Thursday, October 29, 2015


A Statement

Black lives matter.

It happened again
and again yesterday
and still yet again today.

All lives matter was the retort
the first statement
speaking from a stance
of moral certainty
of statistical, historical, and societal privilege
assuming the right
to change, not just the topic
but the entire conversation
and in the process
missing the message
losing the focus
the critical point.

Black lives matter.

When the conversation gets changed
Black lives get lost
amidst the politically correct
pretense of equity and inclusivity
of all concerns
that swallows the specificity
of this one concern
and deliberately
Black bodies
and lives.

No one denies that All Lives Matter.
We just want Black Lives to be included in All... always)

Black lives matter
not instead of but
in addition to.

Black lives matter... too.

A Question

In your classroom all of your students matter. They all have individual and specific needs. Together they also have general and collective needs.

But for the past four days, one student has been coming late, hungry, dirtier than normal, without her homework.  Once in the classroom, she is unable to concentrate, sits and rocks, mumbles to herself, and cries often. On day four you notice bruises and swelling on her face and arms.  She flinches when you walk toward her.

All of your students matter, but right now this is a crisis.  This student matters.

What do you do?

Do you ignore this singular, elevating, obvious crisis and keep insisting that all students matter?

Or do you address the immediate concern at hand and acknowledge that this student matters right this minute?

What do you do?

 A Conversation?

Black lives matter.

No, All lives matter.

But black lives matter, too.

We need to talk.

We really need to talk.

So, let's talk.

Resources For the Conversation

Let's talk, indeed.
There are lots of places we can begin our conversations.
We can simply tell our own stories.
We can listen to each others' stories respectfully and deeply in order to hear and learn and digest.

How do our stories differ?
Where do they intersect and connect?
What does the space where our stories  meet signify?

Depending on who you are, who you know, and where you live, you may not know about or understand the experiences of people of color in general and African Americans specifically, that have led to  a nationwide  discussion about black lives and reopened  a conversation that should have been ongoing.  You may know only about  the many police killings, but not much about daily life experiences.

Two recent and excellent books offer perfect places to begin our consideration of daily-walking- around-driving around-wanting- to- just- live-our-lives lives of black folks.

 Citizen: An American Lyric,  Claudia Rankine offers us glimpses into her own daily life and that of others in the public eye, including  Serena Williams.  In an earlier blog post about this book I wrote:

Her poems/prose call us to look again and again at isolated incidents, that taken one by one might be hurtful or dismissive or disrespectful, but because of their familiarity, perhaps not given a second thought.
Her poems/prose hold up a  magnifying glass to those encounters that we have experienced, yet not truly registered and processed fully because they happen every day.
What happens if we pile  them all together creating a landscape we can't escape?
Incident after incident, comment after comment.
The powerful subtleties and toxicities of living black in America-- every day
 Read the entire post, An American Lyric:Claudia Rankine here.

Ta-nehisi Coates offers in Between the World and Me, an opportunity to also consider the experience of  inhabiting a black body in this world, as he writes a letter to his son explaining and exploring how he came to understand his person.  place,  purpose, as well as ways forward.

And in eight thought-provoking essays, Cornell West addresses controversial and relevant issues concerning race in America in his now classic Race Matters.

Julius Lester offers many suggestions for possible conversations for both children and adults in Let's Talk About Race.

History will enter your conversations. Here are several resources to help remind  you of the history you know, as well as inform and correct the misconceptions  you may have been taught or the events and concepts you were not taught at all.

 In Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, Kadir Nelson presents a powerful view of both our proudest and most shameful moments in history along with his characteristic illustrations.

Additional books, online resources, and conversation suggestions  are listed in these previous blog posts:

 I,Too, Am America 

Open Season on Black Men

 And Few Final Items for Consideration  in your Conversations and Dialogues: 

Teaching in Black and White -Rethinking Schools- Fall 2014

Open Letter:A Dialogue on Race and Poetry. by  Claudia Rankine

Embracing Cross-Racial Dialogue

Invitation to Dialogue. This I believe essay.

What if we all begin to talk?
What if we begin now?
How many lives could that save?
What kind of future would we create?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Write a poem about race. Explore several perspectives in your poem.
What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about others?

Write a dialogue about race-related events  or #Black Lives Matter. It may be an actual conversation or speculative.

Write a personal narrative about a time race was a factor or made a difference in your life.

Share your writing with someone as a way of starting a conversation.


  1. Such a powerful write here today and was moved by it. Of course black lives matter...all lives matter!

    1. Thanks for the kind words... And for entering the conversation.