There. I said it. I am amazing. These are the words I wish we would encourage our young people to say every day. We need to teach our children to love themselves not in a narcissistic way but to truly value their self-worth. We need to teach our children that they are perfectly made. We need them to appreciate themselves, their bodies with all its imperfections and teach them to value each talent that they possess. We need to harness their talent and hone their skills. As I reflect on the increase in violent crime over the past months and all the studies and reports that are being released about the Black Student; I am getting increasingly concerned that as a community we are not springing into action with greater urgency. Right now in Peel as you are reading this column, we are in dire need of Black male mentors for our youth. The list of requests for Black male mentors is ever increasing as our young Black males are struggling and crying out for help. As a community I am imploring us to take back our kids. Let’s work together to empower them.
The rules of engagement have changed. With all the advancements in technology, literacy and numeracy is of utmost importance. School Boards are encouraging students to think outside the box. At the Peel District School Board, PDSB, we are focusing on developing our students critical thinking skills. With this comes the reality that most students don’t just accept the status quo. Today’s student, in order to be a successful adult must be armed with a myriad of character traits like persistence and integrity. They must have the ability to think critically, to be innovative and to be collaborative. They must develop the ability to adapt to a constantly changing world. To be very successful they must be lifelong learners. All of these qualities need to be married with a healthy self-concept.
Insanity has been defined by Albert Einstein as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. A lot of the old adages for examples “Children must be seen and not heard”, “Do as I say not as I do”, or my favorite, “Because I said so” are becoming redundant. Today’s youth will challenge us and hold us accountable. They are constantly challenging our actions and our off the cuff remarks. They challenge many of the beliefs and traditions we hold so dear to us. And rightly so.
As a community we have tried a plethora of initiatives to help our youth accept reversing the narrative. Such a practice is not yet main stream. Dr. Beverly Daniels has been championing this methodology at Humber College through its Bridge Program. “Let us work with the 60% percent of Black students that are achieving and celebrate their success”. Let us spread the Good News about all their victories “Big dem up”. I am often appalled by the comments that are frequently made to my children. As a Jamaican- St. Lucian with; Carib (Kalina), Black and White ancestry married to a “dougla” Trini; our four children have four different hair textures ranging from real kinky to wavy. In fact my last daughter looks like a little Sikh and living in Brampton she is often mistaken for a South Asian. Invariably people will come up and comment on her “good hair” and with a sympathetic comment to my seven year old’s beautiful thick negroid hair. I have been asked if they have the same father. Did I mention they were both standing beside me when I was asked this question by a Caribbean immigrant? I have even been stopped by a greeter at a store asking me “Is that child yours?” as I took her hand in preparation to exit the store and cross the busy parking lot. Let us get beyond the irrelevant attributes like hair, designer duds and skin color and focus on education. This is the only vehicle we have to truly level the playing field.
In 2009 the PDSB embarked on developing an English Creole Program through its international language program. The program was developed by Peel educators to help students learn about their heritage and culture by exploring English Creole or patois. Music, art, drama and storytelling were included in the delivery of the curriculum. There was so much potential to teach and educate our children about their heritage and culture. Unfortunately due to the low enrolment numbers the program was eventually cancelled. Such a program had such great potential to empower our children and enhance or nurture a healthy self-concept. So many languages are offered and are oversubscribed by other communities. Why is it that our community or enough of the members of our community, do not appear to fully appreciate the importance of cultural awareness and an education? I refer to education not only in the narrow sense of academics, but in the broader sense. Education of our rich history, traditions and culture; education with regard to the way our world works. When a people know and appreciate their history they will be emboldened, the world will be their oyster.
While I have probably left more questions than answers, it is my hope that I will at least stimulate some rich and stimulating discussion and that a few more members of the Caribbean community will be galvanized into action. Yes action. We need to start addressing these issues. Take them off the “radar” (A senior Education Official responded to a question I raised and said that they are aware of the issues facing the Black community and “it’s on the radar”). So as we continue our journey let us empower our kids, let us educate our kids and constantly remind them that they are amazing.
Walk Good, Belle Marché.