Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lift Every Voice and Sing

I remember January 10, 2016.  My phone buzzed in the middle of the night, waking me and I looked at it.
"David Bowie is dead."
"Margaret will be happy to see him." I thought, overriding my atheist tendencies.

A year passed and everything we loved died.  

Sometimes I focus hard on my tutoring group at the public housing authority, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I just get by.
Annie always brings books to the Center about poor children.  One time, "The Little Match Girl", another time, a horrible story of a child sent by mail train to visit her grandparents during the Depression, literally sent as a piece of mail, because her parents couldn't afford a normal travel ticket.  Annie does not identify with these children.  She always points out that they must not be "that poor" because they have homes to live in.  I'm glad she doesn't identify.  The little match girl died on the street, dreaming of warmth, food and love.

I overheard the students of one of my classes speculating on who they hoped the Amber Alert was for.
"Kevin!" one called, "Janeisha!" another called, and several voiced agreement.
"Yeah, I hope Janeisha has been taken, man, that time she hit me.....".
"What are you talking about?"  I asked.
"There was an Amber Alert yesterday." one answered.
"I know...."
"We hope Janeisha is gone....."
Several students quickly began commenting on the time Janeisha hit them on the bus, in class, on the playground.  She is the fourth member from the same family that I have taught.  They say that there are more in the pipeline.  I crept backward, not knowing what to say.

The inauguration came and went.   I remember teaching during Obama's first inauguration.  I had the TV in the room and the students, by their own choice, refused to leave the room to get lunch because they feared missing the swearing in.   We did not watch the inauguration this year.  

February grew closer.
"I can't believe our birthday is almost here...." one of my 4th graders whispered, his eyes filled with joy.  He has the same birthday that I have and I was charmed that he considered it "ours".
"I know," I responded, "just a few more days.  I am taking the day off afterwards, so that I can stay up late and then sleep in the next day.....".
"Man, I wish my parents would let me do that...." he responded, as if my parents had permitted it and his didn't.

I walked into the Center, nervous about how our students would react to the Muslim ban.  I was surprised to hear them talking about Obamacare.  It was the last day to enroll, but I couldn't figure out how they would know that.   Slowly, the talk shifted to the ban.
"They're curious!" one of the teachers stated, rolling in the television and turning on CNN.  Trump pontificated and the children's eyes glazed over.  I watched our boss watch the computer that was driving the big TV the kids were watching.  Her eyes shifted from interest, to disgust to sadness.  Suddenly, she put on a documentary about Obama and her eyes grew misty.
Mahmo curled up next to me on the rug.  I was watching the video with the children.
"My dad's from Kenya too...." he stated.
"Mahmo, that might be a sign!"
"No..., I'm not like him.  They said Obama always worked hard and me, I get tired sometimes and just ask for the answers from other people....".
"What if Trump kills somebody, will he be gone then?"
"Well, it doesn't have to go that far, Mahmo, he just has to break the Constitution and he can be impeached...."
"So, even if he kills his own wife, can he be put out?"
"Mahmo, if he kills anyone, even his own wife, he is done."
"I don't understand what is happening, what did Trump do?"  he continued.
"You are not going to like this,"  I responded.  "Trump has temporarily banded people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.  Somalia is on the list."
"Is India?  There are a lot of Muslims there."
"Is Indonesia?"
"Is Saudi Arabia?"
Mahmo erupted with laughter.
"He missed a lot of us!"  he cried, crystalline laughter filling the Center. 


  1. Please keep these coming. I want to know how these people are dealing with the bans and hatred.

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