Cross, a poem by Langston Hughes; National Museum of African American History and Culture Announces Early Childhood Education Initiative To Develop Healthy Racial Identity

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture / courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum

Cross

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

Langston Hughes, excerpt from Weary Blues



“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist, Author and Educator



The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture announced the expansion of its Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI) with a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Structured to be joyous and fun, this museum-based curriculum is designed to help young children of all backgrounds develop healthy racial identities and other social skills. Bridging the fields of early childhood education, human development, museum education and developmental psychology, ECEI programming encourages young children to be comfortable with human diversity, recognize unfairness and develop the capacity to stand against prejudice.

In addition to the on-site programming, the grant funds national outreach efforts and digital instructions and resources for research-based publications, adults, educators and young children from birth to eight years old.

“The work of early childhood education has the power to affect what society will be in the future,” said Spencer Crew, interim director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “If we want to end racism, we must begin to have purposeful conversations with children about racial identity and promote anti-bias values from birth. With an appreciation for differences in early childhood, young children can develop into adults who actively challenge bias, stereotyping and all forms of discrimination.”

The Kellogg Foundation’s Thriving Children initiative funds efforts like ECEI that support quality learning experiences for all children, including the promotion of racial equity in early childhood education. “In this way, the goals of the museum and the mission of the foundation are perfectly aligned,” said Carla D. Thompson, vice president for program strategy at the Kellogg Foundation. “This is an excellent match.”

The programming operates from the premise that young children need adults to provide accurate language for identifying racial identity and racial bias. Young children even need guidance to develop their concepts of fairness, which is the first stage in challenging racial prejudice and discrimination.



Ashley’s Sack is among the 37,000 objects at the Smithsonian related to African American community, family, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and segregation. This is an image of an embroidered cotton feed sack from the mid-19th century. The sack was embroidered by Ruth Middleton with the story of how the sack was a gift from an enslaved mother, Rose, to her daughter, Ashley, when the nine-year old was sold. / Photo courtesy of Shameran8 and Middleton Place under CC BY-SA 4.0




“Children are remarkably good observers who pay close attention to human behavior,” said Esther Washington, director of education at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “There is a common misconception that young children are ‘color blind’ and untouched by prejudice. Research shows that from infancy, children are developing mental maps that lead to their baseline racialized identity and social status before the age of six. Early childhood education has the power to guide racial and social identities to a healthy place.”

All ECEI programs are tailored to the different ages and developmental stages of early childhood (birth to eight years old). Programming themes and projects change each month—there is always something new for children.

Early Childhood Programming at the Museum

Cultural Cuddles

Cultural Cuddles programs invite children from birth to twelve months of age to bond, play and discover color. Alongside their favorite grown-ups, children can explore art materials using different colors. A six-month-old baby recognizes skin color and notices when a color is familiar or unfamiliar. Talking to a baby about colors, including skin colors, can create a comfort level to later discuss racial identity.

Toddling Treasures

Toddling Treasures are programs created for children thirteen–thirty-five months of age. Toddlers by the age of two are able to use racial categories to reason about people’s behavior. Talking to children about how everyone is the same but also different, enhances critical thinking skills and allows children to see others as unique individuals.

Cultural Kids

Cultural Kids is for children ages three-five years old. In this program, children listen to stories and create artwork that engage the senses. Because children at this age are able to begin to understand the complex social construct of race, the program introduces skin color with parents and explains how children get their color from their parents. The goal is to show how every person’s skin is different, every family is unique and there is beauty in diversity.

Friends for Freedom

Friends for Freedom are programs created for early elementary students, children six-to-eight years old. With an adult, children look at museum objects, read a featured picture book and have guided conversations and to explore personal meaning and fairness. Because children ages six-to-eight years old are able to have conversations about injustice and unfair treatment based on identities like race and gender, this program centers on the differences among people and teaches children to respect and embrace differences. This programming helps children prepare to act against bias and unfairness.

Pop-up Programs

In addition to the regular scheduled programming mentioned above, the museum offers “pop-up” versions of these programs in the galleries and classrooms on the second floor. The pop-up schedule is available at the museum’s information desk.

Signature Programs

Sing-alongs, concerts and story times for children and workshops and panel discussions for the adults invested in early childhood education are offered quarterly, and the schedule is available on the museum’s website at https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/upcoming. Interested participants should check the website frequently for updates.

More information about the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Early Childhood Education Initiative is available on the museum’s website. A schedule of upcoming events at the museum, some of which require pre-registration, is on the events page of the museum’s website. ECEI’s programming is often most suitable for small classes and fills quickly.

This post is compiled courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Wikipedia.   

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed nearly 6 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast entrepreneur and innovator, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have equal opportunities to thrive, WKKF works to create conditions in underresourced communities for children can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the U.S. and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is made on priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, and internationally in Mexico and Haiti.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Five by Jamie Dedes, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 11, 2019) / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people.

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, HerStry, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group / Beguines, pushers of The BeZine of which I am managing editor. Email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions or commissions.

Slam Poet Taylor Mali on what teachers make … “They make a difference!”

Taylor McDowell Mali (b. 1965) is an American slam poet, humorist, teacher, and voiceover artist.

Taylor McDowell Mali (b. 1965) is an American slam poet, humorist, teacher, and voiceover artist.

Taylor Mali’s career in poetry evolved out of the slam poetry movement. He is a native New Yorker and taught school for nine years at Browning School for Boys (Manhattan) and Cape Cod Academy (Massachusetts). Currently, he travels the world facilitating workshops for teachers and students. He is a dedicated supporter of teachers and he says that through his New Teacher Project he hopes to attract 1,000 people into education through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance.”

What follows is a video of Taylor Mali performing his poem, What Teachers Make? (You’ll note Billy Collins sitting side-stage.)

If you are viewing this post from an email, you will have to link through to the site to watch the video. You can read the text of the poem HERE.

portrait: Taylor Mali at the international school in Stockholm.by Emil Brikha under CC BY-2.0 license

Educating the Teacher: Poet to Poet, Ann Bracken & Michael Dickel

I think more than half the poets I know are also in education or were educators at one time. It’s not surprising then that academia is one of our key concerns.  Here we have one poet/educator interviewing another.  Michael isn’t new to these pages, but I’m happy to introduce Ann Bracken from the University of Maryland College Park.  Brief bios are posted under the interview. Look for poetry from Ann and Michael in the next issue of The BeZinePub. date: 15 January 2016 issue. J.D.

Ann Bracken

Ann Bracken

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael in Salerno, Italy, last summer when we both participated in the 100Thousand Poets for Change Conference. Michael joined me, along with Laura Shovan and Debby Rippey, my travel companions, in sharing a gourmet Salerno lunch in a wonderful ristorante. Michael also served as the emcee for one of our poetry nights. His work speaks of struggle and peace, and he is committed to using the arts for social change.

Ann: Welcome, Michael.

Does teaching have to contribute to the status quo? Must it be dominated by business models that value efficiency over humanity and greed over compassion?

MICHAEL: Yes and no. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

This is my story. It just happened. And it’s been happening for years.

Michael Dickel

Michael Dickel

I’m letting go of teaching. I’m kicking and screaming, hanging on with my fingernails, letting go.

I’m sixty. I’m “outside faculty” (literally translated from the Hebrew, adjunct in plain English). One of my bread-and-butter teaching gigs will evaporate with a just-launched Ministry of Education, free, online, self-study English reading course.

And things are not working so well at a new gig this semester, where an administrator seems to have taken a dislike for me. I don’t want this constant battle in my life anymore, the struggle to make a living doing something I believe should have value.

After three months teaching, a group of us who are “hourly” teachers this semester saw a contract for the first time. It was dated Monday, the 18th of January. It begins three months before, 18th October. And, the contract expires this Friday, the 22nd. Four-days after they presented it to us. That’s, not coincidentally, the last day of classes for the semester.

One of the many problems with this end date is that we had been told to be present at the final exams on Monday, the 25th. Please note, that is after the contract ends. And, in addition to the paragraph that say, “you are hired from this date to that date,” paragraph seven also says something that loosely translates as: to be very clear, after the end date above, you are no longer an employee of the university, unless you are explicitly given an extension in writing. There is no extension of the dates.

This attitude toward those of us who teach is as destructive to education (and, by extension, society) as almost any other force other than war.

I hate having to fight for employment rights, like getting paid. The constant battling leaves me feeling like a failure. I am letting go of this work, which is no longer teaching, but a form of war.

I am hanging on to a lot of anger. I felt it as I left campus today. Boiling under the virus, feeding its fever. I am seething. And I need to find something else to hold on to.

I teach English as a Foreign Language reading comprehension to international students, Israelis, and Palestinians, in a post-high school prep program, called in Hebrew a mechina. (Yes, these students study together in the same classroom.) I love my students. I want to hold on to those marvelous relationships with students we teachers have the honor of sharing with them, where we learn together.

Today was our last regular meeting as a class. As I often do, I invited them to keep in touch—they have my email. Use it, I said. I’m on Facebook, I added. Three have already sent friend requests. Two of them are Palestinian students.

And just before supper, a student sent me an email (uncorrected and shared with permission of the student):

Hi Michael, this is __________, from English.

I want to tell you that you are a awesome teacher. Since the first lesson, I want to stay in your class. When I heard that we have to redo the [placement] exam. It’s my first time that I started to worry about if I can still be in a specific class.

I love the way you teaching, although sometime it is a little bit boring. I still remember that you played guitar and singing with us. And you told us that the purpose of teaching us is teach us how to think, about critical thinking. Since that, I knew that I was in the right class.

This particular student comes from China. He wants to study in Israel. He knows English already, and has been learning Hebrew. He also takes math, history, physics…a full load of prep-courses that has most of the students studying from 8:30 to 5 or later.

What he wrote at the end of his email, I will hold onto forever:

And I mentioned that I have something to share with you, the topic is that the relationship between war and education.

I found that, if a country want to get strong, it must have to good education in the nation. And the way to show others that you are strong, is to show them you have high tech and strong military. I would like to say high tech in some way is for high tech weapons. So who will provide the nation researchers and scientists to make weapons? Education do.

So in this way. I can say education make this world worse not better. And it get worse after every year. I believe that one day this world will get destroyed by those weapons and war. So who cause this? Education.

What do you think about this?

We had a unit on comparative education. The students spent a couple of classes online, looking at websites for places like Summerhill School (Democratic education), reading articles about Tiger Mom’s and Finland’s education system, and listening to TED Talks on the need for more creativity in education.

We did not discuss war, or its connection to education. That came from an amazing student. It didn’t come from me. Yet, providing students a chance to think such thoughts and to ask such questions—that is why I teach. And a successful teacher is someone to whom a student could write: I have something to share with you…What do you think?

I will hang on to the memory of this email. And hanging on to it will allow me to let go of frustrations with the difficulties and unfairness of a system that is stacked against him more than it is me. Hanging on to what matters will help me let go of what doesn’t matter.

It will also help me let go of this form of the work.

I wrote this student a long reply, which allowed me to hang on to what I really value. And, paradoxically perhaps, to let go of the job. The end of what I wrote went something like this:

If education doesn’t ask the questions that need to be asked, or, more importantly, teach how to ask important and critical questions, then you are right, education is part of the problem. It becomes an accomplice, helping to build the structures of dominance and power. Then, it feeds the cycles of greed. All of these things threaten our world today. If education is about training workers and obedience to authority, if it teaches accepted facts and does not challenge students to think for themselves, we are in trouble.

I think that this is one of the reasons why the Humanities are under attack, politically and economically, in much of the world today. It is why many politicians attack education—not because it is “failing,” but because it challenges. And why “reforms” are regularly introduced that use over-simplified models of “manufacturing knowledge,” teaching doctrinal facts (in whatever discipline or doctrine)—serving a purpose of producing workers and even leaders who “fit,” but not inspiring thinkers who question.

We need to find ways to inspire students to think—as I see you have been doing—about our world, about how to make it better, about how to find reasonable and well-reasoned approaches to fixing the problems we see and providing a sustainable, healthy, and worthwhile future for our species.

I don’t have the answers. I hope that we will find the right approaches, or at least, good enough approaches. And I hope that education does not end up only serving the powerful, the military, and the greedy.

However, it is always about possibilities. We must look for and welcome new possibilities into our lives.

From the Jewish tradition, we have this teaching, too: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21).

I believe that we can stop the destruction you fear. I hope that we can. May we not desist (stop) from trying. May we continue to seek forms of truth, practice heartfelt communication, and learn compassion for each other. May we cooperate and share with each other solutions as we find them. And may we always look to improving the world, not simply existing, or, worse,“using up” the world.

I believe that you could be someone who makes a difference. Start with your questions. And then, look for those possible solutions. That is all I know to say to you as an answer to your question about whether education is causing the destruction of the world. Yes and no. And, it doesn’t have to be this way.

With respect and hope for your generation,
Michael Dickel

BIOGRAPHY: Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickela writer and digital artist, currently lives in (West) Jerusalem, Israel, and teaches in Tel Aviv. He is the chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. His most recent book is War Surround Us (Is a Rose Press, 2014), available at bookstores and online.

BIOGRAPHY: Ann Bracken (Ann Bracken, Poet, Author, Creator of Possibilities) memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was released in 2015 by New Academia Publishing. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Little Patuxent Review, New Verse News, Scribble, Reckless Writing Anthology: Emerging Poets of the 21st Century, and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Ann serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, lectures at the University of Maryland College Park, and leads workshops for creativity conferences, book clubs, schools, and adult education programs.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Towson University

Master of Science, Communication and Learning Disorders, Johns Hopkins University

Training in Poetry Facilitation and Journaling, National Association for Poetry Therapy

Post-graduate Diploma, Drama in Education, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

© 2016 Ann Bracken and Michael Dickel, text and photographs, All rights reserved

No Time for Sleep

The future grows ever shorter while the book stacks grow high and disorderly alongside bed and chair. No time for sleep. The mind must use the hours to trawl the tomes and its faculties, feeding its hunger for the clarity and intimacy of fiction, the stark raving sanity of poetry. There are volumes of philosophy that flow like rivers as one book eases its way into the next. They reframe life and its perspectives. Occasionally I stop to listen to the music of my unread and untutored progenitors. They play their chalice-drums to ward off devils and tempt genii, but I face the ravages of the night by rustling pages. My survival is written in chapters, not notes. My sensibility is spun out of words.

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© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo courtesy of morgueFile