the summertime, I lounged poolside, eagerly diving into the pages of my chosen book. The refreshing water and the captivating words formed a perfect harmony, creating an unforgettable summer experience. I never went to the beach without a book in hand.
I cherished the freedom to explore a wide range of books that piqued my interest, especially delving into the thrilling world of horror. From spine-tingling tales of suspense to chilling narratives that kept me up late into the night, these books allowed my imagination to run wild. I read "Flowers in the Attic," and other books likely on the banned list and they evoked a unique blend of curiosity and understanding in me.
The unrestricted literary choices had a profound impact on shaping my perspective and fueling my intellectual growth. The freedom to explore various genres and authors instilled in me a deep appreciation for storytelling, discovery, and difference fostering a love of learning that is undiminished. The simple pleasure of reading became a cornerstone of my personal and intellectual development.
Side Note: My sister is the gorgeous one in the "Summertime" video. Yes, that's her in the photo.
I was admitted to every college/university I applied to and received full academic scholarships from most. I avoided the Ivy Leagues because I'd had enough of that lifestyle in Westport, CT. I was the one who needed and chose diversity.
Graduating in the top 10% of my class, it never crossed my mind that I couldn't or wouldn't be any place I chose. I chose Howard University, The Mecca, where Thurgood Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, and our current U.S. VP, Kamala Harris, walked sacred ground among buildings named after Frederick Douglass, Charles Drew, and Mary McLeod Bethune. It was an extraordinary honor.
I discovered, after being awarded an academic scholarship to law school, that Howard is known to have a well-respected and exceptionally rigorous grading system, where anything received is earned. Unlike Harvard, we don't do pass/fail.
Learning, and the love thereof, starts and ends at home. It's the only affirmation I've ever needed. I am incredibly fortunate to have had such a strong foundation, and I recognize the privilege my parents afforded me. The luck I had was being born into a family that wanted and was able to provide the best for me.I can't think of anything more valuable or life-affirming than that.
However, I am acutely aware that not everyone has had or will have the same opportunities. Affirmative action has played a crucial role in addressing historical disadvantages and promoting diversity in educational institutions. It is disheartening to see the Supreme Court's recent decision banning affirmative action, as it disproportionately impacts those who do not have the kind of access and support that I was fortunate to have. We must continue to fight for equal access and opportunity and advocate for policies that ensure a level playing field for all students, regardless of their location, background, or circumstances. The transformative power of education and the arts from pre-K to Ph.D. should be accessible and readily available to everyone, and it is our collective responsibility to make that a reality.
I believe we're gonna "win, win, win, no matter what...!"