I had a totally different blog to open up our new school year as One Voice. It was going to be a piece about my new Wakandan mindset shift on fighting for education equality for Black, Brown and poor children all over our country. I had my head cleanly shaven, with my sharpened spear and shined shield by my side, set to continue destroying the school to prison pipeline. I was prepared for my Dora Milaje General Educator role for the 2018-2019 school year. Then I saw the Serena Williams/Naomi Osaka US Open finals last night.
To say I was floored by the open and blatant sexism, racism and other isms by this umpire would have been an understatement. Serena, being the elite sports icon that she is, was vehemently questioning the penalties thrown at her by this umpire, as she should have. They seemed mad unfair.
I have seen men, specifically white men; treat umpires far worse in tennis matches than Serena ever has. I have seen upset male competitors treat tennis rackets like jackhammers ripping up concrete streets. I have seen these same men hurl four-letter words at umpires during matches more than I have heard curse words at a rap concert. I have seen those umpires look at those annoyingly livid men and not bat an eye. So, why was this particular ump so butt hurt at Serena? I have my ideas, but let me bring it back to education.
Messing With Black Girl Magic Early
My anger and frustration at that historically phenomenal match between two women warriors of color reminded me of Black and Brown girls at schools across our nation. Let’s review the stats.
The 2014 report Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected stated, “Data released by the Department of Education for the 2011–2012 school year reveal that while Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their white counterparts, Black girls were suspended six times as often. Only 2 percent of white females were subjected to exclusionary suspensions in comparison to 12 percent of Black girls.
The particular disparities facing Black girls are largely unrecognized in the mainstream discourse about punitive policies in public education. Consequently, efforts to confront the challenge of ensuring equitable and fair opportunities for Black girls in school remain underdeveloped.
This report proceeded the highly anticipated and impactful book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools,which is“a discussion about the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged–by teachers, administrators, and the justice system–and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish.”
Both the report and the book gave a roadmap to how Black girls were continuously given harsher consequences at school and why it was happening. What I still haven’t seen are widespread solutions to ensuring Black girls are not unfairly disciplined. I have not seen the outrage from the education sector needed for us to make the necessary changes for Black girls to survive and thrive in our schools and beyond.
This…is…a…problem in 2018.
Get Out The Way, But First Apologize
I am here to let everyone know that my One Voice sistahs and I are ready, willing and properly trained to fight this fight. We will do so as a united front of elite education warriors. Please don’t stand in our way. “Move or you will be moved.” Security Chief, Dora Miljae
As for our sistah, Serena “Queen G.O.A.T.” Williams, and countless sistahs (past and present) who live their daily lives combating all of the isms just like her; this poem properly penned by poet Lesle’ Honore’ is dedicated to you.
The world owes you an apology
Not just the umpire
Not just the French Open
Not just racists who ask if you feel intimidated by Sharapova’s basic looks
Or being drug tested more than
The basic looking actual drug user
The nurses and doctors who ignored
Of your own body
Almost causing your death
Every time they questioned your
They did so because of your skin
Asian parents who mold their children are
White parents who risk everything
Turn sex tapes into millions
But your father who made legends out of
Shaping you and your sister
Like Michelangelo chiseled David
He is loud
The world owes you an apology
But we know it will never come
Because first they would have to acknowledge
It isn’t your black panther suit
You venting to a umpire
A broken racket
Or a demand of proper medical care
It’s your blackness that offends
Your power when you should be powerless
When you should always grovel
Always remind yourself
That you should thank them
for allowing you
To be on the courts at all
As if a Queen tells the jester
thank you for her
You are the living breathing embodiment of
The dream of our ancestors
The power of our foremothers
The strength that the
Could not break
Your are more than the
You are goddess
More than tennis
You are a living black legend
And they hate you for it
If this poem speaks to you, please pick up a copy of Fist & Fire: Poems that Inspire Action and Ignite Passion by Lesle’ Honore’ at: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/7246301/60961c6d7586a0cd67babc86e7a0da3e8d38d7b7