Sunday, March 21, 2010

It STILL Takes a Village

I am strong and brave.
I wonder who and what.
I hear the heartbeat of nature.
I see the rough waves of life.
I want war to stop.
I am a leader.
I feel my family beside me.
I touch my life and feel alive.
I worry too much.
I cry tears of joy.
I understand school.
I say what I feel.
I dream the world is a good place.
I try to go beyond what I can do.
I hope a better world.
I am me.
Ryan T. Wynn 3/17/10

I am obviously quite proud of my nieces. They have high aspirations for themselves, but none higher than the village that supports them. Their parents-my sister Jill and my brother-in-law Roderick, have done an excellent job of putting them on the right track by emphasizing the necessity of education. I recently informed Ryan that she was to become an attorney-because of her strong sense of self and argumentative nature. Her sister Sydney was told that she was to become a doctor because of her love of helping and thinking of others, but more so her love of math and reading. Now they have some say in their final destination, but not much. Why? because they have always had high expectations from their village of family, friends and loved ones.

A recent statistic reported that in Milwaukee, African-American students in the 4th grade read at a lower rate than every other state of the union and the District of Columbia. While everyone is rightfully horrified, we can not point at any one reason for this problem: other states spend less money on education, have a higher rate of unemployment, and more single parent homes than we do. Further, Wisconsin seems to be the first on many lists: highest rate of African-American males incarcerated, near the top in teen age pregnancies, and now this. While it is true that African-American boys have a different and more active learning style, this is no excuse not to read at all. Our children exercise their minds and bodies less and less. I remember very well when Sydney Alexandria, a serious student already, learned to read-her mother called me on the phone, and let me here her read out loud. Needless to say I was thrilled, and she has been reading voraciously ever since-I can't keep up with her! Ryan Taylor, artistic, setting her own style, choosing what she reads, has a definite love of all things green-will soon make the connection between education, hard work, and success (or as she says fame, fortune, and the red carpet). There was a time when education was more valued in our community-we owned our own businesses, homes, and expected our children to do better than we did, moving away from the village-and yes this has been said umpteen times before, but we apparently need reminding again.

I can remember growing up in a nearly all black community-910 S. Avon Street-the family next door was on welfare, our family physician lived down the street, and my father worked in the shop. All role models from which to choose-and become somebody. And yes, my neighborhood wasn't that unusual. My parents were like many others-when we got in trouble, those parents called my parents, and they had permission to chastise me as well. The message to me was I had a number of parents, all who had my well being in mind (no, it didn't feel that way at the time). Most important was the instillation of my own self-worth. I'm not sure if my mother knew it at the time, but I can never thank her enough, for teaching me my importance and giving me the desire to KNOW. Moreover, DO your best, BE the best. I had expectations.

Ryan seems to be facing similar challenges in school theses days, and her village is speaking to her loud and clear. Sydney loves school, (and the color orange) and is harder on herself than any of her village ever could be-her expectations are of her own making. As Mother's Day, Father's Day and summer vacation rapidly approaches, we need to continue the educational lessons of the school year. Learning does not stop because the classrooms are closed. Read to a child-have them read to you. Read TOGETHER (I am reading The 39 Clues with Ryan). Be a parent, whether you have children or not. We have a responsibility, and they are counting on us-more now than ever.

1 comment:

  1. We do need continual reminding as a community. Our villages have often burned down before we even yell fire! In 2010 African-Americans are still struggling with the power of their voice and its nobody's fault but our own.